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Thread: our old computers -- 30 years of change

  1. #1
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    Breaking off from this thread, here's an interesting discussion on our old computers, and the changes in the industry over the past 30 years...

    Let's consider my TRS-80 Model 1, which 30 years ago came with an 8-bit processor and OS, 4kb of memory, and a monitor capable of 16 rows of alpha-numeric data, 64 columns per line. The processor ran at 1.77 khz, and the floppy disks held something like 180 kb of data.

    The first hard drives held 5 megabytes of data, and it was almost a year before I'd filled mine and needed another . Which was good, since those hard drives cost about us$500 each. And that was back when the U.S. dollar was actually worth something.

    Change happens.

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    our old computers -- 30 years of change

    Wow, I remember my trs-80 needing a cassette tape to load any programs into it (if you could get the volume just right).
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    You were probably trying to load cassette tapes from my company, Practical Applications. The only way to duplicate those program tapes was with a standard cassette tape duplicator, which ran at some multiple of normal cassette speed; only about a third of the tapes would load on our machines, and those were the ones we distrributed.

    Later we prorammed a machine monitor (running on one of the first Model 3s) to spit out the tapes at normal speed; those loaded a bit better.

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    Since we are going down memory lane, I had a Color Computer 2. Used the cassette tapes. 64k. I even had a modem I used to connect to BBS's.

    Maybe we should start a new thread about old computers we had.
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    our old computers -- 30 years of change

    If you're reading this, you're at the new thread .

    When I sold my company to Programma International I became a product manager of that company, in charge of their division of (you guessed it ) practical applications.

    Starting with only programs for the Apple ][, Programma International, with me aboard, offered applications for the Radio Shack products as well, including Pencil Point for the TRS-80 Model 1 (it added lower-case and formatting capable to Michael Shrayer's early word processor, Electric Pencil), and various programs for the CoCo (the affectionate nickname for Radio Shack's Color Computer.

    While I didn't know Michael Shrayer at the time, years later my wife and I ran into him (with his lady friend) at a membership resort we belonged to in Southern California.

    Personally, I soon abandoned Electric Pencil for MicroPro's WordStar, as MicroPro founder Seymour Rubenstein and I met at an early computer show and I developed some software for his (then about 7-year-old) son to use to program his TRS-80 Model 1. At the time the Rubinstein family lived near us in San Francisco; I remember my wife and I ran into them once at a movie theater in San Francisco's Richmond District one year on Christmas day, but I don't remember the movie. It was probably 1979.

    If you read the Rubenstein article (link above) you'll note that he was successful at marketing micro-computer word processing, eventually used by many universities. Several years previously, when I brought out Pencil Point, Arthur Schawlow and I had tried to get Stanford University to make the switch, but in spite of Art's renown at Stanford, we were spectacularly unsuccessful.

    Anyone else care to share?

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    Actually, I got a version of WordStar, but I had trouble getting it to work right on my Apple ][+. I finally got it to work, but it was a nightmare to get going, and I was never successful is getting it to exit and give me a command prompt. I had an 1981 or 1982 version of it. I also has an AppleCat modem that was able to connect faster to another AppleCat modem than another regular mondem.

    I also remember some strange cable I installed inside the Apple][+ as an upgrade to give it the ability to type in lower-case.

    Boy that was a long time ago. I got a copy of Word and that seemed to work much better, but then again that was in 1985, and then in 1987 I got an Apple][gs and WordPerfect. Wow, was that really 20+ years ago? Amazing how far computers have come.

    I am currently working on a degree from UCSD on computer engineering, and I was told by an RF instructor that Intel made a huge mistake on the boards that tried to cross the GHz line. Up to that point they never really considered phase much because the pathways in the processors and on the boards were short enough that it didn't matter. If, however the wavelengh is short enough (and GHz speeds means the pathway must be less then an inch or so) then the phase causes bits to be missed due to the phase reducing the amplitude too much. They didn't properly test the boards before production and lost millions of $$$. After that they hired more RF guys then circuit guys. Now it is paramount to pay CLOSE attention to phase.

    In 1982 I'm sure they had no RF guys... So I guess there are still more jobs then before, just now more education is needed.
    Last edited by donkeyKICK; 12-28-2008 at 10:43 AM.
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    Yes, the Apple ][ series as well as the TRS-80 Model 1 series needed a hardware mod for lower case, and that's probably the reason Art Schawlow and I had so much trouble interesting Stanford in micro-computer (we called them home computers in those days) solutions. They stayed with Wang for a few more years, until more sophisticated systems became available, using WordStar.

    Were you using an Apple ][-native version of WordStar? Or a CP/M version with the hardware CP/M adapter card for the Apple?

    (A few years later I did a lot of work on CP/M as well.)

    Interesting notes on chip engineering; I never worked at the hardware level, even as a software VP of a hardware company.

    Jobs these days? Absolutely. Though a magazine I was reading yesterday pointed out that fully 42% of the jobs in the U.S. can be outsourced, it also pointed out that outsourcing no longer means to other countries.

    If you're in San Diego you're not far from me, and I visit SD regularly. Feel free to contact me by email if you'd like to meet for lunch some day (my treat). I really do look like my avatar .

    Jeff
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    I don't remember which I had. I remember using cp/m for some stuff, but I also used Apple-Basic alot. I can't remember what exactly the problem was, it was a while ago... I also remember mp/m but I don't remember where/what I used that for.

    I also had a Kaypro II and a Apple Mac (no color). Oh yea, and remember the green or amber screens? I remember my first color one... barely better than a color TV from the era. I wonder who else remembers anything from "back in the day"... I never had one, but my good friend had a "commador 64".

    Remember the printer, with a 4 color ribbon, and the external fdd's?
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlasman View Post
    Seymour Rubenstein[/URL] and I met at an early computer show

    Anyone else care to share?

    Jeff
    I remember developing and selling a lot of applications using Datastar from Micropro....looking back, it amazes me how much could be done with it. I lost my CP/M and PC versions years ago....perhaps someone has a PC version sitting around.

    I ran into some of the heavy-weights in the dBase community, and they convinced me to become a beta tester for Ashton-Tate. I saw the handwriting on the wall when IV showed up at my office.....I believe I was the first person to discover that you couldn't intall it on any drive other than C:

    As far as hardware.....I also remember the thrill of loading NewDos into the TRS-80, getting double-sided floppies and the huge 5 meg hard drive. At one time I had a very popular BBS running on the TRS-80...but took it down when the FBI started parking in front of the house, the office and wanting to know particulars about my users.

    Being the proverbial buggy-whip fan, I still maintain some discussion areas for old software on Fidonet, although I never see anyone post about them.

    Thanks for the topic Jeff....brought back some memories.

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    Oh yea, I ran a BBS for a while. Does anyone still call themselves a "sysop"? I had some MicroPRO software back then too, Came with a HUGE book. When was the last time you bought software that came with an actual paper book. With instuction and commands and everything? Imaging how big that book would need to be now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by donkeyKICK View Post
    Oh yea, I ran a BBS for a while. Does anyone still call themselves a "sysop"?
    There are still BBS systems online, and yes, the folks that own them call themselves sysops. I have the software for one, but it is no longer public....I use it to allow folks to interface with the International Echolist which I manage www.echolist.net
    Quote Originally Posted by donkeyKICK View Post
    I had some MicroPRO software back then too, Came with a HUGE book. When was the last time you bought software that came with an actual paper book. With instuction and commands and everything?
    I don't think anyone produces that level of manuals....
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    Quote Originally Posted by donkeyKICK View Post
    I also remember some strange cable I installed inside the Apple][+ as an upgrade to give it the ability to type in lower-case.
    Someone donated a used Apple II+ to my Dad for our church in '83 and the power supply went bad after a couple of years. In the summer of '87 (after graduating from 5th grade), I tinkered around with with the system and figured out the power supply problem. $25 and a couple hours later I got the system to boot up and spent all summer reading manuals for Applesoft Basic. I knew from then on that the computer field would be were I was working.

    I also remember doing the lower-case mod as well as getting a 16K Language Card to increase the base memory to a whopping 64K.

    Ah, the days of bulletin board systems and 5.25 floppy disks...

  13. #13
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    I remember adding a full 1mb to the already whopping 256k to give me a 1.25 meg Apple][gs. The sales guy told me I "would never need that much memory, a floppy only holds 720k, and you can never load more then that"... idiot. Of course my meg cost me $600... I was excited because I could copy from one floppy disk to another on one pass... cool. I immediately started backing up all my floppies... never know when something bad might happen.
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    Haha your all old :P

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    Quote Originally Posted by tlchost View Post
    As far as hardware.....I also remember the thrill of loading NewDos into the TRS-80, getting double-sided floppies and the huge 5 meg hard drive.
    NewDos? Wow. Did you ever use LDOS? LDOS was originally the Lobo Disk Operating System back when I was VP of software development for Lobo. It turned the Lobo Max-80 into a TRS-80 workalike. It was also available for standard TRS-80s.
    At one time I had a very popular BBS running on the TRS-80
    Do you remember which software? I had a BBS based on software written by the same gent who wrote the system for CompuServe, but I don't remember the name of it .
    Quote Originally Posted by donkeyKICK
    I also remember mp/m but I don't remember where/what I used that for.
    I remember MP/M well; it was the multi-user version of CP/M. By default it run multiuser on one processor, but it also ran on the OSM Zeus computer (renamed, but really MP/M), one card per user, each card it's own complete Z80 computer (less the drivespace, which was shared), and later MP/M-86 in a 16-bit processor.
    Quote Originally Posted by scsi
    Haha you're all old :P
    Considering when I was born, i'd rather be old than the alternative.

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    Does anybody remember using the internet back when really it was just little more then a connection between the libraries?

    I remember getting my first 56k modem, and then saying "What?!? I can't actually use 56k? WTF man!!" And reading that it was faster one way then other, and I never got more the about 48k in any case. Calling the phone company, demanding a better pair, and really being quite annoyed I wasn't getting what I thought I was paying for. I also remember going to DSL and being amazed that I could download faster than I would write to floppy. Cool. Now I have a 15mbps connection, and I am whining that it is too slow. I've resorted to setting up a vps at my datacenter for the sole purpose of remoting in and being about to use the internet speeds there when I want to download big stuff. I called my cable company, and they want $150 more a month to bring me from 15mbps to 20...

    Which reminds me, I need to buy one of those things from mushroom technologies. A prof of mine at UCSD developed a device that prioritizes your internet connection so that you always get what you paid for, but allows you to utilize bandwidth from your neighbors (wireless). So if you have say a 10mbps, and your neighbors each have say 8, then you are guaranteed your 10, but if they aren't using any then you also get theirs giving you a 26mbps connection. The cable company is trying to prevent him from releasing it saying that it is stealing... But it isn't since you are never taking away from your neighbors, and it requires your neighbors permission to work. Someday we'll all have them, and be reminiscing about how we all used to have all this unused bandwidth....
    Last edited by donkeyKICK; 12-30-2008 at 10:14 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlasman View Post
    NewDos? Wow. Did you ever use LDOS? LDOS was originally the Lobo Disk Operating System back when I was VP of software development for Lobo. It turned the Lobo Max-80 into a TRS-80 workalike. It was also available for standard TRS-80s.

    Do you remember which software? I had a BBS based on software written by the same gent who wrote the system for CompuServe, but I don't remember the name of it .
    I never had the pleasure of running LDOS. Once I got newdos I was so happy and busy that I could have 4 floppy drives and the 5 meg hard drive. It was heady stuff...and I soon learned that if you have one computer for a dedicated use, you really need to have another one for the day to day stuff and the experimenting.

    Part of the story was that I backed into the TRS80. At that time I was an active teletype operator in Ham radio....I had multiple transmitters and multiple machines...and had gotten to the point where I could disassemble and reassemble them almost blindfolded.

    I read about a "box" that replace the mechanical machine with a terminal and a computer....so I bought the box and the TRS80. Once the computer showed up I stayed up all night trying to get it to print Hello World on the screen....and once I discoved what one could do with a computer, I sold all the teletype gear and dropped out of ham radio for a period of time.

    I am having a senior moment with the name of the BBS software....it was written by a young guy named Marcos in California...he was the author, I did the docs....it was so popular that it was pirated left and right...so, we had multiple backdoors in it...when we saw an unpiad version, we'd drop in and leave a polite request for payment...when that didn't work we replaced it online with a crippled version.

    I remember MP/M well; it was the multi-user version of CP/M.
    I sold custom software for CP/M and MP/M . A lot of it was in COBOL...and you had to have the printer turned on to let the complier produce the output.
    We were in a old three-story farm house....so the compiles were done in the attic and the paper went down the spiral starcase. The last person to leave had the chore of waiting until the paper actually reached the basement so that we had some assurance it would keep flowing over night. Our biggest constraint was writing code that would compile with a single box of paper.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scsi View Post
    Haha your all old :P
    30 years ago I was 11. I had no interests in electronics at that time.
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    Oh yea, I remember those boxes of green-bar paper... I think they even still sell it somewhere... I had a daisy-wheel printer. That was fun, the printer actually had a daisy typewriter head, and impacted the paper. I had a few wheels, each with a different font. I had some Brother brand wide-carrage printer. It was cheaper to run then the apple printer (the Brother ribbons were easy to re-ink... I had ink in a sprayer and you could open the bother ribbon and spray the ink on it... untill you actually ran the ribbon too thin and it got holes).
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlchost View Post
    I never had the pleasure of running LDOS. Once I got newdos I was so happy and busy that I could have 4 floppy drives and the 5 meg hard drive.
    I had NewDos on my TRS-80 Model I, if I recall correctly. My Model 3 and my Lobo Max-80 both had LDOS.

    If recollection serves, the rights to LDOS were eventually bought by Tandy, and they used it as the basis for later versions of TRS-DOS; it was easier and cheaper for them to do that than to rewrite everything for the larger drive support.

    But our version of LDOS was very different than the versions which ran on Tandy machines: they were basically ROM-based machines and much of the code (including BASIC) was in the ROM. Our machines only had a shadow boot ROM that booted to the floppy or hard drive and then got out of the way. The Lobo had the first (perhaps the only) system that could bank switch all 32K banks of the full 128K memory.
    It was heady stuff...and I soon learned that if you have one computer for a dedicated use, you really need to have another one for the day to day stuff and the experimenting.
    I had three .
    I discoved what one could do with a computer, I sold all the teletype gear and dropped out of ham radio for a period of time.
    my ham license just expired, and I've so far not renewed it. I don't like that they now need your social security number. Somehow that bothers me. And I've done nothing in ham radio for a long time now.
    I am having a senior moment with the name of the BBS software....it was written by a young guy named Marcos in California...he was the author, I did the docs....it was so popular that it was pirated left and right...so, we had multiple backdoors in it...when we saw an unpiad version, we'd drop in and leave a polite request for payment...when that didn't work we replaced it online with a crippled version.
    The guy I bought from, who also wrote the CompuServe system, was actually a singer for the New York Metropolitan Opera (I wish I could remember his name). That was back in the days when people from all walks of life were first discovering small computers but keeping their day jobs.
    I sold custom software for CP/M and MP/M .
    I wondered how come you remembered the difference in the placement of the / in the two. Most people would say M/PM and not MP/M.
    Quote Originally Posted by floyd
    30 years ago I was 11. I had no interests in electronics at that time.
    When I was 11 (1955) I was already building kit short wave radios; I think from Radio Shack (then a small Boston-based company, and not part of Tandy; Tandy did leatherworking kits) But there were a few other radio kit companies as well, and it could have been one of the others.
    Quote Originally Posted by donkeyKICK
    Does anybody remember using the internet back when really it was just little more then a connection between the libraries?
    Yes, I used it as part of a small bit of military work; if I told you, I'd have to ... well you probably understand .
    I remember getting my first 56k modem, and then saying "What?!? I can't actually use 56k? WTF man!!" And reading that it was faster one way then other, and I never got more the about 48k in any case. Calling the phone company, demanding a better pair, and really being quite annoyed I wasn't getting what I thought I was paying for.
    The limitation was in the hardware based protocol, but there was a very real limitation in the connection speed of the folk you were downloading from as well. For example, when I started my first webhoting company in 1995, the College down the street from us had a 56k (real 56k, not modem) connection for the entire campus. I had 128k, but if I got on the phone it was only 64k, because I'd be using 64k for my telephone line (ISDN connection). (This was in Florida, where home-based ISDN connections weren't timed by the minute.)
    Now I have a 15mbps connection, and I am whining that it is too slow.
    I'm currently (at my home office) 3mbps DSL, but I'm looking at switching to either AT&T Uverse or Charter Cable in February, when TV switches to all digital, because Riverside is far enough away from Los Angeles that digital TV over the air isn't too good here. I'd prefer Verizon FIOS to Uverse but you can get what you can get, based on the incumbent phone company, and I'm in AT&T territory.
    I've resorted to setting up a vps at my datacenter for the sole purpose of remoting in and being about to use the internet speeds there when I want to download big stuff.
    Of course at the data center I've got 100mbps to the cabinets, and fiber to the cage.
    I called my cable company, and they want $150 more a month to bring me from 15mbps to 20...
    Really not bad; at the datacenter we pay (at my current usage rate) $35 per mbps (10 mbps at 95 percentile).
    The cable company is trying to prevent him from releasing it saying that it is stealing... But it isn't since you are never taking away from your neighbors, and it requires your neighbors permission to work. Someday we'll all have them, and be reminiscing about how we all used to have all this unused bandwidth....
    If you didn't have your neighbor's permission it would be stealing under California law. I'm not sure it's legally stealing from your cable company, but it's most likely against their TOS. If you and your neighbors actually used all the bandwidth your connection offers the cable company would have to raise their rates; bandwidth, unlike Linux, is NOT free . Think 15mbps at $35 per mbps. Do you really want to pay $525 per month for your cable connection? You probably would have to if you and your neighbors were using all your capacity.

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