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Vintage Computer Festival Shows Off Ancient PCs 229

Posted by Hemos
from the blast-from-the-past dept.
Markgor writes "Just finished looking through some pictures from the recent Vintage Computer Festival in Marlboro, Massachussetts, the first time that it's been held on the East coast. The best pic has to be the one of the Sol-20. Here in Ottawa, we have a bunch of vintage computers sitting in one of our museums, including an Altair, but I haven't seen an intact Sol-20 in a long long time"
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Vintage Computer Festival Shows Off Ancient PCs

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  • UVA's computer science department has quite a large collection of images of old computer components and whole computers here [virginia.edu] at their museum.

    My favorite [virginia.edu] is the vacuum-tube unit they use to store ONE decimal digit of data...

  • old computers suck
    like the golden leaves of Fall
    let them rot in peace
  • Yeah, okay, so nothing says you're an old fart coder like an Altair or Sol ... but not so many years after these bad boys came 15lb laptops and 35lb luggables.

    I remember the strange looks I'd get in the in the NYC Subway with my early Compaq as some people thought I was bringing a sowing machine along. Or how about that steel encased Kaypro ... mine had 2 floppy drives & 64k !

    Still, the best example of showing my grey hairs is a working Heath-Zenith portable I've got in the basement. So much fun going through airport security with a device that took 10 AA batteries!

    • Looking at the pictures it's amazing to think that in 20 years the weight of a laptop has shrunk from 15lbs to... 14lbs?

      They got me a Compaq Portable, never a real screamer, but the 2x5.25" drives by the green phosphur screen were very useful. It was such a delight to transport it places (Not!). We eventually used it as a serial bus analyzer, where it did fine duty till it died in late 88.

      As old laptops go, the best of an early breed was the Tandy/Radio Shack T1000. It had a vast 320x240 pixel screen, NiCad's that lasted just long enough for you to walk away from the recharger, and a heaving great 80c88. Wow, powwa!

      Oddly we used this laptop in late 1987 to do downloads across a network to update databases in a real time control system. How many patents do you think this would fubar?

  • I started in grade 9 in high school with HP2100A-based system built by GEAC. Now, 29 years later, I program a block away from GEAC HQ.

    It had ASR-33 teletype (with paper tape punch for "persistence"), HP card reader, DICOM cassette tape (3 bays), Centronics Loud and Unreliable printer. And a whopping 8K of core (on a board the size of today's Intel motherboards).

    I wrote BASIC games on punch cards for awhile then started machine language programming directly on the HP using the front buttons for bit input.

    Standalone dump was the first useful program I wrote there I think.

    When the Altair came out later, it blew my mind to think that an individual could own their own computer ...

    I have a nice photo of the system as a momento (sitting at the office) plus the original HP manuals sent to me by Dr. Sweet of GEAC.

    We used to call him long distance and heckle him for info. So one day he got fed up and mailed me all docs for the HP. What a great guy!
  • I had 3 cromemco's from 1979,1982 and 1985 (Ok they arent as cool as that Altair 8800 I had and after reading what people would pay for one... I cry that I threw it out 10 years ago)

    Granted they weren't home computers but labeled as minicomputers but they ran Cromix (a really lame version of Unix) the 79 and 82 versions ran on Z80 processors (Yes processors... you could put multiple processor cards in the card cage and run up to 4 at one time) but used that damned 8" floppy for storage. or had a 12" platter hard drive at a whopping 2.5 meg (The 1982 unit)

    The 1985 Unit was coolest of all, it used a 68000 processor (DIP packaging just like the TI-994a!) and had a funky RLL/MFM drive. I doubt it was origional though, as the drive controller card had a 1987 dat stamp on it... so it might have been a retrofit.

    I hated to leave them behind in 1992 but I couldnt physically get them out of the basement (All but the 1985 unit weighed about 250-300 pounds, and that didn't include the 8"floppy drive caursel changer drive... My first taste of Unix was Cromemco+Cromix, no wonder I have always despised DOS/Windows...
  • I'm still making a living (for a little while longer anyway) programming an Intel 8065 (A custom 16 bit microprocessor designed for Ford) in assembly language.

    It's not much different than the computers you're all calling obsolete, aside from the fact that I don't have to worry about a display or keyboard (or even storage devices). My I/O are the sensors and actuators of the Navistar-International 7.3L Turbo Diesel "Powerstroke" engine [internatio...livers.com]. The current production version will attain 275 HP and 520 ft/lbs of torque in a Ford F350 with a manual transmission.

    How's that for an output device?

    So... is anyone else still making a living programming these "obsolete" computers?

  • Subject says it all, you can often pick up an old classic mac for as low as $5. Go and find a decent fullscreen clock program or screen saver and shove the thing in a corner of your office.
  • I wonder where they got the number of "200" for SOL's that are still alive. I've got one in my storage room, and nobody's bothered to ask me if I had one. {grin}
  • I live a hop, skip and jump away in Brattleboro, VT [brattleboro.com], and didn't hear about this. I wish there was a central posting place about cool events like this.
  • by b1t r0t (216468) on Wednesday August 01, 2001 @09:42AM (#23040)
    Anyone in or near Austin who wants to see some vintage computers should check out the Goodwill Computer Store on US 183 at Ohlen. Lots of old micros there in the back room museum, plus a disk array frame (I think that's what it is) out of a Cray.
  • I'll be damned if I'm going to let this quality nostalgia die. I started out with an Apple II+ and about 270 disks of cracked games (remember those funky screens with messages like "Cracked by the Syndicate / Thanx to the Whip / Call the Safehouse"?). As the years went by I became interested in other Apple II systems, and eventually the craving spread to all sorts of old machines, all of which I still have:

    Apple II
    Apple II+
    Apple IIe
    Apple III
    Sinclair ZX-80
    TI-99/4A
    Laser 128EX (currently a game machine hooked up to a 27" TV and surround sound)
    Unitron clone (Apple II/II+ functionality - heck, it's probably worth something now)

    Yoink!

  • I'm amazed that nobody yet has mentioned that the better part of these older machines can be emulated - many with open source software. Sure, it's nice to have the original machine over a software emulation any day - but lets face it; these things take up a lot of space, are noisy, and are often complicatedto maintain when things go wrong. (Anyone know where I can get a 11V - yes, 11 volt - power supply for my Amstrad GX 4000?)

    The classic open source example is MESS [emuverse.com], but there are lots of other emulators out there.

    Windows and Unix users should check Retrogames [retrogames.com] and Zophar [zophar.net], and Mac users should check emulation.net [emulation.net].

  • I have a circular slide rule too.

    I can scratch little marks in the dirt with a stick.

    I have fingers and toes.

    Beat that ya pussies!
  • I loved this machine. At the time, I felt there was nothing better out except maybe a Apple IIe or a IBM PC. We ran word processing and had the weirdest printer for it. It had a cylinder with all of the letters on it similar to the cylinder on a calculator with a printer. It would spin around and disc's containing the letter could go from one end of the paper to the other. All you could do with this printer was text. No Bullets or anything. My Dad used it until he got his first PC to do his resume. You had to save the resume to tape! At least the word processor was in cartridge form. I played a Return of the Jedi game on this one and typed in programs from Antic magazine (I saw there was a site somewhere on the net that had EVERY issue of Antic scanned). Oh I mentioned the tape, but I forgot to say it was a Model 1050. I also had a pen printer that could do Spyrographs on paper that was about 5 in wide with variable length (tear off the paper). We never got a Disk Drive for it because the drive cost more then the computer at that time! My dream machine at that time was the 1450XLD which I understand was never widely release by Atari (I hear only Atari employee's had them on their desks!). The XLD had a integrated Disk drive (maybe 2???). The carts loaded faster then anything anyway, so that's what sold the best. I also had a game called Pike's Peak (I think?) that came on tape and took a half an hour to load! I was usually interested in something else when it finally loaded (thank god for TV monitors....I sat there with the TV on and switched back every once and a while to see if the load had finished. Those were the days....

    64 K of ram

    1050 Tape Cassette Drive

    Weird Assed printers....

    and what I think STILL are the best Joysticks...ATARI joysticks took a licking and kept on ticking (until you broke the ring off....then just go buy the internal stick in the store, open it up and replace it).

  • I remember when I had to walk 18 miles through the snow in flip-flops to flip the reset switch on my altair. you whippersnappers have it so easy with your candy-ass protected memory operating systems. Back in the day, we felt lucky to have a rom monitor that we did not have to toggle a tape bootloader in with the front panel. You want to use a keyboard and video display??? better plan on writing your own BIOS assembly language links. I worked my way through 1976-77 building Sol computers for the Computer Store of San Francisco. The owner would buy the kits for like $700, then pay me a few hundred to assemble the kit. He would then sell it for the assembled price of $1299, with more profit than buying the thing from proc tech assembled for like $1050. My own rig was an Altair 8800-A with an Imsai power supply on an external rack-mount panel attached by a big cable. I had a proc-tech 3P+S with a keyboard ( no case ) attached by a six foot ribbon cable. I also had an ASR33 tty on the serial port for a printer and paper tape reader/punch. I had a processor VDM-1 video display and a CUTS tape interface board for a casette recorder. I was most happy when I got a GPM module which had the SOLOS monitor in ROM, so I did not have to toggle the tape boot loader. I loved to play trek80 and target. Target was a very cool shootem down arcade style game that featured sound effects radiated from the computer to a nearby AM radio! ( actually TREK80 sounded pretty cool on the radio too ). My system eventually evolved into having 3 16K ( yes, K! ) dynabyte memory cards and the seminal North Star micro disk system. I also added a 24X 80 video card ( Also dynabyte I think ) because only wimps used 16X64 ! OVer the years I added a morrow M16 16 Megabyte hard disk and of course a Z80 processor. Godbout static memory boards replaced the dynabytes when the ceramic capacitors aged ( or absorbed moisture was the rumor I heard ) and the tuned transmission lines for the refresh signals became untuned and the boards quit working. I worked at various computer stores and got to play with stuff like Cromemco Z-2 computers, the cute little 5 slot S-100 system that looked like a toaster ( what was the name of that thing ??? seems like it started with a P ) as well as the IMSAIs both the big S-100 boxes and the VDP-80s. There was such diversity back then. Probably a dozen viable processor types - everything from the 8 bit up to 12 and 16 bit systems. Several manufactureers for each type of processor and each with their own operating system, or if you were lucky, CPM so you could actually buy commercial software. I had kept my Altair till about 1989, when I decided to give it away - I figured that I would not want to saddle my kids with such an esoteric and useless piece of junk. /me dodges flying fruit Oh welll.. so much for foresight! not that my pile would have been worth much- it was too non-standard to be collectable except perhaps as a bad example.

    Z

    • the cute little 5 slot S-100 system that looked like a toaster ( what was the name of that thing ??? seems like it started with a P)

      My first! A Poly88, from Polymorphic Systems. Orange, with a white front and a yellow reset button. It's remains are around here someplace...

    • Oh, wow, that takes me back.

      I have two Sol-20s, a Helios drive, and (I think) a Shugart 5.25" floppy drive and controller board. The controller has some bad buffers, I think, as the board has to be just so or it won't read the disks.

      Currently, all this hardware is sitting in my garage, rusting away from benign neglect. I haven't powered any of it up in over seven years.

      Did you get the music interface board? This consisted of a small card that plugged into the S-100 bus, which tapped out exactly two lines: INTE and ground. Thus, by setting and clearing the interrupt disable bit in tight loops in the 8080, you generated a pulse-width modulated wave which was fed to an amp and resulted in music. For a 1MHz machine, it was damned impressive. I still have that program laying around somewhere.

      What I'd really like to have is a copy of Steve Dompier's aside in the GamePak manual, concerning the "violent" nature of Target.

      Schwab

    • by Anonymous Coward
      And you mean to tell me that, in all of your experience, you still don't know how to format a paragraph?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2001 @11:48PM (#47889)
    Unlike wine, computers do not get more potent with age.
    • Was that Wine or wine?

      *grin*

    • Unlike wine, computers do not get more potent with age.

      I beg to differ! In the early 70s, toggling in a boot loader on the front panel switches of your PDP-11 was considered mundane and detestable. Today, many collectos live for that very activity. I know because I'm one of them; I'm currently restoring a PDP-11/20 (ca. 1970) so I can do exactly that.

    • Unlike wine, computers do not get more potent with age.

      I beg to differ. Here's a picture of the 32K RAM expansion card (and a few other cards) in a 1981 Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Peripheral Expansion Box [glowingplate.com]. Yes, they're clad in cast aluminum. Yes, the steel chassis is stamped of far thicker metal than the unibody of a Toyota Tercel.

      On the other hand, I could beat someone over the head with a stick of SDRAM, but it would be more memorable to the DIMM than to the individual requiring the physical behavior modification.

      • Unlike wine, computers do not get more potent with age.
        I beg to differ. Here's a picture of the 32K RAM expansion card (and a few other cards) in a 1981 Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Peripheral Expansion Box. Yes, they're clad in cast aluminum. Yes, the steel chassis is stamped of far thicker metal than the unibody of a Toyota Tercel.

        I used to have a TI-99/4A...first computer I had at home. TI pulled out of the computer business about six months after we got it, though, so it never got beyond 16K and the hideously slow (double-interpreted?) built-in BASIC. I wonder if things would've taken a different track if we had gotten the expansion box and all the goodies for it...but we bought an Apple IIe (with 128K, a DuoDisk, and an Imagewriter) two years later and I ended up shifting most of my activity to that machine.

        Maybe someone has a TI up on eBay or whatever for not much...it'd be nice to have one again, just for the hell of it. If all the goodies (more RAM, the enhanced BASIC cartridge, etc.) are also available with it, that'd be a bonus.

        Getting somewhat back on-topic, that expansion box is an impressive beast...makes even my Apple II stuff look somewhat wimpy by comparison. Definitely from a time when men were men and sheep were scared...or something like that. :-)

        • TI pulled out of the computer business about six months after we got it, though, so it never got beyond 16K and the hideously slow (double-interpreted?) built-in BASIC.

          The reason it was so slow was that the 16K it used was the video chip RAM. This is esentially the same chip used in the ColecoVision (except Coleco for some bizarre reason used the RGB version and an RGB video to RF modulator!) In order to use this RAM, you have to tell the video chip the address, then you can read sequential data bytes from it. This is an I/O operation, rather than a normal memory operation. Everything must have been stored out there, including the program and variables.

          I learned how slow it was one day when I saw one powered up in a store. I hit the RETURN key and the thing took a whole second of thinking before it did the nothing that I asked it to! That's right, it took a whole second just to do nothing!

          When you had a PEB or sidecar RAM, that was in the 64K address space of the CPU, and I've heard that BASIC would know to use that instead. Of course TI discouraged any non-PEB expansion, so sidecar options were only used by the tech savvy. (And not many tech savvy folk went with the TI in the first place.)

          Maybe someone has a TI up on eBay or whatever for not much...it'd be nice to have one again, just for the hell of it.

          The main units (and about two dozen different cartridges) were very common back in the mid 90's when I was collecting classic video game stuff. Except for the old non-A version with the chiclet keyboard, that is. It's the goodies that will set you back.


        • Maybe someone has a TI up on eBay or whatever for not much...it'd be nice to have one again, just for the hell of it. If all the goodies (more RAM, the enhanced BASIC cartridge, etc.) are also available with it, that'd be a bonus.

          Where are you located? E-mail me back.

      • And when you are 10 years old with one of those things(PEB), they are a royal bitch to carry around.

        • And when you are 10 years old with one of those things(PEB), they are a royal bitch to carry around.

          Tell me about it. I was the buffest ten-year-old on the playground, with bigger biceps and triceps than most of the bullies, and I thank Texas Instruments for that.

  • by skilletlicker (232255) on Tuesday July 31, 2001 @11:54PM (#47901)
    If you want your PC company to survive, don't name your computer SOL.
  • Real Computers... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stox (131684) on Wednesday August 01, 2001 @12:00AM (#47912) Homepage
    have a Teletype ASR-33 console and magnetic core memory. We may laugh now, but in their time, many of the old machines were wonders of engineering and technology. Older teletypes actually encoded and decoded ASCII mechanically. UNIX actually ran on machines with 128KB of RAM. A 5MB removable platter hard drive was HUGE! If only our software matured as fast as the hardware.
  • ...if it were better publicized.

    Marlboro is in a good location, particularly since eastern Massachusetts is largely considered to be the Silicon Valley of the east coast. Being a resident of MA and working in the industry, I would have expected someone at the company I work at to have heard about it and reported it.

    That particular hotel is a nice little joint too...and it's a stone's throw off I-495. ;)

    It almost makes me want to recover the Apple //e from my parents' house and waste my days playing AutoDuel again...or loading AppleWorks into the 1mb RamWorks III board (with the CGA extension card). The nostalgia almost gets me teary-eyed!
  • let's see, i have about 4-5 z80 s-100s, some with 5.25s, some 8s, a couple cp/m 68k machines, a old osborne, some kind of "pascal engine", a wierd z80 notebook, and an altair 8800 w/ the cool paddles.

    i sold junk at a swap meet while working through college -- some guy saw an old pc i was selling and gave me the altair.

    i hope to someday get them running again, each was running when retired, plus i have most of the manuals.
  • Processor Tech Sol (Score:4, Interesting)

    by glitch! (57276) on Wednesday August 01, 2001 @12:17AM (#47942)
    The SOL was quite a computer :-) I first learned 8080 assembly language on one.

    Correction, machine language... I didn't have an assembler at the time, so I photocopied the 8080 instruction set page (note singlular) and went from there. One side of the page had the opcodes and the hex values, the other had the inverse so you could look up an opcode by hex value.

    In the time when everyone was selling their $100 to $500 BASIC, Processor Tech gave away their "5k basic" in source code form. Imagine that :-) I still have my paper copy somewhere... Years later, I translated it into 8086 code, in case anyone is interested :-)

    Yep, that was a beauty and a beast. The video card had 1k of RAM, mapped as 64x16. What's interesting about the video is that you could reprogram the character bitmaps so that you could get custom "graphics" on that screen, and a clever programmer could do FAST graphics by changing some critical character definitions at the right time.

    Don't forget the Northstar floppy disk system. The disks were hard-sectored, so you couldn't just get the ones from Radio Shack to work. I had to drive to the next town to buy one - and they were $5 each at the time...

    (Four Yorkshiremen can start any time now :-)
    • The SOL rocked. Back about '81 or so, my friend Rich who live a couple floors below in the dorms had one -- we built a disco light machine out of it for dorm parties. I did the hardware -- parallel port to opto-isolators to TRIACs to strings of xams lights :)

      Rich did the software, it had a little editor that you'd enter strings like:

      0.......
      .0......
      ..0.....
      ...0....
      0...0...
      .0...0..

      to show the time sequence of which light strings you wanted lit.

      OK, it's not exactly rocket science, but we thought it was pretty cool :)

    • Ahhh yes. Kinda brings a tear to my eye thinking about the old systems. I can still remember when my father brought home a Northstar Horizon kit computer ... spent the next few weeks on the kitchen table with his soldering iron putting it together (yes, resistor by resistor, capacitor by capacitor, chip by chip). The kit came complete with a wooden outer case ... very shiek. We had a full height 5.25" hard sector floppy drive and a teletype terminal. CP/M hummed along pretty well on that old box.

      Later upgrades included 32k of RAM (which is, incidentally, half of what the lunar lander had), an additional half height 5.25" hard sector floppy drive, a 8" hard sector floppy drive, a 9-pin dot matrix printer, and ... a green screen CRT! That was some serious technology for the '70s.

      Nowdays, MS recommends 128MB of RAM ... just to boot. *sigh*
    • What's interesting about the video is that you could reprogram the character bitmaps so that you could get custom "graphics" on that screen, and a clever programmer could do FAST graphics by changing some critical character definitions at the right time.

      You must be thinking of something else. The only way to reprogram the character set imagery on the Sol was to re-blow the PROM that was part of the VDM circuitry. Besides, the amount of RAM it would have taken to store the character imagery would have been ruinously expensive at the time.

      Somewhere in my stack-o-$#!+, I have a pixel-perfect copy of the Sol-20 font bitmap I made for the Mac and the Amiga. If I could figure out how to port it to X and Windows, I would.

      Don't forget the Northstar floppy disk system.

      Thanks, but I'm still trying to forget their appalling BASIC.

      Schwab

      • You must be thinking of something else. The only way to reprogram the character set imagery on the Sol was to re-blow the PROM that was part of the VDM circuitry. Besides, the amount of RAM it would have taken to store the character imagery would have been ruinously expensive at the time.

        I don't remember the model of the video card (S100), but it DID allow you to program the characters.

        And "ruinously" expensive? Assuming 8x8 characters, 256 of them will only take up 2k, or 8 2112 chips. Even 8x16 chars would take up "only" 4k.
        • > And "ruinously" expensive? Assuming 8x8 characters, 256 of them will only take up 2k, or 8 2112 chips. Even 8x16 chars would take up "only" 4k.

          Didn't many of the original Sols only have 4k of memory? I remember when ours got its first 16k memory card - we were in fat city!
    • by sakusha (441986)
      Oh yeah, I still have my Sol-20, it's sitting about 4 feet from me right now. I built it from a kit in 1975, it took me months to get it running. I learned programming and assembler in college on this machine, and did some of my first professional programming jobs with it's assistance. I recently fired it up and it still works but the keyboard contacts have rotted away so no kbd input. I contacted a guy who sells keyboard refurbishment kits for the Sol, I've got to order one and get this darn keyboard working again and then it will be 100% operational. I've been reading some experiments done by old vintage PC users that stored programs on audio tape. One of them recorded the data tapes to CD and burned audio CDRs of the programs. Now you can just hit play on a CD and load the programs like you used to load them from tape. Very convenient. I've got to get the old SOL running and get my old tape library verified and archived on CDs.
    • I still have my early code and my Master's thesis on Northstar floppies.
      -russ
  • by MortimerK (22530) on Wednesday August 01, 2001 @12:18AM (#47944)
    I remember when computers only had
    • one transistor.
    • one bit of memory.
    • no hertz.
    • a keypad with no keys - just a sharp point that would prick your finger each time.
    • a 4dpi video display with one pixel (black) that was fixed to the keypad (underneath).
    It cost $80,000, would generate smoke, and took up half your backyard.
    Yep, those were the days.
    • So did it get replaced once a system came onto the market that was powerful enough to generate the smoke in a virtual environment?
    • I'm still using one, although I have the 'mouse' (rats in the cellar) upgrade.

      Wayne
    • one transistor.

      A transistor? A transistor? You LUCKY BASTARD. When I were a lad we had to switch currents with our teeth, and only when a wire marked "gate", which was shoved up me arse, went live with over a kilowatt.

      took up half your backyard.

      Half your back yard? You LUCKY LUCKY BASTARD. Ours took over t'town, and town next door. And it were so heavy that people making tide tables used to have to come to me mothers' door and ask where t'computer would be on such and such a date.

      Dave
  • SOL-20?? (Score:2, Informative)

    by subsolar2 (147428)
    That's gotta be one of my favorite vintage computers of all times! That was the first computer I programed in basic at highschool back about '78 with a wopping 32KB of ram!

    It was a great deal of fun sitting down with the manual and a copy of creative computing typing in the programs and learning at the same time. My favorite games that came with it were Trek-80 and target (a shooting gallery type game).

    For some links to PT stuff try out the following:
    http://www.geocities.com/~compcloset/ProcessorTech Sol20.htm [geocities.com]
    http://www.corestack.com/machines/sol.html [corestack.com]
    http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c =344 [old-computers.com]
    and for an SOL-20 emulator: http://thebattles.net/sol20/sol.html [thebattles.net]

    I also learned to program in 8080 assember, and played with focal and anything else I could find included with it.

    The one we had had a dual drive Helios II 8" floppy drive.
    These things were the oddest drives I've seen. They had motorized eject and loading ... you slide the disk most the way in and it would "suck it in", and you would push a button and it would whirr and eject the disk. A bad think to do with these was to was to grab the disk as it was still being ejected ... would as often as not cause the drive to jamb.
    The other odd thing about the drives is that both drives had their heads mounted to a single voice-coil positioner ... the drives sounded like somebody bouncing on an old bed when they were busy seeking.

    Enough reminicing from an old fart computer geek!

    - subsolar

  • by Kinetix303 (471831) on Wednesday August 01, 2001 @12:37AM (#47977) Homepage
    I used to work in Ottawa at the museum of science and tech, during the time where they were shifting their computer structure around. We used to have a hall of computers, and there were displays and booths that taught kids about electronics and circuitry through hands on information... kids could manipulate magnetic core memory, and see the information being changed in real time, and have it read back off the core... Ping pong balls and pinball plungers were arranged in such a way that gates were represented in a way which they could wrap their heads around... Oh, and best of all, EVERY computer on display was functional, including the Crown 'micros' from the 60s... every kid got their name or a phrase given to them on a small piece of punch tape printed by devices older than their parents... but it was also kept current, all the way up to the PCs and Macs of the day (this was around 1995). Then the museum got a huge cash infusion from Microsoft and Intel, and suddenly all of the vintage historical machines either got put into storage (some were lucky enough to make it onto display, such as the right arithmetic wing of an old USAF computer) but not in a functional state... hands on became kids sitting in front of twenty pcs playing the latest microsoft educational software and browsing a very limited intranet... as well as easy access to hotmail. I quit my job at the museum after this, and never looked back. I'm throughly disappointed in the computing section that exists at the NMSTC now... it's still in the same state it was in 1995.
    • I visited Boston for the first time at the end of last year. I had a few days spare, so the Boston Computer Museum [tcm.org] was an obvious visit. Finding that it had been absorbed into the Museum of Science [mos.org] wasn't too bad, but what happened to all the exhibits ? Shipped out to storage in California [computerhistory.org] and "... The Best Software for Kids Gallery(TM), now part of an expanded Cahners ComputerPlace". - Just as you describe, it had been reduced to a trivialised version of MSN.

      I've a better computer museum in my own shed 8-(

      OK, so the Virtual FishTank [virtualfishtank.com] is excellent, but that's an exhibit on behaviours, not on computer history.

      obkarmawhore: Not quite computers, but immensely cool electrical oddities [electricstuff.co.uk].

  • I work in Marlborough, Mass at a large helio-centric computer company, and nobody heard any mention of this vintage computer show. Given that 50% of tech employees in Mass are ex-DECies, and at least 25% of them have a VAX or PDP in their basement, I'm surprised there wasn't as many exhibitors or attendees. If only it had been advertised....something of this nature usually spreads pretty quickly by word of mouth, but I still didn't hear anything. Very odd.

    If I had known about the show, I would have dragged along some of my old equipment, and some other stuff that people have around work. I've got a fully functional Atari ST, with mouse, external scsi drive, monitor, and all kinds of MIDI software...hook it up to my synths and I could have put on quite a show! Maybe I would have found someone there with a copy of Epoch UNIX too....a co-worker of mine has an old Epoch server board, that just needs a copy of the OS to run. Anyone here know where I can find a copy of Epoch UNIX? :-) Hmm...maybe I could have found someone at the show that has a use for a case of 8" floppies...I've got to get rid of these darn things. Heh.
  • Back before they invented the wheel, the platters were square, and man those were noisy. Not to mention slow. Of course, the iron age was another great milestone in hard drive technology.
    • I was looking through some storage cabinets at work last week. I found several DEC RL02 cartridge disks in one of the cabinets. These were removable disk packs, about the diameter of a pizza and several inches thick, that could store a whopping 10 megabytes. They were used in a top-loading DEC RL02 disk drive that was attached to a PDP-11/24. We used the PDP-11/24 as a multi-user software development system, with up to 8 programmers simultaneously writing, compiling and testing their code (FORTRAN and MACRO-11) on a system with 512KW (1MB) of RAM and 20MB of disk storage. The system was very responsive. The operating system (RSX-11M) was written in carefully tuned assembly language. The average Palm organizer of today has more RAM and a faster CPU.
      • A friend of mine has got a couple of (I think) RL02's and an RK05...
        The drives themselves aren't noisy (nice quite belt drives, IIRC). What is noisy is the .5hp snailshell blower used to drop the air pressure in the drive chamber, to lower the air resistance on the head(?).
        One of them (I forget which) has a 1hp electric motor (yes, I know how big a motor that powerful is - definitely 1hp, about 1.3kW) which drives a huge blower and a hydraulic pump. Seems to pump stuff resembling Citroen LHM fluid through an oil cooler (cooled by the blower, among other things) and into the mysterious bowels of the unit...

panic: kernel trap (ignored)

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