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Old farts reminiscing about computers

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by HankLloydRight, Oct 12, 2015.

  1. HankLloydRight

    HankLloydRight Fluxing

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    Instead of cluttering up other threads, I figured this might be a fun topic.

    I'm 50. My first experience with real computers was messing around with a DEC PDP-8 that my dad had to run his collection business. It had 4k of real magnetic core memory and big 8" floppy disks. It ran DIBOL, which was the first language I tried to learn. Not the best language for a first-time programmer. ;) There's just not much you can do with input and output data channels.

    All that changed shortly after that I was in a Radio Shack buying parts for some electronics project I was working on, and they had a TRS-80 on the counter. I watched as someone walked up and typed in:

    Code:
    10 FOR I=1 TO 100
    20 PRINT I;
    30 NEXT
    RUN
    When it printed those 100 numbers on the screen, I thought I was seeing pure magic. I memorized the code, when to my school's brand new APPLE ][ lab (just three computers), typed it in, and it worked. My second program asked for your hourly rate and how many hours you worked and calculated your wages. I was a sophomore and the computer classes were only available to seniors. By the time I was a senior and could take the class, I was correcting the two teachers who were trying to teach programming. They didn't like me very much. By then I was also doing 6502 machine language programming. Good times, good times.
     
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  2. Andyw2100

    Andyw2100 Well-Known Member

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    I'm 50 also.

    My first experience with a computer was WITH a TRS-80.

    My high school had one, and I believe as early as ninth grade a few of us would get together in the morning, before school, with one or two of the math teachers and play some basically text-based Star Trek game. And Hustle. Hustle was a snake-growing-longer-can't-run-into-your-own-tail game.

    I remember we had to load the programs via a cassette recorder. I think the computer had 4K of RAM.

    A year or two later the school had acquired several Commodore PET computers, and one of those math teachers was actually trying to teach some sort of computer class. As I recall, the PETs were a huge advancement over the TRS-80s, because the cassette player and the monitor were built in.

    Edit: I swear, this is pushing the limits of my programming knowledge, and probably showing how little I really know, but Hank--don't you need "40 GOTO 10" (or 20) in your sample program above?
     
  3. HankLloydRight

    HankLloydRight Fluxing

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    I remember seeing a PET computer at the Franklin Institute in Phila behind glass. You couldn't touch it.

    Once I got to college, I worked in a CS lab that had a couple of old PETs still running. There was this awesome text-based game called "TOKER" which was a ton of fun to play.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Only if you wanted it to run continuously.

    But syntactically it should be: NEXT I and not just NEXT, but that was a shortcut in BASIC if you only had one loop, it figured out what you meant.
     
  4. Andyw2100

    Andyw2100 Well-Known Member

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    Gotcha.

    Thanks!
     
  5. Rockster

    Rockster Active Member

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    #5 Rockster, Oct 12, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2015
    I'm 51 and my first personal computer experience was with the TRS-80's in our computer lab. Six months later, the Apple II's appeared. They were black instead of the normal beige because they were the Bell & Howell models. (Bell & Howell was Apple's way of getting into schools faster because Bell & Howell was already an established vendor with most school systems and Apple was lesser known.)
     
  6. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    What's wrong with this picture?
     
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  7. brianman

    brianman Burrito Founder

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    RENUM

    That is all, for now.
     
  8. HankLloydRight

    HankLloydRight Fluxing

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    I forget the name of the program, but I think it was "Applesoft Utilities" or something like that that included a renumber command which was just: & at the ] prompt. It did a ton of other really cool things too. I think it was also a TSR. It was one awesome tool for BASIC programmers.

    *3d0g
     
  9. dirkhh

    dirkhh Middle-aged Member

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    PET-2001 in school in '78 - 4K, 40x25 screen - I was in 5th grade and they didn't want to let kids program them before 8th grade. So I had to sneak into the lab (the school had four of them) and hope I wouldn't get kicked out... but after a few months the older students came to me to ask questions when their programs didn't run and the rules were quietly changed...
    The first computer I bought was a VIC20 (actually, it was called VC20 in Germany for reasons I can't explain without getting this post moderated... let's just say the German word for an English four letter word starting with 'f' is a homonym for the way you might pronounce VIC...). 3.5kB RAM. 22x23 characters on the screen. I was so excited. Soldered a 3k RAM expansion and then wrote an extension to the BASIC interpreter in 6502 machine language... of course we didn't have an actual assembler for the VIC20 so you'd do this all on paper and then enter the decimal values in a little loop. FUN!
    Then a C-64
    Then the Ataris ST with serial #0000000023 :)
    After that, oh well, who can keep track...
     
  10. HankLloydRight

    HankLloydRight Fluxing

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    Yup... I was in the computer lab pretty much every second I didn't have some other class. I was the defacto "lab assistant"... and 99% of the time, students would ask for my help on why their program wouldn't run, I'd come over, they'd type RUN and then the program would work. They'd swear that it didn't work moments ago, but just by having me nearby somehow made their programs suddenly work. It was uncanny how often I could fix their problems without even fixing anything.
     
  11. perkiset

    perkiset ... this one goes to 11

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    I'm 52, but my father was a professor at a local college and I was playing with the '370 terminals and getting credit for it by time I was 10. I was fascinated by 6502 assembly when my high school got an early, 4K Apple. Thought I'd died and gone to heaven. As the few that have posted here clearly know, those where the days when you clould literally know all there was to know about micros. It was wonderful. Wonder if anyone remembers the magazine, Kilobaud. Man that was the juice. :)
     
  12. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    At least I'm 67 so more into old fart territory.
    First computer I programmed was IBM 1620 and 1190 mainframe (think punch cards, Fortran).
    Worked at a lab in college with a DEC LINC-8 (paper tape, mag tape but booted by manually entering 32 x 12 bit instructions into "core"... yes, it had real core).
    First microcomputer was an Intel 8008 (not 8080) which I hand wire-wrapped (lots of free time on my OB rotation). Octal readout and 256 bytes memory (bytes, not kilo or mega bytes).
    I've owned Apple II, Apple ///, TRS-80, Commodore PET in the early days.
     
  13. bonnie

    bonnie Oil is for sissies.

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    Punch cards here, too, and Fortran 77. Then the Colonial Datas arrived in the lab with their sexy 8" floppies. And I built my own terminal at home & connected with the mainframe via a cradle dock. Good times.
     
  14. jrreno

    jrreno Nothin' left to do but smile, smile, smile

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    My first programming experience was punch cards programming in Fortran at school. Followed that with assembly language programming using an Intellec 8080 the OS for which we loaded using a paper tape run through our in house developed photo reader. You had to boot strap it using the front panel.
    Best experience was programming in Mesa ( a proprietary , object oriented language developed by Xerox Parc) on an Alto which was networked with Parc's ethernet and ran a window OS called Pilot. This was in 1985!
     
  15. Cosmacelf

    Cosmacelf Active Member

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    Ok, I built my first computer from a kit when I was 13. A cosmac elf based on the RCA 1802 microprocessor. 256 bytes of ram and a hex keypad. I added about 4K ram. On older enthusiast and I decided to write a FORTH interpreter for it. So we found a mainframe cross assembler for the 1802 and wrote it.

    Now interfacing a mainframe and a micro was a bit challenging in those days so we built our own punch card reader for the ELF. A piece of wood with nine phototransistors drilled into it in a row. A 100 watt light bulb completed the reader. One of the columns was the clock bit, bytes encoded on the other columns. A 30 byte loader program was all we needed to read the cards. Just shove them though by hand. Fun times.
     
  16. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    So... your username is Cosmacelf... it that from the 1802?
    I started to wire wrap an 1802 but never finished the project. It was one of the first CMOS computers and I liked the low power design.
     
  17. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    A Big Step Forward occurred when we got a Teletype Model 33 that, through the magic of time sharing (oooooh!!!!!) would link up to Dartmouth College's massive main frame (I think it was a GE-635); there were a number of institutions around the northeast, including Annapolis and the Coast Guard Academy, that likewise used the Dartmouth computer. We had an email-type way of talking to other users, but in the subsequent centuries I've forgotten how that worked.

    A few years later we got a closet-sized Digital PDP-11 of our own; that monster probably had the computing power of my iPhone....not.

    My first 'personal' computer was a British one: a Sinclair. It was about the size of two credit cards; it could add, subtract....and all more powerful calculations were performed by adding and subtracting log-10s. It might have had ln functions too, but that I cannot recall. For some reason, my classmates thought that made me a geek.....
     
  18. omarsultan

    omarsultan Active Member

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    First experience was on a TRS-80 Model III in high school. It was an impressive machine because it had a 20MB external Winchester hard drive on it--the kind with a physical key on the front to change from read to write mode. :) My first program was based on the Pythagorean theorem--I was hooked and bought a Model 4P, which is still in my garage. From their I went backwards when I got to college and cut my teeth on punch cards and writing MACRO utilities for a VAX and ended up as a VAX system admin.

    ad-hard-disk-drive-primary-1-3-4-[26-1130]-(rs).jpg
     
  19. physicsfita

    physicsfita Member

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    #19 physicsfita, Oct 12, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2015
    First computer was in 7th grade -- a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I with expansion interface. In high school, I took a class on BASIC using Apple II's. College and grad school was mostly MTS and VAX/VMS -- I connected to those machines using my first-generation Mac. With that background, here are the two anecdotes worth sharing:

    1. Late in grad school, I visited my girlfriend at the time in Washington, DC. We decided to go to the Smithsonian, to find a TRS-80 Model I with expansion interface on display -- I felt like I aged 30 years when I saw that.

    2. Also during grad school, one of our collaborators promised to send data from a related experiment his group performed a decade earlier. About a week later, I got a call from our receiving clerk telling me to "get your f---ing boxes out of my office!" I came in to find a floor-to-ceiling stack of boxes full of punch cards (I was expecting a 9-track tape). The next week was spent chasing down the last available punch-card reader in a 200-mile drive, getting them there and read on to 9-track tape (in an obsolete tape format that I then had to convert to another format of 9-track tape so I could then get it on disk). After all of that, I figured out that the collaborator hadn't properly calibrated the data, and it couldn't be used -- awesome. :mad: I still have the 9-track tape around as a souvenir.
     
  20. omarsultan

    omarsultan Active Member

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    LOL I remember seeing that same exhibit and being dismayed that the gear I had cut my teeth on was now part of a museum exhibit.
     

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