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Ed S
moderator

Curiosities  - 
 
Retro Computing Quiz! Who's this? What's he holding? When?
Here's a clue: Juvpu fbsg qevax vf nffbpvngrq jvgu guvf?
Please use rot13.com to avoid spoilers. I'll post an answer tomorrow, if no-one gets it.
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Ed S's profile photoJanek Wagner's profile photo
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Ed S
 
+Bill Traynor found an archived copy of the photo in context:
https://goo.gl/N9XLz3 There's much to read - have an explore!
(Edit: there's another at http://goo.gl/VwbyLW)
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William Shotts

Discussion  - 
 
There is a nice demo video in the article.
Released in 1965, the PDP-8 was the first successful commercial minicomputer, making it a coveted piece of computing history. In other words, it's rare and expensive.
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Marshall Levin's profile photofrancois P's profile photoRick Beaver's profile photoDylan Leigh's profile photo
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Ed S
 
There are a number of sample programs for programming the Pi at bare metal level, so you can avoid an OS if you like!
https://github.com/dwelch67/raspberrypi
also
https://github.com/PeterLemon/RaspberryPi

BTW a nice thing about FRAM is that it has to do an internal write-after-read because reading is destructive - just like core! Despite the name - Ferroelectric - there's no Fe in there, just Pb, Ti, Zr.
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7dayshop.com

Software  - 
 
Ah... #Windows95  is 20 years old - happy birthday! https://goo.gl/Z9y7mo
Wow! The popular Windows 95 operating system is a fifth of a century old – having been released on 24 August 1995. A reported $300 million was spent by Microsoft during its advertising campaign to launch the then latest version of its operating system. There was the ad featuring the Rolling Stones’ song Start Me Up – a reference to the start button – and even a 30-minute video with Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry of Friends’ fame, according to...
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Álvaro Jurado's profile photoNorbert Landsteiner's profile photoJon Alcibar's profile photoJanek Wagner's profile photo
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Interesting coincidence at the bottom of the page:
The screenshot of Windows 1 and the photo of Google-pipings (advertising an other article), and in the middle of it, "This is how Windows 1.0 looked". By arrangement the Google-pipes become a visual simile – works great, as Win 1 and Google are sharing the same color scheme. (Never noticed, but it really becomes obvious.)

Archived: https://plus.google.com/+NorbertLandsteiner1/posts/MXoztJH19mw
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Jamel Tayeb

Curiosities  - 
 
Hi All! Last week I enjoyed playing with my Windows CE machines. It reminded me of all these PDAs, PIMs, and what not. One of the coolest ones I have the chance to own is a clear cased Pal Pilot with a frikin’ laser beams!
 
A Palm Pilot with frikin’ laser beam!
This week I will perform a no tear-down tear down. Nothing less. But before getting into the guts of the patient, a Palm Pilot, a bit of remembering. Yes, this is the PDA form 1997 that I am sure many of us used back in the days. Small, lightweight, rugged and effective, these assistants could really fit in a pocket and be useful. It was even possible to develop your own apps – assuming you were ready to do real code, and not assembling samples from here and there before pushing it to an online store. If my memory serves me well, you could use the CodeWarrior IDE or even the GNU Pilot SDK and GCC. Really nice devices. In addition to its personal information management role, the Palm Pilot was a great tool for more professional uses. Symbol Technologies for example, added their bar code scanners into these terminals. This is how the SE 900 scan engine, performing up to 39 scans per second, got integrated into the SPT 1500. You could run all day long in your warehouses and manage your stocks with this tinny device in your hands. With its visible Laser Diode at 650 nm, it can handle scan angles of 53 degrees with a minimum print contrast of 25% absolute dark/light reflectance. In other words, it was pretty good in harsh environments. The model I am tearing-down – without tearing it down – is a demonstrator model with a clear case. It is pretty cool. And I cannot resist quoting Dr. Evil: “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have? ". Enjoy the view.
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jeremy nothum's profile photoAlex Taylor's profile photo
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I've got a Palm IIIe somewhere, it has a clear case a bit like that one, but slightly frosted. I only paid a few pounds for it about 10 years ago. It's a superb device.

I replaced it with a Zire 72 that I also still have. That was a bit more useful because I could use it as an MP3 player with Pocket Tunes.
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Ed S
moderator

Home Computers  - 
 
Intel's new and improved 4040 microprocessor was designed into this kit - the Micro 4/40 from Compu-Sultants with 256 bytes of RAM, from late 1975. Price was $275 as a kit, plus $100 for an assembled unit. 200 made but only 10 sold. Photos mostly from the slideshow on the Old Computer Museum site which has more details:
http://oldcomputermuseum.com/micro-440.html
Via the article The first decade of personal computing by David H. Ahl in the 1984 retrospective issue of Creative Computing where he asks
"What is: an Altair, a Sphere, a Jolt, an RGS, a Scelbi, an SWTPC, a Micro 440, a Mike 2?"
and answers:
"They are all microcomputers available at the end of 1975."
http://www.atarimagazines.com/creative/v10n11/30_The_first_decade_of_perso.php

Stephen Gray wrote Building your own computer where he says "Today two dozen different microcomputer kits are available, based on half-a-dozen different microprocessors, and about 7,000 have been sold, a great many to people with apparently little or no knowledge of electronics." He mentions the 6502-based Jolt for $249, and others based on F8, 6800, 4040, 8080 and PACE. "So far, BASIC is available on only a few hobby computers, including the Altair 8080, Sphere, and Jupiter II."
That was published in 1976, when his Amateur Computer Society was already ten years old, but microprocessors had changed the game:
https://www.computer.org/csdl/proceedings/afips/1976/5084/00/50840235.pdf

I found a couple more mentions of Compu-Sultants - this reminiscence by Jack Crenshaw
http://www.embedded.com/electronics-blogs/programmer-s-toolbox/4372172/How-I-got-embedded--a-special-connection
describes how they erased EPROMs by leaving them out in the sun.

and this short quote from a designer:
https://classictech.wordpress.com/computer-companies/compu-sultants-inc-huntsville-ala/

Don't confuse this 4040-based Micro 4/40 with the 68020-based 440 from Stride:
http://www.sageandstride.org/html/photos_2.html
 





https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_4040
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Ed S's profile photoTony Sidaway's profile photoStefan Janowski's profile photo
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They didn't reach the right market. Maybe trying to sell a kit of parts to people with advanced electronics knowledge who were capable of sourcng parts on their own didn't work out well.

But I remember seeing early microcomputer ads in electronics magazines in the seventies, and being utterly unimpressed by the opacity and amateurish quality of the ad copy. Homebrew computing was in its infant stages and there was no way to measure the potential of any offering. The engineering skills required to assess this strange new hybrid of microchip and computing device were not yet well distributed.
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Looking for a video on dumb terminals I bumped into this gem... love the prominently displayed TRS-80 Model I and the Commodore PET :-)
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Very fascinating, the "big four" home computer companies well represented, Apple, Atari, Commodore and Radio Shack.  This was just before the VIC-20 and IBM-PC were introduced.
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Ed S
moderator

Portable Devices  - 
 
IBM's portable APL machine from 1978, the 5110, now available in your browser:
http://members.aon.at/nkehrer/ibm_5110/emu5110.html
Fortunately it boots by default into Basic. Scroll down for tips on how to reboot into APL, how to access the tutorial from the virtual floppy drive.
(The 5110 was the 1978 successor to the radical 5100. See
http://computermuseum.informatik.uni-stuttgart.de/dev_en/ibm_5110/ibm_5110.html
for details - or see the attached previous post)
(Elsewhere on Norbert's site you can find an in-browser emulation of an HP-45 calculator, or a suite of four HP calculator emulators for your Atari 800XL or C64.)
 
In search of convenient portable computing - the IBM 5100 weighs only 50 pounds and can be programmed in APL. Announced in 1975. Lots of applications illustrated in this advert, but somehow it was not a great commercial success. (BASIC was also available.)
For previous mentions including some technical details, see
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/109052413018437647853/s/5100
For more on the machine, see
http://www.retrothing.com/2011/01/ibm-5100-advertising-the-first-portable-computer.html
See the machine in action, and a tour of the innards, at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52ktEpjIhnk
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Ed S's profile photoNorbert Landsteiner's profile photo
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Out of the numerous materials and projects, probably the most important one is about the "Mailüfterl". Norbert once wrote a Java-emulator that isn't working anymore in modern browsers and that he is currently porting to JavaScript.
(The Mailüfterl is of some importance, because it was – by design date – the first fully transistorized computer and one of the few machines designed with a non-numerical scope in mind. – The fact that there is no material on it publicly available and that there's just a scarce single-page comment on it at the university's homepage illustrates quite well the state of computer history in Austria. Norbert engaged in an extensive research, gathering informations from various sources, like dissertations written by former project members. BTW, the Mailüfterl still exists and is on display at the Technisches Museum in Vienna.)
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Noah Axon

Portable Devices  - 
 
HP Jornada 720 running NetBSD 6.1.5. I'm stranded at LaGuardia, so I'm bogarting the hotspot here with a DNS tunnel tool called Iodine that lets me establish connections to things on the internet through a massive amount of encoded DNS queries. I'm using ssh over the tunnel to get to my openbsd server, where I'll waste time on irc and slack for the next few hours.
Noah Axon originally shared:
 
Iodine. Tunnel all the things.
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Guillaume Binet's profile photoCong Ma's profile photoMorten Juhl-Johansen Zőlde-Fejér's profile photoKen Harbit (Pogi)'s profile photo
6 comments
 
Mmmh, had the 728 and even with Windows ce it was quite nice.. I miss having real keyboards on devices.. Nowadays, I have to carry my twiddler around.. Not that it's much of a hassle, but changing devices, ie repairing is... 
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Juan Castro's profile photoNorbert Landsteiner's profile photoDen Zuk's profile photo
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Love the boards named "WAR" and PEACE" – the Tolstoy machine!
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Can anyone point me to a thing showing me how FIDOnet would have been like from the end user perspective?

I've read the wiki article, and watched the BBS Documentary Jason Scott made. However I don't know how it would have worked to actually use.

Trying to come up with an alt network type scenario not tied to the internet for a thing I'm writing. Figure 'why not go to the old ways and update to take advantage of new technologies?'
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Ed S's profile photoSteve Mansfield-Devine's profile photo
12 comments
 
So how does what you're describing differ from wireless mesh computing?
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About this community

Here we share stories and information about vintage computers, from cogwheels or relays through transistors and chips, from experimental machines through mainframes to 8-bit and 16-bit home computers. We're interested in software and hardware (but not especially interested in the home computer gaming experience because there are other communities for that.)

Thomas Hverring

Curiosities  - 
 
Lovely design with a retro-like feel :)
Retro gadget maker Love Hulten recently showed off two of his latest creations, both of which are gaming systems. The PE358 is a Nintendo emulator inspired by the Game Boy Advance SP, while the Battlecade is a kickass two-player arcade machine inspired by the likes of Battleship.
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Juan Castro's profile photoThomas Hverring's profile photoDaniel Bull's profile photo
2 comments
 
Absolutely! Me too!
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Ed S
moderator

Software  - 
 
MacPaint's canvas was 416 pixels wide - for a very specific reason. If you like assembly language and using a machine to the limit, see also this(*) exploration of 6809 performance:
http://blog.moertel.com/posts/2013-12-14-great-old-timey-game-programming-hack.html
and another mentioned in passing, for the Z80 in the Spectrum, for the game Starion:
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~jg27paw4/yr15/yr15_36.htm
which is by David Webb - there's an interview with him here:
http://zxspectrumgames.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/spectrum-games-programmer-interview.html
"In 1978, at 13, the parent-teachers association at my school (Fulford Comprehensive, York) used some of their school fete money to buy a teletype terminal and a 300-baud acoustic modem, and we were given an account on the DEC-10 mainframe at York University. So with that, we could write and run basic programs. The machine had no display, but printed results on rolls of white paper..."

(*) Oops, posted here a couple of years ago:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/107049823915731374389/posts/9NqdeFMtP6P
Back in the mid 80's after we had finished writing GATO for the Macintosh, I took some time to explore the underbelly of the Mac. One of these times I discovered that a single M68k operation determined the way MacPaint...
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George Phillips's profile photoBlame Troi's profile photoHuei-Horng Yo's profile photoChris Westcott's profile photo
7 comments
 
I have an idea what the framebuffer copy loop in Starion looks like.  POP/PUSH is the fastest way to move memory on a Z-80.  At 10 cycles for POP and 11 for PUSH the peak rate of 10.5 cycles per byte.  But you run out of registers and need to re-load the stack pointer.  He says all the registers are used which suggests to me that he's averaging more than 14.5 cycles per byte because IX and IY (and, oddly AF') take 14 + 15 cycles for a POP/PUSH.  The fastest general purpose copy routine I've come up with is this self-modifying beast:

   ld sp,src
   pop af
   pop bc
   pop de
   pop hl
   ex af,af'
   pop af
   exx
   pop bc
   pop de
   pop hl
   pop ix
   pop iy
   ld (nextsrc0+1),sp
   ld sp,dst
   push iy
   push ix
   push hl
   push de
   push bc
   push af
   exx
   push hl
   push de
   push bc
   ex af,af'
   push af
   ld (nextdst0+1),sp
nextsrc0:
   ld sp,0
... pop, pop, pop, etc.
   ld (nextsrc1+1),sp
nextdst0:
   ld sp,0
... push, push, push, etc.
   ld (nextdst1+1),sp
nextsrc1:
 ... and so on

If fully unrolled it can copy a byte every 14.7 cycles.  It averages 2 program bytes per data byte copied so probably can't fully unroll it.  Nonetheless, still likely faster than the far less boggling alternative of a whole bunch of "LDI" instructions in a row (16 cycles/byte, 2 program bytes per data byte).

I can come up with an even faster copy if the source and destination are fixed (as might be the case when copying from an offscreen buffer to a frame buffer).  And an even faster one if you're not too picky about how the source data is organized.
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Norbert Landsteiner

Home Computers  - 
 
VIC-1001 Kanji Map

The Commodore VIC-1001 was the Japanese market variant of the VIC-20 and it came with some Japanese characters (Katakana kanji) in ROM.
Amazingly, there is no reference to the character map to be found in the unfathomable depths of the WWW. So, here you are…

http://www.masswerk.at/misc/vic-1001-kanji.html

(See the links at the bottom of the page for a complete dump of the character ROM and references.)
Commodore VIC-1001 Kanji (Japanese VIC-20 Characters) Demystified. PETSCII Katakana Kanji (VIC Character ROM 2-41 – 2-7F; Unicode U+30A0 – U+30FF) 2-41: U+30C1 ......X. ..XXXX.. ....X... .XXXXXX. ....X... ....X... ...X.... ........ 2-42: U+30C3 ........ .X.X..X. .X.X..X. ......X. ......X. .
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Norbert Landsteiner's profile photo
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Update: By popular demand (+Ed S) there's now an introduction and the character ROM dump lists both the VIC-1001 characters and the VIC-20 characters side-by-side.
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Raj Wurttemberg

Home Computers  - 
 
My Atari rescue for today. Original owner didn't have time to put it up on eBay and was going to dump it.  Few broken keys here and there, but fairly good shape.
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Raj Wurttemberg's profile photoEdward Kent's profile photoSerge Simard's profile photo
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The C= Monitor 1702 worked well with all 8 bits. Ironically, I stll have one connected to a digital converter being used as a TV.
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David Larsen

Discussion  - 
 
Bugbook Computer Museum curator looks back on old times. A lot of water under the bridge for David - hoping for lots more.
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Antonis Nikolaou's profile photoDavid Larsen's profile photo
6 comments
 
+Antonis Nikolaou
Hi Antonis - Thank you for the nice comment and glad to be in your circles . Dave in Floyd VA
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Michael Mulhern

Discussion  - 
 
The End is Nigh! The End is Nigh! Maybe not quite. In RCR#107 Paul and Earl (That's right, the round table is more like a chat at the bar) discuss the end of the universe as we know it, well, the end of RetroComputing.

Where on the sliding scale of "retro-ness" where does your interest wan?   There are many systems that interest many of us, but where is that cut off for you? 8Bit? 386/486? 

Among the many news and topic items discussed, one of the important ones is the sterling work by Jason Scott of the Internet Archive spearheading a rescue of 25,000+ manuals.

For all that and lots more, click on over to. . . . .
Panelists: Paul Hagstrom (hosting), and Earl Evans Host's Topic: The end of retrocomputing We...
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Ed S's profile photoNorbert Landsteiner's profile photo
2 comments
 
I would second this. PCs were called clones for a reason and there isn't much individual attraction or appeal. Possible exception: Early portables, like the IBM and Compaq models, or the lunch box designs that didn't prevail.
Also, I don't think it's necessarily all about the machines that were the first ones available to you. E.g., I'm mostly interested in machines that were before me, or that were around before I actually touched a computer in real  life. (So, why is it exactly that I didn't receive an IBM 5100 for  my 10th birthday?!? This is to be investigated thoroughly! ;-) )
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Noah Axon

Portable Devices  - 
 
+Benoît `BoD` Lubek maybe this is retro enough? I still use that Jornada daily, even if it's for things like re-partitioning a SCSI drive in preparation for Mac SE/30 UNIX shenanigans.
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Ed S's profile photoClayton Rego's profile photo
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Assuming you're running unix...
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The original Netscape site still online: http://home.mcom.com

This has probably been posted before, but here comes a twist:
First, go to www.masswerk.at/bookmarklets/netscapify/ and install the "Netscapify!" bookmarklet. (Simply drag it to the bookmark bar.)
Activate it to change each of the pages to the glorious gray default background (#C0C0C0) that has been the trademark color of the early days of the WWW. Now, you may finally see these pages again as they were meant to be seen.
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Ed S's profile photo
Ed S
 
Funny - I already have a number of bookmarklets for improving the web
- dark grey backgrounds for everything
- black text (instead of unreadable grey text)
- zapping visual clutter like sidebars, ads, headers and footers
- changing links to dark green bold text
and all if that doesn't work, a bookmarklet from readability to present the main text in e-reader style.
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Ed S
moderator

Discussion  - 
 
Ian Murdock tells his story: from Basic and 6502 on the Apple II, to sneaking around at university trying to access Unix systems, to installing Softlanding Linux with 30 floppies onto an unsuspecting lab PC.  (Ian later went on to create Debian, the constitutionally cooperative Linux distribution)
 
I saw my first Sun workstation in the winter of 1992, when I was an undergraduate at Purdue University. At the time, I was a student in the Krannert School of Management, and a childhood love of co...
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Edward Kent's profile photoTim Russell's profile photoScot Stevenson's profile photoTim Greening-Jackson's profile photo
2 comments
 
Nice! If you look really hard, you can find a patch I posted to SLS Linux's install scripts back in 1993. Reading this really took me back to the same time and a lot of the same circumstances.

A couple of years later, I got to be the God of a network of Sequent Symmetry boxes, fun times.
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Ed S
moderator

Home Computers  - 
 
Jim Sutherland's Echo IV, a transistor based home computer from the 1960s. He noted that it "took a year to build and would need ten years to program. Echo IV was seven feet long, one and a half feet deep, and six feet high." Also "Echo IV had four flip-flop registers, and three registers in core memory. There was 8K words of 15-bit core memory; clock speed was 160 KHz; and there were 18 instructions."
From and via The early days of personal computing at
http://www.atarimagazines.com/creative/v10n11/6_The_early_days_of_persona.php
from Creative Computing magazine November 1984. I bet there's a lot more to be found in those archives.
Hat tip to +Blake Patterson for the pointer.
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Chris McClelland's profile photoChris Blackmore (The Walrus)'s profile photoJuan Pechiar's profile photoJames Luscher's profile photo
9 comments
 
+Chris McClelland Nah, lots of people do it in much tougher circumstances! And I've done impressively stupid stuff, as well.
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