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Why Retro Computing Matters
Rather an interpretation than just a simple link: A recent study has projected that Moore's Law in its simple form may be coming to an end around 2020, resting our hopes of future progress in productivity on 3D stacking. Manufacturing and engineering questions aside, the study identifies yet another roadblock: Energy consumption.
"The world's computing infrastructure already uses a significant slice of the world's power, and the ITRS says the current trajectory is self-limiting: by 2040 (…) computing will need more electricity than the world can produce."

One of the conclusions we may draw from this is that the standard procedure of adding abstraction in software and paying for it by an upgrade cycle in hardware may be foreseeably doomed. (Take that, web frameworks.) So, we may want to consider some techniques of old, of how to address complex tasks in more low level ways suiting a more humble hardware in order to free computing resources. Software archeology, rather than another hardware initiative, may be a "king's road" to future improvements …

Compare: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/07/25/semiconductor_industry_association_international_technology_roadmap_for_semiconductors/?mt=1469441767043

[Edit] Here's the paper, "Reebooting the IT Revolution: A Call to Action" (Sep. 2015), based on a workshop held March 30–31, 2015:
http://www.semiconductors.org/clientuploads/Resources/RITR%20WEB%20version%20FINAL.pdf

IEEE Spectrum source: http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/hardware/transistors-will-stop-shrinking-in-2021-moores-law-roadmap-predicts
So says the semiconductor industry's last ever communal roadmap
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Peter Walker's profile photo
12 comments
 
The electricity consumption angle is a furphy. The increasing complexity and processing ability is not. The notion of abstraction layers is valid to a point. However, I see the problem as a software issue rather than a hardware. I think it was Ken Thompson who lamented that disk drivers were now bigger than his whole Unix OS. I can sympathise with this.
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Ed S
moderator

Curiosities  - 
 
6502 fan? Can I recommend following the +mos6502 page, where +André Fachat and myself post every Friday - we cover all the bases, hardware, software, emulation, homebrew, and all the brands, from Acorn, Apple, Atari, Commodore to Rockwell, Synertek and Tangerine. We like breadboard designs, we like frontpanels, we like bootloaders and monitors.
If you're new to +mos6502, be sure to check out the hundreds of previous posts on our profile - and whether or not you're new, please reach out and help us find more 6502 fans here on G+ by resharing.
 
This week, two breadboard homebrew 6502 systems for your approval: first is the Limpfish1000 by David Barton, which caught our eye because the breadboard layout is so clean and tidy, You can stalk David see more over at and near
https://www.instagram.com/p/BBsS_9PzFhN/
including a quick glimpse of Peter Jennings' Microchess.
...
As a second treat, take a look at Peter Noyes' Dodo system, which also started life on breadboard - gloriously chaotic wiring in this case - but which has now graduated to a PCB. It's open source, including a simulator written in Go. Plenty of links to writings and photos in the discussion at
http://forum.6502.org/viewtopic.php?t=3630
but for instant gratification start here, with the Star Wars theme shifted out to a speaker by the 6522:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BCggao9y-D9/
An actual running computer with actual RAM and ROM! Memory decoding logic was painful. I added a quad 74HC00 NAND gate along with the 3 to 8 decoder. Code in ROM copies lots of NOPs into RAM beginn…
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Filinto Rodrigues's profile photoJac Goudsmit's profile photo
6 comments
 
I second that recommendation :)
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Tony Sidaway

Discussion  - 
 
Vintage Computer Festival Europe.

For the third time, there will be a Vintage Computer Festival Europe in Switzerland on November 19th and 20th, 2016. 

This time, the event will take place in the Rote Fabrik, Zurich.
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Highlights for me:
"Fuzix: multi-user, multi-tasking on pretty much any 1980s home computer"
and virtual memory for the 6502.
(Also, a presentation on The Story of Mel, and one on the trinity of 1977.)
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HP-85 Teardown (and more)
3 videos on the HP-85 scientific computer from 1979 (the specific machine is from 1980) at Dave Jones' EEVblog channel:

First, there's a teardown video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5SzKM7g5Ds

There's also an introduction to the working machine:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yac6YByAcRc

And, as the machine did suffer a bit from the teardown, there's a repair video on getting it working again:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14KncLx5frg
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Peter Walker's profile photoNorbert Landsteiner's profile photo
2 comments
 
There's another teardown / repair video combination currently featured at various outlets, involving another well known EE blogger and the only known prototype of the mythical, unreleased SNES-CD (Nintendo PlayStation with CD-ROM drive). But, of course, we don't do video games here. However, here's a link to the story and the videos (since, when it comes down to hardware, it's yet another retro computer): http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/07/the-quest-to-get-a-unique-snes-cd-rom-prototype-working-again/
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Peter Walker

Discussion  - 
 
Sounds exactly what some of us have been talking about with MOS, Wang, DEC, Wordstar, Lotus and blood on the carpet.

Filled with first-hand accounts of ambition, greed, and inspired engineering, this history of the personal computer revolution...
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Raymond Heath's profile photoJac Goudsmit's profile photo
6 comments
 
This is the cover of the first printing. I've read the second printing, which was updated from the first printing and got so big that Bagnall had to stop at the part where Commodore bought Amiga. He's working on a Kickstarter-funded book "Commodore: The Amiga Years" which retells the second part of the Commodore story.
See https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1462758959/commodore-the-amiga-years-book . That second book has had a long history filled with turmoil about when and whether it was going to be released; hopefully it will be done later this year.
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Early Microprocessor Wars Mostek's August 1979 Microcomputer Newsletter had an interesting chart comparing various early microprocessor chips. This newsletter was used to communicate to customer various various bugs, bits and news about Mostek chips. According to the distribution list it was sent to 100+ distributors, 75+ employees, managers, Sales Engineers, and customers, so it was public information and also carried no copyright notice. I had an article in this about a program that used the the Z80 Refresh register, so this was hoarded in my old files.

"Single Chip Microcomputer Comparison Chart" by Ron Baldridge

I have revised and expanded my chart for comparing single-chip micro(sic) by adding the die size, price, and mask charge/minimum order information. If any of you have any information that would help fill in the gaps on this chart (eg. 6805) let me know. I have tried to arrange the devices in rough order by capability showing where the 3870 family fits in. It appears to me that the Rockwell/Synertek 6500/1 is the closest technical competitor of the 3870.
....

Ron mentions the 3870 which was the first true single chip microcomputer, originally made by Fairchild and second sourced by Mostek. The 3870 was so successful that Fairchild licensed it back from Mostek.

You might find some interesting things in this chart. For example, the $3,000 mask charge for a minimum order of 1000 Mostek 3870 parts would be about $10,000 today, in 2016 dollars. And you still have to add the cost of the parts. According to this chart, for the 3872 chip, a 10,000 piece run would cost about $25.50 plus mask of $3K, or $25.80 each. In today's dollars, that would be $85.66 each, or a total of $856,600. For a part that had just 4K of RAM and 128 bytes of RAM!

It sure was a different world back then!
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Norbert Landsteiner's profile photoPeter Walker's profile photo
22 comments
 
+Norbert Landsteiner
Excellent. There's a quiet afternoons viewing.
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Peter Walker

Curiosities  - 
 
In all the years I worked on the Wang systems I never noticed this in the Wang mini default "Start" menu program. Mostly we had our own "Start" program set in the partition generator, but tonight I caught a flash of something cheeky and did a listing.
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Laura Ess's profile photoPeter Walker's profile photo
14 comments
 
+Laura Ess
You guys would have had the 'big iron' VS systems. I never worked with them, but for some (irrational) reason I was less than impressed. The Amdahl 580s were supposed to be a good thing and Gene Amdahl was no slouch. I thought I saw a post about him here or on History.
Unfortunately the hardware is often let down by mediocre software from over reaching third parties.
If Wang had issues selling the 2200 series stuff they would waltz the customer over to Barry at Univation, check out the Wizard OS and it was a done deal. Of course Barry requested that Wang keep him supplied in hardware quid pro quo.
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Jon Bailey

Curiosities  - 
 
(Mods - not sure if this goes in Curiosities or another please let me know! :) )

Several other videos on this channel are pretty good too! (The 8-bit Guy)
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Peter Walker's profile photoEd S's profile photo
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Running Wordstar Under Windows (Current)

If all these posts about Wordstar made you desirous to to try it on your own box, here's a guide on how to run Wordstar under a current edition of Windows (including Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10), provided by Wordstar veteran and Hugo Award winning science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. (His approach utilizes vBox, an enhanced version of DOSBox.) – Now, where's your excuse for not writing that best selling novel, you're always talking about?

http://sfwriter.com/ws-vdos.htm
I'm a Hugo Award-winning science-fiction writer, and I've been using WordStar since 1983, writing all 23 of my novels with it. If you still have questions about getting WordStar to run under Windows after reading the notes below, please email me at rob@sfwriter.com. —Robert J. Sawyer ...
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Thomas Liebscher's profile photoMargaret Leber's profile photo
7 comments
 
I'm not feeling that nostalgic. All my Wordstar use was on an Osborne/1. :-)
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Peter Walker

Software  - 
 
In case you were wondering about what Chuck Moore's i21 is all about. Here's another piece following on from Margaret's post...
Part One
http://www.cpushack.com/2013/02/21/charles-moore-forth-stack-processors/
Part two
http://www.cpushack.com/tag/forth/
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Ed S's profile photo
Ed S
 
"In 1983 Chuck founded Novix, a company whose goal was to design a processor that was optimal for use with FORTH, a true stack processor... The first design was the NC4000 released in June of 1985, later renamed the NC4016. One of the goals of FORTH is to eliminate sub-routine call overhead, and on the NC4016 subroutine calls and returns could be handled in a single clock."
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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.)

Jamel Tayeb

Curiosities  - 
 
When angels are booking tickets to hell, it's done using a Macintosh! Lol. Preacher is really a series with a sweet tooth for retro computing!
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You can catch almost all media appearances at
http://www.starringthecomputer.com/ It's an IMDB for Retro Computing.
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Peter Walker

Software  - 
 
Unix big-iron vendors lining up and spruiking their stuff in 1989.
*Sun Microsystem
*Hewlett Packard
*Apple
*Wiesel Lab
*SCO
*UC Berkeley
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Peter Walker's profile photoRobert Cooper's profile photo
5 comments
 
+Isaac Kuo +Peter Walker I think it was also just about where it was produced. It was from San Mateo, so you know, it was biased toward stuff going on in the valley.
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Kam-Yung Soh

Discussion  - 
 
Ben Heck repaired it. "Since a prototype of the fabled, unreleased SNES-CD (aka the "Nintendo PlayStation") was first found and disassembled last year, we've learned enough about this one-of-a-kind piece of hardware to actually emulate homebrew games as if they were running on its CD-ROM drive. The prototype console itself, though, has never been fully functional—it couldn't generate sound, the CD-ROM drive wouldn't spin up, and, after a recent trip to Hong Kong, it actually stopped generating a picture.

That's when the prototype's owners, Terry and Dan Diebold, went to famed gaming hardware hacker Ben Heck. They want this piece of gaming history up and running again. Heck documented his efforts in a fascinating two-part YouTube series that reveals a lot about the system and what makes it tick."
Ben Heck's hardware hacking gets a unique CD-ROM drive spinning again.
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Kam-Yung Soh's profile photoEd S's profile photo
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Ed S
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Yes, generally I think we'd be OK with hardware posts. We're also OK with posts about the process of writing software for these platforms, if they are technical and have historical detail.

We just want to be cautious about having too many posts which are too far from our main mission, of Retro Computing.
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Ed S
moderator

Discussion  - 
 
Just a plug for a relevant community! Book posts are welcome here in Retro Computing and also over at the Computer History Book Club. If you like reading about computer history, you'll be pleased to see Jimmy Maher has collected his excellent blog posts into free ebooks organised chronologically at
http://www.filfre.net/the-digital-antiquarian-e-book-library/
which will be great for offline reading.
Computer History Book Club
I've read this old computer book and I like it
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Ed S's profile photoKam-Yung Soh's profile photo
2 comments
 
If you enjoy Jimmy Maher's posts, you can also support him directly via Pateron [ https://www.patreon.com/DigitalAntiquarian ].
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Ed S
moderator

Curiosities  - 
 
Early computing in the Netherlands - before ZEBRA, there was ARRA II, and before that, there was ARRA - which was certainly seen working, once! (These were difficult post-war years, and there's a feeling here of the spirit of reconstruction and invention.)

Extracts from a timeline:
"""
1952 The presentation of the ARRA at the MC, a milestone in Dutch computer-building. This relay machine was hailed as a symbol of faith in technology in the post-war reconstruction period. Proved to be practically unusable.
1952 Dijkstra started work at the MC as the first programmer in the Netherlands and one of the first of the world.
1953 Van der Poel develops the PTERA, the first computer in the Netherlands with radio tubes instead of relays.
1954 ARRA II developed by Blauw at MC; unlike ARRA I, successful.. Radio tubes and transistors. Used for: technical and scientific calculation.
"""
- https://web.archive.org/web/20160102191809/http://dutch-computer-heritage.com/DUTCH_COMPUTER_HISTORY_3_Timeline.htm
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Jan van den Broek's profile photoAlex Taylor's profile photo
3 comments
 
Thanks for posting this - it was very interesting, and gave me a bit of Dutch listening practice at the same time!
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Manuel Viet

Home Computers  - 
 
France's most famous 80's home computer, heavily enforced upon unsuspecting children by the government eager to save a then industry flagship, Thomson.
 
Une vidéo spéciale vacances ! Le Thomson MO5 ! Les cahiers au feu, le maître au milieu !!!
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Peter Walker's profile photoManuel Viet's profile photo
4 comments
 
For a second you had me confused because speedtouch adsl modems were retailed under the Alcatel brand in France, but it appears they were co-produced by Technicolor which is the heir of Thomson (and presumably has retained the rights over the brand).
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One of my favorite moments in computer history: Grace Hopper introducing herself as a unit of measurement[1]:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEpsKnWZrJ8

[1] Compare http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WhimsicalUnitsOfMeasurement (Distance)
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Peter Walker's profile photoWolfgang Stief (stiefkind)'s profile photo
4 comments
 
+Patrick Koetter might want to watch this :-)
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Alex Taylor

Discussion  - 
 
Batteries. Removed from three Acorn A3020s, an Acorn A4000 and an Acorn A310.

I'm losing some storage shortly, so I decided to remove these before putting the machines in my loft. I put a piece of insulating tape on the backs of the machines so that I know which ones have been done. I rearranged the area of the loft so these machines are at the back, so I can get to the others more easily and do the same. I've got some more A3020s in the shed, so I'll have to get to them at some point.

Then I'll have to check all my Amigas and Macs, as some have had their batteries removed and some haven't. The Macs particularly, as those lithium batteries are extremely destructive when left too long.
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Bunny Evans's profile photoAlex Taylor's profile photo
7 comments
 
+Bunny Evans Ah yes, the Dallas RTC chips. The batteries die and there aren't any replacements available for the older ones, so people have resorted to drilling holes in the casing and connecting another battery externally. 
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Whatever Happened to Wordstar?

What does Game of Thrones, a dressed up Rolls-Royce chauffeur, 42 industry-strength man-years and 4 months of furious assembler coding have in common? – A tale of the rise and fall of Wordstar, the word processor of choice of the early 80s: http://www.dvorak.org/blog/whatever-happened-to-wordstar-2/

Found at HN; of course, there's a thriving discussion:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12114185
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Zoran Davidovac's profile photoChris McClelland's profile photo
13 comments
 
+Zoran Davidovac when I first moved to Linux in ~1995 I used the joe editor for everything.
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