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Michael Umbricht

Portable Devices  - 
 
Watch a video of the restored Millionaire Mechanical Calculator, invented in 1895. This mechanical calculating machine was used at Van Vleck Observatory for astronomical data reduction.
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Alex Taylor

Discussion  - 
 
Commodore 64 still doing active work in Poland!
 
So awesome. Look at that thing, still truckin. #Commodore  
One common complaint in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. One computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland, however, has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. In January a photo was taken by Facebook
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Robert Grasböck's profile photoThomas Woinke's profile photo
6 comments
 
This is so awesome. What kind of PC would be needed to do the same task with "modern" software, kludged together in Java or worse.

They did struggle quite a bit with the last paragraph about the technical details of the C64. What the heck is a "CIA 6526 joystick". 
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Ed S
moderator

Servers  - 
 
"Thanks to their stunning design, some ICT 1301s took on another role in the 1970s and 1980s, appearing in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, also Blake's 7, The Pink Panther, and Doctor Who. Only three other ICT 1301s are known to have survived, but Flossie is the only one ever likely to work again."
ICT 1301 Fact File (also from +The National Museum of Computing):
* A second Generation Early British Design, implemented by Computer Developments Limited for ICT (International Computers and Tabulators) which became ICL (International Computers Limited).
* Designer: Dr R Bird. He started the project in mid 1958.
* Console and colour scheme designer: Noel London
* Translation of design to a working machine by GEC at Coventry, using Early British Germanium transistors.
* Over 150 built.
* First customer delivered machine, Serial No 6, Flossie to London University at Senate House in 1962.
* This design developed into the 1302 a realtime multiprogram system which became one of the foundation blocks of the ICT 1900 range.

Floor footprint: 25 foot by 25 ft area
Max configuration weight: 5.5 Tons
Power consumption : max 13kw of three phase power, idle 6.2kw
Number of logic PCBs: just over 4 thousand plus 1 Single Valve
Number of transistors: over 16 thousand
Number of logic bays: 22
Internal Speed: 1MHz by 4 bits = 4MHz data rate
Number of bits per word: 48 + parity ( format = Hexadecimal)
Number of bytes in main (core) store: 12,000
Number of bytes on a single drum Store: 72,000
Max number of drums: 8
Integrated card reader: 600, 80 column cards per min
Integrated line printer: 600 lines per min by 120 print positions
Integrated card punch: 100, 80 column cards per min
Additional paper tape reader: 1,000 chars per second
Magnetic tape (as fitted ): approx 10 mega byte per reel
Max number of magnetic tape decks: 8
Plus ability by software to drive any single ICT 1900 device
Number of indicator lights on Console: 252
Number of relays to switch power: over 24
Website for more info www.ict1301.co.uk

(All the above from http://www.tnmoc.org/news/news-releases/flossie-first-mass-produced-business-computer-rescued which comes from the re-rescue about a year after the BBC article)
 
One of the world's oldest commercial computers, Flossie, is restored back to working order by two enthusiasts in a barn in Kent.
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Duncan Gunn's profile photoBunny Evans's profile photo
13 comments
 
+Duncan Gunn The Mercury Arc Rectifier is technically a valve (and a thing of beauty) Given they could use it to go from both AC to DC and back. It was quite a remarkable valve.
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Chris Gallaty

Home Computers  - 
 
Have not thought about this in a while, but I just ran across a reference to Franklin computers (sadly in a production database, but that is another story) and remembered this guy. I knew someone that had one and always though the triangle in place of the apple on the keys was a bit cheeky. I was surprised to learn that this was a VTech computer (I had forgot that) the things you learn looking back. I have more than enough of their kit laying around in the kids toy box these days.
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Lewin Edwards's profile photoEd S's profile photo
5 comments
Ed S
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Right, +Lewin Edwards, so in fact Franklin did the smart thing, believing that it was legal, and doing the least amount of work to make a product. As it happens, they got knocked down in court - but it could have gone the other way.
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Laura Ess

Discussion  - 
 
”It’s very simple, really.”
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Tony Sidaway's profile photoDaniel Yunge's profile photo
8 comments
 
I will sign "Electronically yours" from now on.
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Paul Bennett

Curiosities  - 
 
 
The Strange Victorian Computer That Generated Latin Verse:
It may have influenced Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace.
by Amanda Kolson Hurley
(Atlas Obscura - sep 2016)
Called the Eureka, it may have influenced Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace.
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Marcus Bennett

Rebuild Projects  - 
 
Can you really use a computer where the date, and perhaps the time is wrong? Well try it. I'd argue not. But that's the current dilemma I am facing whilst trying to restore and use my Cromemco 68020 processor system, runnin...
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Marcus Bennett's profile photo
5 comments
 
+Rick Troth Just updated my article where I used the working 68010 program under the 68010 OS in the 68020 OS. No worky. I am gutted. Also as above I wrote some assembler code and that fails too :-(
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Marcus Bennett

Rebuild Projects  - 
 
I had to start, well after re-reading the manuals, using a Line Editor. It was extremely painful.
Marcus is in the middle of rebuilding this circa 1980 Cromemco Computer. Actually the circuit cards and all software are from Cromemco, the case shown is one from any number of manufacturers at the time. But I digress. In or...
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Ed S's profile photoAndrew Reid's profile photo
2 comments
 
Remembering how to use ed is sometimes useful when you need to adjust a system's configuration when (and because) it has bombed out into the initramfs instead of booting, even on fully modern systems.

Although, these days, even pre-boot environments tend to have vi.
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Celebrating 5000 Members
and recognizing +Ed S ' appreciation of in-browser emulators, here's a link to the JavaScript Vic-20 by Matt Dawson (2009), featuring all of the 5K bytes of memory: http://mdawson.net/vic20chrome/vic20.php

(Note: Yes, we may have some decimal vs binary issues here, as in K vs iK, however… The official 5K-day may be postponed to 5120 members? – Anyway, this is a great emulator.)
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sirhc Tribe's profile photoLewin Edwards's profile photo
10 comments
 
I got in severe technical trouble using VGA RAM as code execution scratch space in an embedded system I designed some years ago... PCI bus didn't properly support burst mode. Of course, this wasn't discovered until we'd already shipped
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Jan van den Broek

Home Computers  - 
 
Atari Explorer '88
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Ed S's profile photo
Ed S
 
(Some photos sideways or worse - please can you fix the rotation?)
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Guys! See what happens at the AmiParty twice a year! 
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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.)

mathew murphy

Discussion  - 
 
Getting a Xerox Alto running. Complete with 14" hard disk holding 2.5MB.
We've been restoring a Xerox Alto from the 1970s for several months, and we finally got it to boot and run some programs! There's still some hardware debugging ahead of us, since the Alto drops into the debugger for many prog...
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Ed S's profile photo
Ed S
 
(Technically, a dupe, but the previous one seems to have suffered from spam-taint.)
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Emmanuel Florac

Curiosities  - 
 
Nice one :)
 
Univac 9000 Series disk cartridge prototype with a 2.2 MB capacity 1966
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Ed S's profile photoHarry Reed's profile photo
2 comments
 
Cool. The first real computer I programmed was a Univac 90/60. Oh, the memories! Oh, the excitement of a 110 baud, acoustically coupled connection.
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Marcus Bennett

Rebuild Projects  - 
 
Feel free to help me :-)
*INCLUDE '/equ/jsysequ.asm' latch equ 0ffffff20h ; also tried 0bfffff20h year equ 0ffffff26h ; also 0bfffff26h START: move.l #latch,a0 ; first must read latch move.b (a0)+,d1 ; read latch...
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Alan Cox's profile photoBen Williams's profile photo
13 comments
 
+Alan Cox The 6809 hit the shelves in 1978. At that time, the only 8/16 bit MPU that was even remotely near as powerful was the Z80, and it wasn't really that close at all (plus it was an un-orthogonal nightmare, which kept the software quality way, way down.)

The 6809's problem from day one was twofold.

First, it was a random logic design, and a very complex one for its day. Getting it out the door was a matter of a lucky confluence of skill and daring on the part of a small technical team -- and once out there, Motorola never put any effort into trying to update the random logic, nor did they both to microcode it (the 68000 was microcoded, though.)

Second, Motorola, very much like Commodore, had a severely under-performing marketing department. We used to say (of Commodore, but I'm pointing at Motorola saying "them too") that if they had the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, they'd market it as "lukewarm, dead, bird"

Those two things meant that the 6809 was a dead end - not that it was late, or lesser than anything else out there when it hit, because it was neither; just that at the speed of the marketplace, even having great DOS implementations (for the day: Flex first, then OS9, which was superb) isn't enough just a very few years down the road.

Intel and Zilog had terrible CPU designs from the programming POV, but marketing chops... they both had that. Intel then brought massive technical competence in silicon manufacture to the table, kept updating the CPU designs (a lot of which was purely crazy suck, for instance segment registers, cough...) and that was pretty much the end of that.

To this day, I wave a grateful hand in the direction of c compilers, so I don't have to look the evil that Intel has inflicted upon us all in the face, but only through an opaque proxy. c compiler authors suffered so I don't have to. Thank you all. :)

Also, check this out:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fyngyrz/6893926079/
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Skip Tavakkolian

Rebuild Projects  - 
 
 
We get the vintage Xerox Alto to boot and run some programs! We end up in the debugger regularly, so there are still some hardware problems to track down, but I'm very happy to see the system working.
We've been restoring a Xerox Alto from the 1970s for several months, and we finally got it to boot and run some programs! There's still some hardware debugging ahead of us, since the Alto drops into the debugger for many prog...
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Lewin Edwards

Home Computers  - 
 
Sorting the stuff I brought from new York four years ago.... Poor climate control has not been kind to it
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sirhc Tribe's profile photoLewin Edwards's profile photo
24 comments
 
The ZX81 has a large aluminum heat spreader under the PCB (just an unshaped piece of sheet stock). Note that the input is unregulated 9VDC. The ZX power supply is just a transformer, full wave rectifier, and smoothing capacitor. Under full load with a 16K RAM pack this drops to around 8V. The regulator in the computer gets warm, but not thrillingly hot (60 Celsius ish)
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Ed S
moderator

Discussion  - 
 
We're in luck - France does indeed have computers in museums, despite our worst fears. Here's an IBM 7030 Stretch at the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris. ("One of the coolest museums a hacker could visit.") Also found here: Jacquard loom, Pascaline calculators (signed by Pascal himelf), a Cray, Minitel, and the XO--1 from OLPC foundation.
One to add to +Fabrice Lété's big world map of computer museums, perhaps: https://goo.gl/NOi6xy

IBM's first "transistorised supercomputer": "Its failure to meet its aggressive performance estimates forced its price to be dropped from $13.5 million to only $7.78 million and its withdrawal from sales to customers beyond those having already negotiated contracts. Even though the 7030 was much slower than expected, it was the fastest computer in the world from 1961 until the first CDC 6600 became operational in 1964"
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_7030_Stretch
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Dylan McNamee's profile photoEd S's profile photo
5 comments
Ed S
 
That is fascinating - I had no idea
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Marcus Bennett

Rebuild Projects  - 
 
A substantial memory upgrade, and CPU too. But without the XMM card I am still screwed:
Subtitle: Hands On A friend sent me a hard disk containing Cromemco UNIX V. I was very excited. I should perhaps mention that this was an Operating System released in 1984 and so getting it working was and still is going to...
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Marcus Bennett's profile photoDaryl Tester's profile photo
3 comments
 
Well, they're still perfectly compatible, so why not?  I still have (and use) my early 80's Weller desk iron.
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The Guru Meditation

Home Computers  - 
 
The Guru Meditation is on Instagram! Anthony posts pictures from his enormous Commodore collection with detailed descriptions of each item. It is like a course in Commodore history. Please enjoy and follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_guru_meditation/
 
The Guru Meditation is on Instagram! Anthony posts pictures from his enormous Commodore collection with detailed descriptions of each item. It is like a course in Commodore history. Please enjoy and follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_guru_meditation/
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Ed S
moderator

Software  - 
 
An hour's talk on the history of C (and C++) - worth at least a whiz through the slides for some very nice retrocomputer photos!
http://www.pvv.org/~oma/HistoryAndSpirit_NDC_Jun2015.pdf
(Atlas, EDSAC, PDP-7 & 11, Interdata, DG NOVA, IBM 370, Honeywell and more!)
"At Bell Labs, back In 1969, Ken Thompson wanted to play. He found a little used PDP-7 and ended up writing a nearly complete operating system from scratch. In about 4 weeks. In pure assembler, of course. Dennis Ritchie soon joined the effort. While porting Unix to a PDP-11 they created C, heavily inspired by Martin Richards’ portable systems programming language BCPL. In 1972 Unix was rewritten in C, and later ported to many other machines aided by Steve Johnson's Portable C Compiler. C gained popularity outside the realm of PDP-11 and Unix. Initially the K&R was the definitive reference until the language was standardized by ANSI and ISO in 1989/1990 and thereafter updated in 1999 and 2011."
via the HN discussion on writing a self-hosting C compiler in 40 days:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10731002
See also the link in the slides to the short EDSAC video - how to program!
youtube.com/watch?v=x-vS0WcJyNM
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Maurici Carbo (nummolt)'s profile photoNorbert Landsteiner's profile photo
9 comments
 
+Maurici Carbo Does (bi-)quinary count too? :-)
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