The Centre for Computing History
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.
help z80 coders & pc programmers wanted
if you like all these old machines have a look at http://www.retrocomputermuseum.co.uk/ they have a vast collection and often do open days in the East Midlands.
Disappointed in the over-prominence of the Amstrad and Sinclair lines, and next to no mention of the BBC Micro - except the Domesday project. NO IBM PC and PS/2 lines or early Compaq kit either. If their had been no BBC Micro, there would be no ARM chip today, powering >95% of all mobile phones and tabs.
The BBC Micro is hardly mentioned. And what about the Nascom 1 and 2 systems which, fully built up, was capable or running CPM. I built a Nascom 2 for my girlfriend at the time! Also the UK101 was a ripoff of the Ohio Superboard - I have mine in the garage! I bought my Ohio Superboard from a bloke in a semi-derelict squat in London. He was importing them wrapped in silver foil in a suitcase!
I still have mine, in the original box, the tape drive and all the games that you had to wait to load up and then would crash after 30 minutes of loading! I still have my Amiga too!
Atari 64 Color! 40 column monitor wrap-around. Not one but two 5.25 floppies. Custom memory up to 128. Are you feeling the pain, monochrome Dudes? We will not even talk about sound. We will not even discuss ST 3.5 floppy and 20 meg harddrive 80 column monitor in living color.
c64 and c128 long lost (dead). But still have my Commodore 64 programmer's reference guide circa 1984. I am flipping through it right now. How sweet it was to be a kid and have something very cool to play with. Dual 1541's and TV OUT. Games, ya. But BASIC, sprites, 3 voices and machine language (Chapter 5) made it a play ground of my youth. I can only hope I can provide my kids with something as enabling as the c64, the best selling computer of its time. This comment will cold start in sys64738.
In the 1980's 16mb of RAM, 40 MB of Hard Disk oh and a floppy disk no less. Cost ? ??950 !!! Mind I sold it for ??500 1 year later !!
I have an old 650MB full sized 5.25" SCSI hard-drive that is still in working condition that I use as an external expansion for my Amiga 1200 with it's 120MB 2.5" internal IDE drive. A CD/DVD/Blueray drive for instance is only a Half height 5.25" drive. a Full height 5.25" drive takes up 2 modern computer 5.25" bays just to give you an idea how big my old SCSI drive is! The external case the drive sits in and powers it is an old Commodore PC10 case that no longer has the burnt out PC 10 motherboard. The old PC10 power supply also powers the Amiga 1200 via a cable cut off the brick style external power supply the 1200 came with that burnt out a year after its original warranty was up.
These type of Galleries are a trip down memory lane for me. I started off with a 1K Sinclair ZX81 as my first computer when I left school and upgraded it with the 16K expansion pack as shown plugged into the ZX81 in the pictures gallery. I then went to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K model as my second computer. I later went to the Commodore 64, before Moving to an Amiga 500 I expanded with the A590 20MB hard drive add on. Later I purchased both an Amiga 1200 and a Amiga CD32 both of which I still have in working order. I don't however fire them up to often, instead running my old Amiga games on my Windows PC using an Amiga emulator program.
My master's thesis generated TI99 assembly language using a compiler running on a CDC mainframe. I liked the architecture much better than the 8080.
I remember seeing most of these computer in Byte Mag. Looked at a Sinclair ZX-80 computer before I bought an Atari 800. Later upgraded to an Atari 800XL then a 1200XL when lightning fried my 800XL but none of the hardware on the Serial bus (i.e. 4 serial ports, floppy disks, and hard disk (all 20megs of it. Today's cache memory is bigger on most hard disks, but that was 30 years ago when the 5.25" floppy at 320K/360K was big. And Space Invaders came on a cartridge with the Atari computer, and could have 4 players per computer. Played it on my computer before getting the cartridge for my Atari 2600 game machine.
and a couple Macs. Also have a store's parts bin of Atari 400/800 switches, roms, and whatnot. Just couldn't bear to throw it away.
Man.. I think it just couldnt have been as long as its been .. but it has. I remember my "Trash 80".. the floppy disks were notorious for not writing the medium correctly or the disk themselves were bad. I dont think I really did anything useful with mine other than play stupid games.. never realized it would take me from a Telecom profession to IT.. Time marches on does it not?
If you want to know anything else about the computers featured here, feel free to leave a comment on my blog, send me a email or message me on Twitter. All my contact details are on my blog. Hope you enjoy the photos! Andy
I ALSO HAVE MY IBM 6 MHZ 286 & WITH 1 MBYTE MAIN MEMORY & AND A 386 SX 16MHZ ADDIN CARD AND AN 8 PORT SERIAL PORT BOARD TO RUN AN ANSI VERSION OF MUMPS IN A MULTI USER MODE
i HAVE MY COMPLETE TRS-80 MODEL 1 KB WITH 16KB RAM, SYSTEM UNIT, B & W MONITOR EEXPANSION CHASIS WITH 32 KB MEMORY & PRINTER CONTROLLER & 2 FLOPPY DRIVE CONTROLLER 1 88KB FLOPPY DRIVE & TRS ORIFINAL UNIDIRECTIONAL PRINTER
Uh.. not to gripe or anything. This is great. I actually used a few of the systems that are shown. I seem to be at a loss with some of the pictures, particularly those with no captions or short captions. A short provenance on the systems would be nice.
I still have a Commodore 64. The tape reader died though, so there's no storage, but still fully functional otherwise. The Commodore CBM pictured here looks exactly like the Commodore "PET" my 4th grade class got to use for a few months in the 1970's. The Vancouver School Board had borrowed one or two of them and they moved from school to school for those kids in "advanced" math to play around with "Turtle Graphics" / Logo. The "Dragon" machines here look pretty much identical to my big brother's Apple][ circa 1980 -- from the outside anyway. Those were good times: we soldered SAM (Software Automated Mouth) together from a kit, and we built our own paddle controllers in order to play the new and amazing (Vancouver created) "Evolution" game and my brother's version of Lunar Lander (he's 18 years old than I and was at uni at the time).
My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 with a 16k RAM pack. Man, I thought I was in hog heaven with that! For some reason it wouldn't talk to my tape deck (storage) and the RAM pack didn't fit tight so you had to make sure not to jostle the machine, but we had a lot of fun with it. Got rid of it when I upgraded to a Commodore 64. Wish I'd kept it. Prior to that I also had a Sinclair pocket calculator. That was 1975 when very few calculators were around. It was a great little machine (glowing red numbers) and got me branded by many as a 1970's version of a geek. Don't recall we had an official name like Geek though.
Most IT pros and computer enthusiasts that I know have at least one old computer stored away in basement or closet. I still have have my first Tandy 1000, which still works. What about you? Do you have a computer that's more than 20 years old? Take the poll over on the TR Dojo blog and let me know: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=1976
and I was shocked at how well the basic programing could synthesize voice! The programs I wrote sounded just as good as some of the modern stuff you hear now. I greatly preferred it to anything coming out until the first Toshiba laptop, with built in hard drive in the mid 80's. The Ti/99 would have made a great portable too, if Texas Instruments had just thought about it a little more.
IBM PS/2 75 486 original IBM monitor with the reversed VGA pinning, Micro Channel for Ethernet card (most cards at that time were for Token Ring, was told that IBM only made a 1000 Ethernet cards) and Creative Sound board, SCSI hard drive
My TRS-80 model 1 has been boxed for a while. Miss the voice synthesizer but voice recognition did not like me (modern systems still do not understand me very well.) Had 2 floppies (often used flip enabled disks) and an Olivetti spark jet printer (that you never had to worry about ink drying out but had been unable to get replacement ?ink? 20 years ago). Had quit working (maybe just a fuse but never opened it up to check - yet). Had a model 4p that I was using anyway. 4p worked last I tuned it on - a few years ago - about it's 21st birthday. (Worked with PC's and Windows much of last 20 years - mostly as workstation for Mainframe access.) Had a Sinclair for a while. Small footprint but too limited for me.
The TRS-80 computers were not as popular in the UK. We were more of a country of Sinclair, Amstrad, Atari & Commodore. I do have a TRS-80 Model 1 in my collection.
Ha ha - the ZX-81 was my first computer. Talk about good programmer training. You learn to use space extremely efficiently when you're working with 1K RAM! ;-)
Your experience sounds a lot like mine...the Timex/Sinclair ZX 81 was my first computer (unless one counts the Atari 2600), followed by the C=64. I had better luck with the RAM pack and tape recorder, though. I had the thermal printer, as well.
My first computer was a TRS80 Color Computer. Sold it for the Amiga 1000. Still have 3 Amiga computers. A1000 and 2 A3000's in the attic. Wish I had room to set them up again. 2 Apples, a Macintosh Performa 6115CD and a Power Macintosh 7100/66. All are collecting dust now. The Amiga X1000 pictured is a new computer though. Should be out this year... maybe. http://www.a-eon.com/
I have an Expon HX-20 with printer and micro-casette modules included in it. The first real 'laptop' and until fairly recently this one was still being used to run a telephone switchboard.
In 1987 I traded in my Atari 800XL system for a NEC V-30 (286-386sx) Laptop, then traded it in for a 386DX in 1995. Hand built a Full Tower AMD 64bit 1 gigahertz system in 2000. Still have that, then hand built a AMD 64/2 in 2003. Now ruining a mid tower HP 6000 media center over clocked from 2.44G to 3Gigahertz. Saving up to build a 6 core AMD that I will connect my 8Terabyte RAID HD box to, and have a AMD ATI 1080p HD/HDMI card. That will start after I fill the RAID Harddisk with 3 more 2T drives. The ATI video card is kind of over kill since my RAID drive connects to my HP system via a E-SATA cable and to my WD media player via a usb cable and the HDMI out goes to my 40" HDTV that is hooked to my Dual Tuner HD Dish box. And my PC is not needed to play Digital movies that I store on my RAID drive. This way I will no longer need to burn DVD's to watch movies and no longer need to add to my 3000 DVD collection.
Anyone ever heard of the ATR8000? This was an upgrade/add-on to the Atari 800 computer. The ATR8000 turned the Atari into a CP/M machine on it's Z-80 processor thereby allowing the owner to utilize an abundent supply of 8 bit CP/M software (including freeware) avaialble at the time. Additionally, it allowed Atari owners to purchase less expensive hardware such as line printers, disk drives such as quad density 5 1/4 drives or 8 inch drives. It also came with an option that allowed the Atari to become IBM compatible by using MS-DOS with an 8088 processor. For approximately an additional $1000 dollars it made the Atari much more than a game machine.
I have a fully functional C64 with two 1541 disk drives, AND a Commodore MPS801 printer. I used it until we bought our first PC in 1997. I used to crank out programs in BASIC, write essays and term papers in GeoWrite, play tons of games on it, and compose music on it...ah, good times.
IBM-PC-XT with 640K, replacement NEC V20 Processor, 8087 math co-pro and LIM Memory board, Hercules Monochrome Graphics. 4.77 Mhz. 30MB MFM 5-1/4" full-height HDD. Compaq Portable (luggable) III IBM-AT Clone Explorer-80 MB attached inside cabinet of TTY-KSR-636. No drives, uses either audio cassette or paper tape reader. IBM/HP 7473 Sheet Vector Plotter, complete with full manuals.
of the originals I owned back when. My friend and I used to maintain a junk pile for fun; but he's moving, and all the vintage stuff is going to the dump! *sigh*!
Unfortunately I don't have any of my old computers anymore...no room for them. I actually went retro in the early '90s and bought a Kaypro portable, just because I wanted to try CP/M, which I'd wanted to play with in the '80s but never had the opportunity to do so.
I still have an Apple 2e, a Mac SE FD/HD, Powerbook 180c, Amiga (various), Acorn Electron (plus about every peripheral), Got 3 different Apple Newtons (iPad predecessor (sort of)), and many, many more! My wife has an issue about this, something about storage! :-)
I had one here in the UK. In fact that's the machine that got me into computers. Anybody remember Haunted House and Dancing Demon?!
@LedLincoln My first computer was a 1K Sinclair ZX81 as well that I purchased already built. After just over a year with only 1K ram I saved up and purchased the 16K expansion module that plugged into the back. It actually only had 15K in it. The 16K written on it referred to the total memory once it was plugged in. I used to purchase the imported British magazines and type in the games code printed in the pages. I remember later on once I upgraded to the ZX Spectrum tying in the code to build Manic Miner and Jetset Willy from the original printed code that came out in one of the Spectrum magazines before the games went commercial and became available on Tape.
My brother had a friend that use to do almost all Heathkit build your own kits. He made a ZX-80 project. I got to play with it as I taught him to use the Micro BASIC ROM ROM chip to it. I intern learned how to do Z-80 machine code. The Tiny Basic was not HP or even DEC or Microsoft but much easier to write in over machine code. Those were the days writing stuff to fit into 4K ROM chips. Now days we can do things 1,000 times bigger and almost fit the Universe into one computer database. What will we do when they can think faster than we can. But thinking of that you start hearing 'I'll be back echoing in the back of your head.
Basically it turned your Atari into a dumb terminal. Never owned the unit but still have my Atari 800. Look what you could do with 48K of RAM..
I bought a C64 back in 1982 and owned it for over 10 years till it died which then I had built my first PC. Later I discovered Linux, so found an emulator for those old C64 games and word processor and they now live on. Good times indeed!
I used to have one of these. It had a Z80 processor with 2*5 1/4" floppy drives and ran under CP/M. It had some overheating problems and now rests in peices.
My husband has that same issue with storage, as I have every computer I ever purchased--which is quite a few! As a teacher, I started with the TI 99A, then into Apples--II Plus, IIe, IIc (the only Apple I don't still have), Macintosh with the $400 20 MEGABYTE external HDD and the 9 inch B&W screen (NO internal HDD), and many more past that They were all working the last time I turned each one on. I'm about to dump them--I'm too old and the kids don't care.
...but it was not a Heathkit. It was provided by Sinclair. I think in kit form it was $99, and the assembled version was $150. I built plenty of other Heathkits, however.