Cleaning out the closet caused me to look at my history with computers.
Don’s First Computer
My prize computer I haven’t been able to locate for years. I built it in 1962. It was very useful. It added numbers up to a result total of eight. Probably stuffed in the attic? I built a mahogany box about the size of a cigar box in wood shop. I then built two rotary switches using the old push style paper clips. The switches were something like 4P4T switches. There were two switches that you dialed a number on each of the two switches and one of 8 lights would light which was the result. I built it as a science fair project.
Introduction To Programming
In the service, at tech school, I was introduced to a “real”computer. It wasn’t much. It was built of discrete components and could be programmed to do some simple things. I liked programming it.
In the service, I ended up at the Satellite Test Center in Sunnyvale. I worked in the Telemetry Ground Station. Our primary job was making recordings and printing oscillographic charts for use by the satellite mission controllers. We also had the development center for the ground stations. The command computers were Univac 1230 computers, a computer that was originally designed to launch missiles on submarines but ended up used for satellites. The 1230 was a dual processor computer with a common memory bank of 4K of magnetic core memory. It looked like the computers you see in very old sci-fi movies with lots of rows of lights as readouts for the various registers. It had about 6 each 14″ platter hard disk drives, 6 each 1/2″ tape drives, an IBM card punch and reader, a drum memory device like a spinning garbage can used for fast storage. The hard disks weren’t very fast. There were teletype terminals, line printers (an impact printer that printed a 22″ line with one stroke, Paper flew out of it when it printed), and a page programmed key switch array used to send commands to satellites. It booted up with a punched tape drive.
The “back end” computers were CDC 160 computers. There was one in our ground station/development center and another 15-20 in the next room. The 160 used about 6 each 1/2″ tape drives. It was booted up with a punched tape drive. and used an IBM card punch and reader. Each 160, with peripherals,occupied about 300sf. I spent many an hour playing stupid games like Jotto, a word guess game and hangman (there often wasn’t too much going on on mid-night shift).
We had lots of other computer like equipment like PCM decommutators and interface simulation devices, and etc. We tested some of the first mini computers later used to replace the dinosaur like room sized computers in use then. We also worked on the development of wideband modems later used to link the various ground stations and the control and launch sites.
A game machine that could also be used as a poor mans computer. It had tiny basic and you could do a lot with it including program your own games. It had the best games available at the time as well.
Ohio Scientific C4P
The most powerful hobby computer of the time. It ran at 1Mhz, had 4K RAM, used audio tape for storage. I immediately started modifying it by double clocking the cpu to 2 Mhz and modifying the video memory to allow paging of two 32 character by 32 line video displays. My first programming using it was a Tic-Tac-Toe game. I also used a commercial game called Pedestrian in which the objective was to run down as many pedestrians as possible. I modified this game extensively to make a more interesting game.
Aim65′s (hand crafted)
These computers were used as programmable test devices. They applied inputs to traffic signal volume and occupancy coordination devices and tested for the correct response. They were also used to program EPROMS used by traffic controllers and bus destination signs. They were also used to develop a solid state traffic counter and graphing software for it. The Rockwell AIM65 was a single board computer with an integrated 20 character LED display and a 20 character printer. It was great for program development using 6502 assembly language. I also built video cards and printer interfaces for them.
Radio Shack M100 portable computer
This was a birthday present. It was possibly the best computer I’ve ever had. It was used for development of specification documents. I also designed a data logger for it. The data logger could monitor 16 inputs and respond to inputs set as triggers to record pre and post event data. It was used mostly to monitor Light Rail Vehicle signal control systems. I also used it for project management and workload control as well. This was the first maintenance management software that I developed.
Commodore Vic 20
A very powerful and cheap computer. I used this a lot for browsing what later became the Internet. I used Delphi, Compuserve and other online services. I expanded mine with lots of memory and an 80 character wide display. I used it for word processing and hardware development as well.
More powerful that the Vic 20 and used for much the same use.
This computer was picked up at an auction from a former Commodore dealer. I never really used it for much but it had such potential. It is a beautiful computer, possibly the best looking, most rugged and versatile computer of the time and a long time after. Its primary processor was a 6502. It could utilize daughter boards for other processors like the 8080 or Z80. I didn’t have either board though. It is a business computer and the main application of the dealer was POS systems.
This computer replaced my Radio Shack computer for use with maintenance management. It was also used for word processing. The Paperclick word processor has yet to be beat for simplicity and versatility. Someday MS Word may have all the features. This computer had both the 6502 and the Z80 processors. It ran the same basic as the Vic20 and C64 as well as a more powerful version of basic and ran CPM programs as well. This was a great computer.
This was a clone that I built from scrape parts. I used to love the computer swap meets at De Anza College and West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. I never liked the Apple computers.
I got this from a neighbor but never used it.
A CPM computer. This computer was used for the central terminal of a closed loop traffic signal control system. It came with WordStar, DataStar and other CPM programs. DataStar was used to develop a prototype of a maintenance management system that was never implemented in production. It was some of the roots of later Maintenance Management System development.
We got an IBM PC in the Mid 80′s. While I used it, I never really embraced it. It was so inferior to the Commodores, in my mind.
A while later we got more PC’s and I setup a network using a product called Invisible Network. I obtained a program called VP-Planner, an early Lotus-compatible relational spreadsheet from Paperback Software. VP-Planner was much more powerful than Lotus and had an application menu system as well. I developed a menu driven maintenance management application in VP-Planner that used relational Dbase files with the spreadsheet interface which allowed browse sets of data, something ordinary database systems couldn’t do. It took a long time to find a real database application development system that could replace it. In about 1991 Alpha4 was used to develop its replacement. The Alpha4 application performed maintenance management, time capture, inventory management and more. In about 1998 a windows based replacement was developed using Clarion from TopSpeed. That application is still in use. I developed the specification and managed the development project. It provides a fully integrated maintenance management system, time capture, inventory, reporting, Customer Relation Mmanagement (CRM), automatic job creation and assignment with supervision. It can manage complex maintenance as well as construction and design projects.
The network evolved to an ethernet network using a peer-to-peer Novel network with DrDos, then to an NT network and then Windows 2000. I was eventually administrator for a network of about 40 computers half of which were laptops.
All this computer related activity was just a side line and hobby.