We're shrinking away this week from monolithic supercomputers with This Old Box for something a little bit smaller. In fact, we'll be looking at the world's first commercial full-color portable computer. Fantastic! This old box logo But first, some insight into our computer selection process: It's twofold this time - 1) The …
It's a mere stripling...
...compared to it's contemporary Osborne 1 http://oldcomputers.net/osborne.html
@ John Benson:Experimentation
I agree with your sentiments John. Computers have spoilt us into requiring a GUI and for most people this is a barrier to understanding what's actually going on behind this.
One area that I think does offer an avenue of this kind of exploration though is PICs, which require an understanding of the principles of using writing and compiling simple code and using actual pin outs on chips to control ciruits.
As most people probably feel uncomfortable messing around with their actual PC it allows them to experiment knowing that at worst they'll fry a £2 chip.
These are pretty well supported for use in schools etc. too.
luggable is cool
wow. I remember seeing these when I was a kid and wanting one so bad. Didn't have any need for it, but the luggable form factor automatically scores major kit fetish points. Important military/scientist types would need something like this in the field... hmmm.. I wonder if someone sells something like this with todays power. Say a luggable rack type thing.. 8 cores, 4Tb raid, many Gb ram.... oh yeah.... hmm too much coffee this morning must lie down...
Two spring to mind:
The Compaq luggable (mono screen, but x86 (or was it x80?)) - the first PC in our house - very good for e.g. MS Flight Simulator 1.0 ;)
For a little less flexibility but loads more portability, there was the Tandy 102. I still have one of these, and they are impressive machines. The tactile feedback off the keyboard is fantastic, the OS was coded by billg himself and it runs about 20h off four penlites. No modern portable comes even close ;)
Could we do the 102 next please?
You can have as many as you want for about $50 each.
Actually, it was pretty good
As mentioned the screen was very sharp, and it worked well both for games and (basic) business functions. I used it on holiday with my relatives, who owned a games studio at the time..
I'm really impressed by the ITX conversion and interfacing the mentioned link provides. What I really want to see though, is the crazy Atari ST laptop, that used D cells and had a battery life of about 15 minutes..
I won one of these...
...as a geeky kid (before becoming a geeky adult), in a competition in The Times. The built-in monitor was rubbish, but they were nice enough to give me a proper one, too. And the Ghostbusters game, which I recall being quite fun.
Get into live PA sound, Paul. I promise you there'll be as much "luggable" gear as you can eat!
2x12" PA speakers - 15lbs. 2x12" guitar amp - 20lbs. Behringer DDX3216 mixer in flight case - 25lbs or so. Flight-cased power amp - 30lbs (someday soon I'll need an extra amp in there too, which'll probably require wheels on it).
And yes, if your live sound rig allows you to do multitrack recording (as mine does) then you can indeed get your PC along for the ride. Currently I just lug my desktop around, but it's not a good long-term solution. Rackmount PCs look cool but they're way too pricey, and my gear won't work with a laptop (uses a PCI card) so I'll probably just bolt a regular desktop to the floor of a flight-case.
Laugh however you want about the size and weight. Fact is, that the SX64 was pioneering portable computing. However thin the Macbook Air is, it's nothing but an incredibly boring follow-up on already existing products... Not being "the thinnest notebook in the world" by far at 0.4-1.9cm (Sharp Musamara: 1.66cm, 2001; Mitsubishi Pedion/HP Sojourn: 1.8cm, 1998(!!); Sony Vaio VGN-X505VP: 0.9-1.9cm, 2004) i might add..
What is it with Jobs' fetish for thin notebooks anyway? Every time they made the Powerbook 1mm thinner he praised it like they had just landed on Mars!
Anyhow, back to more impressive computers: Did you know you can even add WiFi and an MMC/SD-reader to the SX64? Just use the MMC Replay expansion cartridge and an Ethernet WiFi-Adapter:
btw: I demand a column "expansion slots" in the chart. The SX64 should read "2" (User- and Expansionport), the Macbook Air "0"...
Another column "able to play the latest games at day of manufacture and years beyond" would seem appropriate, too, since the SX64 whoops the MBA's ass in this category, too, thanks to lame chipset GPUs...
So, in the end, SX64 wins. Who'da thought? 8)))
my first luggable was a Compaq 286, it looked 99% the same as the SX64. it died many, many years ago, but i still have fond memories of playing monochrome, single screen games on it.
Hard to imagine a port of Linux to the C64's 8 bit 6502 processor, but there is LUnix...
Awesome... the world needs more programmers with too much time on their hands!
@ anyone NOT talking about the SX-64
Shut your mouths and wait your turn until your preferred old computer comes up. We can all read the specs of other computers from oldcomputers.com and compare but not necessarily read about people actually using the SX-64.
Don't use a colour TV
Computers really do display poorly on a cololur TV. The trick is to use a black and white - assuming you can still get hold of them. In the days before monitors they were always the best thing for programming on.
@Jim Lewis: yes, the PIC rocks
I got into PIC programming after an interesting job where I used a Z-World Z-80 based embedded controller. The big thrill with the PIC was counting instruction times and writing a program that would clock in the bits of an RS-232 serial transmission, recognize the character, and then turn on an LED in response.
There's a lot to be said for playing around with stuff you can afford to break. PIC chips fall into that category, and so do Pentium III systems now. But what can I do with a Pentium III other than run other people's code or write things that interact at the command prompt or GUI level? I enjoy shell scripting and other forms of programming but I get enough of that at work. I know that there are some interesting things you can hook up to a PC like soft-oscilloscope and X-10 interfaces, but where is the cheap light pen, a plug-and-play voice synthesizer and something as simple and fun to program as the sound chip?
I know that I could scrabble around the Web for lots of different languages to play with, free databases and web servers, but I've already done that in the line of duty.
I remember playing around with low-integration TTL logic chips in college (maybe a half-dozen ANDs or ORs or inverters per chip) and verifying that they implemented Boolean logic; I even learned interesting details like fan-in, fan-out and debouncing a switch input. No surface-mount technology, roughly human-scale, accessible to a novice solderer. Nowadays you start with a microprocessor like the PIC if you want to get down and dirty with the hardware, and there is a world of difference. I had fun, I made mistakes, the smoke signals would occasionally escape from the DIPs, but I learned some important basics. I wonder if they even make low-integration TTL any more...
I also remember reading somewhere that some kids can't even figure out how to light a flashlight bulb in series with a battery. I wonder how many readers here went through the "take the flashlight apart and light the bulb with a battery and piece of wire" stage? I know I did, though at the time I was unaware of how important that lesson was, or that it was even a lesson. How many of you ever loaded batteries into a flashlight in opposition just to prove that the voltages cancelled out and the bulb didn't light? Probably quite a few.
Remember when they used to label things with "No user-serviceable components inside"? I do, but I haven't seen it much lately. I guess kids don't pry things open to see how they work like they used to. Even if they did pry them open, they'd probably get tired of seeing small, low-chip-count, high-integration PC boards, opaque to understanding. I remember spending minutes at a time looking at the glowing filaments of vacuum tubes in the stereo or the radio and knowing that the electrons inside were vibrating in step with the music they produced in the loudspeaker. That's a big enough idea for a kid to get his mind around, but nowadays the picture is incomplete without some notion of tiny semiconductors, let alone microprocessors, digitized sound and sampling.
Speaking of sound, here's a big one: you used to be able to take a sheet of paper, roll it into a cone, push a pin through the pointy end and then use it to play the music on a record (78 RPM if you were lucky to have one, and a turntable that played that speed). Sometimes you could hear the music faintly just listening to the buzz of the pickup on the rotating record when the electronic amplification was turned down.
Perhaps we are on the threshold of everyday technology turning into what Arthur C. Clarke defined as magic, i.e. any technology sufficiently advanced as to defy understanding.
And Now a Word from A Dinosaur...
In 1969 I got my first "computer," a German-made kit called the "Logikus." You wired your own logic circuits and used slider-switches to input your "data." The "output" was presented via a display comprised of small flashlight bulbs. See it here: http://www.logikus.info or Google the wiki.
When I bought my Commodore 64 some *15* years later, I thought I'd landed in "computer heaven." I had the base unit, a floppy drive, a cassette-tape storage drive and a printer. Man, I was hot! I soon was writing batch-processing programs on the thing for my job as an industrial chemist. I even had it generate production-cost analysis and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Just before I quit that farkiing company, I sold them the whole system for more than I paid for it... and "neglected" to hand over the program floppies. When they balked later, I said "Gimme my unused vacation pay and the programs are yours. Otherwise, YOU figure it out!" I'm still waiting for that payout....
Gawd, anyone here remember "RUNDY" errors? ;)
Great thing about C64
....was IIRC the Programmers Reference Guide in which there was all sorts of info about the chips, the memory locations to peek and poke and the rest of the hardware. Golden days.
That's not a computer, it's an oscilliscope!
Still have it
I still have one and pull it out once in a while just for kicks
widely considered the best-selling personal computer?
- It was the Commodore 64 — widely considered the best-selling personal computer of all time. It was fast and cheap with a show-stopping 64 kilobytes of RAM.
Nah, the ZX Spectrum was far superior. Ask anybody.
I really can't understand where they got the price from for this. I wanted one at the time but hell, it's just a C64 circuit board inside a new case with a disk drive and a tiny TV. How's that add up to almost $1000?
no Linux for the SX-64.
Since 1.2.8, Linux hasn't been able to boot a standard (ie non-embedded) kernel without at least a full 2M of memory (1.2.7 could boot with 2M-384K, and it only took a minor hack to get 1.2.8 to boot with 2M-384K. 1.2.9, on the other hand - right out.)
Also, Linux fundamentally depends on having protected memory, which the commodore 2^ systems did not have. (I have not heard of any embedded version of Linux getting around this requirement. However, I'm not active in the embedded Linux world, so it's possible one has been developed without my knowledge.)
That having been said, there *was* a unix OS that was developed specifically for the C-64: LUnix. I've not tried this on a SX-64, but I know of no reason why it wouldn't work there.
Regarding the SX-64 monitor: this monitor was far from rubbish, as it actually handled the full 320x200x16 screen resolution of the C-64, despite only having 5 inches to do it. I realize modern monitors pull off significantly more impressive pixel density, but for the time, that was amazing.
This SX-64 seems to be as lightweight as the modern 8-kilo "laptop", sans the bone-inspiring 17" widescreen LCD (why would I want a screen as big as my desktop?), DVD, and super-stereo sound system. If anything, at this rate it seems like this baby will we *lightweight* compared to current laps.
It seems like there are no more lap-tops anymore... Oh well, at least the SX64 might run good old Test Drive ;)
Maybe a better comparision would be
Maybe a better comparision would be the Bondwell BW-2. And swap the "SD-Card" reader with the more generic "removable media drive", since this would include anything from the size of a micro-sd and up to the 8" floppies.
This would make for a funny comparision, since the BW-2 included things such as a ramdisk, and an office-like suite (Wordstar, Calcstar, etc). Pretty advanced for its day.
I want one! I've always been a fan of old computers, even back in the stoneage when they (and myself) were new. I remember seeing a commercial for this thing when I was around 10 years old and immediately wanted it. It didn't help that there was an electronics store at Meadowbrook Mall at the time that carried them, a mondo-flashy place with lots of neon and catchy tunes emanating from within. They had an entire display set up with four computers doing various things on a tiered platform, and the top one was running this weird 2-D sunset graphic demo...in color! Tres cool!
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