Britain's first Vintage Computing Festival took place over the weekend at Bletchley Park, which was the perfect excuse to visit the National Museum of Computing, a recent addition to the Park site. All three are a tribute to the passion of volunteers – the state has only very recently saw fit to give any money to the historic …
Good old kit.
Z88. Nice. I've got one of those kicking around somewhere. Just need to find myself a UV lamp to erase the 32K EPROM (Flash ROM? Never heard of it), and I'm ready to go. Sod the iPad!
And I have my father's old BBC Model B (middle class household, thanks for asking). Your photo somehow doesn't look right without the big metal cube of a Microvitec Cub monitor...
Now I just need to fire up the Archimedes A420 (with astonishingly expensive 20MB hard disc) to remind myself that OS X /is/ just like RISC OS 3.
Will anyone ever feel this nostalgic over a mid 90's Dell box?
...this nostalgic over a mid '90s Dell box?
Oh, hell, yeah, I'm _sure_. After all, in 1992, I never thought I'd be nostalgic over my old Mac IIsi, but listen to me _now_. (sigghhh)
Hell, I'm already nostalgic for the PowerBook Duo and the Mac Cube. I'm kinda' bummed that the Cube didn't take off; it seemed like the perfect form factor at last -- at the time.
God I miss those days. The Amstrad CPC was what started my whole interest in computers and gaming, may it never be forgotten. By the way, as we're getting all nostalgic, does anyone else remember Amstrad's challenge to the mega drive and nes - the GX4000? Does anyone (aside from me) still possess one of these rare devices?
I have :)
Two to be precise. Also a CPC464+, a CPC464 and a CPC6128 :)
I won't list the rest of my collection, just in case anyone gets jealous ;)
The first computer..
The first computer I ever came into contact with was an Elliott 803.. I was about 10 or 11 and was hooked. It even had magnetic film drives like you seen in the movies! I remember it being a very BIG machine, but then last year I saw the one at Bletchley again.. and it appeared to have shrunk. Or perhaps I got bigger?
I work with the bloke who 'created' the Dragon32
it's a UK-ified Tandy Color Computer with fixed bits for UK TV amongst other things. I never wanted one back in the day as I was a Spectrum/Amiga kid :)
Feed your nostalgia with old photos I need to update as some of them are 10 years old, but the stuff still surrounds me - www.binarydinosaurs.co.uk
I should've been at VCF UK, I know.
Ale, because I'm drinking it.
The thing that put people off was the part screen display where it didn't fill the entire screen and left an unused black border all the way around the black-on-green bit in the middle of your telly.
There was a software product (Oasis software rings a bell?? - could well be wrong, it was a looong time ago) which gave you a full screen display, sprite graphics and a selection of fonts. Didn't take up much RAM either, leaving you enough to program in even with it installed. Dragon should have bought this out and included it in ROM, the machine would have been a world-beater then.
I still have my Dragon 32. I also have a boxed 1k ZX81 - I bought the kit version and soldered it together myself. Still works too, a bloody miracle considering that 1) that was the first time I got to play with the soldering iron in anger and 2) the iron concerned was a whopping thing more suited to plumbing than electronics!
I remember a game development toolkit called...
"White Lightning". For some reason, the name "Oasis" triggered that memory, so the two may be related. I distinctly recall sprites being involved too.
But that was on the ZX Spectrum.
My development tool of choice back then was the ZX Spectrum+ and a copy of HiSoft's assembler / debugger software. (And a cassette recorder. You learned to stop writing buggy code *fast* with that kind of development kit.) I moved on to the Picturesque Assembler software later, because it somehow managed to squeeze 40-ish column text onto the screen—the Speccy was only supposed to be able to manage 32! Nice and legible too; unlike Tasword, which used a much narrower font to get even more columns.
Someone also mentioned the RM 380Z. Lovely, huge box of a machine with a ginormous keyboard embedded in what looked like a lump of steel nicked off a passing Sherman tank. Also the only machine I can think of which had a "Cassette Operating System"—none of yer namby-pamby "disks" here!—yet still managed to boot up more quickly than my brother's current laptop.
Dammit, I'm not even 40 yet and this article made me want to go out and buy a pipe and a pair of slippers.
I was taught by the guy who co-designed the Dragon 32...
One of my university lecturers (Duncan Smeed at Strathclyde) also worked on it...
I was there at the weekend too - a lot of good computer kit to see. A ZX81 thermal printer bought back a lot of memories (mainly of it being really rubbish). I found they were selling off old BBC Micros to raise cash for the museum - time to dig mine out of the attic and donate it to a good cause, and I might even part with my Acornsoft Elite poster.
Oh, and Tony Sale is yer man on Colossus - great guy.
(I got 220,000 on Chuckie Egg and was still 100,000 short of beating the high score, I need more practise)
Elite & Chuckie Egg
Ahh, Namey Name, so it was you who clocked up that impressive score on Chuckie Egg? I'll raise my hand as the guy who set the high score on that beeb before you on the Sunday morning, and I was intrigued to discover later in the day that there was someone around who also knew his way around the ladders. :)
Plus if you do have an original Acornsoft Elite poster you want to part with at any point, I'd be well up for bidding on that. Feel free to drop me a line through the email address contact link off the Chuckie Egg site that Andrew linked to on the first page of this article ... ;)
Maybe if you make it to R3PLAY in November, we could go head to head on CE!
Articles like this on El Reg always make me want to break out the old computers from back in the days when the instruction manual was 500 pages long and was to be read under the covers at night with a torch.
The photo of the old magazine ad made me feel old - it doesn't seem so long ago that we called them 'discettes'. Nowadays, my spell-check insists giving it a red squiggly underline.
Where's the "nostalgia alert" icon?
or, "diskettes", as we called them in the Colonies...
"Nostalgia Alert" icon? Sounds like a helluvan idea.
Perhaps just a foto of an old BBC Micro?
Random other piccies
Some random piccies
BTW - the PBS speccy is a bog standard Spectrum Plus in a case - not uncommon - but any information on the company would be appreciated. You can get the same thing with a rubber keyboard if your feeling particularly masochistic.
My imagination has been fired, time and again.
At least it knows how to get sodding drunk, between jobs.
Nice tour of some computing history. Here's to recognizing that there *is* such a thing as history. After all. Or before all. Or somewhere in there. Cheers, anyway.
I still have my ZX81, a couple of Speccys (and microdrives), a Tatung Einstein (designed and made in the UK) and last but not least the A500, A3000 and A4kT Amigas.
Them were the days of hacking Z80 machine code into the memory of a Speccy...
I feel I should have gone to the show now.
What about Nascom?
I have seen no comments here about the Nascom. Surely that was represented there?
The Nascom was a British self-build 2MHz Z80 based kit on a 12" x 8" board with 1K ROM and 1K RAM as standard and a "full" keyboard. Output was normally via a domestic TV (it had a modulator on-board) and loading/saving via a domestic cassette recorder.
It was launched in 1977 at £199 (plus VAT). A lot of kit for the price at the time! (Mind you, that didn't include a power supply which you had to buy (and build) separately.
The co-pro would be the 487, surely
The co-pro in question was to allow the machine to run DOS and Windows. The one I have seen may have been one of those 386 pin compatible, 486 instruction set devices. The ones for the Risc PC were certainly normal 486 devices. it is usally referred to as a second processor, the term co-processor normally means an FPU, as with x86 devices.
You may be thinking of the numeric co-processors (287, 387) but the 487 was a replacement processor for the 486sx. (The original processor was disabled)
(This reply posted from a RISC OS system.)
+1 For Second Processor Awesomeness
I had one of those second processors in my RPC 700. Had a 486/DX4 100 S, if I recall. I remember being completely bowled over by how awesome it was to be able to play the original Command and Conquer in a DOS Window, whilst pretending to do my homework in !Pendown under Risc OS 3.6. No Alt-Tab though - had to be pretty nifty with Ctrl-F12 to avoid getting busted :-)
Awesome bits of kit.
what a lovely article
Come on you lot!
Come on! If you lot really were serious IT geeks, you'd know all about the small Retro fairs that happen all over the country ( quite often in social clubs with beer on tap! ) and you'd also wait rabidly every month for Retro Gamer magazine to flop onto your doormat!
I passed through the museum a couple of months ago
But they still didn't have the Sinclair MK14 on display!
More worrying was having a look at the Colossus, and a couple of the circuit diagrams pinned to the wall, and realising that I could build/mend that... suddenly I felt very very old!
The Osborne 1!
I've still got one of those (as with Andrew's, in the attic).
Have been considering turning it on but am concerned that suddenly powering it up after such a long period inactive could cause the capacitors to blow (or something). Any advice, knowledgeable readers?
No ICL OPD?
To complete the Sinclair theme? I've got one on the same shelf as my ZX 80.
Ahh - the Dragon 32
I had one which travelled with me to and from the Falkland Islands a number of times in the early eighties, and I only got rid of it this year!
Still have my Osborne 1 - working perfectly after all these years (not that it is staggeringly useful any more, but pretty cool nonetheless)
Not useful, but cool...
Talk about not useful, but still cool... I'm wishing to hell I could get hold of an old NeXT Cube with the glorious 8-bit grayscale monitor and MachOS (the original OSX). I remember getting to fool with one of those at Macworld '89. Talk about "made of awesome"... I was practically creaming in my jeans and hoping to find $10k laying on the sidewalk so I could score one. I'm sure a Cube in working condition with software would probably go for ten times that much on eBay now.
Not that I could do anything useful on it, but it'd look cool as hell fired up next to my G4.
And they also had...
...*my* first instance of getting my hands on a "computer" - the sort of hand-cranked mechanical calculator they let me loose on in school when I was seven or eight years old (early 1960's). (They had one on show at the WITCH stand, to the sort of the thing that the WITCH - a base-10 computer using dekatrons and relay logic - was intended to replace. On the one at this stand, the "add" operation had jammed and the thing could only subtract, so I was unable to demonstrate the procedure I had worked out, at that young and tender age, for doing square roots on it.
(Grew up then through TRS-80 Model 1 and the Amstrad CPC series, now on my 4th PC.)
Mine's the one with the book of log tables in the pocket.
My only desktop calculator now is the one that pops up on the screen on my Mac, and it's certainly handy as hell, but I still get all misty-eyed when I think of the first desktop calculator I saw: an HP about the size of your average high-school algebra book (circa 1971) with nixie tubes, not LEDs.
I suppose LEDs and quartz LCDs are more efficient and all, but they couldn't touch nixies for sheer coolness.
Sam Fox Strip Poker, BBC Model B
Excuse: I was sixteen.
Ah those were the days - when she was not considered "child porn"....
... a CD of 3000 old Speccy games (including Sam Fox) and the POKE command to skip straight to the pixelled finale. ;-)
And then move on to more grown up stuff. Like wondering why PEEKing and POKEing are considered funny when any network engineer will tell you that FINGERing and SNIFFing are more common these days.
No to Sam Fox!
Linda Lusardi (pre boob job) was the bomb, proper proportions, inteligent and pretty with her clothes on.
and my cousins ZX-Spectrum. I still have the ORIC in a drawer somewhere. Best keyboard I've seen on any comp its class. Ahh, fond memories of hacking
A very loud internal sound system too.
And a poke command to disable the keyboard.
It was amusing watching the staff at Smith's pressing break trying to shut it up.
Oric and store staff
You reminded me of one I did years ago.
The local "Typewriter centre" by me had an Oric connected up to a printer and I set the thing up so about 5 minutes after I walked out the shop a stream of rude words would be coming out the printer.
The machine was in a corner of the shop well away from where the staff at the counter could see what was happening The hope was that the whole roll of paper would get wasted before anyone checked.
I didn't go back to check, never return to the scene of the crime, that's something you learn as a naughty 12 year old.
I think you might be thinking of the Atmos keyboard - the -1 had horrible little keys not much better than the Speccy's.
Yeah, the ORIC-1 had really basic hard clicky keys, like a calculator, but in white/grey.
The Atmos was waaaay cooler, in black/red and with a very good keyboard. Shame it was on a losing curve by the time it was produced - possibly too similar to the Speccy in most folks eyes.
Didn't the oric have a stupid limitation of some sort? Was it no lower case? If so I think that would have been a major sales killer.
Top nostalgia - thanks Reg
Ah happy days indeed. Hours of typing line after line of BASIC from C&VG (hoping not to forget to save before my Spectrum overheated) then still hours more debugging their shoddy code*. By the time I'd done this 3 or 4 times I could more or less write simple games for myself.
OK iPlayer, YouTube and whathaveyou are all good but IT (sorry, computing) was never as exciting as back in the 80s!
* I never did work out whether this was the Meccano way - put a few mistakes in so people learn; or just cos the fellas who wrote these games weren't very good.
Andy wrote: "I learned GUI programming on an A310. After that, everything ... seemed needlessly difficult. So I stopped."
@ShaggyDoggy: Original ARM FP co-processor
IIRC, the original ARM floating point coprocessor was a Western Electric device, google suggests the WE32106 or WE32206, I guess it must have been the 32206 because it certainly did have sin,cos,tan but they only worked on 0<= x <= pi/2, so the OS had to trap those instructions anyway and range-reduce. There was a "floating point protocol converter" chip developed which drove the FPU as if the CPU running the bus were its intended partner CPU. Nasty huh? Yes it was.
I think that's the one that was sold initially at least, then later a proper FPU was made that understood the ARM's co-proc signals directly.
The acronym FPU was often pronounced "floating poo".
Amusing looking at the Amstrad crap. I still find it astonishing that Amstrad managed to survive when you look at the crap they made - and bought.
RISC OS alive and kicking
It was a good show all round and our guys certainly enjoyed exhibiting there. If you're remotely interested in keeping RISC OS alive or finding out what's going on in that scene, you could do worse than popping over to riscosopen.org.
Feeling nostalgic now...
The time when playing videogames could actually mean getting out a magazine or book and entering code for ages just to play for half the time it'd taken to program.
Damn, I miss those days.
And does anyone else ever want to hear the phrase "if you peek me, I'll poke you"?
Go forth Jupiter.
Not as old school as you lot
Amiga OS on an Atom netbook? Not only would I like to see this, I'd like to do it myself!
you can :)
That is all :)
Why was it called ORIC?
I reckon the typist got ger fubgers ib tge wribg jets, started to type "processor", got as far as "proc" which came out as "oric", and the rest was history.
Anybody got an alternative suggestion?
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