Archive for the ‘Retrocomputing’ Category


Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Two things I found on the YCombinator Twitter feed that I want to bookmark:

“JavaScript Systems Music”. I’m not really good at music in general, nor am I the audio guy of my group of friends (Hi, Todd!). But I am kind of generally interested in computer audio, and the subtitle of this one sucked me in: “Learning Web Audio by Recreating The Works of Steve Reich and Brian Eno”. Yes, you can do in JavaScript what Steve Reich did with tape loops in 1965.

To say I actually enjoy listening to this piece would probably be stretching it. It wouldn’t be among the records I’d take with me on a desert island. But it is certainly fascinating and kind of hypnotic too. If you allow it to, it does evoke a certain kind of mental atmosphere.

I like “It’s Gonna Rain”, but, yeah, this.

YComb also linked to an article here, but I actually find the whole site interesting and want to bookmark it: Gary McGath’s “Mad File Format Science”. Or everything you ever wanted to know about file formats, identifying them, and recovering data from them.

As you know, Bob, I’m not a “Star Trek” fan, but I did find this interesting:

Some time after his death in 1991, Roddenberry’s estate discovered almost 200 floppies of his. They went to a company called DriveSavers Data Recovery, which took years to recover the documents due to the unusual challenges.

The floppies were written on CP/M systems custom built for Roddenberry with special disk drivers.

“DriveSavers took three months to reverse engineer the disk format.”

Anyway, I want to spend more time exploring this site. I’m also tempted to spring for his udemy course: $20, open-source tools, and hey! I can actually make a case that it is job related!

Why, yes, I AM a geek.

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Hewlett Packard is bringing back the HP15C. I was heard to go “Squeeee!” when I read that. At least one of my coworkers will testify to that.

(Bringing back the 16C would be even more cool, though I think everything the 16C did is built into the 50g.)

(Hattip: His Grubes.)

Edited to add: Well, that took me down a rabbit hole. Following the museum link to the HP41C (my first HP) reminded me of the good old days of synthetic programming and the legendary PPC ROM. Googling that turned up this profile of Richard J. Nelson, the man behind the PPC ROM. I was unfamiliar with his modulator/demodulator project, which made me sit up and go “Wow.” (The 41 series of calculators had an optical wand which could be used to read bar coded programs into the calculator. Mr. Nelson came up with a box on one end that the wand plugged into, which converted the bar codes into audio tones that could be recorded to tape or sent over a phone line. On the other end was another box that took the tones as input and controlled an LED, which the wand could read like a bar code. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you kids today, but I find it pretty stunning for late 70s/early 80s technology. Also, get off my lawn.)

The swans come to the lake.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

And the first FORTRAN compiler comes to Westinghouse-Bettis on this day 55 years ago.

(Hattips: TJIC on the Twitter for the link, and the title from here.)

Obit watch: February 9, 2011.

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, has passed away.

I came in right at the end of the DEC era, and never really had a chance to work on a PDP-anything, a VAX, or a DEC-XX. (There was, at one point, a scheme to purchase a used PDP-8, but nothing ever came of that.)

I still smile, though, whenever I see a reference to one of those machines (or, for that matter, one of those machines in person at DEFCON).

In honor of the late Mr. Olsen, here’s a link to SIMH, which will let you emulate much of the DEC line.

The Elves of Dalton, GA (and other tales from Christmas).

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Just be patient, it will all come together in the end.

A few weeks ago, one of my cow orkers sent around this photo, just for fun. It prompted a discussion among some of my other cow orkers about their first computers. I was sitting there listening to these guys talking about their 386 machines with 4 MB of memory, and thinking to myself, “You bunch of pikers. My first computer had 4K of memory. Not 4 MB, 4 KB. As in, 4,096 bytes total. And I used cassette tape for mass storage.” You tell that to kids nowdays, they just don’t believe you. (Well, except maybe the cow orker who sent around that photo; I suspect he actually got his start sometime in the System 360 days.)