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Vintage Computers Any vintage computer systems, calculators, video games etc., but with an emphasis on 1980s and earlier equipment.

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Old 13th Jul 2023, 12:34 am   #181
ortek_service
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

I wouldn't be surprised if many University Computer Science departments back then, were dismissive of most microprocessors as not being 'real' computers - Only being interested in 'better' more-complex architectures used by v.unaffordable large mainframes and PDP etc mini computers.

But it is surprising that they were quite happy with the Z80, which wasn't really too much more advanced than the SC/MP (And seems to be what most SC/MP systems migrated to). So presumably they didn't like 6500/6800 CPU's, with much reduced registers / instruction-sets compared to the Z80 (Even if the reduced complexity meant they could run at full clock speed, with micro-coding)
And I thought Poly's back then (before they all became Uni's), were meant to be more engineering industry, rather than research focussed, so wouldn't be so dismissive of uP's (Inc. SC/MP, even if not as widely-used as Z80) that Industry used.

Not sure if they would also regard ZX80/81 & Spectrums as 'toys', compared to a more-industrial cards+rack Nascom. But the Spectrum was maybe responsible for why the UK is still very prominent in games software production, making Bedroom coders like Manic Miner etc. creator Matthew Smith very successful.
20yrs later, my Uni's Elec Eng were still using their own 6800 designed trainer systems. Although their Computer Science dept. (I did a new joint course so got to experience both) were very much fans of the 680x0 and PDP-11 architectures in the days when ARM's were still confined to Acorn Archimedes.

PIC's can still be very divisive amongst Professional Engineers, with many disliking their limited stack and odd instruction mnemonics. But many others always using these (maybe as they were one of the first uC's that you could get low-cost reprogrammable ones like the PIC16C84, that only needed a serial converter and free MPLAB etc. to develop with).

I'm not sure how many 'Briefcase' computers existed back then (I think people did produce ones for the ZX81 & Spectrum), but I do recall John Newcombe (I think on here, as well as Nascom Groups.io & Youtube) was recently creating a Nascom-based one. But back then, you still needed an external large/heavy CRT monitor/TV to connect these to. With only v.expensive Osbourne etc systems having a small (5"?) Mono monitor built in.
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 12:44 am   #182
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

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Neal's superb FPGA Nascom-4 is the only one I'm aware of G.
I'd love a genuine Nascom-1 though as its particularly meaningful to me
life would have been very different without that 1978 investment!
Well if you're happy with a replica PCB / circuit, that you can assemble with NOS components so it is virtually-original (Like the MK14 replicas many on here have now built) - rather than a modern FPGA-Emulation - then that should be too difficult to achieve.

I know Richard 'Codesqueak' on the Nascom Groups.IO forum, has recently been doing various Nascom Peripheral cards: https://github.com/codesqueak?tab=repositories
So may be interested in doing a full Nascom 1 (or 2 etc) at some point, to go with these, for those without genuine ones (Or even the even more sought after Keyboards).
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 1:38 am   #183
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

Quote:
>But it is surprising that they were quite happy with the Z80
If you are referring to the lecturer's apparent hostility towards my precious MK14, I imagine he saw it as what it undeniably was, a cheap, underpowered, difficult to expand micro system which couldn't easily grow along with its owner. His mistake was merely to assume that I (and many others like myself, kids with very little income) could aspire to owning anything else.

Quote:
PIC's can still be very divisive amongst Professional Engineers, with many disliking their limited stack and odd instruction mnemonics.
I don't call myself an 'engineer' (I am a technician) but, hand on heart, that is exactly my opinion of PICs at least from the assembly language point of view. I find that I can tolerate programming them in 'C' where the compiler largely hides all those PIC quirks such as the need to switch in and out of different banks to access various groups of registers.

I suppose that if PICs had been the first micros / microcontrollers I ever got to work with then I would have considered those normal and everything else would have been strange - and PICs do at least have a more conventional subroutine CALL and RET structure than the SC/MP.
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 2:32 am   #184
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

My first was HP65 next was IBM PC the first out used till 1995 when Windows 95 cameout HP again
Today I have HP Laptop Windows 11.

Dave
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 10:55 am   #185
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

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Quote:
>But it is surprising that they were quite happy with the Z80
If you are referring to the lecturer's apparent hostility towards my precious MK14, I imagine he saw it as what it undeniably was, a cheap, underpowered, difficult to expand micro system which couldn't easily grow along with its owner. His mistake was merely to assume that I (and many others like myself, kids with very little income) could aspire to owning anything else.
>>
Yes, I suppose the Nascm was designed to be a very modular, easy to expand, system. And they might have been more dismissive of the similarly quite cheap ZX80 / 81 etc.(or even the even more similar Acorm System-1 - Although Acorn was created by several people from Cambridge Uni).
And the ZX80/81 did have an 'Expansion Bus' - like the MK14 (even if that originally lacked a few useful signals) - so they were reasonably-expandable

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PIC's can still be very divisive amongst Professional Engineers, with many disliking their limited stack and odd instruction mnemonics.
I don't call myself an 'engineer' (I am a technician) but, hand on heart, that is exactly my opinion of PICs at least from the assembly language point of view. I find that I can tolerate programming them in 'C' where the compiler largely hides all those PIC quirks such as the need to switch in and out of different banks to access various groups of registers.

I suppose that if PICs had been the first micros / microcontrollers I ever got to work with then I would have considered those normal and everything else would have been strange - and PICs do at least have a more conventional subroutine CALL and RET structure than the SC/MP.[/QUOTE]

Ironically, some of the PIC architecture maybe just about pre-dates the SC/MP, form the days when Mask-ROM PIC's were originally produced by General Instruments for washing machine controllers etc.
It was only when in the late 80's / early 90's, that (Arizona)-Microchip, who'd acquired GI, relaunched these with added (E)EPROM to a wider market, and provided free / low-cost dev. tools, that they started getting very popular.

Although in the early days, most were forced to endure that instruction set etc. as the architecture wasn't really that compiler friendly with lack of much stack. And the early PIC C Compilers weren't well regarded, with many bugs / could be relatively expensive for hobbyists.
And I've found myself having to disassemble the code produced by the compiler, when debugging, as the compiler can hid a lot of whaty's going on / what it is using from its own libraries and initialisation routines.
But these days, MPLAB (like originally rival AVR processor Atmel studio) does include a free C-compiler that isn't code-limited that some of the IAR free version ones they'd previously supplied were. Although IIRC, you have to pay a bit extra for MPLAB C Compiler to produce more efficient code (with rumour that free version deliberately makes the produced code less efficient!)

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Old 13th Jul 2023, 11:41 am   #186
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

PICs: Notepad and MPASM for me, I like to keep it simple
No debugger or compiler, dont use MPLAB, KISS
To be honest I get bogged down with complex tools & environments, and usually they turn out to be completely unnecessary
(but thats my failing, no criticism of the tools themselves if thats your bag)
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 12:56 pm   #187
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

Z80: Nascom 1 & 2 (owned by my dad), then
Apricot portable (8086, NOT 8088), a wonderfully innovative thing, which I still have, albeit non-functional now.
My first IBM-compatible PC was a Viglen '386. I skipped '286s altogether, and don't regret it.
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 1:00 pm   #188
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

ZX81 and it kick started my total lack of interest and phobias about computers. Of course I use one every day and love the world that it opens up for me. But try to change something, install an app, whatever, and it tears and tantrums. Not to mention the shifty actions of companies providing search engines, social network sites etc etc, controlling your computer and using and moving around (stealing) your data and files.
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 1:59 pm   #189
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What you are describing is mainly down to the 'don't touch me' aura radiated by most PCs and their OSes - they really don't want you to understand the machine at machine level or, God forbid, write your own programs which directly interact with the machine's hardware.

In the 8-bit era it really was possible, if you wanted to, to know every aspect of your computer inside out, to know how the hardware was strung together, what was connected to where, and how the underlying OS / Monitor worked - the complete disassembled OS code was often available either from the machine's own manufacturer or from third party authors who disassembled and detailed the operation of the OS code.

Nowadays there is a colossal wall between a PC's owner and its hardware and most of the time you have very little idea what it is doing at any given moment, there are so many little programs legitimately running in the background all the time, you can see them all in Task Manager but most have such obscure names that it is hard to tell what they all do or whether they should be running at all or why, in some cases, there should be several instances of the same process running. It certainly is very daunting.

I have to say though that I loved my ZX81, my second computer, which I still have. After the experience of composing and entering code at machine level, the ability to write programs very quickly in near-English (BASIC) was amazing at first although ironically, it would soon be seen that BASIC was a little bit too slow for anything which needed to run quickly, like games, and we soon found ourselves heading back to machine language to get the speed back.

Even to this day I still write little BASIC programs to solve odd problems (I am terrible at maths and I don't know how to rearrange formulae to make them work the way I need them to, but what I can do, given only one form of the formula, is write a short program which tries all possible values of X until the answer comes out at the wanted answer 'Y', or close to it, then stops).
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 3:14 pm   #190
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

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My first computer that I retained was a 6800 Motorola development system.


I Still have 2 examples one I made up as part of the seminar and a second unbuild example gifted to me by a colleague who had no interest in microprocessors.


If I can find one or both I will share pictures.

Cheers

Mike T
Pictures as promised in post #166

This is the un-made one the other is still not been located.

Cheers

Mike T
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 3:38 pm   #191
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

First computer I got to play with was a Heathkit analog back in the 1960's at Hartford College.

Lawrence.
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 4:07 pm   #192
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First computer I got to play with was a Heathkit analog back in the 1960's at Hartford College.

Lawrence.
Which reminded me of The Wireless World Digital Computer of 1967:

http://www.smrcc.org.uk/members/g4ug...ldcomputer.pdf

which was an assignment in one or other of the modules of my HNC.
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 4:14 pm   #193
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I have to say though that I loved my ZX81, my second computer, which I still have. After the experience of composing and entering code at machine level, the ability to write programs very quickly in near-English (BASIC) was amazing at first although ironically, it would soon be seen that BASIC was a little bit too slow for anything which needed to run quickly, like games, and we soon found ourselves heading back to machine language to get the speed back.

Even to this day I still write little BASIC programs to solve odd problems (I am terrible at maths and I don't know how to rearrange formulae to make them work the way I need them to, but what I can do, given only one form of the formula, is write a short program which tries all possible values of X until the answer comes out at the wanted answer 'Y', or close to it, then stops).
I never did have any interest whatsoever in writing code or learning about the inner workings of a computer. The software world just passed and indeed passes me by now. Now, electronics in hardware form, that's another matter! I can throw an electromechanical switch and it does just that, 100% pretty much. That's unlike a computer that in my experience, once you/I step outside of the things that I do every day, seems to throw a googly at me. No, the inner language of a computer is of no interest to me, I have too much to do in the real world, things that need getting physically done rather than spending time learning about code and stuff. And it was always that way. We're all wired differently, I guess there's thousands of computer enthusiasts who would fear restoring a rusty wreck of a 1930s radio. There you go, each to their own!
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 5:06 pm   #194
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What was your actual aim, then, when buying that ZX81? As you had no ambition to write programs on it or know about how it worked, I can only assume you hoped to use it to run off the peg software.

I was interested in anything electronic, so when digital electronics (logic ICs) showed up I took an interest in those, and microprocessors were the next logical(!) step onwards from there. I wasn't really interested in music until electronic synthesisers loomed onto the scene - I picked one up and I found it interesting from an electronics point of view and I could make it make some great noises, but I could not then (and still can not now) really play any keyboard instrument. But then, along came computers and they could play synthesisers, so all my interests merged together as one.

People often acquired a computer and possibly a specific peripheral to run one 'killer app', a game or a utility which they liked or needed so much that it was worth buying the machine it ran on just to be able to run the app. The BBC model B game 'Elite' probably sold more disc drives to private individuals than anything else, because the already classic game was available as an enhanced version, but only on disc.

So my next question is: Did anyone ever buy a computer for the specific purpose, at least initially, of being able to run just one bit of software?
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 5:13 pm   #195
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I didn't have an aim. A lot of the younger guys at work (Test Dept electronics company) were getting 'kits' and stuff and computers had just generally become a talking point for them. I thought I'd get one to see what it was all about. I was underwhelmed to say the least. The best part was playing ping pong on an old B&W TV, and I was fed up with that after ten minutes.
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 7:14 pm   #196
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

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Pictures as promised in post #166

This is the un-made one the other is still not been located.

Cheers

Mike T
Were they both supplied with ceramic chip set? I think that makes them much more interesting.
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 7:37 pm   #197
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

Thinking back to my days with the Elektor Junior, one 'real-world' thing I did with it was to interface it with a FM receiver.

I stuck a classic R/2R ladder resistor network on one of the 8-bit output-ports, a simple incremental N+1 loop with settle-time delays to drive the counter, and used the resultant DC to drive the varicap tuning line of a receiver. It only needed to sweep around 400KHz across the most-popular simplex and repeater frequencies on 145MHz. I arranged a circuit involving a Schmitt-trigger that was connected to the receiver's squelch-line so when the squelch opened it did an interrupt to the Junior and stopped it scanning.

Worked quite well!
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Old 13th Jul 2023, 7:48 pm   #198
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

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Pictures as promised in post #166

This is the un-made one the other is still not been located.

Cheers

Mike T
Were they both supplied with ceramic chip set? I think that makes them much more interesting.
Yes they were both like that but to be fair I don't think I saw a Plastic encapsulated processor until I build my Nascom in 78.

Certainly all the LSI and processors we used at work were ceramic.

Cheers

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Old 13th Jul 2023, 8:22 pm   #199
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Default Re: What was your first computer and do you still have it?

While some may not like PICs, it's amazing (maybe worrying) how widespread their use is in commercial projects. The free development environment MPLAB is a draw as alternative environments cost money, and acccounts departments don't like that (on the surface). Plus the easy access means that companies can employ children to code (by children I'm referring to people with zero experience rather than actual child labour). You might be surprised quite how many PICs there are around your life, and how flaky some of the coding might be.

That said, I've used PICs too. But strictly not in a commercial application. My coding isn't good enough, though I know of people I've been able to sort because their coding was worse, who have stuff in commercial products I needed to help them fix.
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Old 14th Jul 2023, 12:02 am   #200
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I was underwhelmed to say the least.
I suppose you have to try a thing to be able to say fairly and truthfully that you don't like it, and you did at least do th

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While some may not like PICs, it's amazing (maybe worrying) how widespread their use is in commercial projects.
I have probably 30 or 40 past projects based on PICs, the majority written in Hitech-C, a version of which came free with MPLAB for a while. Nearly all are for my own use although two did end up being widely used in-house test tools at work. (They were hand held decoders for decoding and displaying the radio packets sent by a couple of radio based devices we made there).

Commercially speaking Microchip's decision to make the dev tools free or very cheap was a very good one for them. I would have liked to have done more with ARM devices which have been available to me for years at work but as a hobbyist I couldn't justify the cost of the Segger JFLASH programmer and support software (Around £400-£500) which they seemed to favour there.

If you were into computers in the late seventies / early eighties home computer boom period your favourite microprocessor was probably whichever one was inside the first machine you owned, or at least the first one you owned for long enough to get to know it well enough to programme it at low level. For most people this will have boiled down to either the Z80 or 6502.
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