[vcf-midatlantic] Steve Dompier's coding...

Dean Notarnicola dnotarnicola at gmail.com
Fri May 6 11:17:55 EDT 2016

I remember that feeling. Its why I got into computing. It's a feeling that
is hard to recapture in the modern age of auto configuring hardware
and drivers. This is why I love vintage computing, even when it's
retrofitting a modern part to an old machine to extend its usefulness; it
helps recapture that magic I experienced when it was all new and exciting.

On Friday, May 6, 2016, Dan Roganti via vcf-midatlantic <
vcf-midatlantic at lists.vintagecomputerfederation.org> wrote:

> On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 10:05 AM, Herb Johnson via vcf-midatlantic <
> vcf-midatlantic at lists.vintagecomputerfederation.org <javascript:;>> wrote:
> > Thanks to Bill Sudbrink for starting this thread, and to other
> > participants for their response and encouragements for some kind of
> > "lecture" on this subject. Bill notes he got questions about IMSAI/Altair
> > front panels. I'm often asked, why are S-100 cards so big? Why the "ugly
> > boxes of big boards"? It's all related.
> >
> > As I see it, I'd talk about how early microcomputing (1970's, pre and
> > early CP/M era) was mostly what I'd call "resource scarce". The contrast
> > would be post IBM-PC, certainly 1990's, I'd call "resource adequate", and
> > later "resource rich".
> >
> > In the early 70's, everything was expensive in terms of then-current
> > income, and then-current technology. Memory. Circuit boards - big, to
> hold
> > all the TTL chips needed. Low speed of processors. Speed and real cost of
> > storage and display. And 100 pins? Sort of circumstantial, but it's a way
> > to bring out all the decoded 8080 lines and features, so other cards
> didn't
> > need to decode them, and to manage a front panel.
> >
> > As Dave McGuire and others pointed out, front-panels were necessary as
> I/O
> > devices; "storage" was pencil and paper as others noted. Good work could
> be
> > done, as writing 1K or 2K or 4K programs was well within the capacity of
> > one person, working in his/her head, in octal (or hex, or binary).  (I
> have
> > modern examples of this, in 1802 coding.)
> >
> > But, once there were ROM monitors, terminals or text-video, and some mass
> > storage (cassette and diskettes), a front panel was an extra expense,
> time
> > consuming, complicated. It went away. The Ithaca Intersystem DPS-1 I
> > exhibited, across from Bill's Cyclops display, was the last S-100
> > front-panel system (I think), produced in 1980.
> >
> > Herb
> ​thank Herb for putting things into perspective, it helps.
> Which is why I keep your website on my short list,
> when it comes to rejuvenating my memory cells :)
> ​Another perspective which I think is often neglected in history books is
> the emotion.
> We had a school computer, Honeywell H1646 in the 70s
> This is the timesharing version of the H-316, except it had dual H-316
> minicomputers in a rack.
> The H-316 is one of the many systems used as a IMP for Arpanet.
> Plus the associated hard drives, Mag tap, Line printers, and terminals in
> the Lab.
> So you would spend all day here, without any astonishment because that was
> the norm of the day.
> But then you come home, working on a homebrew S-100 machine,
> And you experience that enormous elated feeling because you just upgraded
> your machine,
> with a parallel ascii terminal keyboard for the first the time, another
> homebrew project
> and you can start typing in your code
> Dan

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