[vcf-midatlantic] Semi-OT: microcontollers (?)

Herb Johnson hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Thu Jun 29 12:12:05 EDT 2017

Evan wrote:
 >     > Let's use the "Semi-OT" subject line prefix for posts about
 >     > microcontrollers.

Dan Roganti wrote:

 > ​I guess he means the new stuff,
 > microcontrollers can be vintage too
 > they never get any love
 > eg, i8051/31​

> Dave McGuire wrote:
>   I hadn't seen any discussion of any other microcontrollers recently,
> new or old.

I have the advantage, of reading this list on the Web. It appears Evan 
was responding to the "looking for Intel 4040 programs" thread, and 
after my (Herb Johnson's) post in particular. I discussed the somewhat 
"industrial" heritage of Intel 4040-based software, see that thread.

Evan is the moderator and is charge of this list. I'll obey his request.

However, Evan sometimes insists that microprocessor products which 
served as industrial development tools or applications, aren't really, 
er, whatever he is calling "vintage computers". That's an interesting 
point of view, as some of these products PRECEEDED "personal computing", 
and some of theme contributed to "personal computing". And some people 
from the "controller" world became part of the "personal computing" world.

The KIM and many other early single-board microcomputers of the late 
70's, were both "industrial" and "personal". They were sold to 
engineers, college students, etc. to promote use of their associated 
microprocessor. Some were used in small-run commercial products. Some 
ran industrial processes. Some were used by scientists for research.

But they also were sold by electronic parts distributors to individuals 
(at the time, techies for the most part), or even sold directly by the 
microprocessor manufacturers to individuals.

After all - there weren't any personal computers yet. Or personal 
computing, as we think of such things in the 21st century - pretty 
products, stores. It had to start somewhere, y' know.

The same magazine-ad parts distributors of the 1970's, companies which 
sold S-100 boards and systems - are they "microcontrollers" too, Evan? 
- also sold KIMs and Motorola D2's (6800 single boards) and ELF's 
(COSMAC 1802-based single boards). Now unfamiliar microprocessors (Pace, 
F8, etc.) were also part of manufacturer's single-board kits. There were 
many hobby groups, and group-distributed paper newsletters 
(pre-Internet), devoted to these single-board microcomputers.

That was the face of "personal computing" in the early and mid-1970's: 
the era of the Intel 4004 and 4040.

Now, I'll grant there were few Intel 4040 single-boards, except from 
Intel and Pro-Log. As I posted, most use of the 4040 was "industrial". 
(Of course there were 4004 or 4040 calculators.) The very earliest 
somewhat-personal microprocessor-based "micro-computers" were mostly 
8-bit, the 8008 et. al.

But, many old 4040 and 4004 systems have since fallen into hobby hands. 
I exhibited some myself (with Kyle Owen) a few years ago at VCF-East. 
There's been recent good work, to revive Intel's 8-bit (and some 16-bit) 
development software on Multibus - an industrial board bus. But some 
early Sun and SGI computers were Multibus; interests in those brands is 
certainly part of "vintage computing".

Also: Any number of tech people with "industrial" microprocessor 
background, became involved with early personal computing companies, 
contributed to personal computing development. Some guy named Kildall, 
did early work for Intel on 8008 and 8080 software. I heard he came up 
with some MS-DOS like operating system....See-Pee-Em, something like 

Vintage computing history, isn't a straight line from chip-makers to 
Apple and IBM at the mall. Not all personal computers had 
custom-designed cabinets for the living room. Some vintage computers 
were big, before they were small. Or ugly boards of chips. And some 
old-people who worked on them, ain't dead yet.

I would suggest that early "microcontrollers" are on topic here.

Herb Johnson

Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey in the USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
preserve, recover, restore 1970's computing
email: hjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT com
or try later herbjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT info

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