[vcf-midatlantic] Not quite so linked lists (of books)
hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Tue Sep 15 17:40:07 EDT 2020
On 9/15/2020 6:39 AM, Adam Michlin wrote:
> Perhaps I could impose on you with a more specific question. I want to
> learn more about 70s microcomputers, especially
> pre-Apple/RadioShack/Commodore and S100 machines. I like technical books
> and I like non-technical books.
1970's isn't very specific. It's like saying "that stuff before the
mammals, you know, dinosaurs?"
I'd not use Apple to draw a line in time; they are unique to have
survived from such an early date. Better to draw the line "before Tandy,
Commodore and Atari"; I'm afraid to characterize them but they are all
of a kind and started near the same time, for the same reasons. Stuff
like S-100, and IC developments of the later 1970's, and just more
familiarity, laid the groundwork to make those later home-systems
possible and viable.
S-100 computers began in 1976 and were made into the 1990's as
small-production systems and boards. A plausible guess is that over 200
companies made S-100 IEEE-696 boards in that era. And that was when
S-100 boards sold for hundreds of dollars, sometimes several hundred;
and a few thousand dollars bought *a new car*.
But other things like S-100, would be SS-50 systems. Same deal, smaller
scale but comparable. And then there were individual brands of bussed
based systems: Ohio Scientific for instance. And: there were industrial
systems also bussed: STD-Bus (Prolog) based systems, Multibus (Intel),
various Motorola 6800/6809 bussed products; and then the lesser
microprocessor companies' bussed products.
All these bussed systems have been called retrospectively, "big boards
in ugly boxes". In the fundamentals they are awfully similar. S-100 is
not a bad place to take a look at some.
The S-100 bus handbook – January 1, 1980 by Dave Bursky
It's technical, of course. Here's a bunch of S-100 boards by MITS Altair
and others in the 2nd half of the 70's. Here's how those 8080 Z80 based
systems worked. Here's the schematics. Some history and names.
These were bare-metal "systems" before there were systems; no OS, no
file system (well, maybe cassettes), barely any languages. Not many
peripherals. And no cross assemblers for most folks. Sometimes I call
this era "knocking stones together to make sparks", just to annoy modern
If you want an early history on MITS and Processor Tech and other early
S-100 actors, I imagine "Hackers" has something.
Any compilation of "Dr. Dobb's Journal" for the first three years would
be both a good read of people reportage, and early tool making by
Paleolithic microprocessor programmers.
If you want a business case on IMSAI as it became ComputerLand and was
part of early computer-store development, and the hubris of such
businesses in the 1980's era, read
Once Upon a Time in Computerland, by Jon Littman
If you want the pure heroin of S-100: read board and system manuals by
Compupro (1st), Cromemco, Morrow, NorthStar. A few other brands wrote
good manuals, maybe Ithaca Audio/Intersystems. "good" does not mean
gripping narratives of persons dealing with conflicts. Good means,
here's how the chips make the signals when driven by processor
instructions driving the bus. That. is. what. it. took. to make it all
happen, and to keep it happening. Four decades later, we can still make
them do what they did - *that* is astonishing.
But most of the chatter and discussion - and some code and hardware -
was in print magazines, or in local-club newsletters, or in national
club-brand newsletters. I'm saying: there were clubs around processors,
or around some brand of microcomputer. Later there clubs around
*software*. Some good-tech stuff and business-progress stuff, was in
electrical-engineering trade magazines and in computer-programming trade
magazines. A little bit was in the academic EE and CIS journals.
It all started somewhere, and there was nothing before there was
something (look that up). MOst microcomputer progress was from the
bottom-up, not top-down. Individuals, not institutions. Sometimes
ordinary people did extraordinary things, because they didn't need big
resources to accomplish what was needed. A good part of early
microcomputing was driven by social revolutionaries, who wanted
computing power "for the people, by the people". Such was the 1970's.
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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