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20130Re: [midatlanticretro] Speaking of building stuff ...

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  • Bruce Freeman
    Mar 1, 2011
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      On Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 10:00 AM, Evan Koblentz <evan@...> wrote:

      In case some of our newer members didn't know, one of the really neat things in our collection is an unassembled Morrow S-100 kit. We plan to leave it unassembled, but maybe lay out the parts and documentation, so visitors can see the "building" a computer of that period was different than building one today. Sometimes when I mention DIY computing to museum visitors, they think it's the same as plugging in modern PC components -- "Oh I built a computer too." -- ummmm not like this kind you didn't. ;

      (Gmail makes it really difficult to bottom-post, and makes a very good case for top-posting.  Now that I'm down here, I'll go ahead...)

      Just a thought -- get an Arduino computer kit and put it in a petri dish (it'll fit!) next to the Morrow kit.  Then give a little rundown on the comparative abilities of the two devices.  This is NOT to put down the early computers, just to make it clear how far we've come in so short a time.  The Arduino has the advantage of being roughly comparable to the early computers, even though it's a tiny, modern thing with vastly more memory (32k Flash), etc.  Comparing an modern Apple laptop to an Apple 1 conveys nothing. 

      For fun, compare the prices too -- the ATMega chip you can buy for maybe $2.50, or the Arduino board for $10 and up.  I don't know about the early kits, but for a long time desk-top computers hovered at $2500 or so while the value of that money dropped.  I think they only got cheaper around 1990 or so.  Wikipedia has a table of the consumer price index quarterly back to 1920 or so, making correction for inflation easy.

      Now for a really neat project, use the Arduino to emulate the early computer kits.  Not even quite possible due to the switch and lamp hardware those old kits used.  Maybe those could be emulated too, like on a CRT?  You could switch between programs and emulate a whole range of early computers.
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