It's funny to read these days, about concerns of
"modifying the system from original", when talking about
S-100 systems. It's funny to me, because quite simply, I
was there at the time they were so-called "original".
People - like me - bought these old S-100 systems to USE,
not to protect with plastic covers and never scratch them
up. Most of these systems NEEDED upgrades, and required
several different brands of cards, to eventually do
something "standard". There really were NO STANDARDS, for
And cards were bought as kits, bare boards. They were
chopped up. That's why these systems had busses, dudes -
for more cards! And often, old hardware was TERRIBLE - it
had to be replaced. Some of it didn't even work when
And then, there's today. Do you own one of these puppies
to show off on a shelf? to sell on eBay? or to USE?
I say - put this old technology to USE!
Specific to this thread: "should I upgrade the Northstar
CPU board with a ROM?" - SURE! Why NOT? You may have to
modify the board a bit, to use a 5-volt only PROM, which
will be easier to program. So WHAT? Build a little
daughter card to plug in, if you don't want to hack the
CPU board to death. That's why there are schematics, and
manuals - to LEARN HOW TO MODIFY AND USE these boards!
Do it! Do it! Make it WORK! If it doesn't work, try
something ELSE! If it breaks, FIX it!
USE, and mods, and different boards - that was the point
of these S-100 systems. That's what was done in the era.
That's what all those assemblers and compilers and editors
were about. Protoboards, and boards with blank areas on
them. All those ROMS! Those jumpers! Over 140 companies
made S-100 cards. Why fuss so much, if your particular
S-100 system isn't "standard"? ALMOST NONE OF THEM WERE.
Especially the oldest S-100 systems, that most people talk
If putting a ROM on a CPU board "breaks" NorthStar DOS,
then figure out WHY! Read the manuals, the sources.
Disassemble the binaries. Tear it all apart, and put it
together again! WHY NOT?
That's what WE did, in the era! Before MS-DOS. Before "the
Empire" of IBM and Microsoft. Before the "clone wars" of
Taiwan PC's in the 1990's. Before Dell and HP and other
megacorps, made PC's so powerful, they could finally run
the crappiest, bloated, mind-numbingest OS's ever written.
Free your minds! of visions of eBay auctions of "mint"
Altairs! You have nothing to lose but your chain-store
computers! Go write some 8080 binary code! Burn some
solder! Burn the EPROMS! Burn some electrolytics! Burn
them all! Be like your predecessors. Make the world safe
for personal computing again!