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a glimpse of microcomputing in the early 70's

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  • Bob Grieb
    Guys, I have been e-mailing with a guy who lives in Washington state recently. I asked how he got interested in computers, and he shared this story, which I
    Message 1 of 10 , Feb 28, 2008
      Guys,

      I have been e-mailing with a guy who lives in Washington
      state recently. I asked how he got interested in computers,
      and he shared this story, which I thought others might enjoy reading:

      I became interested in the 8008 when I left NASA in Fairbanks
      and got my first teaching contract. I was cleaning out my desk
      and another engineer mentioned "...a CPU on a chip". It was from
      an article in EE Times. That echoed in my mind. Being a newbie at
      Olympic College and seeking tenure, I started on a project to bring
      microprocessors to our curriculum. I contacted Intel late in '72
      and early '73 about the Intellec 8 microprocessor dev system. I
      received a lot of documentation and later met with their newly
      formed engineering support that used to visit Seattle at the behest
      of Almac-Stroum, a supplier. It became obvious that the college was
      not going to purchase anything called a "computer". The college
      had time-share contracts and an aversion to owning any hardware.
      The dept head gave me only 1/4 of my budget request. The State of
      WA bounced my purchase request. So, I came up with this: 1 ea 8008
      (yes, VERY expensive), one card cage (the Intellec 8 card cage),
      8ea 1702 UV-eraseable EPROMs (remember those?), parts for the power
      supply, RAM chips for 4K of static RAM (2114's), and 1 each
      ASR-33 teletype machine (!). I called the order justification:
      "8-bit Parallel Unit". I'm not making this up! The order went
      through like magic. The State of WA bought their first
      microcomputer.

      I built it all on 1" perfboard cards that may have been supplied
      by Intel engineers…can’t remember. I had a great lab ass't that
      fab'd a case for it and did a LOT of soldering. I was able to talk
      Intel into giving me a punched paper tape copy of the Intellec
      8 System Monitor. I gave this and the 1702s to Almac-Stroum for
      programming....all for free! So, I had a PROM board, 4K RAM board
      and the CPU board all plugged into the Intellec 8 card cage. I made
      the I/O board in two pieces - one in the computer and the other
      mounted inside the ASR-33. I called it Olycomp-1. On Christmas
      afternoon '73, I connected it to the ASR-33, hit a reset and the
      TTY typed: -80, CR, LF. Unlike in “iWOZ”, I used schematics
      supplied by Intel. For the next hours, I used commands in the
      system monitor to print out the contents of the RAM board in hex
      until I ran out of paper. Chakety-chakety - it was music! I had a
      series of switches on the front panel to load any program in RAM
      and run it. I remember the trickyness of that 2-phase clock and
      how the pin-challenged 8008 muxed a lot of pins making timing
      very critical.

      Later, I wrote a hex loader so I could load paper tapes I had
      punched. However, it was not as famous as Bill Gate's hex loader
      tape. Same thing though. Believe it or not, a company called
      Scelbi created a version of BASIC for the 8008 called ScelBal.
      I can't remember how I justified it but the State of WA
      purchased Scelbal, their first microprocessor BASIC and a brand
      new 8K RAM board from Intel. I could load the paper tape in 30 min.
      Then the 8008 machine called Olycomp-1 could run a BASIC program!
      I still have that object tape for Scelbal! Loading Scelbal was
      tricky. The 8008 had only a 7-level stack. This severely limited
      nested subroutines and, as I remember, you had to commit 3 of
      them before you loaded the tape. That didn’t leave many left
      for executing Scelbal. In order to show immediate value
      (department and tenure committee was very concerned due to
      building visibility of this project) I wrote a short program
      that solved determinants using Euler's Theorem. It worked!
      They tested it by inputting a matrix that they knew would
      indicate singularity and I was relieved and very sweaty at
      the end when it worked. Heads nodded, I got tenure (in ’75),
      my students had a microcomputer at their disposal and I
      continued my career of having fun and getting paid for it.

      That lab tech built a model intersection with traffic lights.
      I got help from a city engineer and we wrote a program to run
      the intersection. Later, the City of Bremerton Court would
      borrow it for trials. Olycomp-1 joined public service!

      I just found this link for the Intellec 8:
      http://www.computermuseum.li/Testpage/Intellec-8-Micro-1972.htm
      I remember getting the manual for it from Intel. It was my
      text book on microprocessors. In fact, in 1973, it was about
      the only thing I could find. No Google search back then!

      I REALLY wanted that box but the college purchasing said no. My box
      didn't have all those switches.

      Soon after, the Altair came out and many others. I ended up
      with the two Altairs 8800b and 680b that I mentioned before,
      a Commodore PET, and Heathkit H-8 and other projects. My main
      teaching tools were the E&L Instruments MMD-1 and later,
      the 8085 SDK-85 board. In the mid 1980s, I took 2 yr leave
      of absence from teaching and worked for E&L Instruments
      (later Interplex Electronics)and did a lot of work on the
      Fox trainer that used a Z80. I wrote the manuals also.

      As Olycomp-1 became obsolete other newer 8 and 16-bit
      systems took its place and I finally left teaching.
      A few years later, I contacted my former colleagues
      about snatching back good old Olycomp-1 but they said
      it was thrown out. Sad.



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    • B Degnan
      For those of you with time on your hands, please call my test BBS: 1200 baud of screaming C-64 / 1541 power. CBM-Wilmington BBS 302 654 4nine15 The BBS is
      Message 2 of 10 , Feb 28, 2008
        For those of you with time on your hands, please call my test BBS:

        1200 baud of screaming C-64 / 1541 power.

        CBM-Wilmington BBS
        302 654 4nine15

        The BBS is sharing my inbound fax line, it should work. I will be testing
        myself but it'll be probably tomorrow. Any assistance is appreciated. I
        don't know if it'll work with non-Commodore systems, let me know.

        -Bill
      • B Degnan
        ... ... Great story, thanks for sharing.. Bill
        Message 3 of 10 , Feb 28, 2008
          > Guys,
          >
          > I have been e-mailing with a guy who lives in Washington
          > state recently. I asked how he got interested in computers,
          > and he shared this story, which I thought others might enjoy reading:
          >
          <snip>

          > As Olycomp-1 became obsolete other newer 8 and 16-bit
          > systems took its place and I finally left teaching.
          > A few years later, I contacted my former colleagues
          > about snatching back good old Olycomp-1 but they said
          > it was thrown out. Sad.
          >

          Great story, thanks for sharing..
          Bill
        • Christian Liendo
          I still have the Sharp one,, I bet thats rare http://www.tuaw.com/2008/02/27/the-10th-anniversary-of-the-newtons-death/
          Message 4 of 10 , Feb 28, 2008
            I still have the Sharp one,, I bet thats rare

            http://www.tuaw.com/2008/02/27/the-10th-anniversary-of-the-newtons-death/


            ____________________________________________________________________________________
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          • Evan
            I have an OMP (Newton parlance for original message pad ). - Evan, waiting for his flight home from Denver airport ... From: Christian Liendo
            Message 5 of 10 , Feb 28, 2008
              I have an OMP (Newton parlance for "original message pad").

              - Evan, waiting for his flight home from Denver airport

              -----Original Message-----

              From: Christian Liendo <christian_liendo@...>
              Subj: [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death
              Date: Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:53 pm
              Size: 991 bytes
              To: midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com

              I still have the Sharp one,, I bet thats rare

              http://www.tuaw.com/2008/02/27/the-10th-anniversary-of-the-newtons-death/


              ____________________________________________________________________________________
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            • Jim Scheef
              Well, I have a genuine, original Tandy Zoomer. I came out about the same time as the OMP and was totally overshadowed (for good reason) by the Newton. Ergo,
              Message 6 of 10 , Feb 28, 2008
                Well, I have a genuine, original Tandy Zoomer. I came out about the same time as the OMP and was totally overshadowed (for good reason) by the Newton. Ergo, much even more rarer! [sic]

                Jim

                ----- Original Message ----
                From: Evan <evan@...>
                To: midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2008 7:12:00 PM
                Subject: Re: [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death

                I have an OMP (Newton parlance for "original message pad").

                - Evan, waiting for his flight home from Denver airport

                -----Original Message-----

                From:  Christian Liendo <christian_liendo@...>
                Subj:  [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death
                Date:  Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:53 pm
                Size:  991 bytes
                To:  midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com

                I still have the Sharp one,, I bet thats rare

                http://www.tuaw.com/2008/02/27/the-10th-anniversary-of-the-newtons-death/


                      ____________________________________________________________________________________
                Be a better friend, newshound, and
                know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile.  Try it now.  http://mobile.yahoo.com/;_ylt=Ahu06i62sR8HDtDypao8Wcj9tAcJ




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              • Christian Liendo
                This is the one I have, I remember buying it because it was able to close and protect the pad http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=427873
                Message 7 of 10 , Feb 29, 2008
                  This is the one I have, I remember buying it because
                  it was able to close and protect the pad

                  http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=427873


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                • Evan Koblentz
                  ... Nope. That whole series -- Casio Z-7000 aka Tandy Zoomer aka AST ( Gridpad if I remember correctly) -- is interesting because it started the modern
                  Message 8 of 10 , Feb 29, 2008
                    Message
                    >>> Ergo, much even more rarer
                     
                    Nope.  That whole series -- Casio Z-7000 aka Tandy Zoomer aka AST ("Gridpad" if I remember correctly) -- is interesting because it started the modern "Palm" form factor, as well as starting Palm the company (which at the time only made software, after Jeff Hawkins left Grid).  But the devices weren't so great and aren't very rare today.
                     
                    A good book on the Zoomer series and how its development led to Palm (although the stories are somewhat biased because it's co-written by a former Palm marketing director) is "Piloting Palm" by Andrea Butter and by the NY Times' David Pogue.
                    -----Original Message-----
                    From: Jim Scheef [mailto:jscheef@...]
                    Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:50 PM
                    To: midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: Re: [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death

                    Well, I have a genuine, original Tandy Zoomer. I came out about the same time as the OMP and was totally overshadowed (for good reason) by the Newton. Ergo, much even more rarer! [sic]

                    Jim

                    ----- Original Message ----
                    From: Evan <evan@...>
                    To: midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com
                    Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2008 7:12:00 PM
                    Subject: Re: [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death

                    I have an OMP (Newton parlance for "original message pad").

                    - Evan, waiting for his flight home from Denver airport

                    -----Original Message-----

                    From:  Christian Liendo <christian_liendo@...>
                    Subj:  [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death
                    Date:  Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:53 pm
                    Size:  991 bytes
                    To:  midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com

                    I still have the Sharp one,, I bet thats rare

                    http://www.tuaw.com/2008/02/27/the-10th-anniversary-of-the-newtons-death/


                          ____________________________________________________________________________________
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                  • Jim Scheef
                    Yes, the Zoomer was so slow as to be almost unusable. The processor was an 8088 (maybe 80C88). Some fun memories: someone found a hack that allowed
                    Message 9 of 10 , Mar 3, 2008
                      Yes, the Zoomer was so slow as to be almost unusable. The processor was an 8088 (maybe 80C88). Some fun memories: someone found a hack that allowed customization beyond what Casio and Tandy had in mind. And some idiot from Zoom modems would come into the CompuServe forum where Zoomer owners hung out and post messages that any reference to "Zoomer" **obviously** really meant a Zoom modem and not some handheld device that was not allowed to use the Zoomer name. Only initial production had the Zoomer name printed on the device.

                      I'll still bet that Zoomers today are "even more rarer" than Newtons.

                      Jim

                      ----- Original Message ----
                      From: Evan Koblentz <evan@...>
                      To: midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Saturday, March 1, 2008 12:55:04 AM
                      Subject: RE: [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death

                      Message
                      >>> Ergo, much even more rarer
                       
                      Nope.  That whole series -- Casio Z-7000 aka Tandy Zoomer aka AST ("Gridpad" if I remember correctly) -- is interesting because it started the modern "Palm" form factor, as well as starting Palm the company (which at the time only made software, after Jeff Hawkins left Grid).  But the devices weren't so great and aren't very rare today.
                       
                      A good book on the Zoomer series and how its development led to Palm (although the stories are somewhat biased because it's co-written by a former Palm marketing director) is "Piloting Palm" by Andrea Butter and by the NY Times' David Pogue.
                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: Jim Scheef [mailto:jscheef@...]
                      Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:50 PM
                      To: midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: Re: [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death

                      Well, I have a genuine, original Tandy Zoomer. I came out about the same time as the OMP and was totally overshadowed (for good reason) by the Newton. Ergo, much even more rarer! [sic]

                      Jim

                      ----- Original Message ----
                      From: Evan <evan@...>
                      To: midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2008 7:12:00 PM
                      Subject: Re: [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death

                      I have an OMP (Newton parlance for "original message pad").

                      - Evan, waiting for his flight home from Denver airport

                      -----Original Message-----

                      From:  Christian Liendo <christian_liendo@...>
                      Subj:  [midatlanticretro] Yesterday 10 years after newton's death
                      Date:  Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:53 pm
                      Size:  991 bytes
                      To:  midatlanticretro@yahoogroups.com

                      I still have the Sharp one,, I bet thats rare

                      http://www.tuaw.com/2008/02/27/the-10th-anniversary-of-the-newtons-death/


                            ____________________________________________________________________________________
                      Be a better friend, newshound, and
                      know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile.  Try it now.  http://mobile.yahoo.com/;_ylt=Ahu06i62sR8HDtDypao8Wcj9tAcJ




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