Monday, March 20, 2006


Retro Computing

For a while I avidly collected older computers, but I stopped buying them a few years ago, no more room to store them. Most of the machines are still waiting to be tested. My favorite older computers were those from Commodore Business Machines (CBM), such as the VIC-20, C-64 and Amiga series.

Another favorite was the Tandy M-100, which was the first truly portable and useful machine. They were quite popular with journalists and I've heard that some foreign reporters still use them. This machine featured a full size keyboard, a built-in LCD display, and four pre-loaded software applications.

The first computer I ever used was the Netronics ELF II, which was similar to the Cosmac ELF, it featured an RCA 1802 microprocessor, an under-rated and unique processor. This system pre-dated the IBM PC by about five years. My father had bought his Netronics ELF II as a kit in 1978 and built it himself. It consisted of a main board with several card slots, a 4 digit hex LED display, and a numeric/hex keypad. When first built, you had to punch in your program on the keypad as machine code opcodes. Eventually my father installed a Basic ROM, an assembler, 32K of RAM, keyboard, video controller, and a green-screen monitor. I wrote my first computer game on this computer, a vastly simplified version of space invaders.

I'm still interested in retro computing, and practice it to a degree. Currently, I have a P3 machine running Linux as a file server with dual 120GB drives, a P2 machine running Win98 for older games and for publishing activities, and currently have a Sun Ultra 5 up and running, not sure what to do with it yet. I had set up my SGI O2 box but it no longer wants to boot, it appears that the HDD has failed or something. Hopefully, in time, I'll have more older systems set up and running.

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