Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

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Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby aardvark_admin » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:55 am

This column is archived at: http://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2017/0807.shtml

Gosh, how quickly the last 40 years have whizzed by and look how far we've come -- from the humble TRS80 to the relative "supercomputers" we all now have in our phones and on our desktops.

It is hard to believe that the TRS80 Model 1 is celebrating its 40th birthday this year -- that means I must have actually had hair when I bought my first one all those years ago.

Interestingly enough, even way back then at the start of the revolution, there were factional camps. It wasn't Windows vs Apple, it wasn't Ford vs Holden, it wasn't Lions vs All Blacks -- it was CISC vs RISC in the form of Z80 vs 6502.

I guess that battle continues to this day and now we have Intel vs ARM.

But where will we be in another 40 years?

Will we be using technology that we can't even imagine today? Or will the planet be a harsh, scorched wasteland, with just a few hardy souls clinging tenuously to life?
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Re: Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby dingram17 » Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:22 am

I never really understood the appeal of the Z80 or 8051 processors -- too complex (at least I thought so). The 6510 on my C64 was a good "learning platform" for playing as a teenager, and most of it could be directly applied to the Motorola HC11 and HC05 microcontrollers at university.

Now all that complexity is hidden behind Arduino and Python -- and that is a good thing. "Makers" can concentrate on the task at hand and not worry about subtleties of addressing. The power and capability of $5 devices has been a big change. Will it continue? I sure hope so, because once we lose the capability to design and build and are just consumers we are beholden to others.
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Re: Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby Weasel » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:23 am

aardvark_admin wrote:
But where will we be in another 40 years?

Will we be using technology that we can't even imagine today? Or will the planet be a harsh, scorched wasteland, with just a few hardy souls clinging tenuously to life?


Probably a mix of both! I hope to be in my first robot body by then.
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Re: Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby goosemoose » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:23 am

Here's a piece of retro coolness for you:
http://www.hercules-390.eu
IBM System 370 mainframe emulator. There's actually a turnkey version of MVS floating around so you can play with a mainframe just like it was back in the day! It even runs on a Raspberry Pi. I also believe it'll run Z/OS, IBM later version on MVS.
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Re: Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby Grumpy » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:58 am

Well I remember the 'Trash-80', a great piece of electronics that enhanced my itch for programming I still have in my eighties. And 'yep' I am learning Python.

Like Bruce, I loved the Z-80 and wrote 'drivers' for our computer enthusiast group who had TRS-80's to accommodate some of the odd pieces of electronics that came out of the woodwork.

Anyone remember the unit that could be put on top of an electric typewriter keyboard and made it operate as a TRS-80 printer? And then there were the kitset printers that used one had to actually solder the resisters et al onto a printed circuit base. It used rolls of tape about 8-cm wide and output 40 chars/line in dot-matrix format. At least one could print out all those lines of BASIC or PASCAL coding for debugging. Plus the .........

It was a great age to live in!
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Re: Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby Kiwiiano » Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:40 am

I'm more inclined to fear 'a few hardy souls eking out an existence.' The amazing complexity of our phones is a pinnacle of technology that will struggle to survive an increasingly chaotic global climate with its heatwaves, flash flooding and flash droughts, failing crops, food shortages, refugee plagues etc etc. We're just too globally interdependent and no country is an island any more.

Re the pathway of 'puters, I started with a Dream 6800 Chip-8 cobbled together from an EA recipe back about '79-80. It played a crap game of ping pong after hours of painful hexadecimal input. See <http://www.mjbauer.biz/DREAM6800.htm>
From there it was succession of Sinclairs & Amstrads until I scored a Mac SE from a State Ins claim recovery. I wended thru countless models of Macs until I have pretty well stalled at this Mid '09 MacBook Pro that Apple have declared obsolete. I may upgrade to a Late '12 model that will give me a few more years of OS updates without abandoning any of my legacy hardware but, frankly, the revelations of their tax avoidance machinations plus the vague feeling they have lost their mojo leaves me a bit blah.... I'm even contemplating dumping my (obsolete) iPhone 5 for an Android something or other. Buggered if I can justify a grand or more when $2-300 will do everything I need. I can't believe I'm saying that but there you are!
Last edited by Kiwiiano on Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
~ Kiwiiano
“I'm right 98% of the time, so who gives a damn about the other 3%?"
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Re: Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby flyernzl » Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:09 pm

Looked through the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley two weeks ago.
Amazing displays, and well worth the visit if you are ever in the area.
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Re: Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby par_annoyed » Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:21 pm

I simply didn't have the money to buy anything like that at the time.... But at that time I was already working with proprietary computers with a pretty decent instruction set (but only one accumulator) and using CORAL as a programming language, as a trainee. Good salary was later on... but still, I can look back at those and consider that those 6 foot cabinets had less power (probably a LOT less power) than a raspberry Pi, or a typical mobile of today's vintage. Punch tape input, and tape drives, and the advanced innovation of bootable disc with an operating system on it. Smaller machines only had punch tape loaded programs.....

I remember the physically HUGE disk drives too, those enormous cartridge multi platter discs for a grand total of 64 MB, which is available today on a microSD card.... a million times smaller ?? Amazing.
I could say that the transistor was invented not long before I was born, so in my lifetime, valves to 14nm processor chips with x million transistors....
Who would have thought every single car would be run by a computer (or several) ?? What's wrong with a carb ??

I tend to be dystopian about the future too. Mankind seems to be gobbling up everything, polluting everything, and ignoring the consequences. We delayed peak oil with fracking (with side-effects), but we still have the spectres of
peak water, peak food, peak minerals (lithium especially if EVs come to pass, but others too), peak fertiliser, and others. Fukishima and other ongoing disasters. Monoculture architecture. And yet we ignore it all for a fast buck. This is assuming of course that the on-going willy waving between various nations doesn't end up with us all being fried and glowing in the dark....either by design or (I think more likely) a stupid mistake.

My grandad - Horse and cart to cars, man on the moon, the jumbo jet, the atomic bomb.
Me - transistors to modern CPUs to gene editing, smashing atoms, making our own elements, ..future.. Quantum Computing ? World War 3 ? Extinction ? Discovery of Aliens ??

I wish I knew... I could make a HUGE amount of money......
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Re: Four decades later... (7 Aug, 2017)

Postby aardvark_admin » Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:30 pm

par_annoyed wrote:What's wrong with a carb ??

It's fattening :lol:
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