I somewhere got the idea that the only way I could really learn anything about a new subject was to start at the beginning, as in to study 20th century history, I would have to go back to prehistoric history and work myself up to now; not a very efficient way to learn 20th century history. After a 6 month course in computer programming, I found myself working at Comten, an high end communications computer company. Our computers where meant to handle all the communications for a large IBM mainframe. I was not ready.
My new Comten computers were taller than me, but early on, I began to notice talk about smaller computers, what we today call personal computers. It didn’t take long before I stopped by the Heathkit Store and found they had a kit for building a small computer. They sold you a couple thousand parts, and directions. All you had to do was solder them together, correctly, and you would have a computer. This was in 1977; the IBM Personal Computer was still 5 years away.
I was about to build my own computer before I had ever seen on smaller than desk.
I took me a year to finish my computer. It was a big moment when I inserted in the last part and was ready to plug it in. I was legitimately concerned (afraid) that something bad would happen; I had never before, or since, built anything like this; there would be electricity in my computer; what if some of it went down the wrong pipe and into my monitor and blew it up.
My answer: first, I alerted my wife to the fact that I might be blowing up the house. Then I placed the computer and monitor around a corner between the living room and dining room. Then I went around the corner to the other side (the living room). I had two tasks. First, I bought the electrical cord with me as I crawled into the living room. Plug it in to a wall outlet. After that worked, meaning we were still alive, I would then reach my arm around the corner, and feel around until I found the start button. Actually, I think I peeked around the corner and carefully placed my finger on the button, as I remember, and then moving the rest of my body back into the living room, I considered pushing the button. Apparently, I was willing to lose my arm and also assumed the explosion would not destroy the wall between both rooms and get the rest of me. Not so bad; a couple thousand solders and all I would lose would be one arm. Being right handed, I made sure I was using my left arm to reach around the corner and push the button.
(I am not dramatizing my experience here; I really was very concerned as I plugged it in and pushed the button.)
I pushed the start button; nothing exploded. I cannot recall if I heard anything, like the fan starting in the computer, or maybe a click meaning electricity had made it into the computer. From the manual, I knew that the first thing to look for was the numbers 000 080 in the soon to be flashing lights on the front of the computer; after a suitable period of time, I moved my head around the corner, opened my eyes, and there were those wonderful numbers.
I don’t remember whether my first reaction was happiness that I was still alive, or pride that I had just accomplished a cool thing.
Later on, I found on line message boards
Only one problem left; I had learned a lot about soldering small electtonic parts but nothing around computers. As u probably know, a computer has no moving parts, other than the fan so I couldn’t watch it do its thing. Actually, those wonderful lights on the front panel not only knew how to show me 000 080, but every other number too, and quickly. That was gratifying but it didn’t teach me anything about how the computer worked.
I would have no idea how to fix it; which of the 1,000’s of soldered joints that I made was causing the problem; and not one of those parts moved at all. Google was still 20 years away.
All I had learned was how to solder 2,000 parts together; I could not go backward.
…..count to 1 million; I did figure something out though; while building the computer, I had spent some time learning how to program using the Basic programming language, some think I learn at school, and after all, I was a programmer; I was being paid to be a programmer. It turns out, you don’t have to know how a computer works, just like you don’t need to know how a car works to drive it; or prehistoric history to study modern history just turn the key. You would quickly learn you could get from here to there without knowing how the car worked. All you needed to learn was which pedal started u going and which one stopped you from going. Also, found out you already knew how to use the steering wheel; turn it to the left and the car went left, right and the car went right.
So what to do with it; I really had no idea how much power it had; what were its possibilities or limitations. The biggest number I knew was one million (billions had not yet been invented), so I wrote my first basic computer program; a simple program that showed a counter, initially on those 8 flashing lights, later on the monitor I built next; it was night so after watching the number go up, and being a little excited about my first computer, my first computer program, I went to bed; when I woke up and checked, the front panel showed 1,000,000; my program worked; it counted to one million and then waited for me to do the next thing; computer will wait for you for hours, months, years and more; I had no idea whether it took a couple minutes or a couple hours; I wrote the same program today and it took mille seconds
Show the program; maybe explain the loop
Most computer people today have no idea what Octal means; they do know what hexadecimal means; I speak English, I don’t speak French but I know where it is spoken and I and usually identify it when I hear it. Hexidecimal is a number system that goes from a 1 to an F.???As in 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
In mathematics and computing, hexadecimal (also base 16, or hex) is a positional numeral system with a radix, or base, of 16. It uses sixteen distinct symbols, most often the symbols 0–9 to represent values zero to nine, and A, B, C, D, E, F (or alternatively a, b, c, d, e, f) to represent values ten to fifteen.
Hexadecimal numerals are widely used by computer system designers and programmers. As each hexadecimal digit represents four binary digits (bits), it allows a more human-friendly representation of binary-coded values. One hexadecimal digit represents a nibble (4 bits), which is half of an octet or byte (8 bits). For example, a single byte can have values ranging from 00000000 to 11111111 in binary form, but this may be more conveniently represented as 00 to FF in hexadecimal.
In a non-programming context, a subscript is typically used to give the radix, for example the decimal value 10,995 would be expressed in hexadecimal as 2AF316. Several notations are used to support hexadecimal representation of constants in programming languages, usually involving a prefix or suffix. The prefix "0x" is used in C and related languages, where this value might be denoted as 0x2AF3.
From Heathkit catalog: Its intelligent front panel has a 9-digit 7-segment octal display and a 16-key octal keyboard.
I know how to multiply 4 x 6 but I have no idea how to even add 23FED and 12FDD4
Octal, The octal numeral system, or oct for short, is the base-8 number system, and uses the digits 0 to 7. Octal numerals can be made from binary numerals by grouping consecutive binary digits into groups of three (starting from the right). For example, the binary representation for decimal 74 is 1001010. Two zeroes can be added at the left: (00)1 001 010, corresponding the octal digits 1 1 2, yielding the octal representation 112. I had to first get over the fact that a base 8 system ends with a 7
1,000,000 is 3641100 in Octal and F4240 in hex; so actually, those numbers on the front of my H8 were probably 3641100. I cannot remember esxactly, but my first thought was my program didn’t work; I got a result 3 times what I was expecting; I got the numbers just above to going to Google and typing Octal conversion; there was no web then; sitting at home, it was possible that it was not possible for me to get the answer
There was a kind of internet then, Yahoo, etc etc, but no place you could type Octal converter and find more octotal converters than u can count, in either, decimal, octol or hexidecimal
Radio Shack tape recorder, keep it as a living room ornament or throw it away.
I probably used that computer more than any other I ever had. I was writing a number of columns then, and now, I didn’t need an eraser.
I built it and then had a new problem; what would I do with the computer
Tape, to floppy disk to hard disk
Software; where to buy; on a wall at Heathkit, they arranged a whole lot of plastic bags, with tapse in them. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. Mostly games and word processors; spreadsheets, the thing that really launced the computer age had not yet been invented
I bought a word processing bag, went home and read it into my computer and then checked my screen and saw what I later found out was a word processor, meaning no more type writers, eraser liquid or copy paper; I was just beginning and whoever wrote the word processing software was also just beginning to learn how to write computer programs; happily, at least for a year or two, software creators wrote software that was easy to use; it simply allowed to you type on your keyboard and the letter would appear on the screen in the same order you typed them. What could be easier
H8. The machine was announced in July 1977 and started selling that fall at a price of $379.
Announced: July of 1977
Available: Fall of 1977
Price: $379 (0K RAM)
CPU: Intel 8080A @ 2.0 MHz
Interface: 16-button keypad
9-digit LED display
Storage: optional audio cassette
or floppy drive (1978)
OS: HDOS (Heath DOS)
It was in 1980, my first year of gainful employment, I bought and assembled an H8 system. Based on the infamous Intel 8080 microprocessor, it had a relatively generous 32K of RAM, a 4 port serial I/O card, 100K of disk storage and an H19 video terminal. I still have it and it still works!
What fun it was to see the familiar message "Your H8 is up and running" displayed on the front panel LEDs!