"Toy" computers (was Re: Micro$oft Biz'droid Lusers)

From: Richard Erlacher <edick_at_idcomm.com>
Date: Thu Apr 25 18:30:20 2002

comments inline ...


----- Original Message -----
From: "Christopher Smith" <csmith_at_amdocs.com>
To: <classiccmp_at_classiccmp.org>
Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 3:41 PM
Subject: RE: "Toy" computers (was Re: Micro$oft Biz'droid Lusers)

> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Richard Erlacher [mailto:edick_at_idcomm.com]
> > They are toys, since they didn't have a disk interface in
> > them. They, in
> > fact, if your description is correct, needed a toy interface
> > to talk to
> > another toy interface that talked to what was probably a
> > smarter computer that
> > had a disk interface in it.
> That pretty much describes commodore disk drives, yep. The
> point, though, is that they plug directly into an interface
> that's already on the machine, so we would get into the sticky
> discussion of how "directly" a drive must be handled. Require
> too much of the logic to be in the computer, and suddenly an
> external IDE disk wouldn't count.
An external IDE drive would be hazardous thing to use because of cable length.
> As an aside, I've heard of interesting things being done with
> the disk drive "computers," though I can't think of any off hand.
Yes, these things were out there. I remember I had a 2 MHz 6809 in my printer
at a time when I was using a 1 MHz 6502. It seemed ironic that the computer
hardware in my printer cost on the order of 5x what the hardware in my
computer had cost. Of course, I designed/built my own hardware, so it didn't
cost as much as it might because I was thrifty.
> They spoke a pretty simple serial protocol, too, such that you
> can basically plug them into other systems (Intel Linux machines,
> at least) and build simple applications to talk to them, and they
> handled all of the complexities of disk I/O, so that the CPU didn't
> need to -- so there are good points to them.
What you may have had, then, is a toy with a computer as a peripheral. That
was probably quite a bit after the time reference of 1980.
> That being said, if I understand your other post properly, once
> the drive is there, you would possibly not consider it a toy
> any more, whether the drive is external or not, and regardless
> of how it's driven. Or am I way off?
What I am focused on is where the intelligence to run the I/O resides. Once
microprocessors and especially the single-chippers, with integrated
peripherals as well as memory and the CPU, became cheaper, due to higher
density of logic and the economies of scale, their use in intelligent
peripherals made great deal of sense. However, it resulted in ugly and
awkward packaging, which was addressed even later with more elegant interface
standards, say, by 1986, with the standardization of SCSI. However, much of
the time, the intelligence didn't reside in the main box because it was a toy.
Only with the addition of considerable additional resources and intelligence
did the things function as computer systems. Technically they were computer
systems by most definitions, but their architecture, particularly as viewed
from the outside, was that of a toy rather than that of a
designed-from-the-ground-up computer. In other words, their computing
ability, when not applied to playing the games for which they were designed,
was just an aside.
> Would you also have considered 9-track tape "mass storage" for the
> time?
I'd tread lightly around that subject, unless your Atari or whatever, had a
9-track drive in '80 or so.
> Chris
> Christopher Smith, Perl Developer
> Amdocs - Champaign, IL
> /usr/bin/perl -e '
> print((~"\x95\xc4\xe3"^"Just Another Perl Hacker.")."\x08!\n");
> '
Received on Thu Apr 25 2002 - 18:30:20 BST

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