Packrat genome project questions

From: Pete Turnbull <>
Date: Thu Jan 31 20:39:41 2002

On Jan 29, 10:28, Mike Ford wrote:
> How many people on this list still have their 1st computer? second?
> every computer you ever used/owned?

The very first computer I used was an Elliott 4100 which belonged to a
large local bank. I was at secondary (high) school, and we wrote programs
in Algol on coding forms, handed them in, and got printout back a week
later. Usually it was an error listing, unfortunately. Well, it taught me
the worh of desk testing and dry-running at an early age:-) I never got to
see the computer, though. The school did have it's own Teletype (ASR33)
and I got to admire that. If you ever come across a copy, the textbook we
used was "Computer Programming for Schools: First steps in Algol", by
Donald Michie, Andrew Ortony, and R.M.Burstall. The teacher thanked in the
preface for class-testing the material was my maths teacher, and I still
have my original copy of the book. It cost 10 shillings (50p, or about 70
cents) in 1969.

The next machine I came across would have been one of the three PDP-8s at a
high school where I worked as a technician about 1980. They had a PDP-8/E,
and 8/F (I think), and one other which I can't remember, as well as a
similar-sized HP. The 8/F was mounted on a frame with castors and often
connected to a VDU; the 8/E was in a rack with two TU56s, and the other,
called EDWARD (Electronic Device With Auxiliary Rotating Disks) was in a
dual rack with a high speed papertape reader, a pair of RK05s, and some
extra core. It also had a VDU and (wonder of wonders) a "fast" Anadex 8000
parallel printer. The 8/E ran one of the multiuser Edusystem OSs, though I
can't remember which one; it had three ASR33s attached. I never got any of
those machines, though I kept in touch with some of the enthusiasts amoung
the staff. Some years ago, I was saddened to discover on a trip to help
them with the 11/34 that replaced the -8s, that all the -8 stuff had been
junked when it became too hard to look after. However, I now have a
PDP-8/E of my own, though not as well endowed as the one at that school.

The same school got an Apple ][ while I was there, and one of the early
(pre-production) BBC Micros. I now have an Apple ][+ of my own, not from
that school, but from one nearby.

When I left that school to work as a microcomputer technician at a local
college (run by the same Local Education Authority) I bought an Exidy
Sorcerer. I sold that eventually, but kept in touch with its new owner for
a while. I eventually got a replacement a few years ago. I used to use a
converted TV with it, but eventually bought a little 9" mono monitor, which
I still have (it's useful because it has a wide sync range and unusually
large brightness and gain ranges).

The college had several PETs, a few 2001's and several 3000 and 4000
series, some with a MuPET disk sharing "network". It was horribly
unreliable, I remember, due to long ribbon cables, flaky connectors, and
fairly awful software. I don't have any of those college machines, but I
do have a 2001-8K and an 8050 dual drive, and used to have a 3032.

My first printer was a Creed 7 teleprinter, with a Heath Robinson
arrangement of mains transformers mounted on plywood, and a kludge board to
convert current-loop to sort-of-RS232. I remember having great trouble
finding 10_1/2" fanfold paper for it, as most paper by then was 11_1/2"
wide. Luckily a friend who worked at the computer centre at oneof the
banks got me some. The next problem was getting the right baud rate, so I
made a little adapter to fit in the Sorcerer, so it generated 50 baud and
300 baud on the serial interface instead of 300 and 1200. The last problem
was the character set -- 5-bit teleprinter code, not ASCII. I
hand-assembled a driver to deal with that. I found the original tape the
other day. Oh, and I remember removing some of the print hammers and
modifying them so that by overstriking, I could do a reasonable impression
of most of the characters in the uppper-case ASCII set.

I inherited some money from a relative a year or two later, and replaced
the TV with the monitor, and the Creed with a Centronics 737. I worked out
how to make the 8039 MCU in the printer read an external ROM instead of the
on-chip code, and turned my 737 into a 739 (the main difference is the
ability to print graphics). I still have the printer.

At the college, I got more interested in BBC Micros, and got two of my own.
 I sold the Sorcerer to pay for the first one, a Model A, and saved for a
while to buy the parts to upgrade it to a Model B. Then I got another
Model B, and much later another, and other models. Some time around
1984/85 I wired two rooms in the house with an Econet network for the
Beebs. I don't have those original machines any more (I hope one day I'll
catch up with the *** who borrowed Serial No. 629 and never returned it)
but I have several of about the same age. In fact I've had (and still
have) quite a lot of Acorn stuff, as evntually I went to work for them. I
still have my first Archimedes, serial number 0000002.

Pete						Peter Turnbull
						Network Manager
						University of York
Received on Thu Jan 31 2002 - 20:39:41 GMT

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