The Great Lakes Geek was fortunate to grow up along with the PC industry. It's amazing how new some of the things we take for granted really are.
Bob and Dan's Adventure to the PC Graveyard
Geek Blast from the Past
Computer techies (OK, geeks) Bob Coppedge and Dan Hanson used to take groups to various places of interest to computer professionals (OK, other geeks). They called it Bob and Dan's Excellent Adventures.
This video from 2004 was just unearthed from some old DVDs. This was a different adventure as Bob and Dan visited a cemetery and visited the graves of some old technology - from dBase to Win 95 before facing their own demise.
The Great Lakes Geek has been working on a Tech Timeline of important dates in the region's tech history.
For example, Cindy and Jim Cookinham started a publication in late 1981 called IPCO INFO. It was the first publication for the IBM PC.
On May 19, 1997 programmer John Hill started Aztek.
And so on.
So if you have a milestone that should be added to the Tech Timeline, let us know.
ASCII Art Geek Memory Lane
The Great Lakes Geek discovered a few old treasures on a recent cleaning spree. Young people cannot know the excitement of printing out pictures (on dot matrix printers!) using just ASCII characters. They really were works of art. I found a Mona Lisa and an Alfred E. Newman but there were a lot more like George Washington, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe and others.
ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange and it was originally developed from telegraph code.
ASCII reserves the first 32 codes (numbers 0-31 decimal) for control characters: codes originally intended not to represent printable information, but rather to control devices (such as printers) that make use of ASCII. For example, character 10 represents the "line feed" function (which causes a printer to advance its paper), and character 8 represents "backspace."
Codes 20hex to 7Ehex, known as the printable characters, represent letters, digits, punctuation marks, and a few miscellaneous symbols. There are 95 printable characters in total. Those characters in the standard ASCII character set could be displayed on most computer monitors -even on early desktops/terminals incapable of displaying digital images- and could be printed on most printers. It could be created using nothing more than a text editor.
Mona Lisa ASCII art
Early printers lacked graphics capabilities so you couldn't print images. But you could use the characters in clever arrangements to create outlines and shading. That's ASCII art.
Of course you wanted to use the wide greenbar paper and if you were lucky enough to have access to a 24 pin dot matrix printer they could really look good (if you squinted).
If you are old enough to remember sharing bulk printers than you will recall how print jobs would be separated from one another with ASCII art to print large banner pages, making the division easier to spot so that the results could be more easily separated by a computer operator or clerk.
And of course since it just used ASCII characters, the images could be sent in e-mail before you could embed pictures.
Remember the old PC user groups like this one? Tandy PCs, public domain software, BASIC SIG, BBS and more
Microsoft releases Source Code
Don't get too excited. It's the source code to MS DOS1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a.
Microsoft partnered with the Computer History Museum in San Jose on the project and is releasing the code "to help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing."
For younger techies the idea that the entire DOS 1.1 operating system loaded and ran in only 12k bytes of memory is unbelievable. That's not a typo - 12k.
Tight code like that is one of the reasons for the famous quote (not really from him actually) by Bill Gates that "640K ought to be enough for anybody."
TRS80 Model 100
Way back in 1983 the Great Lakes Geek got his first portable computer. It had a great form factor, nice keyboard and useful ports.
The LCD screen was only 8 lines and 40 characters across but that seemed plenty for the text-based BASIC programs you ran on the unit.
Maybe the best part of the ahead-of-its-time unit was the built-in 300 bps (yes 300 bps) modem. It made the Model 100 a favorite of journalists who could type about 10 pages of text into the unit and then plug into a phone line and upload their columns to the main office. 300 bps sounds excrutiatingly slow but when you just transferred ASCII character and plain text, it was surprisingly useful. The Geek spent a lot of time on the old Cleveland Freenet with that device.
The Great Lakes Geek recently uncovered his old Model 100 and shot this video of it. Ah, memories.
Found this great shot of Bob Coppedge, the late Jim Evans, Peter Norton and me (Dan Hanson) from a COMDEX in Las Vegas a loooong time ago.
Bob Coppedge, Jim Evans, Peter Norton and Dan Hanson at Comdex in Las Vegas
4.5 megabytes of data
Geek Time Travel
Here's what 4.5 megabytes of data in 62,500
punched cards looked like in 1955. Today, of course, one photo on a cell phone can use this much data.
Herman Hollerith invented punch card computing for use in the 1890 census, and that same card program existed with minor tweaks throughout the mid-20th century. The Great Lakes Geek recalls dropping off stacks of punch cards and hoping they were in the right order and no errors.
4.5 megabytes of data
The Birth of BASIC
Professors John Kemeny and Tom Kurtz along with a band of Dartmouth undergraduates invent the Basic computer language. Watch this great video.
According to GlobalNewsWire,
Computer History Museum (CHM), the world's leading institution exploring the history of computing and its impact on the human experience, today announced the public release and long-term preservation of the Eudora source code, one of the early successful email clients, as part of its Center for Software History’s Historical Source Code. The release comes after a five-year negotiation with Qualcomm.
The first version of Eudora was created in the 1980s by Steve Dorner who was working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It took Dorner over a year to create the first version of Eudora, which had 50,000 lines of C code and ran only on the Apple Macintosh. In 1991, Qualcomm licensed Eudora from the University of Illinois and distributed it free of charge. Qualcomm later released Eudora as a consumer product in 1993, and it quickly gained popularity. Available both for the IBM PC and the Apple Macintosh, in its heyday Eudora had tens of millions of users.
After 15 years, in 2006, Qualcomm decided that Eudora was no longer consistent with their other major project lines, and they stopped development. “In my opinion it was the finest email client ever written, and it has yet to be surpassed. I still use it today, but, alas, the last version of Eudora was released in 2006,” said Len Shustek, chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “With thanks to Qualcomm, we are pleased to release the Eudora source code for its historical interest.”
The discussion with Qualcomm for the release of the Eudora source code by the company’s museum took five years. Qualcomm has transferred ownership of the code, the Eudora trademarks, copyrights, and the Eudora domain names to the Computer History Museum. The transfer agreement allows CHM to publish the code under the very liberal BSD open source license, which means that anyone can use it for either personal or commercial purposes.