I was at the Living Computer Museum again last weekend. No surprise for people who read this blog. It is one of my favorite places to visit in Seattle. Every time I go there, I find something new that captures my imagination or educates me. Today I would like to talk about another way of experiencing this wonderful facility, as a learning library. It all started when I stumbled across this PDP 11/70 Processor Handbook that someone had left near one of the PDP machines.
I had perused the books before while visiting this museum, but to see it so close to the machine it was meant for was a different experience. Picturing myself as a brand new PDP operator in the seventies, I opened up the book and attempted to start learning. It was a challenging bit of reading at first, but I found myself quickly starting to understand some of the basics of what I would need to know.
Suddenly I was looking for other books near machines. I had seen them before, but has never attacked them with gusto. Before I knew it I found myself watching videos on YouTube and skimming the books trying to learn. Pushing myself just a little to see how each of the machines work. Computer architecture has become so homogenized for the most part, that very rarely am I challenged like I was in the past. It was refreshing and perplexing.
It also peeled back another layer on this fine museum. Will I be running out to buy a PDP because of it? No, but I can find the PDP 11/70 Processor Handbook easily on Amazon. And if I ever want to tinker, the LCM will probably have a machine for me to monkey around with. Surely with the right book and enough time I could master any machine.
Okay, maybe a whole lot of time.
Growing up and loving computer with little to no money was difficult. You tended to hoard your computer supplies, especially floppy disks. I would climb through dumpsters and wheel and deal with friends to get my hands on the magnetic gold. While all brands were welcome at my desk, Elephant Memory Systems floppy disks were my favorite. Not only were they premium, but they had this striking image of an elephant on the packaging and wonderful fanciful descriptions on the sleeves.
You might ask, how often did you actually read the back of your disk sleeve? The answer is very often. Back in the day, computer load times were very long. You often needed something to keep your mind occupied during that time. So if I did not have a magazine or book on hand, I would pick up a disk and just read the back. Since Elephant Memory Systems did such a good job on theirs, I found it very re-readable.
I probably had 5 of these discs in my collection over the years, but they always stood out. They were always my favorite and I reserved them as file save home for my favorite video games.
Sadly, I currently have none in my collection at home. So I was thrilled to spot this one on a recent visit to the Living Computer Museum in Seattle. The fact that discs like this are just lying around to be used, speaks volume about the quality of the collection. Everything there is a memory waiting to be remembered. Even the stuff not under glass or featured with a sign.
About Elephant Memory Systems
Elephant Memory Systems floppy disks were produced by Leading Edge in the 1980s. They got their name from the idea that an “elephant never forgets.” Which is a perfect way to promote memory. Also a perfect way to make a memorable brand. It works on so many levels! Leading Edge filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1989 and was acquired in 1989 by Daewoo shortly thereafter .
I grew up in Queens Village, New York and I always went with my parents to Jamaica Savings Bank (now Capital One). This bank was interesting for several reasons; the lighting was warm because most of it came from their huge windows, the tellers were separated from the public with very thick bullet proof glass, and the most importantly, their computers.
That’s me on the side of Jamaica Savings Bank in September of 1989.
There were a few desks and on each was a DEC Rainbow 100 computer. Which consisted of a monitor and keyboard. I didn’t realize until years later that there was a console attached because it was always out of sight. Under the desk perhaps?
I loved the shape of the monitor – the angle at which you looked at it mesmerized me every time I walked into the bank. My curiosity would always get the best of me and I found myself drifting over to a desk that no one was working at. I would stare at the set-up, dreaming of having a Rainbow 100 for myself. Now that I collect computers, I think it’s just a matter of time before I get one in my collection.
If that computer looks familiar, there’s a good reason for it; it was in a lot of movies. Beverly Hills Cop, The Philadelphia Experiment, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and Ghostbusters.
The set up here is almost exactly what I saw in the bank minus the printer & console.
If you’re wondering about that wacky looking disk drive, well, this video will explain.
If you want to learn about the DEC Rainbow 100 computer, try here: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/rainbow.html
This ad was from Best Buy that features 1996 computers, was posted online a few months ago. It really brought back a lot of memories. In 1996, I was lucky enough to have a 486 computer, but all of my serious computer friends had been talking about Pentiums since 1993. As you can see, three years later, and the Pentium was still the hot chip in all 1996 Computers. This ad would have been something I would stare at while eating my breakfast cereal. This was fantasy material for me, since most of these machines with their nearly $2000 plus price tag were well out of my reach.
When computers were advertised, they would put a price that would not include the monitor. Yet, they would display the monitor with some small text tell you it was not included. This drove me nuts. This ad’s prices include the whole caboodle. Accept the Mac of course, you can see the disclaimer in the very tiny fine print.
So lets take a look at these machines.
You have the 133MHz HP Pentium is a mere $1899.
For $100 more you could pick up a Packard-Bell with a 133MHz HP Pentium.
If you had all the money in the world, you could really splurge and get yourself a Mac. It will cost you nearly $3000 with the monitor included, but that is the price you pay to own Apple products. Some things have not changed much.
When it comes to Portal I am of two minds. When I first saw the game in action on The Orange Box in 2007 I was blown away. I do have a fondness for puzzle titles but something about the videos I was seeing made me hesitant. While the idea of wielding an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device was thrilling.
The truth of the matter is I’m one of those souls who is in fact affected by motion sickness. In first person games like Portal this is something of an issue as you might imagine. Still, the lure of not just Portal but Half-Life 2 and of course Team Fortress 2 . Made sure I was there on release day at my local game store to pick up my copy.
The results were as to be expected. In addition my crippling weakness of motion sickness also affected me when playing Half-Life 2. However at the very least I was able to engage in another type of science with Team Fortress 2!
That’s how I lost my medical license!
Thankfully my Wife was able to make use of Portal – so I got the story of Chell, even if I had to leave the room and lay down every 15 minutes to do so. But all of that nasty motion sickness is behind us now thanks to Vince Weaver!
Who not only happens to be an assistant professor at the University of Maine -in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. But also sports a nice flux capacitor behind him and managed to program Portal on the Apple II. Worries of being struck down by motion sickness are a thing of the past!
Not too shabby a feat for a system that was built 24 years before Portal arrived on the scene, right? In addition Vince was able to pull this off using Applesoft Basic. He also managed to include a chiptune version of Still Alive!
Now that you know a bit about Portal for the Apple II, why not watch it in action? A walkthrough of sorts hosted by Vince Weaver!
Oh, hey! Sorry – didn’t realize you were finished with that video. I was just enjoying this delicious and rather moist cake sent over by our friends from Aperture Laboratories. Why not let GLaDOS entertain you with an uplifting song while I finish this cake?
[Via] Norbert Tomo