Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nostalgia - My First Computer

In cleaning out my basement recently I came across a page from an old issue of Electronics Today Magazine from May 1981. It was an ad for Exceltronix which included my first computer.

In 1980, after quite some research, I bought my first computer: An Ohio Scientific Superboard II. At the time it was the best bang for the buck on the market: a complete single board computer for US$279 ($389 Canadian in the ad).

It included a 1MHz 6502 processor (same as the Apple 2), 4K RAM expandable to 8K, on board Microsoft BASIC, a keyboard (on the motherboard!), and a cassette tape interface for storage. At the time an Apple 2 was well over $1,000 (although cheaper clones were on the market). This was before the introduction of the Commodore VIC20 and IBM PC.

I sprang the extra money to expand it to the full 8K of RAM (thats 8000 bytes, what a luxury!). I had to build my own case, 5V power supply, and RF modulator (to connect to a black and white television) and add a standard cassette tape recorder for mass storage.

I spent many hours with this machine learning BASIC and 6502 machine language before I moved on to an Apple 2 and then IBM PC compatibles.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Memories of the First Moon Landing

In July 1969 I was 8 years old and I remember it was very hot. My family had rented a cottage for a couple of weeks of vacation in the Muskoka area north of Toronto.

I remember on some very hot days we drove into the nearest town to go to the Dairy Queen and have Mister Misty's - they were the coldest and most thirst quenching thing on the menu.

There was a small black and white television and roof antenna in the cottage. On July 20th I stayed up with my parents to watch the moon landing including the live footage of the first steps on the moon. I don't think my younger brother and sister were able to stay awake for it. At the time I understood the importance and was very excited about it. I remember looking up at the moon and thinking about the astronauts who were up there. I'm sure it was a factor in my becoming a life-long fan of science, science fiction, and astronomy.

I still have some 8mm home movies (now transferred to video) of the summer vacation at that cottage.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

SolderSmoke - A Global Adventure in Radio Electronics

I just finished reading the above book and really enjoyed it. Bill Meara tells of his experiences with amateur radio and electronics starting in his teens and later as he lived in various parts of the world as a diplomat. It alternates between narrative stories and discussions on electronics theory.

As someone who also played with ham radio and electronics from his teens and continuing in adulthood, I felt a lot in common with the author.

You can find all the details here.