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Old Machines

Here are some of the computers I have used, a few that stand out in memory. I haven't included much technical information here, anyone interested can find tons of information "out there"...

PDP-8

PDP-8FIn the late 70's I was in "gymnasiet" (roughly equivalent to high school) and computers were rare, large, expensive, and only found at universities and companies, usually locked up in a special room. However, I and some friends found this strange thing in one of the class rooms, the only computer at the school: A Dec PDP-8 connected to a Teletype. It was somewhat outdated already at this time - PDP-8s were made between 1965 and into the 80s. I no longer remember exactly which model it was, but as far as I can remember it looked very much like the picture, so if I would hazard a guess, it was a model E or F. I wrote my first programs on this machine, in a very primitive BASIC, and I still have some of them on paper tape. (In case you haven't googled it already, the PDP-8 was a 12 bit machine which could address up to 32K 12-bit words.)

ABC80

ABC80 At this time the first "micro computers" appeared in the market, things like the Apple II and Commodore Pet. A Swedish company, Luxor, who mainly made TV sets, jumped on the train and came up with the ABC80. Together with a friend I bought one which we shared between us! Buying one on your own was out of the question, it was way too expensive. The thing on the side is a casette recorder which was the external device. (But we actually bought a double floppy disc driver later.) The CPU was a 3.58MHz Zilog Z80 and it had 16 KB RAM and 16KB ROM. No hard drive, of course. The language was again BASIC, but now a much more advanced one. I eventually got fed up with that and got a nifty Fig FORTH interpreter for it instead. We also had the memory expanced, despite the fact that there was not room for expansion, by "piggy-backing" circuits and cutting a few pins and adding a few wires on the board... those were the days. ;-)

PDP-10/TOPS-20

DECSYSTEM 20In the mid 80s, Uppsala University had two DECSYSTEM 2060 mainframes, named Aida and Carmen, mainly used for the computer science programs. This was big, multi-cabinet monsters, kept in special machine rooms with cooling of course. If you openend one of the cabinets you found a little PDP-11 which was the front-end handling all the terminals. It was a 36-bit word addressed machine which could handle an amazing multi-user load for its time. I loved it. TOPS means Time-sharing OPerating System, and it really was. It was user friendly and hacker friendly, fun to work with. (Unlike most other mainframes of the time which were usually glorified card-punch systems at best, with horrible user interfaces.) This is where I learned real programming languages like Lisp (MacLisp first, then Common Lisp), Prolog, and C, but also the MACRO-20 assembler which was the system language for these machines. They were in use through most of the 1980s. This was "home" for a number of years at the university. Unfortunately, DEC decided to cancel the 36-bit series in favour of the 32-bit VAX/VMS system. You can read an entertaining account of that in the form of Rob Austein's Alices's Restaurant travesty.

Macintosh SE/30

Macintosh SE/30A few years after university I got my second "home computer", in 1989. This was the last compact made by Apple, black and white 9" monitor, with a 16MHz 68030 and 1MB memory. The disk drive was upgraded from 40MB to 50MB after a crash. I used it for a number of years, and I still have it, sitting in on a book shelf, and it's still in working order. The picture was taken in early 2008 when I booted it for the first time in years. :) It was running MacOS 6 in the beginning and was eventually upgraded to version 7.5. (This was the old MacOS, very different from today's MacOS X.)

SPARCstation ELC

SPARCstation ELCOn my second tour to Uppsala University I had already worked my way through a number of different Unix machines. (We are in the early 90s now.) I picked this one out because it again was "home" for a few years, in some sense anyway, and because it was an unusual construction. If you're wondering where the computer is and why there's a picture of a monitor here... this is the computer! :) The board is in the back of the monitor and it has no disk and NO FAN! It was absolutely quiet. I still miss that part at least... you ran SunOS and X windows on it, with the disks NFS mounted from a server.


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