Monday, January 31, 2005

And the world was never the same...

The Altair 8800

from MITS of

Albuquerque, NM.

Image from Computer Closet

I could not let January pass without noting that the Personal Computer is now 30 years old. (Note: Not the IBM PC, that johnnie-come-lately didn't come on the scene for another six years. Personal Computer was an existing industry term, co-opted by big blue. In a striking prophetic act, they Trademarked the name...) MrGadgets, along with the rest of the world, became aware of this device when it appeared in an article in the January 1975 edition of Popular Electronics.

The Altair is recognized by most as the first true personal computer. More information here: There is an article here: (Note the EIGHT INCH floppy drive. I think I still have some 8" media buried upstairs.) Also check out Tom Sanderson's Virtual Altair Museum.

This, boys and girls is the progenitor, the one that started it all. Lest you under-estimate the importance of the Altair, you still can see it's influence on the modern technological world.

Upon seeing the article, Bill Gates and Paul Allen saw an opportunity. They DROPPED out of HARVARD and moved to NM to write Altair BASIC.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Also worth noting, MITS didn't really intend to start the Micro-Computer revolution. What then? The clue lies in the name: Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems. What kind of telemetry? Model Rockets, of course.

And so began the revolution...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Today I am a Man

On this day, January 24 or the Year of our Lord, 1984 the Macintosh was released, and personal computing was changed in ways we barely even understand, even today.

Don't believe me? Once I figure out that the Ctrl key in WindoZ is the same as the Command key on the Mac, and the Mac Option key is pretty much the Alt key in Redmond's copy-cat world, I could transport from 1984 directly to today and wouldn't need a manual.

Mr. Bill countered with WindoZ 1.x and 2.x, complete jokes. Version 3 finally got something of a following, but it was still pitiful when compared to what Apple was doing, even with Jobs forced aside by the sugar-water salesman. He also tried ganging up with IBM on OS/2( good UI, but he just can't play nice.)

The first REALLY good UI out of Redmond was 98, and, surprise, surprise! It was the one that mimicked the Mac. (Court cases can sometimes be wonderful things...)

I guess it should not be surprising how long it took, Redmond didn't use their normal method of buying a solution.

There is a nice site that Chronicles the Mac's creation.

Andy Hertzfeild, one of the original designers, has written a book on his recolections of the process.

Read some of the stories and history, if you are not familiar. In a world where the PC is barely beyond a beige-box mentality, it seems strange. Treating a technolgy device as a work of art. Applying as much the aesthetic as the innovative in an elegant total design. This has always been the forte at Apple.

I have been asked by more than one musician why I didn't persue a musical career full-time.
In the early days, those of us who saw the future of technology could see the revolution.

As Andy's title indicates, the Mac embodied that revolution.

Apple has stumbled, but not quite fallen.

It has managed a nice recovery from the brink.

Many of my friends in the Ameteur Radio community were dumb-founded with my Mac-using habits. I never saw Apples demise as a good thing, even when a new job took me away from daily usage of their product. Who else would be the burr under Mr. Bill's saddle? Whatever it's faults, and they are legion, Apple has prodded the rest of the industry in so many ways, and continues to do so.

To that end, my oldest friend recently asked my thoughts on the new Mac Mini.

While that will be the subject of another post in detail, I will say this:

Mac mini Dimensions

It is, by far, the smallest system, bar none. WindoZ or Mac.

And don't it just look COOL?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

New Year, New Blog

Took off the last two weeks of '04 from the 'Real Life Job' and spent several days policing the area. This included burrowing into the attic space above the garage that was way over-cluttered with at least two years of 'dumping'. I had set up a work area on one side of the floored area with a long shelf and a 'table' of sorts to mess with as a shack and lab/workbench. That is cleared again, and I plan on delving further into even more 'ancient' tech and organizing the area even more. In addition I recovered use of the computer loft area directly adjacent that will be more practical when closer to each Solstice, as it is both finished and heated/air-conditioned.

Soooo, I thought I would launch this little venture, to post both pictures and entries on old tech I run across in my 'Archaeo-Technical Dig.' In addition, I want to play with comments from readers, and this seems like a topic that might peak the interest enough to get some discussion threads going.

Besides, some of this stuff has both hisorical significance, vis-a-vis how far we have come, and some of it is still useful and fun!

More soon!

Meanwhile, check our my 'main' blog:
And my web-site: