Playstation 4 or Steam Box

Valve’s Steam Store, born when Valve needed a way to deliver patches to it’s games, is now a good way to get games and other software for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The important of the Linux support for AAA games has been lacking, so Valve has moved to fix this problem to sell  their great games  for use on Linux computers in living rooms. Valve will produce SteamOS and hardware manufacturers will produce certified computers.Continue reading “Playstation 4 or Steam Box”

The Third Personal Computer, The Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1

TRS-80 Model 1
The TRS-80 running the first computer game I played, Trek. The computer I used was at the Radio Shack in Burney, CA. The tape drive was poor and loaded only about half the time, a few times taking up to five time to load the game.

In the early 1970s, from coast to coast people were purchasing CB radios for fun, work, safety, and more. Cars would have CBs and the car’s call sign was usually printed on the car, actively listing for another CB enthusiast to chat with on a long drive on a freeway. Many TV shows and movies included the multi-channel communication device and one of the best places to buy it was a Radio Shack. (Yes, many of my uses of Radio Shack are more properly attributed to Tandy.)  During this CB boom stores appeared around the country, and world. Radio Shack has more then CBs, including fancy looking home entertainment centers, electronics parts, and batteries. When the CB crazy started to die down Radio Shack needed something to move on to.

Superman with a TRS-80 microcomputer.
Superman gives his unbiased opinion about personal computers.

Don French was the Radio Shack excessive that convinced Radio Shack to investigate selling a personal computer. They hired Steve Leininger, inspired by the Altair 8800 and member of  the Homebrew Computer Club this guy would design them that computer. He worked on making a personal computer prototype for Radio Shack. Radio Shack was in a great position as one of the first Personal Computer makers; with development, manufacturing, and world wide retail stores. The stores sold parts and the average price in the shops were low, so it was planned to sell kits and have the consumer put them together. Leininger convinced that company to sell the computer as complete and functional device.

Roach convinced the company to manufacture 3,500 one for each retail store. In case the computers didn’t sell they could use them in the stores for inventory.

In August 3, 1977 the Z80 powered TRS-80 was shown in New York City. Unlike Commodore and Apple, Radio Shack was ready to deliver and in September units were being delivered to the customers. The first month they had 10,000 orders, the number that Roach suggested they build.

This silver and black computer had a nice keyboard, even though it lacked a numeric pad. Like the PET it lacked color and like the Apple II it had only upper case characters.

As personal computers gained in popularity the manufacture of the TRS-80 got ramped up. In 1978 over 100,000 units were sold, more then twice the number of PETs and Apples combined. With the best selling computer they had the largest number of software programs.

The company was on a roll, and the only thing that could stop the TRS-80, was Radio Shack. When the Model II was launched in 1979 it was software incompatible with the original.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/08/0803trs-80-computer-launch/

http://techland.time.com/2012/08/03/trs-80/

The Second Personal Computer, The Apple II

Apple ][ picture from Wikipedia
The 1977 Apple II, shown here with two Disk II floppy disk drives and a 1980s-era Apple Monitor II. The Apple II featured an integrated keyboard, sound, a plastic case, and eight internal expansion slots.
My story of the Apple II starts with the first product of Steve Jobs and Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak, the Blue Box. In 1971 Americans home phones were owned by AT&T (aka Ma Bell). Ma Bell had the legal authority to ban other phones from it’s network, for national security reasons of course. The two Steves produced their first product, a small device that let people make free phone calls over the consumer hostile telephone company network. The team of the brilliant circuit designer and the brilliant marketer produced an icon of freedom.

In April 1st, 1976 Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Gerald Wayne started the Apple Computer Company. The Apple 1 was close to being a personal computer and sold well for the day. They next step will be a full personal computer.

While the Apple 1 was a better version of what was already on the market, the Apple II was full on innovations. Woz familiarity with main frames and determination to make that computer fill his needs drove him to make a device that would be the most advanced personal computer for several years.

Despite Steve Jobs trying to sell the next computer in the form a bare circuit board, perhaps in the style of the Apple 1, people around him had better ideas. Paul Terrell wanted a full computer to sell in The Byte Shop, not a part of one. Once convinced about the inclusion of a power supply Jobs insisted that is was a good one, and Rod Holt designed a good one for them. In the tradition of the Blue Box and making a place for hobyist to expand the computer with hacking devices, Woz insisted on eight expansion slots.

The Apple II was introduced to the world at the first West Coast Computer Faire and went on sale on June 10, 1977. The next year Woz had a floppy disk drive for the Apple II, the first affordable floppy disk drive for a personal computer. The Apple II had several negatives, including being more expensive then the Commodore PET and Radio Shack TSR-80, only upper case characters, and  “color fringes“.

While other personal computer companies had limited marketing, Jobs marketed to the general public. His knowledge, enthusiasm, and charisma captured the public’s harts and imagination like few people have done before, or since.

At first the TSR-80, and then the PET, were selling better then the Apple II. This changed in 1979 when VisiCalc was released on the Apple and the MECC chose Apple as their primary computer.

The First Personal Computer, The Commodore PET

This model had a name change half way through production, as Commodore lost the use of the name PET. It was changed from Commodore PET 4032 to Commodore CBM 4032.

Commodore was a once successful calculator company, using chips from the Texas Interments. While TI was successful in selling chips the company waited to get big in the calculator game, until other companies proved the market. Since they were selling the chips in their own calculators they didn’t need to sell outside to places like Commodore, so they jacked the price of the Chips so the chips cost more then the complete calculator. With that business move against them Jack Tramiel made sure they would they would not be frozen out of parts again and purchased MOS Technology.

The purchase of MOS brought in the brilliant chip designer Chuck Peddle, the soon to market 6502, and the Chuck’s KIM-1 circuit board. Chuck convinced Jack that computers, not calculators nor electronic thermostats, were the future of Commodore. Jack sold merchandise and Chuck designed circuits. What they brought to market is what I see as a huge calculator built around an upgraded KIM-1.

The Commodore PET was was first shown at the January, 1977, Winter Consumer Electronics Show. There were lot and lots of orders. Taking orders before manufacturing was something Commodore did in the early days. Because of the mostly simple design they were able to ship the first personal computer in October of that year. It would be only a few months after that when Commodore was selling internationally.

At the West Coast Computer Faire a few months later Commodore showed the PET to the public again. Two other manufacturers showed off their first systems, Apple and Radio Shack. Commodore was able to get lots of good press and took more orders. The first few years were a great start for Commodore, with later Commodore computers taking over the home computer space.

Soon after the PET 2001 was in mass production 3rd party replacement keyboards were marketed to fix one of the PET’s biggest failing; the calculator style keyboard. Commodore reacted and put a much better keyboard in later models.

While it isn’t easy to find a real Commodore PET, you can try out an emulator. Here is a link to VICE. It can emulate the Commodore PET on a modern PC. http://www.viceteam.org/ It might be a fun emulator, but forcing the old keyboard locations makes this emulator unusable for me. The computer pictured here is mine, yet it served today as a PET door stop.

A good history of the Commodore PET: http://www.commodore.ca/products/pet/commodore_pet.htm

For PET history in pictures: http://www.classiccmp.org/dunfield/pet/index.htm

The First Three Personal Computers

Even in the early days of 8 bit computer the origins of the personal computer were already being blurred in myth. Much of the confusion is around the definition of personal computer. My personal definition of a personal computer is becoming less common as many other devices previously not thought of as a personal computer actually met with the criteria of personal computers. Yet, this blog is my personal opinion so this is my picks for the first three personal computers.

As a story about the first 3 personal computers of 1977, my posts will not be a comprehensive history of personal computers. For a far more complete history of computers check out the http://www.computerhistory.org/

In the linked article the Apple II was the first personal computer, yet the Commodore PET is completely missing: http://www.pc-history.org/ Some pre West Coast Computer Faire references to the Apple II were to the  Apple II kit, as Steve Jobs thought selling a computer without a power supply and keyboard was a personal computer.

The next linked article goes down many roads to find the first personal computer, with a very surprising winner. http://www.blinkenlights.com/pc.shtml My opinion differs from this. While the article is one of my favorites, IMHO a personal computer need to be inexpensive and have a particle way of disturbing software.

While the  Apple Computer’s Apple II made it’s first appearances at the first West Coast Computer Faire in April 16, 1977 the Commodore PET was first demonstrated earlier then that. Commodore PET – The Worlds First Personal Computer For a timeline in need of a graphic update go here:Chronology of Personal Computers

I think the first software was just as important as the first personal computers. Visacalc was one of the first programs that convinced people to purchase a personal computer. In 1977 accounting was a laborious job when done with a calculator. With a personal computer and Visacalc an accountant could do a weeks worth of calculations in one day. While computers with CP/M, Unix, and others were available, they were expensive with very little software. Yes, the accountants did the math and the personal computer became the new device became the essential tool for any number cruncher. Originally available on the Apple II the new accounting software was essential for sales and was soon on all the first personal computers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VisiCalc

Computer peripherals were important, too. If I recall correctly Apple had the first floppy disc drive and Commodore had the first personal computer printer.

There were many great other first and one of my favorites is yet to be, the first successful 3D printer.

The American Bible Challenge, a New Game Show on GSN

The American Bible Chalange
The American Bible Challenge is a Biblical-themed game show television series on GSN.

Thursday I watched the new game show on GSN. To start off with I’m a member of the Lions Club, a group that starts every meeting with a prayer to God. A few years ago I helped the Habitat For Humanities, and before every work shift we started with a prayer asking for guidance from God. Well, you can imagine that a game show about God’s Good Book with groups of people that dedicated to serving their communities in His name, it was off to a great start.

There are three groups competing in the show. Each group has three members and represents the charity or service they work on.

And I’m glad you ask; the show is on the Game Show Network every Thursday night.

The show is hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, and he did make a Larry The Cable Guy reference. He has good interaction with the contestants.

Will contestants try for an unfair advantage by memorizing the Good Book? Every contestant loves the Bible and the study of the word of God is encouraged. This show rewards people for something they are already doing.

Can the greatest of ancient documents of faith and history give enough questions for years of interesting television? Well, at least for one year and I’ll be watching.

Quantum Hack post #06

This story is getting strange, and it will continue this way. I’m trying to express the characters while telling a good story. I would love some constructive feedback. At least until the comments are automatically closed by WordPress after a few days. I’m coming close to closing the prelude and start up the story again in an interesting future. Oh yeah, the future according to me and my imagination. I hope you like it.Continue reading “Quantum Hack post #06”

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