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Old computers did it better!
10-18-2018, 12:23 AM
Post: #1
Old computers did it better!


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10-18-2018, 03:42 AM
Post: #2
RE: Old computers did it better!
I wholeheartedly agree, but on the point of the superior Commodore 64 documentation, that video cheats a little. It starts by showing the manual, which was indeed included, but then it sneakily cuts to the Programmer's Reference Guide (1:11), which was essential if you really wanted to get into programming the thing... and was sold separately.

/geek out Big Grin
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10-18-2018, 05:05 AM
Post: #3
RE: Old computers did it better!
Funnily enough, many moons ago I had a job in Commodore service centre and the number of those C64 machines that I repaired was alarming. In the 5.5 years I spent in that job, I must have repaired literally thousands of C64, C128 and Amiga machines and they weren't all as easy to repair as the video makes out. In later production runs they did away with DIL IC sockets and the ICs were soldered directly onto the boards. Then they started using surface mounted devices...
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10-18-2018, 05:29 AM
Post: #4
RE: Old computers did it better!
What were the most common repairs? I seem to recall that the SID and CIA chips were particularly vulnerable, something having to do with the CPU buses being directly exposed on the rear connector or something. Mine mostly stayed put and didn't get things plugged and unplugged very often (except for joysticks, anyway), and that may have helped, or maybe I was just lucky! I did have wall-to-wall carpeting, so static discharge was definitely a risk.
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10-18-2018, 06:31 AM
Post: #5
RE: Old computers did it better!
I don't remember too many problems with the CIA chips, strangely enough. The SID was definitely a weak point in those machines, as was the VIC.

In the Amiga 500 and 600, it was indeed almost always the chips that drove the I/O (8520? This was 30 years ago and I've slept since then) or the floppy drive that needed changing. Close runners up were a leaky NiCd battery in the A501 memory extension and a fault in the power supply where the 470K resistor between the +400V hot side and the base of the switching transistor that just became an open circuit so the oscillator never started => no power.

The Atari ST family of machines (we were also an Atari centre) were generally more reliable except that the ROM chips often needed re-seating in their sockets and their floppy drives were a bit of a nightmare. Worst thing about them was the fact that Atari kept on changing the design of them so there was a good chance that a new floppy drive ordered from them would not fit in the case of the machine you had with its guts open on your workbench. The STE machines often had the same power supply fault as the Amigas but by far the most common fault was hilarious.

The STF had an MMU chip and another logic chip that they called the GLUE chip. The STE combined the two into a single 144-pin SMD. The glue that they would use to stick it to the motherboard before passing it through the solder wave would corrode the copper tracks below the chip. I spent a couple of days trying to figure out the cause of the first machine I saw to exhibit the problem!
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10-18-2018, 06:05 PM
Post: #6
RE: Old computers did it better!
Gosh, I still have an old Atari 520ST (without ROMS, boot off floppy). I wonder if it still works....
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10-18-2018, 06:13 PM
Post: #7
RE: Old computers did it better!
(10-18-2018 05:05 AM)grsbanks Wrote:  Then they started using surface mounted devices...



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10-18-2018, 09:02 PM
Post: #8
RE: Old computers did it better!
nothing wrong with surface mount.

Old calculators did it better too...
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10-19-2018, 03:31 AM
Post: #9
RE: Old computers did it better!
Surface-mount brought a lot of improvements. Breadboardability and ease of modification and probing and, in the cases of any failure, repair, are unfortunately not among them.

Things I miss about the computers of yesteryear:
  • the ability to type ahead. GUIs don't usually allow this. You can't start typing into something that's not fully loaded yet. Worse, sometimes things on the screen in a modern GUI jump just as you click on something, making your click be misunderstood to be on something other than what you wanted.
  • the ability to turn it on and immediately start programming. Actually, the first automated test equipment (ATE) setup I did for use in production was powered by an HP-41cx which was much easier to program than PCs at the time. (Much more portable too, making it easy to take between the workbench, desk, and home.)
  • Software was more efficient (mostly because it had to be, with more-limited resources), and, I believe, generally more bug-free. The most complex PC board I ever laid out had about 500 parts and 12 layers. I did it in 1994 on a 16MHz '286 with 1MB of RAM, and I did not run out of RAM or need any disc-swapping. The CAD package did initially have a lot of bugs, but I and one other intensive user kept reporting and describing them to the manufacturer who was responsive in fixing them.
  • real manuals, and the fact that the owner stood a much better chance of understanding the computer and of being able to fully control his own computer!
  • ability to make up your own cables, troubleshoot interface problems with an oscilloscope, etc.
I'm sure I'll think of more as soon as I click "Post Reply." Much of the above could be preserved with simplish computers using newer technology like faster, denser memory and SD Card for file storage. Virii used to be a problem with modern computers, particularly Windows (not Linux), but it seems like that has been remedied to a large extent.

Does the mere fact that something can be done mean it should be done? Moving on from a GUI on a 1MHz 8-bit computer (GEOS on C64), take hi-res video for example. When I go to Fry's, immediately as I enter, I'm greeted by a big-screen hi-def TV showing performers on stage, and you can even see their nose hair, which I'd rather not see. Some people may have a legitimate use for downloading a feature-length movie in a few minutes max. I and my family don't. Our DSL is 3Mbps download, fast enough for all of us to be watching YouTube videos at the same time. Gas pumps and ATMs have large color monitors now so they can advertise to you; but I wish they'd go back to just a basic monochrome text display that can be easily read when the sun is shining on it, and no sound other than beeps. BTW, I absolutely loathe touch screens—the grime, the parallax, the lack of precision—and the ones at our bank's ATMs sometimes do not want to respond to my fingers anyway.

http://WilsonMinesCo.com (Lots of HP-41 links at the bottom of the links page, http://wilsonminesco.com/links.html )
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10-19-2018, 06:07 PM (This post was last modified: 10-19-2018 06:40 PM by Albert Chan.)
Post: #10
RE: Old computers did it better!
(10-19-2018 03:31 AM)Garth Wilson Wrote:  BTW, I absolutely loathe touch screens—the grime, the parallax, the lack of precision
—and the ones at our bank's ATMs sometimes do not want to respond to my fingers anyway.

spitting to the screen help ... Big Grin

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news.../index.htm
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10-19-2018, 06:39 PM
Post: #11
RE: Old computers did it better!
On the subject of Commodore, if you C64 fans haven't built a Pi1541, you're missing out! It's a cycle-accurate 1541 emulator running on a Raspberry Pi and connected to your C64/C128/Vic-20/etc. You can fit mountains of disk images on a big microSD card.

https://cbm-pi1541.firebaseapp.com/
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10-20-2018, 04:51 PM
Post: #12
RE: Old computers did it better!
I've seen the pi1541. I don't have the space for HP stuff, Amiga stuff and c64 stuff so I don't have any at the moment.
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10-20-2018, 05:39 PM
Post: #13
RE: Old computers did it better!
I want one of these
http://obsolescence.wixsite.com/obsolesc...11-get-one
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10-22-2018, 05:00 PM (This post was last modified: 10-22-2018 05:01 PM by toml_12953.)
Post: #14
RE: Old computers did it better!
(10-19-2018 06:07 PM)Albert Chan Wrote:  
(10-19-2018 03:31 AM)Garth Wilson Wrote:  BTW, I absolutely loathe touch screens—the grime, the parallax, the lack of precision
—and the ones at our bank's ATMs sometimes do not want to respond to my fingers anyway.

spitting to the screen help ... Big Grin

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news.../index.htm
Remind me not to use the ATM after you do! Wink

Tom L
I think therefore I am-Descartes
I think therefore you are-Gorgias
You're not here to think-Army Sergeant
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10-23-2018, 10:08 PM
Post: #15
RE: Old computers did it better!
Have you seen *old* electronic calculator that use Piano Wire for memory ?
FYI, that was Cliff Stoll, author of "Cuckoo's Egg"



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10-24-2018, 02:03 AM
Post: #16
RE: Old computers did it better!
We had a good conversation on the 6502.org forum about how the old computers had better response times than modern ones do:
http://forum.6502.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4946

http://WilsonMinesCo.com (Lots of HP-41 links at the bottom of the links page, http://wilsonminesco.com/links.html )
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10-24-2018, 03:31 AM
Post: #17
RE: Old computers did it better!
I saw that one, problem is most are assuming modern computers all have a certain closed source OS, they don't realize you can load a more responsive OS.
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10-26-2018, 11:12 PM
Post: #18
RE: Old computers did it better!
(10-24-2018 03:31 AM)EugeneNine Wrote:  I saw that one, problem is most are assuming modern computers all have a certain closed source OS, they don't realize you can load a more responsive OS.

All modern Intel computers run Minix inside the hardware backdoor spy chip. They also run another proprietary OS called UEFI. You’re running two OS’s before you even boot the machine.
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10-27-2018, 08:29 PM
Post: #19
RE: Old computers did it better!
(10-26-2018 11:12 PM)Sukiari Wrote:  
(10-24-2018 03:31 AM)EugeneNine Wrote:  I saw that one, problem is most are assuming modern computers all have a certain closed source OS, they don't realize you can load a more responsive OS.

All modern Intel computers run Minix inside the hardware backdoor spy chip. They also run another proprietary OS called UEFI. You’re running two OS’s before you even boot the machine.

I was referring to the OS the end user interacts with. Most on that thread are comparing their old computers to Win/MAC and wondering why the new suck so much. They don't realize you can run a decent OS on new PC's (Linux, minix, FreeBSD, AROS, etc) and get close to the same experience as old computers.
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10-28-2018, 07:04 PM (This post was last modified: 10-28-2018 07:06 PM by toml_12953.)
Post: #20
RE: Old computers did it better!
(10-20-2018 05:39 PM)Zaphod Wrote:  I want one of these
http://obsolescence.wixsite.com/obsolesc...11-get-one

I have one (as well as Oscar's PiDP-8) and can vouch for the quality of his kits. If you buy one you won't regret it (unless you're married to a practical woman!)

I'm currently running BASIC on four serial terminals and still have a console free to do system changes. It's an amazing little kit!

Tom L
I think therefore I am-Descartes
I think therefore you are-Gorgias
You're not here to think-Army Sergeant
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