Go Down

Topic: Your latest purchase (August 20th to February 11th) (Read 105590 times) previous topic - next topic


Aug 22, 2011, 05:44 pm Last Edit: Aug 22, 2011, 07:40 pm by focalist Reason: 1
It's official.  Time to go into the back closet and see if I have the box of books I've ferreted away from years ago..

In that box, as I remember, is my (binding broken, "borrowed" from my high school just about thirty years ago...) copy of David Ahl's BASIC Computer Games from DEC.  It came with the PDP that Digital had donated to my rural Wisconsin high school as part of their educational outreach to rural areas programs run in the late 70's and early 80's.  Ken knew what he was doing.  Some of Digital's (in fact the industry's) best got their first taste of programming sitting in front of a donated PDP with Dave Ahl's "WUMPUS" code.  PDP BASIC on 8" floppy.. LOL.  If anyone REALLY wants, I actually have archived a number of versions of the various languages DEC released for the PDP through the VAX 11 Series.. if you happed to have a DLT drive to load from... and (I hope I didn't toss it.. I don't think I did) a full copy on 5 1/4" floppy of the x86 version of Digital's "GEM"... Graphical Environment Manager.. DEC's foray into a windowing operating system.

I honestly don't remember what most of the books were that I stored away.. been a decade or more since they've seen the light of day.

When we were closing MRO (the Marlborough, Massachusetts) campus of Digital, there was basically a "scorched earth" policy that had unoffically come down from Ken & Crew.  Compaq was to get the facility.. they bought that.. but the equipment, documents, etc were to be.. "devalued".  Sending pallets of AlphaStations to the crusher.  "D containers", which were pallets with reinforced cardboard walls were brought in, filled with equipment, and destroyed systematically.  A technology holocaust in the billions of dollars of equipment went down when DEC sunk.  "The Mill" (Maynard) got sold to Intel along with the Alpha and StrongARM technologies, but most of the other campuses were "devalued" in a slash and burn manner.  The worst may have been the pallets of AlphaBooks.  Notebooks with 64 bit RISC streamlined core processors.. only early cersions were marketed, and the "good" ones never saw the market, the only that exist now are ones that "fell off a truck" before the crushers.  Even by today's standards, an impressive machine... I remember my Multia (AXP233) would blow through a SETI@HOME packet faster than anything Intel made, except for the highest end Xeon CPU's.

I've still got a couple of boxes of books and junk from those days... stacked in that same back closet.  There's some real gems in there, though I can't for the life of me remember anything specific, lol...


Witnessing the death of DEC was a very very sad thing to witness. Back in the 70s when I worked for one of their competitors, Varian Data Machines, we were in awe of DEC. I guess it was just their inability to change their business model to keep up with the onslaught of the 'microcomputer revolution'. I don't think any of the major mini-computer companies of the era survived.



Aug 22, 2011, 07:57 pm Last Edit: Aug 22, 2011, 09:26 pm by focalist Reason: 1
(of course we're off topic because of me again mind you)

The thing is.. wasn't Ken right, just before his time?  That end users would be using a thin client of some type with a server on the back end doing the heavy lifting?  We now want to act like this anything but a glorified VT52 terminal, but it's not.. HTML is just glorified formatting and nothing more.  "Cloud Services?"... lol.  We called it MailWorks and GroupWare.  "Secure redundant distributed storage?".. StorageWorks (which is now EMC).  When I worked at MRO, WaveLAN Wireless networking had been available on all the campuses for years... 802.11n was a long way off.  etc etc.. and remember this was in the early 1990's, not 2003... and I only showed up to the party right at the very end.  I missed the two decades where DEC ruled the globe... this farm kid "made it" to the Hallowed Halls, but really only in time to see Rome burn.

Ken was right, he was just incorrect about the duration of the fad... most users need little more than a terminal, and only those that need computing horsepower need to shell out the cash required for server-type computing resources.  A smartphone is nothing more than a pretty and portable dumb terminal, in most cases.. as a phone, it's A/D & D/A and data transfer (audio terminal, still dumb) and as a browser or texting device, it's a data terminal.  About the only reason to have any CPU power at all is "Angry Birds".  Most users are better off with a low-cost, low-power "dumb" device than a costly device with resources in terms of computing power that the user won't use.

And, to validate the post (as well as pick up a gift for Mrs. Focalist, who works in the banking industry):


 A 1924 print block from a Nebraska newspaper, bearing the phrase 'Banking for the People'.. a catchphrase of Harvey Blodgett, a financial theorist popular at the time.  Also turned out to be a punchline in a private joke of ours, now she will have it as an antique on her desk as a paperweight and usable stamp if she so desires.  How much?  $7.50 shipped.

Harvey Blodgett's best known book: Double Your Savings, It Can Be Done circa 1921 (just for the FYI)


Sigh.  My first professional development work was on a VAX 11/785 at a DOE facility.  We ran eight CALMA 3D CAD terminals on that beast.  It was a sad day when we migrated to VAXStation 3100s and the 11/785 was relegated to the role of (very expensive) file server. 

The disk pack on the 11/785 was a beautiful thing.  Not exactly tiny though...

TIL another meaning of "de-valued' :P


Another off topic reply. I am now a proud owner of an ibm system hard disk platter. It's almost 30" in diameter. Must be very expensive in its best days.
Serial LCD keypad panel,phi_prompt user interface library,SDI-12 USB Adapter


IBM Hard disk platter

Rob Tillaart

Nederlandse sectie - http://arduino.cc/forum/index.php/board,77.0.html -
(Please do not PM for private consultancy)


IBM Hard disk platter


Maybe 8 ounces or so. It's metal.
Serial LCD keypad panel,phi_prompt user interface library,SDI-12 USB Adapter


Back on track...

- AVR-CAN CANBus breakout board (via EBay) for continued CANBus experiments - nice AT90CAN128 board
- XC9572XL CPLD development board
- SFE HMC5883L Triple Axis Magnetometer Breakout
- Cypress Semi CYWM6935 module
- TI CC1101 dev kit (433MHz)
- Sharp LS027B7DH01 2.7" Memory LCD board

Let's see if anyone can figure out what I'm building :P

Ooh, also jumped on a deal that TI had for their Chronos wireless watch platform dev kit: http://tideals.com/tideal_wk16th-30th/ ... No idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but was hard to resist at that price.  TI is pushing their MSP430 kits with extremely aggressive pricing.  Their LaunchPad dev board is currently priced at $4.30 USD direct from TI; the board comes with 2 MSP430 microcontrollers and their dev community is hopping.  I haven't gotten as far as Hello, World yet with their kits as my current focus is depth-of-knowledge with AVR, but a quick overview of the 430 reveals some neat capabilities.  More details on their site: http://processors.wiki.ti.com/index.php/MSP430_LaunchPad_(MSP-EXP430G2)

BTW, Sharp MLCD/PNLC library is nearly ready for testing.  Had Mr. Rowberg not raised the bar so far with his I2C library I'd be a bit further along...


I've still got a couple of boxes of books and junk from those days... stacked in that same back closet.

Me too. How about this?

A cassette tape, "Macintosh Plus - A Guided Tour" - still in original wrapping.
Please post technical questions on the forum, not by personal message. Thanks!

More info: http://www.gammon.com.au/electronics


Aug 24, 2011, 09:11 am Last Edit: Aug 24, 2011, 09:18 am by Coding Badly Reason: 1
Check these out:


$9USD for an SPI-Programmable, configurable frequency (300-928MHz) transceiver.  Lots of interesting potential there... TI CC1101-based.  Datasheet here: http://www.circuitspecialists.com/products/pdf/cc1101.pdf

Moderator edit: url tag corrected.


Ooh, also jumped on a deal that TI had for their Chronos wireless watch platform dev kit: http://tideals.com/tideal_wk16th-30th/ ... No idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but was hard to resist at that price.

I fell for the same good deal.  I'd like to use it for an around the loft display from various projects, so I want to design a router to Chronos bridge. The watch is just clunkily retro enough to be a fashion statement in the mean while. :)


Re: Chronos - Unfortunately I wasn't paying too much attention when I ordered and I got the 433MHz version, which is somewhat limiting in terms of integration with ready-made components (eg. heart rate monitors, etc).  Hence some of my other recent RF purchases.

Should be fun to play with, if not entirely practical.  The TI MSP430 is a nice little MCU and is pretty straightforward to write code for, so I should be able to come up with *something* to do with the thing.


A bunch of LEDs.

Nichia makes these nice little things. 20lm per piece and more than 100lm/W. Not exactly cheap, but now my project only needs 2/3 of the current for the same brightness. Their CRI is also much better compared the the cheap-er ones I got from ebay before.

These also come with an integrated diode to protect them against too high reverse voltages.


Ooh, also jumped on a deal that TI had for their Chronos wireless watch platform dev kit: http://tideals.com/tideal_wk16th-30th/

I got a "Not found" message on that page, and the whole site appears to be empty, except for a "Watch this space for rilly kewl stuffs" promise.

Is that deal supposed to still be available?


TIDeals does weekly limited-time promos, that one's either not on any more or they have ran out of stock.  Details on the device are here: http://goo.gl/dTGa1...  It's a cool toy for $25, but I don't think I could justify $50 for it.  YMMV.  I'd watch EBay for the impulse buyers to pawn them off if you're interested, I'm sure that more than a few of em will end up there.

Go Up