Your latest purchase (August 20th to February 11th)

Post what your latest purchase was, to give inspiration, or just have a small chat about it. :)

Old thread can be found here:,50154.0.html

First in part 2 ;)

For the Wife:

Picked up a couple of these:

These are really neat little displays. New(ish) tech from Sharp, memory LCDs are extremely energy efficient (15 uW for the 96x96 PNLC display, 50uW for the larger WQVGA model. Yes, that's microwatts.). Simple SPI interface, easy protocol. No refresh required to display static images - set it and forget it.

Only a couple of minor quibbles. First, the device has a tiny 10-pin FPC connector; ordered a breakout from proto-advantage which took a few days to arrive. Second, the device is dual-voltage, requiring 5v for power and 3.3v for communication, which is kind of a pain.

I had the device up and running with a simple app in about an hour; will be working on a more full-featured library for the displays this weekend. Mostly as an excuse to consolidate the best features of all of the display code I've written over the last couple of years :roll_eyes:. I'll post an entry on the playground when it's ready for public consumption.

Next up, a larger model:

Havn’t even had time to open it :wink:

That dremel table looks large-ish. How big is it?

Bought one of these for my UGV (posted this in another thread on linear actuators): (goes to an Ebay auction for the actuator)

Sheepishly admitting this: I also bought on Ebay a press photo of the case of the short-lived 1983 TV show "Whiz Kids" ( - I was big fan of that show as a kid, and it helped to influence me toward computing (I was 9-10 years old at the time). Not long after I got my first computer (a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 with 16K and a tape drive - woohoo!).

Whiz Kids is one of those shows during that time that had fairly good production value, but failed to find a real audience; it only lasted for 18 episodes. A couple of years ago I managed to score a set of homemade DVDs of all of the episodes that someone transferred from some old VHS tapes (they don't exist in any other format, AFAIK). So, this press photo will go in my "collection" of youthful nostalgia.


$5 following a local craigslist posting. This one unfortunately does not have FDIV bug :( but for $5 I' happy with it. The actual processor has lost some black letters.

cr0sh: So, this press photo will go in my "collection" of youthful nostalgia.

Speaking of nostalgia, I was cleaning out my junk today and stumbled across Adventure Quest for the Amstrad:

This was supplied on a medium that some of you may not have used for a while: cassette tape:

The game boasts that it has "225 individually described locations".

The instruction booklet informs you of how they managed to squeeze so much gameplay into 32 Kb of memory:

Just read up on level 9. Good stuff. I remember I played a similar game on atari but I don't remember the name of the game. Any chance you're interested in trading this for one of my shields?

Some AA batteries for my 1976 Casio calculator, going into 9th grade.
Still works like a charm. Display is still nice & crisp (not the blurry thing you see here). The slide switch sets the display to 2 decimal points.

liudr: That dremel table looks large-ish. How big is it?

I still haven't opened it. Tomorrow I complete my 56th orbit about the sun when I will open it.

The box measures 38 x 27 cm.

Update "Some assembly required" - the table is 20x40cm closed, and the gap can be 8 cm (that clearly couldn't be in the box, so I must have measured the box wrong / typo)

liudr: Just read up on level 9. Good stuff. I remember I played a similar game on atari but I don't remember the name of the game. Any chance you're interested in trading this for one of my shields?

Sure, I'll send you a PM soon.

[quote author=Nick Gammon link=topic=69933.msg519484#msg519484 date=1313965244]

liudr: Just read up on level 9. Good stuff. I remember I played a similar game on atari but I don't remember the name of the game. Any chance you're interested in trading this for one of my shields?

Sure, I'll send you a PM soon. [/quote]

Great! Thanks. Up to now all my tape program collection was one tape.

You will have to look hard. It's on the right edge. I've acquired some starwars games and other games from a local swap a while back BTW. Now I also have a FORTRAN book from 1966.

liudr: You will have to look hard. It's on the right edge. I've acquired some starwars games and other games from a local swap a while back BTW. Now I also have a FORTRAN book from 1966.

The First Book of Kim - that's a classic; I haven't found a copy of that one - yet. Though I do have a copy of Tod Loofbourrow's "How to Build a Computer Controlled Robot" - which used a Kim-1...

Heh - I noticed you had some BASIC books too; you might want to be on the lookout for a book called "Structured BASIC" by James F. Clark and William O. Drum (1983); classical BASIC textbook for schools - my high school used it back in the day, and I hated it (nothing about about gaming in it, just a bunch of accounting, database, and other business examples!). How I wished I had paid attention to it better when I got my first software development job at 18... :D

I was one of those "computer programming" students in high school who made and played games and graphics all day long, and took the class (one time I had it three separate periods in my senior year) just to get an easy "A" and have fun coding; my instructor would let us (me, and about three others who were dork coders) skip the tests and quizes. He once gave me the "assignment" to figure out how to read a pixel on the Apple IIe hi-res screen; this really wasn't an easy task, due to the weird memory layout of the screen (planar - sorta - but I didn't know that, then). He had told me he'd given the task to several of his more advanced students over the years, and none had cracked it. I spent a week or so on it, going over the Apple manual in depth, and learning how to use the ROM monitor to hand-assemble bits of assembler (I needed it because otherwise it was too slow in BASIC). Eventually got it to work, though!

It was only after I got into the "real world" out here in Phoenix, coding in PICK BASIC for my first software development employer, that I had wished I had paid more attention to that book. About 10 years ago I found a copy of it at a garage sale, and bought it as a reminder of my earlier software development years...


That book didn't even say the year it was published so I put it in early 70's collection, together with a few programming books. I'm happy for you to have rediscovered your basic roots. Mine is a bit more difficult. I read a series of 4 books of fun basic programs and typed in every program with my brother. That eas how we learned basic, by transcribing good programs like we would when learning a humanly language. I hope to once again see those four books.

Gladly we have a few very senior professors that would clean out some bookshelves so I would be able to pick up old books on my way to work or home. These things are not tht easy to find any more. I will keep an eye for structured basic for my own collection. So, I thought you will start some computer museum. Any update on that?

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.


(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.