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'Horrible Newbie Question - need to know everything'
1997\06\03@011148 by David Gould

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Once upon a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, when the Apple II was brand
new (and way beyond the means of even a non-starving student) an ASR 33
teletype was pretty desireable, being as how you could save hex files onto
paper tape so as to not have to type them in. In retrospect, I was lucky I
never found one I could afford, but I sure wanted one then.

Anyhow, way back then I built my own computer system out of a donated
Signetics 2650A (nice processor too), a handful of really cool 1024 x 4 SRAMS,
and a bunch of suplus LS TTL for glue logic. All nicely hand wire wrapped
(more fun than knitting!) according to my own drawings. It took months of
evenings, but it came up on the second try and I was just thrilled.

Since then, I have made my living doing software and have forgotten most of
what little I ever knew about electronics. Now, I am interested again and
would like to do a few things with the PIC. But, I think perhaps wire-wrap
is not what I want to do, and maybe I need more than my old 1978 TTL Databook
especially since I would like to to some AD and control and I never did know
anything about analog.

So, here is the newbie question:

Where do I get a quick practical self taught electronics education?

Back when there were the Don Lancaster "CMOS Cookbook", etc books. Just enough
theory to be sound, enough decent examples to show how, and a lot of practical
advice on what works and what doesn't. I am looking for a book or two with
that kind of approach.

I am not looking for "Microcontrollers for Dummies", I already know how to do
software and sort of still understand a little digital logic. But, I am way
out of touch with modern hardware practice and would like to fill in the gaps.

For example:

What is a reasonable process for making your own boards these days, or is
wirewrap still it for prototypeing?

Are FPGA something I can think about using? I have no idea of the reality of
this sort of thing, but the idea of specifying what you need and plugging it
into a socket instead of building it out of a pile of chips is compelling.

Where can I get (or rather which should I get) a reasonable set of databooks
to familiarize myself with the more standard modern components? Both digital
and analog please.

Now that we all have computers, I probably don't have to draw my next
project by hand. What software (prefer freeware, prefer Linux based, but
will pay, will use Windows if need be) should I look for?

It looks like you just order stuff from Digi-Key these days. Is this true,
or are there other better suppliers? Any good surplus places?

If you know where I can get this information, or even better if you have
an opinion, please let me know. Thanks!

-dg

David Gould           spam_OUTdgTakeThisOuTspamillustra.com            510.869.6383 or 510.305.9468
Informix Software (formerly Illustra)  1111 Broadway #2000  Oakland, CA 94607
- I realize now that irony has no place in business communications.

1997\06\03@025937 by ang (Chee Foon Tiang)

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> What is a reasonable process for making your own boards these days,
>or is wirewrap still it for prototypeing?

I still vouch for wirewrapping as other processes are (I feel) too
time consuming and not that reliable...
However, do note that the cost of wirewrap materials (especially the
IC sockets) can blew away most budget.

>Are FPGA something I can think about using? I have no idea of the
>reality of this sort of thing, but the idea of specifying what you
>need and plugging it into a socket instead of building it out of a
>pile of chips is compelling.

If you are looking for simple glue logics, I would suggest PLDs.
It is very well suited for state machine design though not so
optimised for combinatorial logic. Furthermore, software tools for
PLDs are cheap.

FPGA design & programming tools tends to be expensive, as does the
device. You don't really want to look at this unless you need
1000 and above, logic gate equivalent. Entry level FPGAs starts with
2000 gates equivalent and it would have been an overkill.

Hope this helps,

Peter Tiang
Design Engineer

1997\06\03@031435 by David BALDWIN

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Hi,

       I'll try to answer some of your questions, but perhaps some people
won't agree with me...

       For general electronics, a good book is "The art of electronics" that
Paul Horrowitz (the spelling is wrong!) wrote. It contains theory,
practical examples, labs and exercices. Nice book.

       For making your own board, get a free ;) routing tool, like Protel or
Eagle. Get some NaOH, some "perchlorure de fer" (don't know how to
translate...) and buy UV lamps (about 50$ for all these things). It's
all you need.

       FPGA's are easy to use, but you will have to pay for the development
board. It's quite expansive. But you can try Xilinx, I think they have
the cheapest dev. board. (compared to Altera and Lattice)

       I think National Seminconductor gives free databook. They send me a
lot, both analog and digital. Just ask nicely. For microcontrollers, ask
databooks from Microchip, also CDROM which contains both datasheets and
app notes. Good parts are those from Maxim, which also gives free
samples.

       You can make a simple PIC programmer, for pics that can be programmed
in serial mode, for 5$. The soft is free, and is based on the app note
589 from Microchip. Look for pip-02 and Picser.

       Sorry, I don't have time left today. Ask me personnaly for further
informations.


David

1997\06\03@083556 by Michael Coop

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part 0 3312 bytes
I too came through the old Signetics 2650 'and all the glue' route, although I've kept my fingers occasionally into hardware via my work.

I too remember the 300 baud serial VDU made from TTL, and those horrible cassette interfaces.

{Original Message removed}

1997\06\03@083754 by Reginald Neale

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>So, here is the newbie question:
>
>Where do I get a quick practical self taught electronics education?
>

David:

Horowitz & Hill, "The Art of Electronics,' Cambridge University Press.
Don't pick up a soldering iron or a wire-wrap tool without it.

I have the second edition, ISBN # 0-521-37095-7. New, it will probably cost
you about $USD80. For someone in your situation it's well worth every
penny.

Regards,
Reg Neale

1997\06\03@090446 by myke predko

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Just my two cents worth (I came from the same era).

>Once upon a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, when the Apple II was brand
>new (and way beyond the means of even a non-starving student) an ASR 33
>teletype was pretty desireable, being as how you could save hex files onto
>paper tape so as to not have to type them in. In retrospect, I was lucky I
>never found one I could afford, but I sure wanted one then.

We built clones; for $300 you to could have your own Apple ][ (Of course,
mine was built on plywood and I used a surplus keyboard that I had to
rewrite the scan portion.  Lot's of fun!

Actually, the biggest problem was the diskette drives; you couldn't find one
anywhere for less than $400.

>Anyhow, way back then I built my own computer system out of a donated
>Signetics 2650A (nice processor too), a handful of really cool 1024 x 4 SRAMS,
>and a bunch of suplus LS TTL for glue logic. All nicely hand wire wrapped
>(more fun than knitting!) according to my own drawings. It took months of
>evenings, but it came up on the second try and I was just thrilled.

I don't remember 1024 x 3 SRAMs ever being "really cool".  :)

{Quote hidden}

Nobody mentioned Clive Maxwell's "Bebop to the Boolean Boogie"; despite it's
title, it really is good (I keep it by me at all times).  I find it to be a
good, overall reference.

I wish Don Lancaster was still writing the stuff he was doing in the late
'70s/early '80s.  The metaphysical money making things that you can do with
a postscript "computer" (printer) is really getting boring.

myke

"Aliens are really just the same as us, only their molecules are different"
- Will Robinson

1997\06\03@213100 by John Payson

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>         For making your own board, get a free ;) routing tool, like Protel or
> Eagle. Get some NaOH, some "perchlorure de fer" (don't know how to
> translate...) and buy UV lamps (about 50$ for all these things). It's
> all you need.

I've not used NaOH for board etching, but I believe the "perchlorure de
fer" to which you refer would be "ferric chloride".  While I've used FeCl3
to make boards before, I think sodium persulfate (Na2S2O8 I believe) is
better.  Another poster mentioned a method using H2O2 and HCl: I think it
involved immersing the board in H2O2 and adding a few drops of HCl; once
mixed the reagents had no useful shelf-life, and good ventilation was
necessary during the process, but supposedly this method worked quite
well.  I would strongly suggest discussing it with someone who was
knowlegeable about chemestry before trying it, however, and don't try it
without wearing goggles, gloves, and a splash-shield, or without ensuring
that you have adequate ventilation.

As for UV lamps, I personally have found that "Press N Peel Blue" works
almost as well (it's a toner transfer system) when used with proper care.
The trick is to--after ironing the transfer onto the board--apply
strapping tape to the board and peel it off.  The resist will stick to the
tape in the areas where it "shouldn't" have stuck to the board.  If you
don't perform this step you're likely to have bridges all over the place,
but with this step you should be fine.

1997\06\03@224207 by daryl

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dg@ILLUSTRA.COM (David Gould) writes:

>
>  What is a reasonable process for making your own boards these days, or is
>  wirewrap still it for prototypeing?

I have just tried the Toner Transfer System (TTS) from DynaArt Designs
http://www.dynaart.com/
I use Protel to design the PCB, print it out onto this special
paper with a Laser printer and iron it onto the blank PCB. Its now
ready for etching.
For my first run I did loose a pad or 2 and a portion of track but I
believe I can resolve this problem next time. I used a touch up pen
to replace the missing bits before etching. Came out great and in
much less time that wire wrapping the same size board.

>
>  Now that we all have computers, I probably don't have to draw my next
>  project by hand. What software (prefer freeware, prefer Linux based, but
>  will pay, will use Windows if need be) should I look for?
>

For Linux I used to use chipmunk (cant remember where on the net). It
was fine for circuits and simulations if all the components were in the
library etc.. I am now forced to use MSDOG and run protel.

I am still trying to put together a good programmer and compiler for
the 16C84 under Linux that will use ANY serial port. I have a stallion
intelligent card that I wish to make use of.

--
Daryl Sayers                              Ph: (02) 9417 3788
Stone Group Asia Pacific                 Fax: (02) 9417 3741
Unit 20, 380 Eastern Valley Way        Email: .....darylKILLspamspam@spam@stonemicro.com.au
Roseville, 2069 NSW Australia            WWW: http://www.stonemicro.com.au

1997\06\04@002313 by Prashant Bhandary

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At 10:05 PM 2/06/97 -0624, you wrote:
>Anyhow, way back then I built my own computer system out of a donated
>Signetics 2650A (nice processor too), a handful of really cool 1024 x 4 SRAMS,

2114s? I tried building one around a Z80 but never got it working. Maybe my
months
did not have as many evenings as yours.

>Where do I get a quick practical self taught electronics education?
>
>Back when there were the Don Lancaster "CMOS Cookbook", etc books. Just enough
>theory to be sound, enough decent examples to show how, and a lot of practical
>advice on what works and what doesn't. I am looking for a book or two with
>that kind of approach.

Beats me. Most of the stuff I know was learnt then and my ignorance on current
practice is rapidly expanding. Besides I got used to learning the hard way by
poring over datasheets.

> What is a reasonable process for making your own boards these days, or is
> wirewrap still it for prototypeing?

I tend to use breadboards for stuff I know I will take apart soon and vero board
for semi-permanent stuff. Which is exactly what I did when the dinosaurs were
around. Recently, I made a PCB using photoresist coated PCB and got very good
results(no touching up, bridges - don't know yet)

> Are FPGA something I can think about using? I have no idea of the reality of
> this sort of thing, but the idea of specifying what you need and plugging it
> into a socket instead of building it out of a pile of chips is compelling.

This is one of the things I need to look at. I still use TTL and I am finding
it hard to obtain, expensive and dull.

> Where can I get (or rather which should I get) a reasonable set of databooks
> to familiarize myself with the more standard modern components? Both digital
> and analog please.

With the chips getting highly specific, databook collections are not always the
answer. Most solutions seem to involve some chip you've never heard of before.
The web is the best place to fish around for datasheets on these. Alas, the
basic
building blocks like the 555, etc. aren't as prominent now.

> Now that we all have computers, I probably don't have to draw my next
> project by hand. What software (prefer freeware, prefer Linux based, but
> will pay, will use Windows if need be) should I look for?

I use a general purpose CAD package(TurboCAD on Win) for circuit diagrams and
PCB layouts - probably another sign of being behind the times.

> It looks like you just order stuff from Digi-Key these days. Is this true,
> or are there other better suppliers? Any good surplus places?

On my planet, I have a different set of suppliers. Surplus is OK for building up
your junk box inventory cheaply.

> If you know where I can get this information, or even better if you have
> an opinion, please let me know. Thanks!

I've got lots of opinions but not much info.

Regards

Prashant
--------------------------------+---------------------------------
 Prashant Bhandary             | Tel:  +61-2-9662 5299
 Spatial Information Solutions | Fax:  +61-2-9662 5348
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--------------------------------+---------------------------------

1997\06\04@030838 by David BALDWIN

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NaOH is not for etching, but is used just after UV exposure.

1997\06\04@035538 by David Gould

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Prashant Bhandary writes:

> 2114s? I tried building one around a Z80 but never got it working. Maybe my
>  months
> did not have as many evenings as yours.

Yup, I dug the board out of my keepsake collection and those were 2114s. I
remember when the guy agreed to sample some to me being really happy not to
have to do 1024x1s for the memory.

As for evenings, I think maybe the 2650A was really easy to work with, the Z80
if I remember was not.

> >Where do I get a quick practical self taught electronics education?

Several people have suggested Horowitz and Hill, The Art of Electronics. So
I just ordered the 2cd edition to replace my 1st edition. I just had a quick
look at the 1st edition (1980), and I agree, this is the right book.
Incidentally, I found out a few years ago that I am very distantly related
to Winfield Hill. Not much rubbed off on me tho...

> > Are FPGA something I can think about using? I have no idea of the reality of
> > this sort of thing, but the idea of specifying what you need and plugging it
> > into a socket instead of building it out of a pile of chips is compelling.

I guess I didn't quit mean FPGA, but more like PLD, there seems to be a
Lattice in circuit programmable part that might be just the thing. What I
want is something with a bunch-o-pins and some uncommitted logic to replace
stuff like 3 to 8 decoders and octal latches and random inverters and all
that junk that seems to crop up here and there and lands you with about
a half dozen extra parts. For a buck or two more, why not put all this in
a chip and save all the wireing?

> This is one of the things I need to look at. I still use TTL and I am finding
> it hard to obtain, expensive and dull.

Exactly!

> I use a general purpose CAD package(TurboCAD on Win) for circuit diagrams and
> PCB layouts - probably another sign of being behind the times.

Just downloaded a demo for "EdWin" which looks pretty spiffy. On the other
hand, I only run Windows in April (TurboTax), so I am still looking for
a Linux/Unix solution.

> On my planet, I have a different set of suppliers. Surplus is OK for building
up
> your junk box inventory cheaply.

I am not real interested in paying new price for wirewrap sockets if I can
get them surplus or used somehow. Call me names, but I like the chip to cost
more than the socket.


-dg

David Gould           .....dgKILLspamspam.....illustra.com            510.869.6383 or 510.305.9468
Informix Software (formerly Illustra)  1111 Broadway #2000  Oakland, CA 94607
- I realize now that irony has no place in business communications.

1997\06\04@040403 by David Gould

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> Actually, the biggest problem was the diskette drives; you couldn't find one
> anywhere for less than $400.

That was why an ASR 33 was so desireable, it had a paper tape reader/punch!

> I don't remember 1024 x 3 SRAMs ever being "really cool".  :)

I'm sorry, I even read the follow up, and I just don't get it. Whatever do
you mean '1024 x 3'?

> Nobody mentioned Clive Maxwell's "Bebop to the Boolean Boogie"; despite it's
> title, it really is good (I keep it by me at all times).  I find it to be a
> good, overall reference.

Never seen it, any idea on where to get it?

> I wish Don Lancaster was still writing the stuff he was doing in the late
> '70s/early '80s.  The metaphysical money making things that you can do with
> a postscript "computer" (printer) is really getting boring.

I just checked out his website. Sorta interesting, but I see your point.

-dg

David Gould           EraseMEdgspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTillustra.com            510.869.6383 or 510.305.9468
Informix Software (formerly Illustra)  1111 Broadway #2000  Oakland, CA 94607
- I realize now that irony has no place in business communications.

1997\06\04@041442 by David Gould

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MC writes:

> You must be my evil twin...   <g>...
>
> I too came through the old Signetics 2650 'and all the glue' route, =
> although I've kept my fingers occasionally into hardware via my work.

Oh My God! another 2650 user! No way.

The thing is, if they hadn't had that on chip stack (yeah, I know the pic does
too but different market) that prevented ever writing any sort of real
compiler or OS for it, I think the 2650 was about the nicest processor of
that time. Easy timing and interface, sweet to program (compared to an 8080
thats not hard), perhaps a trifle slow. Coulda been a contender.

> Not really.. your old TTL books are still a good resource Believe it or =
> not, I am still using a Signetics Logic-TTL data manual on my desk =
> (1978!).  It is a good size, quality printing, and the core logic has =
> not changed much over the years (except improved)... so if you work to =
> the 1978 specs, you have even more margin than you expected.

Are you talking about the little shirt pocket sized Signetics Logic book?
I still have that one, it was way way handy, but I dumped all the rest years
ago.

-dg

David Gould           dgspamspam_OUTillustra.com            510.869.6383 or 510.305.9468
Informix Software (formerly Illustra)  1111 Broadway #2000  Oakland, CA 94607
- I realize now that irony has no place in business communications.

1997\06\04@093550 by myke predko

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Hmmm...  One typo and I'm flooded with Mail.

>> Actually, the biggest problem was the diskette drives; you couldn't find one
>> anywhere for less than $400.
>
>That was why an ASR 33 was so desireable, it had a paper tape reader/punch!

Actually, I used a cassette recorder (Radio Shack/Pulsar).  I found paper
tape to be too easily damaged, hard to get good working surplus
punches/readers.

>> I don't remember 1024 x 3 SRAMs ever being "really cool".  :)
>
>I'm sorry, I even read the follow up, and I just don't get it. Whatever do
>you mean '1024 x 3'?

I meant 1024 x FOURs.  I have gotten more mail on this one typo than if I
declared that I'm part of a cult that worships Bill Gates as the anti-Christ
(Pentagram - Pentium, think about it) and that I find Rosanne strangely
alluring (she's just strange and not alluring at all - just to set the
record straight).

The point was, the only 1024s that I ever worked with were bipolar and did
they ever run hot (hotter than the Z-80 I originally wired them up to - I
later went to 4164s).

The Z-80.  I have really fond memories of this chip (I design and built an
S-100 processor running CP/M about fifteen years ago, so I was pretty in
touch with it).  I never did like the 2650 architecture.

>> Nobody mentioned Clive Maxwell's "Bebop to the Boolean Boogie"; despite it's
>> title, it really is good (I keep it by me at all times).  I find it to be a
>> good, overall reference.
>
>Never seen it, any idea on where to get it?

Check out:

http://ro.com/~bebopbb/maxmonic.htm

Which is the author's home page and will give you an introduction to the
book and a list of where it can be bought.

>> I wish Don Lancaster was still writing the stuff he was doing in the late
>> '70s/early '80s.  The metaphysical money making things that you can do with
>> a postscript "computer" (printer) is really getting boring.
>
>I just checked out his website. Sorta interesting, but I see your point.

Yeah, when I was a teenager, his stuff was the best.  It's too bad he's
taken so many bizarre turns.

myke

>
>-dg
>
>David Gould           @spam@dgKILLspamspamillustra.com            510.869.6383 or 510.305.9468
>Informix Software (formerly Illustra)  1111 Broadway #2000  Oakland, CA 94607
> - I realize now that irony has no place in business communications.
>
>

"Aliens are really just the same as us, only their molecules are different"
- Will Robinson

1997\06\04@194202 by M Walter

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>
>Where do I get a quick practical self taught electronics education?
>

> What is a reasonable process for making your own boards these days, or is
> wirewrap still it for prototypeing?
>
> Are FPGA something I can think about using? I have no idea of the reality of
> this sort of thing, but the idea of specifying what you need and plugging it
> into a socket instead of building it out of a pile of chips is compelling.
>
> Where can I get (or rather which should I get) a reasonable set of databooks
> to familiarize myself with the more standard modern components? Both digital
> and analog please.
>
> Now that we all have computers, I probably don't have to draw my next
> project by hand. What software (prefer freeware, prefer Linux based, but
> will pay, will use Windows if need be) should I look for?
>

David;

       Pick up a copy of "The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill.
Excellent reference book, and full of good advice on many practical aspects
of electronics.

1997\06\05@143740 by Leon Heller

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In message <KILLspam3.0.1.16.19960603200450.28c7cf52KILLspamspammail.ctconnect.com>, M
Walter <RemoveMEMWalterTakeThisOuTspamCTCONNECT.COM> writes
>>
>>Where do I get a quick practical self taught electronics education?
>>
>
>> What is a reasonable process for making your own boards these days, or is
>> wirewrap still it for prototypeing?

Wire-wrap is still a good way to prototype, I use a cheap hand tool. The
sockets are expensive, but you can re-use them.

>>
>> Are FPGA something I can think about using? I have no idea of the reality of
>> this sort of thing, but the idea of specifying what you need and plugging it
>> into a socket instead of building it out of a pile of chips is compelling.

I wouldn't recommend starting with FPGAs, CPLDs are much easier to learn
(they are like basically large PALs). Lattice give away the development
software (for their smaller devices) and data for their CPLDs on a free
CD-ROM. They are in-system programmable using the PC printer port, and
you therefore don't need an expensive programmer. The software allows
schematic and HDL (like a programming language) entry. Put one of the
devices (they come in a 44-pin PLCC package) on a small prototyping
board with a 1 MHz or 5 MHz oscillator module, with a couple of Rs and
Cs for the programming I/F, and you can learn all about digital logic
without getting your hands dirty. A logic probe and pulser would be
useful. FPGAs need lots of $$$ for the development software, although I
am using some free software developed at the ETH, Zurich for Xilinx
XC6216 development. Details are on my Web page - see my sig for the URL.

Leon
--
Leon Heller
Amateur radio callsign: G1HSM
Email: spamBeGoneleonspamBeGonespamlfheller.demon.co.uk http://www.lfheller.demon.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 118 947 1424 (home) +44 (0) 1344 385556 (work)

1997\06\06@025138 by John Payson

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> Actually, I used a cassette recorder (Radio Shack/Pulsar).  I found paper
> tape to be too easily damaged, hard to get good working surplus
> punches/readers.

A friend of mine who worked on equipment of that era commented that he
used a papertape drive which--in "high speed" mode--could read about 1000
bytes/second (by comparison, a Commodore 1541 disk drive is generally
limitted to about 800 bytes/second).  Given that most of his files weren't
terribly big, the drive was more than adequately fast.  There was only one
problem.

If the speed controller for the drive hadn't warmed up yet (tubes--took
about 15-30 minutes to stabilize if I remember right) and the drive was
set to fast mode, the tape would be ripped to shreds.  Too bad they didn't
use a PIC to control the thing ;-)

Still, hole-punched paper does have a couple of advantages over other
media: [1] You can label the media directly in the writer; [2] You can
read paper tape by hand if necessary without any equipment.  Really not
that bad a technology for its time.

1997\06\06@043617 by Mike

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>Still, hole-punched paper does have a couple of advantages over other
>media: [1] You can label the media directly in the writer; [2] You can
>read paper tape by hand if necessary without any equipment.  Really not
>that bad a technology for its time.

And the kids loved it as well, these days they get a choice of shoot-
em-ups (and who said people are not influenced by what they are shown).

I remember being about 10 years old and wandering into the uni computer
room - several DecWriters (300Baud), paper punches, readers, mag tapes.

And a big grey bag in one corner overflowing with paper tape - those
where the daze...

Rdgs

Mike
Perth, Western Australia


Some say there is no magic but, all things begin with thought then it becomes
academic, then some poor slob works out a practical way to implement all that
theory, this is called Engineering - for most people another form of magic.
                                                                      Massen

1997\06\06@092428 by Louis A. Mamakos

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And for real high-speed "paper" tape, you could use mylar tape instead.  It was
much more durable and you could really zip right through it.   Only problem was
you had to be *real* careful what punch you used to make the tape.  It turns out
that a lot of punches relied on a little bit of oil in the paper to lubricate
the punch pins.  The mylar tape, not having any oil of course, would cause the
punch head to get *real* hot and eventually fail.

We used it to contain the standard bootstrap for some Microdata 1600
minicomputers used
as communications concentrators.  It usually wasn't necessary since the
Microdatas had
core memory, which was non-volitile.  For our remote sites without an ASR-33 to
boot
from, we would just send out a (core) memory board, they'd plug it in, and come
right
up running the software we last loaded into it.

Ah, the good old days.  Computing with stone knives and bear-skins.

louie

1997\06\06@183512 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
Don't forget that toward the end of the tape-driven hobbyist microcomputer
era, there were a whole bunch of cheap, fast, punched paper tape READERS
appearing on the market.  Based on optical detection of the holes, they
had no motors, but could pretty much read a tape as fast as you could pull
it through the reader...  (but of course they couldn't PUNCH anything!)

BillW

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