Tag Archives: vintage

Casio fx-590 – reviving an old friend

It was about to go in the recycling pile when I thought, “I wonder if I can save it.” There’s no telling how old this lovely Casio fx-590 calculator is, because in spite of deploying my best Google-fu I can find very little information on it. One source suggested that maybe it came out at the beginning of the 1990s…. Read more »

Elliott 405 – a simplified representation

There’s something about  this brochure that just screams 1950s. The graphics on the cover, for instance, are straight out of Mad Men. ‘A simplified representation of the National-Elliott Electronics Data Processing System’ is the kind of brochure you wouldn’t think was necessary – or appropriate – for this kind of machine. The Elliott 405 wasn’t something you bought on a… Read more »

Elliott 405 cheat sheet

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In among Big Doug’s small but treasured trove of documents relating to the GPO’s National-Elliott 405 computers is a small yet fascinating document that seems to be part cheat sheet and part marketing material. The six-page, fold-out booklet is handily sized to fit into a shirt pocket, along with your pocket protector and 6H pencil. Most of the National-Elliott 405… Read more »

Elliott 405 – a fascinating glimpse into vintage computing

History isn’t just about dates and the events that get memorialised in statues. Far more fascinating is the personal and the quotidian. A thumbprint left in an ordinary ceramic bowl is a more direct connection to the lived experiences of people the past than any number of crowns and sceptres. And I think there’s an aspect of even recent history… Read more »

Fun with chips #2: SN76489 sound generator IC

If there’s one sound that makes me nostalgic, it’s the brrrrr-BIP! noise of a BBC Micro being switched on. And that sound – as well as pretty much all the Beeb’s audio capabilities – can be traced to one chip – the Texas Instruments SN76489. This chip was used in a whole host of devices, including Sega consoles and arcade… Read more »

Fun with chips: #1 MC1441 bit rate generator

I’m easily pleased. Leave me alone with a breadboard, multimeter, oscilloscope and a previously unencountered IC, and I can amuse myself for hours. Well, minutes anyway. It’s fun to fire up a chip and watch it do its stuff. And even more fun if it’s an old chip. But before we get to the IC itself, let’s fill in some… Read more »

The original web

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Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the world wide web. And if you want to get a feel for how far the web has come, try experiencing what it was like in those heady days of December 1990. Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim) built the original web while at The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) as a… Read more »

Epson MX-80 Part 1 – resurrecting an old friend

It’s hard to lose an old friend with whom you’ve shared more than a  third of a century’s worth of experiences. I’ll never forget the day it happened. I heard a coughing, spluttering noise, turned around and, sure enough, smoke was pouring out of the printer. And not just any old printer – my trusty Epson MX-80F/T III, the first… Read more »

Memory update

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A while back I wrote (here and here) about how I’d bought some old Russian memory. It’s a single memory plane from a Saratov-2 (Саратов-2), a Soviet-era Russian clone of the PDP-8 built in the 1960s. Well, I’ve finally given it the home it deserves. I’ve mounted the memory inside a deep frame and put a ribbon of LEDs around the… Read more »

From the archives: Good Software Guide

Like the Good Hardware Guide (here, here and here), this 1991 publication was an attempt to produce a book listing all the most important products on the market. Yes, one book. Can you imagine trying to do that now? These are just the items I wrote – my mate Steve Gold covered far more, and there may have been other… Read more »

From the archives: WordStar 2000 Plus review

Wordstar 2000 Plus was the third version of the widely hated word processor. The reaction to the original Wordstar 2000 was similar to the one that greeted New Coke. Well, actually no, it was different… New Coke and the original Coke were just slight variations on of vile, corrosive sugared water. Wordstar 2000 was actually a very capable piece of… Read more »

The Hacker’s Handbook and the script kiddie

On its publication in 1985, The Hacker’s Handbook was a sensation. It seemed to legitimise an activity that many of us had been engaged in for a while – the (mostly) innocent exploration of online computer systems. We now live in an age of connectedness. Our phones, our TVs and even our fridges are just nodes on a giant network. Email… Read more »

From the archives: Olivetti Quaderno review

Portable computers were still relatively exotic beasts when Olivetti launched the Quaderno – an XT machine in an A5 form factor. The netbook fad was still some time off. Putting a label on this machine wasn’t that easy. ‘Palmtop’ is, I think, how Olivetti chose to classify it, but it was a bit big for a palm. But just look at… Read more »

From the archives: Amstrad PPC 640 review

This piece was written for Which PC? when the Amstrad PPC first came out in 1988. I can still recall to this day how the Amstrad creaked and groaned. This was probably the cheapest-feeling computer I’ve ever encountered. And as for powering it from 10 C-size batteries – holy crap. Given the lousy battery life – you’d have to carry around… Read more »

From the archives: WordStar 5 review

This piece was written for Personal Computer World – I presume in 1989 when WordStar 5 appeared. Note the bit about needing 512K of memory – you have been warned! I also discovered from some text I’d originally included at the beginning that my old Telecom Gold (aka BT Gold) address was 10074:MIK031. This was, of course, in the days when ordinary… Read more »