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I had a few Xmas trees when I was a kid but I forget where they came from. Nowadays, I just have a couple pieces of holy branches that stay in place all year. I have a Xmas light show with about 100 lights that does various fancy sequences. It runs on an old windows 98 machine and boots up from a floppy disk. But occasionally some of the lights would burn out and I have to replace them. I regret not using LEDs which wouldn't burn out but it was 15 years ago when LEDs were not very bright.
The first computer that I learned how to use had only paper tape I/O. I
found some green and gold Mylar tape that we used for programs that were
heavily used - it held up better than paper tape. I programmed the
computer to punch out "Merry Christmas" over and over and we decorated
the computer room with it.
The first computer I ever used was a DEC PDP-8 in 1976. A couple of us learned to program in Basic on that machine. I used to come in early and stay late just to play with the thing. We made programable function generators (Sine, Triangle, Square) and later I wrote a Basic program using 2 generators in two part harmony to play chop sticks.
Yes, the PDP-8 was a popular machine. The old machines seem to all have
one of the registers connected to a speaker which gave you an indication
of whether the program was working properly. The machine that I
mentioned was a Philco Transac-1000 and also had a small crt on the
console that was connected to the address register. Useful to see if
you were stuck in a loop. It was programmed in machine language, not
even an assembly language.
Did you know how DEC got into the computer business? They started out
by manufacturing digital modules which were essentially PC boards that
you could use to build your own systems.
Very handy, but now I'm showing my age!
No, I didn't know that. I'm fairly ignorant about history. Somebody once said that history is a thing of the past. Anyway, the PDP-8 we had was left running 24/7 and one weekend the cooling fan stopped and the thing died from overheating. Nobody bothered to fix it since the new Commodore PET (personal electronic transactors) were just coming on line at low prices. I think we bought 4 of them, one for the engineering lab and 3 for production. It was a small desk top system with a monitor and a cassette tape drive and 8K of memory and a IEEE bus interface. It did all we wanted to do.
The PDP-11s were especially popular in the universities and lot of the
early networking research was done using them. They were almost
indestructible. There was one at Stanford that was accidentally sealed
into a niche during a remodeling where it continued serving as a node in
the Stanford University Network for years. I'm not sure how they found it!
There was a strongly held belief in the X-Windows world that you
shouldn't need to know where your program was running or where your data
was stored. I was always uncomfortable with that. Still am.
Your history pre-dates mine, and was a bit more exciting and high end.
My first computer was a Commodore 64. Got it home, plugged it in, my
wife typed in a Basic program that made a lightning bolt appear on
the screen, then she nudged the power supply (a brick on the floor)
with her foot, and it blew up. Next day came an Atari 800XL, and long
before the Internet, I got active on a local dial-up bulletin board,
Pirates Bay - later re-named The Bay. My introduction to working with
computers at work came when my boss announced his intention to
computerize the department using an ancient Apple II, and I was the
only one who knew how to stick a 5 1/4" floppy into a drive. I went on
to do some programming in Clipper, a dbase III compiler, became a
product manager for a securities instruction program used by our
customers, and flew around the country installing and instructing.
Took me as far as Bermuda and Puerto Rico. Set up bank computers at
trade shows, wrote various advertising animations to run on them,
slide shows to illustrate speeches, and some of the first computerized
profitability analyses. A department was created to install PC
networks. I was one of the founding members, became a Novell CNE,
built our file servers, and installed dozens of networks -- later
managing several. I feel fortunate to have been witness to a little
slice of history.