Saturday, 11 April 2015

Centre for Computing History, Cambridge

Recently I took the family to the Centre for Computing History during a short break in Cambridge.  The centre is packed with a plethora of machines from the 1950s onwards and has an excellent collection of 8 bit micros from the 1980s.

A DEC V220 terminal. I used one of these in 1988 when working on FORTRAN signal processing analysis software on PDP 11/750s (running RSX-11M-Plus) and MicroVaxes (running VAX VMS)

A 10MB DEC RL02 Disc Storage Unit.

A Commodore PET. I hacked on these in 1985 at school. I was able to write a program to poke characters to the screen starting from address 32768.

An Apple III.

Silicon Graphics Kit.

An SGI Indy Pizza Box. Nice bit of 100Mz MIPS hardware running IRIX.

The ill fated Atari Jaguar. Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 was quite stunning on this box.

Another Commodore PET, this is the 8032-SK edition.

The "Luggable" Commodore SX-64.  A C64 with a hardly readable in-built monitor and 1541 floppy disk drive. At 10.5 Kg it was not really that portable.

There were 3 bigtraks in the museum. All still programmable and could be played with.

A Commodore 64 and a C2N tape deck. The C64 sold over 30 million units; it was my first computer and I learnt 6502 programming and various low level tricks with the VIC II video chip.

The Commodore Plus/4.  I showed my kids that it had a in-build machine code monitor and one could easily hack up simple 6502 code with this tool. Pity this machine had less capable graphics than the C64, otherwise it would have been quite a nice machine.

An Apple Newton. Ahead if its time.

My son playing a game on an Apple ][.  I used the Apple ][ for my A level computing, it was a versatile machine and call -151 was required to get access to the machine code monitor.

A Commodore VIC 20.  This was running Attack of the Mutant Camels by Jeff Minter.

The Commodore Amiga CD 32 games console. I'd prefer a real Amiga any day.

There was a classroom of the "1980s" filled with BBC B and BBC Archimedes micros. The user guides were available so that one could write some code on these.  The BBC Bs were sturdy machines and very capable. The BASIC was excellent and the 2 pass in-build 6502 assembler was a great tool.  At £400 a pop, they were pricey compared to the £200 Commodore 64.