In 1980, WMTV in Madison, Wisconsin produced this feature about early personal computers and the geeks who loved them. I enjoyed the discussion of The Source, which was the first online experience I ever had.
George Martin, who posted the video to YouTube, writes: "About halfway through the video there is a segment filmed at my home showing how I had programmed a Cromemco Z-2 computer to control lights and appliances."
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I thought it was crazy that Dell dethroned Apple as the maker of America's most spectacular laptops, but look at this from HP, putting the Mac Mini on notice: the HP Z2 Mini Workstation.
HP's little desktop isn't quite as small, at 8.5" wide, and prices start at $690. With Xeon and Nvidia Quadra video card options on offer, it'll soar much higher if you load it. No detailed specs were announced, though Engadget reports you can get up to a 1.5TB SSD and Intel Core CPUs will also be on offer. It lacks Thunderbolt and more game-friendly video card options.
Is it weird that the natural point of comparison, the Mac Pro, doesn't even come to mind? The Z2 Mini may well overpower it in pricier configurations. What happened to that, anyway? Read the rest
This generates names of Defunct Computer Companies That You're Sure You Can Remember From the 19A0s
In an upcoming episode of the Cool Tools Show podcast, I tell the story of how I wrecked my iMac by trying to replace the hard drive. Instead of buying a new iMac, I bought an Acer G257HU 25-inch (2560 x 1440) display and connected it to my MacBook Pro. I actually like this set up more than having two different computers. The display is gorgeous and the brightness can be cranked way up if you need it.
For $260 I have no complaints about this monitor. I wouldn't complain if it had cost $500. I'm using a $10 Thunderbolt-to-DisplayPort cable to connect the laptop to the display. Read the rest
The 1981 Radioshack computer catalog
is beautifully illustrated, but everything in it is complete TRS. Read the rest
Right now, Amazon has a great deal on a Seagate 5TB external hard drive. It's $110 (the same price as the 4TB mode). I've been looking for a way to back up all the computers in my household (with Time Machine) and I might buy this. I think can just create several partitions on it and plug it into the USB port of my wireless access point. Has anyone had success doing it this way? Read the rest
Chipmaking is a relentless competition to make transistors smaller and smaller. Such refined technology is as inscrutable to users as angels dancing on the head of a few hundred copper pins, so James Newman set out to make a working CPU whose every connection can be explored and understood by students.
"Like all modern processors the Megaprocessor is built from transistors," he writes. "It's just that instead of using teeny-weeny ones integrated on a silicon chip it uses discrete individual ones... Thousands of them. And loads of LEDs."
The resulting machine took two years to construct and recalls the earliest room-filling electronic computers, with banks of blinking lights and ropes of cable linking each refridgerator-sized peripheral. But this time, it's by choice rather than limitation: with a light on every connection, you can see the logic and movement of data through the chip in person.
Ten meters wide and 2 meters tall, the 16-bit Megaprocessor is deliberately simple and slow. Clocked at 20kHz, it could feel at home in an airport-sized Commodore Amiga or classic Mac, though it's not quite as complicated as the Motorola 68000 that inspired it.
There's already software to play with, though, including a rough implementation of Tetris. You can download an emulator to get started on making your own.
"I didn't plan on ending up here. I started by wanting to learn about transistors," Newman writes. "Things got out of hand.
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The world's first psychedelic computer enters the universal library. And it all runs in the browser, meaning you'll never have to hunt for Workbench disk images again. Read the rest
Stick computers plug straight into a display's HDMI plug, like a giant USB thumbdrive, and Intel's made the most powerful one yet. At $390, the Intel Compute Stick Core m3 is by far the most expensive in its class, too.
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Take a look at these beautiful images of computers at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park by photographer Docubyte and production studio Ink.
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Chris Noessel and Nathan Shedroff demonstrated that in movies depicting computers in the future, the screens are mostly blue.
Some interesting exceptions: 1991's Terminator 2 made red popular, and the Matrix Trilogy made green the in thing for a while. But within a couple of years, we were back to blue. And it's been this way since the 60s.
I think that green usually signifies "old" computers, perhaps? The Matrix was clever in that way.
Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I'm struck by the thought that the first and third Alien movies (which were British haunted house movies, sort of) used green screens, whereas the second one, Aliens (an American action movie) used blue. Google Images isn't entirely helpful.
Guardians of the Galaxy (above) appears, of course, to be both. Read the rest
animated Digital Dance
in 1982. The post-disco music is by Might Dog (anyone know anything about it?), the dancer is Pons Maar
, and Jim Wiseman shot the footage. Once again, I'm struck by how much glitch aesthetics are about creating memories, not deconstructing technology. Read the rest
Chock-A-Block was a computer-themed educational TV show for young children that was shown on the BBC in 1981. What I still love about it is that it's an early example of retrocomputing nostalgia, depicting a room-sized magnetic-tape mainframe to youngsters who owned their own ZX81s.
Chock-A-Block was surreal and a bit druggy, like a lot of British kids' TV. It uttered strangely satisfying noises when its strangely satisfying buttons are pressed and strangely satisfying media are inserted. This show is to blame for my love of computers, but also for my love of the strange relationship we have with old technology, and also my love of being high. Read the rest
HP's Spectre is thinner than all the others, and the company says that it is "more artisan than manufactured" in a promo video that touts its slim, jewelry-like design. The $1,170 laptop has an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of memory and a 13" display. It's 2.5 pounds: heavier than the 12" MacBook and Lenovo Yoga, but lighter than pretty much anything else and much more powerful than those machines. Read the rest
The Raspberry Pi got a major upgrade. The third revision of this tiny, $35 Linux computer is 50% faster than the Raspberry Pi 2 and has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE. Alasdair Allan of MAKE has a good first look at the board.
MAKE: Meet the New Raspberry Pi 3 — A 64-bit Pi with Built-in Wireless and Bluetooth LE
Here's Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, talking to MAKE about the Pi 3:
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John Markoff reports on an important area of research: how to make a talking computer sound friendly and approachable to humans? The trick, as exemplified by IBM's Jeopardy-winning Watson and Apple's Siri: you want it to sound slightly robotic, thereby avoiding uncanniness.
Most software designers acknowledge that they are still faced with crossing the “uncanny valley,” in which voices that are almost human-sounding are actually disturbing or jarring. The phrase was coined by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970. He observed that as graphical animations became more humanlike, there was a point at which they would become creepy and weird before improving to become indistinguishable from videos of humans.… “Jarring is the way I would put it,” said Brian Langner, senior speech scientist at ToyTalk, a technology firm in San Francisco that creates digital speech for things like the Barbie doll. “When the machine gets some of those things correct, people tend to expect that it will get everything correct.”
The article has some of the Watson test voices. A masculine one was chosen to sound "objective and natural" and "like a trusted colleague." Rejected feminine voices can be heard at the article, as well as a childlike voice deemed too "creepy." Read the rest
At The Malware Musuem you can enjoy the experience of DOS-era viruses, trojans and other digital beasties without any of the risk. Many of them manifested as wild graphical tricks and other spectacular coding feats, distracting you as they formatted hard drives or corrupted files.
The Malware Museum is a collection of malware programs, usually viruses, that were distributed in the 1980s and 1990s on home computers. Once they infected a system, they would sometimes show animation or messages that you had been infected. Through the use of emulations, and additionally removing any destructive routines within the viruses, this collection allows you to experience virus infection of decades ago with safety.
Pictured above is LSD.COM Read the rest