Why blinkenlights ?

Jay West jwest at classiccmp.org
Tue Mar 20 17:44:00 CDT 2007

Jos wrote...
>I am currenly contemplating what kind of IO to put on my coming i8008 
Well, we do expect a link to pictures & stuff!

>: what is it that makes blinkenlights (i.e. leds and switches ) seem so 
>attractive ?
Curb appeal :) But seriously, see below....

> It must be about the worst possible way to interact with a computer...
Oh I respectfully disagree. Depending on what you are doing, a front panel 
can be the best way to interact. If you're writing in assembly and debugging 
your program it's eminently useful to see visually what is in the registers. 
Yes, you can do this with an online debugging tool, but I myself find it 
easier to just look at the lights. I mean, there is a reason they were 
called "PROGRAMMERS panels".

> So why is it then  that almost all early micros had them ?
Maybe because it is one of the best possible ways to interact with the 
computer ;)

> a 7segment display with keyboard ( as in a H8) is clearly more usable, and 
> would have cost nothing more. Or were early eproms (for the monitor 
> program) that expensive ?
I dunno. Didn't the discrete toggle or paddle switches and lights cost a lot 
more than a prefab keypad and LED display? And as programmer front panels 
faded, wasn't that about the same time people were really moving towards 
higher level languages and multiuser stuff rather than single machine 
language programs (in general)? I don't know, just conjecturing!


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