Hardware Hobbyists vs. Emulator Jockeys (was: Re: UNIX V7)
lists at databasics.us
Sun Jun 14 17:34:41 CDT 2009
Tony Duell wrote:
>> Dave McGuire wrote:
>>> On Jun 12, 2009, at 9:29 AM, Warren Wolfe wrote:
>>>>> Well, for "classic OSs". Some of us are actually interested in
>>>>> the hardware. ;)
>>>> Well, sure. The hardware is there, although not progressing,
>>>> either. But, the end result and purpose of computer hardware is to
>>>> run software. At least we've got THAT going for us. If nothing
>>>> else, having a functional equivalent emulator allows one to work out
>>>> software for the hardware involved, and do it faster, on a "bigger"
>>>> machine, so when the hardware comes up, you can just load it up and
>>>> go... Don't expect to make me feel guilty about being more easily
>>>> able to enjoy my hobby than you. Won't happen. <Grin> Now, bedtime...
>>> Well don't get me wrong, I'm not poo-pooing emulators. I use them
>>> all the time. I just don't find them to be a replacement for real
>>> hardware. :)
>> True enough. They certainly don't WEIGH as much, for instance... <Grin>
> I am a hardware hacker, pure and simple. I regard classic computers as
> being interesting, complicated, but still understandable bits of
> electronics. The fact they run programs is _not_ why I am primarily
> interested in them.
And that's fine for you, Tony. I admit I share your enthusiasm.
However, I *ALSO* enjoy RUNNING the computers, and using the software
written long ago, too.
> This is why I prefer machines with CPUs built from lots of small chips.
> You can't do much with a big ASIC containing much of the logic. But a
> couple of boartds of TTL and 2900 series can be investigated.
> It's also why I can find as much interest in, say, the analog computer
> (and I don't think that's exagerating) in the servo system of an RK07
> drive as in the PDP11 that's linked to it. They're both interesting (to
> me) bits of electronics.
Indeed. Personally, I've always been fond of the analog computers used
to aim guns on battleships. Very fine control, huge output. Those gun
barrels are not at all light. When all is said and done, they can loft
a shell that weighs as much as a Buick 30 miles, and hit within 30 feet
of the target.
> It's one reason I have little interest in emulators _myself_ . Another
> reason is that emulators here would run slower than the real hardware for
> just about any classic computer. Don;t get me wrong, I have no problem
> with people who write emulators or with people who enjoy using them. It's
> just not what _I_ want to do.
Of course -- each to his own. I have always been odd in this; my whole
career, I have been back and forth between hardware and software, and
truly love both.
>> Seriously, though, for me, the majority of "the computer experience" was
>> obtained over a serial line of some sort, except for my VDM-1 card in
> Ah, but wouldn';t you like to own whatever was at the end of that serial
> line? Not an emulator of it, but the real machine? And discover just what
> it was like to keep it running, etc..
Yes, yes, I would love to own real computers. Realistically speaking,
though, I would need living space very many times what I have. Also, I
live in the spot on Earth with just about the highest electricity rates
of anywhere that has regular service. I seriously shudder to think what
it would cost to run some of these monsters from the past.
>> the IMSAI 8080. So, an emulator, if it is a good one, does well for
>> me. That being said, I do collect old hardware, also. It's just much
>> "harder" for me.
>> Also, Al had some good points, ESPECIALLY when it comes to mainframish
>> computers. If you are a lover of, just to pick one, a PDP 11/45
>> machine, if you pass on your love for the machine to a young person,
>> that person becomes a serious competitor for EVERY bit of kit you need,
> That seems like a very selfish attidude. I assume you're not saying that
> we shouldn't encourage new people into the hobby since they'll compete
> with us for nice machine. Certainly I don't feel that way at all.
No, it's not selfish, it's realistic. Since nobody is adding to the
pool of classic hardware, it can only get smaller over time. And, sure,
I would encourage others to take up the hobby. On the other hand, such
activities DO make it harder for everyone collecting the hardware. Very
little hardware collecting fits in my budget of money, time, or space.
It's a fact of life. I will not be able to indulge myself as I would
like with this hobby.
But, encouraging others to explore classic SOFTWARE on emulators takes
away nothing from anyone, and in point of fact, will often INCREASE the
number of "toys" for everyone. If someone creates a new emulator, or
scrounges around and finds a boot tape for an O/S that had gone
"missing," EVERYONE can have a copy of it, generally for free. With
this branch of the hobby, I have the money and space to take it as far
as I want. I like that.
I was first exposed to computers in high school, and found that the
TimeShare BASIC was interesting, but limited. I went hacking around and
found many other computers to use, so, having a computer contact consist
of a serial connection only is pretty much what the computer experience
WAS for me. Emulation also allows, since the hardware is virtual, a
"machine" to be beefed up almost beyond recognition. So limitations
imposed upon one by the budget of those purchasing the hardware simply
do not apply.
For example, I first used an HP 2000B TimeShare BASIC computer. While I
can't get exactly that in emulation, I can get an emulator running
Access -- which was years in the future when I was introduced, but along
the same HP path. That's cool... Like what I used, only bigger and
better, with some cool new features. I'm just trying to get copies of
the old software I wrote for that system....
>> from now on. In other words, non-frustrated hardware hobbyists are
>> strictly limited by the number, and cost, of working or repairable
>> hardware platforms. But, if there is an emulator for the PDP 11/45,
>> everybody on the planet could become a fan of running the software on an
> Yes, but the emulator won't allow you to stick in a KM11, put one of the
> CPU boards on an extender and probe arround will single-stepping at the
> clock cycle level. You won't have the fun of replacing a disk head and
> doing the alingment. You won't have to chase grants up and down the
I thought I was up on Brit tech-speak, but "grants" is one I don't
know. What are "grants?"
True enough, Tony, but with the right emulator, I CAN single step, and
examine register contents, and so on. And I don't HAVE to repair the
hardware to keep it going. I used to maintain a mailing list on a
program I wrote in CBASIC under CP/M on an IMSAI 8080. The guy who
collected the changes to the list came by one month a bit early, and I
wasn't ready for him. "Updates?" I asked, "Hang on, I'll go get my
soldering iron." Repairing memory (2102s) was a daily matter back then,
and interfered with the use of the machine. Heck, I wrote a memory test
routine which ran when console status was checked - not because it was
cool, but because I NEEDED it.
>> emulator, one that runs on mass-produced (hence CHEAP and available)
>> hardware. Software can be copied and shared. Hardware, not so much. I
>> also note that classic computer buffs who go the software route can have
>> "machines" with plenty of memory and disk space, and can avoid all the
> If I wantede a machine with plenty of memoery, disk space and only
> problems I hadn't a hope of fixing, I'd buy a PC, and run PC software on
Yeah, like emulators. <Grin> Hey, each to their own. I don't have the
resources to do much with my classic hardware hobby, but I can take my
classic software hobby to the limit. That's lots better than nothing.
I'm glad you get to indulge, too. And, don't think I wouldn't have a
warehouse full of old computers if I could pull it off somehow... and
all sorts of electronics. My personal quirk on hardware is that I like
to collect things that were, at one time, the very pinnacle of
technology... Like, for example, a Processor Technology Sol computer,
for old personal computers. That's what gives me the biggest thrills.
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