Hardware Hobbyists vs. Emulator Enthusiasts vs Replica Recreators

Warren Wolfe lists at databasics.us
Fri Jun 19 19:58:59 CDT 2009

Hello, All,

There have been some incredibly good posts on this subject.  Not to 
denigrate anyone else's excellent input, but Ray, your description 
deserves to be recorded somewhere, like perhaps a Wikipedia entry "What 
is the point of collecting old computers" or some such.  Simply. 
Freaking. Brilliant.

So, with all this inspiration, let me set down what *I* find fulfilling 
in this hobby....

First and foremost, I like to USE the machines.  When I use them, I want 
the experience of people who used to program them, ESPECIALLY if I was 
one of those people.  So, I feel a bit slighted when someone claims that 
the experience of the software is to boot up a word processor.  Not at 
all.  What *I* like, is to use a text editor to create a program to run, 
to create job control language of whatever type is necessary, to run and 
test the software I've written, and to revise it, again, using whatever 
was commonly used to write those programs.

Along those lines, I'm okay with having, say, a HP Timeshare BASIC 
system with more disk space than I used to have, so I can store programs 
to disk, rather than printing out a punched tape - I would have done 
that back then, had I the opportunity.  I'm okay with using a PC as a 
terminal, as compared with an ASR-33, too.  But I like to have the disk 
structure, and the commands, available, and to actually DO the work on 
the old machine.  Using *ALL* original hardware is an additional thrill, 
too, but one of less importance to me than having the "user experience" 
of the software creation cycle.  Since I used many more machines over a 
data line than hands-on, a simulator often provides an experience just a 
few percent shy of the total experience for what interests me.

I feel I should not have to say this, but I will anyway.  This is what 
*I* like, and I'm not casting aspersions on any other facet of the 
hobby.  I do see the value in almost everything anyone has mentioned, 
even to the point of just hearing the original machine work.  For me, 
THAT bit involves an old 1A Bell system telephone switch, a room-filling 
array of clacking relays, connected to a computer remarkably advanced 
for its age, and still in use in several places.  Every time I have used 
that computer interface, I have been sitting in front of a switch that 
is handling telephone traffic, and hence, making a serious amount of 
clatter.  So, I get it.  Honestly.  I'm speaking, though, of those bits 
which motivate ME to do all the things I must to have the experience.  Okay?

Since the statute of limitations has tolled on this, I don't mind saying 
that as a youngster, the way I got experience on many computer systems 
was to hack my way in over a phone line modem connection.  Let me hasten 
to add that I never destroyed anyone's data, and never paid any 
attention to private data.  My purpose was to learn the machine, and 
learn how to write programs on it.  At that time, most services charged 
an hourly connect rate that, as a teenager, was way over my head.  So, I 
used the computers at night, when the load was low, and would sneak in 
when my presence would not be irritating anyone paying for access.  It 
worked.  As far as I know, I was only noticed on two different systems.  
One of those kicked me out, and put new security measures in place, 
measures I never again cracked.  On the other system, the guy printed a 
list of my accesses to the machine for me, and wrote me a note saying 
that he understood what I was up to, and that if I kept it inoffensive 
as I had been doing, he had no problem with it, but to check with him if 
I was going to run a program that would swamp the processor so he could 
schedule it.  What a guy!

With the above experience, it should be clear that my exposure to most 
computers was via a modem.  No clacking, no whirring of tapes, no *BUMP* 
noises from the drives, just an access I could explore, often without 
documentation of any kind.  I'd try to find out what kind of a machine 
it was -- which is often more difficult than one would expect.  When I 
figured that out, I'd look for books at the library about that kind of 
computer, and start using it.  Seriously, I had a blast.

So, for me, a simulation of a computer I have never used is a VERY good 
emulation of the experience I used to have -- well neigh perfect, 
actually.  And, given the fact that I already have a couple of PC type 
machines, it's essentially free.  I love it...  And, I'll just have to 
wait on any hardware hobbyist activities for a while.


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