Why blinkenlights ?

Julian Wolfe fireflyst at earthlink.net
Tue Mar 20 17:57:46 CDT 2007

Jay has a point, with the lights it is easier to visually see things like a
stuck bit, but the tradeoff is that things like bootstraps are just painful
to enter.

Did anyone ever do a machine with both? That would be really great if you
could examine the bits using the keypad.

IMO, lights=good, switches=bad (especially when they break on old equipment
and you have to find replacements, which is a major undertaking depending on
the machine)

[troll]Unless you're using an HP21xx machine, in which case you just get
some of those DIY switches from Radio Shack[/troll]

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cctalk-bounces at classiccmp.org 
> [mailto:cctalk-bounces at classiccmp.org] On Behalf Of Jay West
> Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 5:44 PM
> To: General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts
> Subject: Re: Why blinkenlights ?
> Jos wrote...
> >I am currenly contemplating what kind of IO to put on my 
> coming i8008 
> >system
> 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!
> Jay 

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