8-bitters and multi-whatever

Allison ajp166 at bellatlantic.net
Wed Sep 12 06:43:32 CDT 2007

>Subject: Re: 8-bitters and multi-whatever
>   From: "Ethan Dicks" <ethan.dicks at gmail.com>
>   Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 02:02:57 -0500
>     To: "General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts" <cctalk at classiccmp.org>
>On 9/11/07, Allison <ajp166 at bellatlantic.net> wrote:
>> There were a few simple schemes but excluding myself how many hobbiests
>> back then had two or more systems?
>In 1982, the year you quoted for those Arcnet networks, at age 16, I
>had 4 systems, a PET, a C-64, a Cosmac Elf, and a PDP-8/L (that I was
>trying to repair - took until 1984, when I finally tracked down a
>printset), but I'll grant you that at the time, the number of folks
>that had multiple systems were probably dwarfed by the number of folks
>who had only one.  Of those, due to minimal I/O and/or functionality,
>only the PET and the C-64 were "real" systems.

I knew I couldn't be the only one but I figured not many.  I was rare in 
I had at least 4 systems that would run CP/M making the need for interchange
more deireable. By that same year I also had COSMAC ELF, SC/MP 8a-500, 
National Nibble basic, IMSAI IMP-48, Motorola 6800D1, NEC TK80, and a 
LSI-11 with TU58. 

I was in contact with enough people that the incidence of multiple machines
was low.  the more common case was a apple, TRS-80 or S100 crate with storage
and one or more SBC that might have enough memory for TinyBasic.  The exceptions
were usually business or schools.

>Since I couldn't afford an IEEE-488 disk drive, rather than just move
>files back and forth on tape, basing it upon the cable and software
>from a contemporary "Byte" magazine, I fabricated my own
>nybble-with-handshake cable between the user ports of the PET and the
>C-64, and moved stuff from one to the other over that.  I might have
>used serial, if I'd had an ACIA-based port for my PET (there were a
>couple that sat in an expansion ROM socket), or if I'd understood more
>about the nature of serial comms and crufted up my own bit-banging
>routines for the PET (the C-64 had that in ROM already).  I understood
>parallel communications, so a nybble at a time it was.

Mine started when I needed to get stuff from the various CP/M systems 
that even when they had disks were incompatable hard sector to soft
or 8 and 5.25. I started with serial peer to peer as in pipmodem and
similar.  Later I did a two system resource sharing that grew to allow
up to a potential 256 systems. In '82 the whole thing peaked with a
multiprocessor S100 crate with intercommunications via pooled memory.

>Later, around 1983, when I picked up a VIC-20 on clearance for around
>$70, I would certainly would have liked to have had a Commodore
>network (based around the user port, most likely), but was unaware of
>anything I could build for myself, and certainly couldn't afford any
>of the "disk sharing" hardware I'd seen advertised to share PET disks
>amongst multiple machines.

Likely If i'd had more contact with the non-CP/M s100 world and the 
DEC PDP-11 world I'd have evolved things differntly. It didn't hurt 
that I'd had prior experience with the BOCES LYRICs PDP-8 and PDP-10
timeshare systems.  The S100 world allowed me to venture into a more 
hardware intensive world.

>It took me a few more years to learn enough about serial comms and
>computer networking to be able to roll my own hardware and/or
>software, but working for a serial comms networking company had a lot
>to do with that.  I would have loved to have been able to buy or build
>something inexpensive, no matter how slow, but even a multi-serial
>solution would have strained my high-school budget, as I presume it
>would have strained most hobbyists' budgets, or perhaps home
>networking would have gotten rolling before the days of Arcnet.

>I think the first network I had any hands-on experience with was
>AppleTalk/LocalTalk, when I helped my mother with a Corvus disk drive
>and a room full of 512K Macs, just before she started her own business
>(fortunately, by the time she did, she could afford a 20MB drive per
>CPU, so the network was for printing only).

By time the Mac hit I'd seeen DECnet and mixed PDP-11 and VAX system
in large networks with remote printing and all the trimmings we see on
the internet.  

>AppleTalk was a great step forward for home networking.  It's a shame
>that other vendors didn't follow in Apple's footsteps for many years.
>I think I had an Amiga for four or five years before I attempted to
>even do any serial networking (using DNet).  It was well after 1990
>before I was able to stick an Amiga on an Ethernet network, and that
>was with a $300 card! (there was a Zorro Arcnet card - the A2060, but
>I knew I wasn't going to bother with Arcnet by that time).

Appletalk was a really good, it's biggest feature is low cost both 
in hardware and memory footprint there were peripherals that would 
talk on the same net.

All of the things I did and got to see and use colored my perception 
of what computers could do.  Usually it was far greater than marketed 
capability.  I'd believed in '83 that if a VAX or PDP-11 could network
around the world a room should be easy enough. Also I'd seen what large 
machines could do years before and figured the only differnce doing it 
with a micro was either scale or speed.  In the span from'82 to '89
with PCs getting faster and Ethernet and internet both catching on
there was a communications explosion.  What isn't discussed here
is what the radio amateurs were doing with Packet networks and X.25 
protocals.  In some cases they were prototyping portable (toteable)


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