Vintage Computers

        I first started in electronics around 1970 when my older brother bought me one of the Heathkit electronics lab with the little red blocks which contained individual components inside(which I had to assemble--uugghh--). These would interconnect with wires , much like the breadboarding kits today. They would snap into place on a flat white plastic board which resemble a large piece of lego--with all the flat round pegs). you could layout your electronic circuit much like a schematic on paper and wire it all together. I became so nervous when I broke one of the legs onthe transistors and didn't tell my brother. I though it the whole kit must have cost a fortune and theone transistor must cost big bucks. I just ignored it till he noticed when one of the projects that I wired operated in a mysterious manner .

Then later on I began discovering computers while growing up on Long Island around 1973. I started building discrete TTL logic gates using surplus transistors from an old electronics store,
Edlie Electronics, out in Levittown, Long Island. I can blame my older brother for convincing me to do this. This was in the early 70's while in Jr. High school and reading the early articles about microcomputers in Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics.

        Thereafter, we found that we could get TTL chips so cheap from Poly Paks -- we bought a whole lot of parts from them, I actually still have some left over. Lafayette Electronics was another cool place to get stuff. Shortly after that,  I worked on building a microcomputer
using discrete TTL logic--it was a real chore to wire this-- with just a few bytes of ram and it's own microcode. It was very limited and crude as compared to the new Intel 8080 processor which was released during this time. I programmed this using only a few switches and Leds.

        Not long after that, the computer stores started popping up in and around New York City, Computer Mart was the popular place to be back then (in Manhattan). They were showing the new microcomputers of the day--in 1975--, I was drooling over the Compucolor I, it costs about 5 times as much as the Altair 8800. Not long after that there were a slew of other microcomputers available in the stores. We built a homebrew S-100 machine from scratch using parts we bought from the different  electronics stores. The power supply was a beast. not long after that we bought out first kit, Altair 680b (still have it). During high school, I bought the ELF microcomputer kit and built this for our Electronics lab project.

        Then me and my ol' buddy would go visit the Computer show every year in Manhattan to see all the latest stuff. It was great to see all the new machines that came out each year during the mid 70's. For some reason, it was way better watching and playing with all of this than the school computer we had. There was a Honeywell 1646 timesharing minicomputer that we used for all the computer science classes in high school. This was a great machine for it's day and we had several different terminals to use --DEC Writer terminals, even the Hazeltine.

Updated  May. 8, 2007
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