View Full Version : My summer of 76 or how I got into the computer hobby

July 28th, 2013, 07:05 AM
Remembering some fond years a while back (1976). I had just graduated high school and had the summer off till the fall when my parents told me I needed to start finding a job.

Well as most of us know in 70's there were already a few computer systems around mainly
the Altairs's and the Imsai's and I believe the Apple II as well.

Well I lived in the city of Sunrise in Broward county (South Florida). I used to
visit the Computerland on Federal Hwy a lot and liked to look around at the
systems they had and became a regular site at the store.

Well the employees there and the Manager kind of knew me and trusted me enough to
have a look at there work shop where they were building up some Imsai's. I looked
around and noticed that one of the S-100 back planes had been started but was
not complete yet.

So I asked the Manager if I could have a shot at trying to finish that particular
backplane. He said "Kid do you know how to solder" I said yes I had built a few
Heathkits. I said let me do a few solder connections and you can look them over and
see what you think.

Well he took a look and said "Kid your a better solderer than the other guy" He meant
the employee who had started to solder but didn't finish due to customers coming in
etc. The part time tech.

So I asked him well let the other guy do his customer service duties and let me finish
this one backplane for you. He said ok, knock yourself out.

Well if I remember correctly these had 8 s-100 slots so that meant around 800 solder
connections to do. So I finished it showed it to him and the he said well ohm out all
the points to make sure there are good connections. Well that took a while to do but
all were good.

He was so happy that he said I got 5 more backplanes to do so if you would please do
those as well. So I did one more and then needed to leave but said I would be back
tomorrow to finish up the others. He said ok kid see you tomorrow.

So next day I come in and start working on the 4 I had left. Well UPS shows up with
5 more Imasai's and the manager told me when I finish those open up the 5 that had
just come in and start working on those as well.

So I finished the 4 I had left and started on the others.

Well that is kind of how I got interested in the computer hobby. That and my Heathkit ET-3400.
I think that summer alone I must have built about 50+ backplanes. And all worked fine.
So I asked if I could get a job there he said I could but part time only.

Well my parents didn't agree they said "You need a full time job" So I told the manager thanks but maybe
on weekends I could stop by and help out. He said "Your welcome here anytime kid"

Never called me by my first name! Always "kid" Oh well he was a very cool guy. Can't even
remember his name now.

Fond memories of growing up in the beginning of the computer age at a young age!

Sorry for being long winded here peeps.

July 28th, 2013, 07:31 PM
I still to this day feel lucky to have grown up during the birth of the computer and video gaming industries. There just aren't many decades that truly change the direction the world is going for a very long time. It was fantastic watching and participating in that world that you just didn't know on monday what would be discovered on tuesday.

Strangely enough, I feel like understanding the complete chaos of that time helps me weed through the craptech ideas of modern times at work.

Ahhhhhhh, the good ol' days. So glad I can revisit them, one floppy at a time.

July 28th, 2013, 07:48 PM
Very cool and lucky that you were actually around and coherent to watch the revolutions as they turned out. Did you ever think it would be like today? Microsoft taking off and becoming such a monopoly or Apple computers gaining popularity (or perhaps not but their portable electronics making them the most expensive stock?). Apple to me always seemed on the verge of bankruptcy but I just hadn't really seen or had to work on the Mac so I was used to seeing IBM compatibles everywhere and always a hand full of Macs in an office environment. The stock news caught me by a complete surprise. I had no idea they were really doing well but I never did catch the appeal of an ipod or iphone.

July 29th, 2013, 06:13 AM
Back in those days. No. I didn't really think it was going to take off and mean you had a computer where the program was loaded bit by bit into memory. And hopefully after a few hundred key switches and loading you got it all right. Or the program would crash and would have to manually go back and see where the mistake was made.

No such thing as a list command and then print it out to find the error.

Seemed to be more of a passing interest at the time.

But the Apple's were coming the following year the TRS-80 showed up and at that point 77 I began to think maybe there might be something to this after all. I mean keyboards, Video displays. Cassette to load programs. Wow!

And then floppy drives show up. I think at that point late 77 or 78 I changed my mind and said this could be big. So I bought a TRS-80!

Then The PC the AT come along. The Macintosh. Microsoft too. Times were definitely interesting. And constantly changing. As it still is today.