View Full Version : University of Delaware CICS 667 "Preserving Historical Micros"

March 23rd, 2007, 12:28 PM
Just a quick note...I have accepted a position as an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware Comp Sci department. The class is CICS 667 and it is being offered as a science elective to all students at the school. The class will be titled "Preserving Historical Microcomputers." 3 credits.

Any U of D students interested in this class PM me for a tentative syllabus. In general the class will focus on 8-bit micros of the mid 70's through mid 80's; processors, software, I/0, etc. The class will be technical yet accessible for non CompSci students (history/marketing/MIS).

There will be a team project to restore a vintage computer once necessary background material has been presented.

The University of Delaware has a small computer museum that I will be involved with as well.

UPDATE: The class is tentatively scheduled for Monday and Weds nights at 5PM.

Terry Yager
March 23rd, 2007, 12:53 PM
Sounds great, congratulations!


March 23rd, 2007, 12:58 PM
Hey Billdeg, that's great, and you're just the man for the position.

Umm, seeing as you're going to be so busy, can I have your computer collection? :)

March 23rd, 2007, 05:26 PM
Congratulations Bill! :) And that was (I believe) your 11111111th post! 8)



March 23rd, 2007, 06:25 PM
Pleeeze, 377th post!

March 23rd, 2007, 07:44 PM
One of the fun things about this class will be the opportunity to demonstrate vintage computers to illustrate topics. Back in the 70's and 80's this would have been cost prohibitive. For example, compare and contrast the Atari 400, vic 20, and a TI 99 4/a.

March 24th, 2007, 12:38 PM
Congrats Bill! Sounds like a fun opportunity! :)

March 24th, 2007, 02:37 PM
You know, the devious part of me wants to have you ask that the students bring stuff in from home. You know, for extra credit. :-)
Congratulations and good luck with it.


March 24th, 2007, 03:55 PM
For example, compare and contrast the Atari 400, vic 20, and a TI 99 4/a.
Just a few days ago, I looked for price tags on those three systems. From a few different Internet sources - which may or may not be accurate - I compiled this little timeline of list prices at the time:

Atari 400: $549 in Nov '79, $399 in May '81, $199 in Dec '82
Atari 800: $999 in Nov '79, $399 in May '83
Atari 1200XL: $900-1000 in Dec '82

TI-99/4: $1150 w/ monitor in Nov '79
TI-99/4A: $525 w/o monitor in Jun '81, $199 in Aug '82, $150 in Feb '83
TI-99/4A (beige version): $99 in Jun '83

Commodore VIC-20: $299 in Jan '81, $99 in Apr '83
Commodore 64: $595 in Sep '82, $399 in Jan '83

I'm sure the Atari 800 must've dropped in price sometime between 1979 and 1983, probably to $599 by the summer of 1982? Likewise, I think the VIC-20 had a stage of $199 sometime in 1982. In the summer of 1983, I believe Atari replaced 400 and 800 with 600XL and 800XL, so perhaps left over 400's at the end were dumped at prices close to the VIC-20 and TI-99/4A? Worth noting is though that the Atari models were improved by adding memory (from 8 to 16K, respectively 16 to 48K) during their lifespan, unlike their competitors.

Technical specs, peripherals (both own brand and 3rd party), software and user groups of course also were important, but price tags interest me.

March 25th, 2007, 05:31 AM
I very much agree with this line of thinking. There are so many other factors than technical that went into why one line of systems/technology was successful vs. another. Technology alone does not predict which system will make it and which will not.

One big thing that killed the TI 99/4a was not it's capabilities as a system, it was the expensive and bulky expansion system required to run a diskdrive, modem, etc. The Apple II Plus, VIC 20 and Atari 400/800's pulled ahead because they offered a cheaper "good enough" path to expansion. You can compare the quantity of diskette sofware packages produced for these three systems at the time to illustrate my point.

March 25th, 2007, 07:32 AM
Perhaps Texas Instruments, with some experience from mini computers, applied a similar concept when they designed their home coupter? I.e. one base unit, and then a big but very powerful expansion system.

If I'm not mistaken, TI had a licensing system similar to latter video games, at least for cartridge software that prevented 3rd party companies to publish their own titles without TI's license? Something about a bootstrap of GROM code that needed to be included on the cartridge. One can only imagine what the software library would've looked like if they had opened up more to competition.

March 25th, 2007, 08:44 AM
TI was the antithesis of open source, eh?

March 25th, 2007, 11:18 AM
Or at least pioneers. I don't know how strict software control e.g. Atari, Fairchild and for that matter Apple, Commodore had in the late 1970's. If they considered software companies making money on "their" customers parasites or helping them to sell more hardware. Sometimes it could also be a matter of quality preservation. If a lot of cheap garbage software arrives in the stores, the brand and model may get an undeserved reputation, even if the brand itself doesn't have anything to do with it. Without knowing my TI on all five fingers, let's hope that was one of their strongest points if they really held a software monopoly.

March 25th, 2007, 03:27 PM
I read someplace that a lot of the cartridges were designed by the same guy.