Friday, September 4, 2015

Turn on Your Heartlight

VINTAGE: We enjoyed a couple of happy hours at one of our favorite Seattle spots, Living Computer Museum, yesterday afternoon.

We rode the bus down (along with a bunch of Seahawks' fans heading to the game at CenturyLink field in the same neighborhood as LCM). We thought it might be crazy busy down in the stadium district, but it wasn't too bad to navigate, after all.

We spent over an hour playing around on the vintage desktop computers, mostly playing old games, including ET on the Atari 400.

Can I just share that I played the (stupid awful) game above for ten minutes and five lives and apparently didn't score a single gol darn point?! No wonder they buried the cartridges in the desert!!!

And look at this pristine Commodore PET.

Introduced the same year as the first "Star Wars" movie, it had a whopping 4kB of memory - w00t!

Annabelle tried to get the game Joust to run on this Exidy Sorcerer, but we were doing something wrong. We'll have to give it another go on a subsequent visit.

There are also some examples of current technology at LCM, and it seemed only fitting that we give the latest AE sports NFL game a go, since the Seahawks were on the field right down the block.

It was first Thursday, so that meant it was also a free movie night there. Specifically, they were screening the second part of "Triumph of the Nerds." Originally aired on PBS, the 1996 documentary explores the development of the personal computer in the United States from WWII to 1995.

We attended LCM's screening of the first part of the show last month, and definitely wanted to see the second part of the documentary.

Here's CJ's review of the show ... 

On September 3rd, 2015, we went to the Living Computer Museum to see "Triumph of the Nerds, Part 2", the second in a classic mini-series from the 1990s about computer history. Episode 2 of Triumph of the Nerds focused on things such as IBM's leap into the PC industry, and Microsoft's purchase of 86-DOS (or QDOS, which stood for Quick and Dirty Operating System) from Seattle Computer Products, who turned it into MS-DOS.
In the late seventies and early eighties, IBM was still mostly just a company for large business computers. However, at that time, the personal computer market was booming, and IBM needed to act fast if they wanted their chance to make money in the business. One of the people working at IBM literally had some of the parts he wanted to use in the prototype and the plans in IBM's basement. IBM had to make the computer within 1 year, because if IBM didn't do it, somebody else would. When IBM decided to buy their software, they had two options: a 39-year old man named Gary Kildall, who had a computer Ph.D, and a twentysomething Harvard dropout named Bill Gates (Hmm, which one do you pick?). IBM chose Bill Gates.
Although the IBM Personal Computer was a success, there were multiple other "clones" of the machine made by other companies, because most of the parts in the IBM PC could be purchased from elsewhere. In fact, the only part that was solely IBM was the ROM-BIOS, which was protected by IBM's army of lawyers. Compaq, over the course of a year, managed to reverse-engineer it, or figure out how it works and make a copy of it. They eventually did, and made the Compaq PC, a computer that's primary selling point was being more portable than the IBM PC, being able to carry the Compaq like a suitcase. Following Compaq's innovation, several other IBM PC clones appeared on the shelves. Suddenly, it was once again difficult for IBM.
I enjoyed watching Triumph of the Nerds, Part 2, and I learned that this is the #1 rule of the computer industry, as quoted from the movie: "The prize doesn't go to the inventor, but to the exploiter of the invention."
After the movie, one of the LCM staffers busted out a slide trombone and played one of the IBM fight songs for us. 

Gratuitous cool dials and switches shot ... 
And for the first time, I noticed this poster about Moore's Law on one wall. Interesting.
Generally speaking, most sum up Moore's Law to mean the number of transistors on a 1-inch (2.5 centimeter) diameter of silicon doubles every x number of months.

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