News about computers, microcomputers, hobbyist, robotics, computing, museums, Bugbooks, Computers at Bugbook Historical Computer Museum, Floyd VA - the history makers present and historical.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Vintage computers - "iWoz" Steve Wozniak's book by Wozniak & Smith - My comments - a good read

info click
Anyone having an interest in the Apple Computer company and how it all started will really enjoy this book. Steve's book has been in print for 8 years - if you missed it now is a good time do your read. Their are many reasons for the tremendous success of Apple however it all started with Steve Wozniak
bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Click image to enlarge
designing the Apple 1 microcomputer.  Their were many good breaks as the company developed and sometimes just being in the right place at the right time was a big help. Steve Jobs convinced Wozniak to sell his Apple 1 computer and was the marketing guru that made the company grow to what it is today and those first months of the start up are very interesting.

Did you know that the first partnership of the Apple company included 3 people not just the 2 Steve's. Ron Wayne was in on the  original official founding and actually is the one who wrote the partnership agreement and at that time owned 10 percent of the Apple company? Only 12 days after the partnership Ron dropped out and received about $800 for his interest. CNN story about Ron Wayne.

bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Wozniak as Woz
Steve Wozniak ( Steve often goes by just Woz ) designed the Apple 1 and Apple ll totally on his own and also wrote the initial software monitor and Basic program.  Steve was and is a very smart and clever designer.  Woz wanted to give the plans of the Apple 1 for free and in fact did so at Homebrew Computer Club meetings. Of course without the Apple 1 their would be no Apple Company today.

The first sale made by Steve Jobs was just a few days after the original partnership was signed and he sold 50 Apple 1's to Paul Terrell owner of Byte Shop. It could be that without this sale their would be no Apple Computer Company today.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum, bugbook
Zaltair computer - steve wozniak
 "Zaltair Computer"      A really great practical joke that Steve Wozniak  pulled of at the First West Coast Computer Faire in April 1977.  Steve says in his book "iWoz" that he likes to do practical jokes and have someone else get blamed for doing the joke. In the case of the Zaltair he did a very good job and did not get accused of being the originator of the joke in fact Gary Ingram at Processor Technology was the one accursed of doing the hoax. The hoax was directed toward the Ed Roberts and his Mitts Altair 8800 microcomputer. Steve called his friend Adam Schoolsky to come help with this hoax.

More about the Zaltair.

   Woz with Apple 1
Photo by Dan Sokol
I recommend reading the book to learn in Woz's words about the start up of the Apple company and his own story. It is worth a second read if you like history and these fascinating story's told by Woz. The book "iWoz" published in 2006 and was on the New York Times best seller list.

David Larsen

I had the opportunity to read this book for a second time and I learned many new interesting story's  about Wozniak and the Apple Computer Company - a good read

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Vintage Computer - the first portable computer at 200 lbs - Autonetics Recomp 501 (1958)

                  Click photo to enlarge
info click
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Autonetics Recomp 501 digital computer
The Autonetics Recomp 501 is also the very first commercial transistor digital computer. Autonetics computer is now displayed in our museum.  We moved the computer from the warehouse into the museum to help show the time line of computing before the microcomputer revolution.  This computer is serial # 003 & some components in it are date coded 1958 - this may be the earliest transistor digital computer in any a museum.  We are  delighted to have it -- WOW it is small but very heavy - about 200 lbs.

Autonetics Recomp 501 digital computer, bugbook
Autonetics Recomp computer in museum
The computer looks good with all the cards exposed - here it is in the museum.  The size is about 30 inch's high & 40 inch's in length.

It looks like a nice piece of art with all the cards, gold connectors and 1000's of wires connecting the cards.

    David tells about the Autonetics computer he acquired 25 years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Click on photo to enlarge
Bugbook Historical micrcomputer Museum
1958 ad for first 200 lb transistor computer
 This has to be the very first advertisement for a portable computer -about 1958. Look at the photo and see the two fellows carrying this 200 lb computer onto a construction site – WOW what a imagination. This computer is very heavy and these fellows are carrying it like it is only  30 lbs.
Here is some text from the advertisement.

200 lb computer – Portable Digital Computer that can solve your problems where they happen.

It may be a highway construction job --- oil exploration --- and aerial exploration. Where ever your problems happen – in the field – office – or lab.


Here is one side panel with the PC cards. It is built very solid and must have taken a very long time to build by hand.

David Larsen, kk4ww,bugbook,
Autonetics Recomp 501 digital computer

There must be at least 1000 wires in the backplane - all white. Building this computer required lots of Advil. This photo shows only a small part of the wiring.

David Larsen, kk4ww,bugbook,
Autonetics Recomp computer 

Drum memory - looks like the all the registers as well as the data are on this form of memory - ie Accumulator - the instructions were executed serially so this is a very slow computer. 

Autonetics Recomp 501 digital computer

Archive photograph - full operational setup.  This photo takes away the idea that this is a portable computer.

Here is link to another Autonetics computer that I worked on in 1960 and the Recomp computer supplied many ideas for this ICBM computer.

A few references for the seriously interested - a service manual and more.

More photos and information about our Autonetics computer.

Recomp service manual - just in the event you have one and need to get it running.

This list claims the Recomp is the 118th type of digital computer every made

David Larsen
I have had this computer in my collection for 25 years or more and wish I had records of where it came from. I just remember it being in a corner with about 10 or so minicomputers. Most of the minicomputers have gone out to other collectors like Bob Rosenbloom 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Vintage Computer BBC Documentary "iWonder - History of Computing Timeline" using some Bugbook Computer Museum Video Clips

info click
David Larsen & Apple 1
David Larsen & Apple 1
Several months ago I was contacted about using parts of my Apple 1 computer videos for the BBC program - "iWonder - History of Computing Timeline".  I don't know the schedule
of the program however I am delighted they chose to use some of my Apple 1 computer Video for the program.

Click on image to enlarge
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
BBC none exclusive use

Release and permission form to use our material. A simple use of our material however always nice to have some of the work done by our group used.

Earlier BBC documentary "Steve Jobs: Billion Dollar Hippy". BBC used some clips of my Apple one computer in this documentary as well at 11 minutes 50 seconds into the film. I watched this production again and noticed our group got a thank you in the credits as the LCF Group.

David Larsen

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vintage Computer - Super Jolt a 1975 microcomputer using the 6502 Microcomputer

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Super Jolt Computer
info click
The Jolt computer used the 6502 microprocessor and was somewhat advanced in 1975. This is before the Apple 1 or Apple ll and the same year as the Altair 8800 microcomputer. The Altair 8800 sold for $395 in kit from with no software and a very small memory. The Jolt came with a monitor debugger program called Demon and had an interface for the Teletype (RS232 20 MA current loop). The wired unit sold for $348 and kit $249.  Accessory cards were also available like the 4kb RAM memory card for $320. However the computer never became very popular.

Click on image to enlarge and read.
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Jolt full page advertisement

The Jolt microcomputer was released in 1975 by Microcomputer Associates. The company was founded by Ray Holt and Manny Lemas.  The company was later acquired by Synertek, a second source manufacturer of the 6502, and renamed Synertek Systems. Synertek went on to produce the popular SYM-1 microcomputer. Ray Holt did some early microprocessor development work for use in the F-14 Tomcat aircraft.  This work was classified and Ray's design work during the period 1968 to 1970 may have been the very first microprocessor chip set .

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Super Jolt Computer

The Super Jolt computer is on display in our "Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum"  located in Floyd , Virginia. The computer card is setting on top of original box from Jolt. I don't remember just when or who I received the computer from & the box also has a SYM-1 in it. Microcomputer Associates/Synertek produced these computers - this was a nice addition to our collection with 2 new and never used microcomputers.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Super Jolt Microcomputer CPU section

CPU section of the Super Jolt Microcomputer.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Memory Section - Super Jolt

The Super Jolt has more memory the the first Jolt.

David Larsen

Sunday, September 28, 2014

PDP11/10 Vintage Minicomputer in Bugbook Historical Micrcomputer Museum

Our museum has only one minicomputer - (PDP11/10)   on display. We think it is a good idea to have a minicomputer to make comparisons with the microcomputers.  This PDP11 was  made
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
PDP11 computer
info click
in 1971 and cost about as much as a small house. It is easy to see why not many people could afford to purchase a minicomputer for home use. When the first microcomputers became available they were instantly in demand. The Altair 8800 first microcomputer kit made possible home computing  in January of 1975. The Altair 8800 sold for $395 however it was very limited in capability without a lot of skilled work and additions to the computer. The Altair was designed by Ed Roberts. Ed thought he could sell 500 computers however I understand he had 4000 orders the first several months. We are fortunate to have one of the very first Altair 8800's in our collection -- Serial Number 23.

Click photo to enlarge
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
PDP11 and David Larsen, Curator with PDP11

Digital Epuipment Corporation (DEC) made mincomputer from 1960 to about 1990. Microcomputers put DEC out of business with very good low cost computing. The first PDP computer was a PDP1 in 1960. Only about 3 of these computers still survive. The Computer History Museum in Mt. View, California has a restored PDP1 restored and in nice working condition.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
PDP11/10 minicomputer

Many versions of the PDP11 were made and about 600,000 were sold during its 20 year lifetime.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum

The core memory is nonvolatile and does not lose its memory when powered off for the day. This module has very tiny cores -probably  16k words of 16 bits each.

Magnetic core memory module PDP11/10

Click this link for a verbal description.The PDP 11/10 

David Larsen

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Vintage Computers -Graduate Independent Study at "Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum"

info click
We are delighted to be working with Grayson Van Beuren in a Virginia Tech -  Graduate Independent Study program at the museum. Grayson became interested in doing a study after seeing the "Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum"  article in the Roanoke times by  Catherine Van Noy.  Grayson also visited our museum during open house last month.  Grayson has started his project  by making several of our  old computers operational and encouraging folks to give the operating historic computers a try.

Click on photo to enlarge
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
L-R Grayson Van Beuren, David Larsen-Curator
Here is Grayson's Study plan.
Grayson Van Beuren
Material Culture and Humanities
Computers and Museums Material Culture Project
Independent Study Proposal

This independent study’s purpose is to explore the history of the electronic computer through its material culture. It also aims to facilitate a better understanding of the unique preservation and presentation problems surrounding this delicate and largely esoteric field of material culture.                                                          

Grayson Van Beuren tells about his Independent Study at the museum

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
L-R Emily Wilson -Assistant Curator,
 Grayson Van Beuren
The independent study will occur through a partnership with the Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum in Floyd, Virginia. The museum’s founder, retired instructor of instrumentation at Virginia Tech David Larsen, has agreed to host a part of the IS. The museum’s collection represents forty years of collecting on the part of Mr. Larsen. From the museum website:

Mr. Larsen’s expertise in the field of microcomputers, and especially the collection and preservation of microcomputers, should make this a valuable independent study for the student.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Grayson with Apple 1 computer project

The independent study will be comprised of two parts: weekly visits to the museum of three to four hours during which the student will act as an intern, learning about the presentation and preservation of computer material culture in the process, and outside research into the history of the preservation of computer hardware and other forms of material culture associated with the computing field. These two parts of the study will culminate in the student writing a 10-15 page paper summing up his experiences at the Bugbook and examining the problems surrounding preservation and presentation of computer material culture in museums and other historic institutions.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum.
Nathan, Conette, Gaynell Larsen, David Larsen (curator)

We are getting more visitors in the museum every day. On the left is Nathan and Anat Oster from Israel - Saturday 9-13-14. Nathan is a lawyer and Dr. Oster is Head of  Computer Science department, Beit Berl Collage.  They were very enthusiastic about our museum display. Their work in Israel sounds real interesting and we may visit them in the future.

David Larsen
The curators here at the museum are looking forward to working with Grayson. I am sure we will all learn from this independent study.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Vintage Computers - What is in a Name - How we are named the "Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum"

Why we call our museum the "Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum"  - here is the short story.

To enlarge "CLICK" on photo
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Museum bugs
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Bugbook lll
I call our museum  "The Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum"  is because of the original  "Bugbooks" . About 1974 I was part of a team that produced these books. The first two Bugbooks were written and published by Professor Rony and I.  I named the books Bugbooks because the small digital integrated circuits looked like a bug with its legs.  Professor Rony typed the manuscripts and we self published the first few printings of the "Bugbooks" These books were the start of a book series called "The Blacksburg Continuing Education Series" .  The books covered various topics of digital electronics, computers and software. Dr. John Titus and Dr. Chris Titus joined the group and became important members of our team. 
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Bugbooks 1 & 2 for sale
During the period 1974 to 1984 about 75 books were published with a circulation of over 1 million copies.  Our team hired 31  authors to help write books in the series. In addition to the books our team designed several computers and other teaching / engineering aids that were sold world wide. John Titus was the computer designer and I designed the digital engineering  / teaching hardware aids. Most or the books were published and marketed by "Howard W Sams" and the hardware was marked by "E and L Instruments" in Derby Connecticut.  Many engineers, technicians and  electronic hobbyist of the late 70's and 80s used  these books and hardware.  All the books and 
hardware are on display in our museum. A reoccurring comment from  
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Howard W Sams AdvertisingDisplay of 
"Blacksburg Series Books.
folks visiting the museum is - I  learned digital electronics from the "Bugbooks".  The experience with the Blacksburg Group started my interest in collecting microcomputer memorabilia for 40 years and has resulted in the thousands of items collected and the small display in the museum. The Bugbook story involves many relationships, interesting events and eclectic people.  It is my  intent to get the details of these adventures in writing -- soon I hope.

"CLICK" image to enlarge
Howard W Sams Catalog with

Howard W Sams Book catalog with the "Blacksburg Continuing Education Series" Books for sale - about 1978

"CLICK image to enlarge
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
E and L Catalog

E and L catalog 1977 with all the Blacksburg Group books and hardware for sale.

  "CLICK" on photo to enlarge 
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Book Series on display at musem
"CLICK" for more information 

See Video's about Dave's Historical Computer Collection CLICK

David Larsen
We hope you will come visit our museum and enjoy this Blog.  Your comments and suggestions are welcome.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Vintage Computers - Paul Terrell - Helps with information about Apple 1 computer in wooden case.

Click on Photo to enlarge
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Searching for source of this
 wooden case on my 
Apple 1 Computer
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Museum Bugs with
Apple 1 computer 
I received the email below from Paul Terrell 7/4/13 in my hunt to find out where the wooded case on my Apple 1 computer may have originated. Paul started Byte Shop in December 1975 and purchased the first 50 Apple 1 computers from Jobs and Woz. This large purchase played a very important part of the success of the Apple Company start up. Without this purchase and marketing by Byte Shop the Apple Company we know today may not exist.  Paul grew his stores into a franchise operation that reached from the United States to Japan. He also began manufacturing the  "Byte 8" computer for sale in his Byte Shop stores. Paul had a really great idea with his Byte Shop stores. I gleaned  some of this information from Wikipedia - take a look you will find Paul's story a very interesting and an important part of the Personal Computer revolution.

Here is the email from Paul Terrell:
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Paul Terrell
This is from Steve Williams who worked at the Byte Shop in Palo Alto and one of their customers made the wooden cases and sold them to the store managers and owners. I am not sure of the actual wood used but I do remember putting one together myself in the Byte Shop Mt. View (Original store where I bought the first 50 from jobs and Woz) and the wood of that case was not shinny and didn't have any grain to speak of. It could have been Koa . Bob Moody the manager of the Palo Alto store might have a better recollection .

This must have been written by Steve Williams.
The Apple 1 pictured wasn't sold by Steve Jobs at the Byte Shop. Rather, Jobs and Woz sold the Apple 1s to the Byte Shop chain as bare boards, and the Byte Shop chased down keyboards and power supplies, and hired somebody to make the wooden cases pictured. In the photo, the really innovative, bare board computer that Jobs and Woz produced is hidden inside the case.

Photo of Apple 1 with keyboard in wood case.

The Byte Shops had bought the Apple 1s during the year prior to my arrival. By the time I got there, the Apple 1s were an annoyance. Most of them didn't work, they weren't selling, and Apple wasn't being very responsive. The wooden cases were really crappy, too. And the surplus keyboards were expensive and in short supply.
One of my first tasks was to carry a whole stack of bad Apple 1 boards back to Apple. My boss gave me directions to a little one-story office mall in Cupertino. I found it modern, but Apple's offices were pretty bare. I arrived bearing my stack of boards, and the four or five Apple people went and retrieved Jobs. He seemed unfazed that a stack of Apple 1 boards had failed. "So, what do you think of the Apple 1?" he asked. I didn't know anything about it, having worked only on SWTPC 6800 micros and the big computers at BYU. I said something like, "I don't know, but my boss thinks they're not very reliable." He wasn't pleased, but breezed off to dazzle the next visitor. He was pretty famous, in a small way, even then.
It was only a few months later that the Apple II became available. It was hotly anticipated by the hobbyists of the time. The first Apple II delivered to a customer was through our store. Someone from Apple drove up from Cupertino and dropped it off at the store. We set it up on a table in the front of the store and called a bunch of our customers to come in and see it. By the time the buyer arrived, there was an SRO crowd trying to see it draw abstract images (in color!) on a TV set we used as a monitor. (That's about all it did, since no software was available for it.) The buyer scooped it up and took it home, and we didn't see another for weeks.
bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Early Byte Shop Store

I tried to contact Bob Moody the manager of the original Byte Shop Palo Alto store with no luck so far.

Thank you Paul Terrell for this information.

David Larsen
David Larsen KK4WW
I still am not sure of the origin of the wooden case on the Apple 1 computer I purchased from John Burch about 25 years ago. The case is well made and beautiful as you can see from the photo in upper left of this post. I would be delighted to hear from anyone with knowledge of these wooden cases.

."by David Larsen"  KK4WW Computer Collector Historian   
   Join museum on Twitter   Join museum on FB