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

Monday, September 28, 2015

Alexander Bell gets patent for Telephone - 3 minutes of history podcast

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Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Alexander Graham Bell
Here is 3 minutes of how Alexander Bell received his telephone patent. This podcast story is told by Curtis Anderson N4ON curator of the Telephone Museum in Richmond, Virginia. Podcast made during a visit to the Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum.

Alexander Bell get telephone patent ahead of other inventor by chance.

Click photo to enlarge
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Autonetics 1958 transistor computer
Oldest Transistor computer in the world

Curtis Anderson N4ON the story teller for our podcast today is inspecting what is perhaps the very oldest transistor computer in the world. This computer is on display in our museum.

The computer is an Autonetics Recomp 2.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
David Larsen
Thank you for the visit Curtis - it was fun to talk about vintage computers and old times during our careers of 30 or more years ago.
           ."by David Larsen"  KK4WW Computer Collector Historian 

Friday, September 18, 2015

PDP-8 Minicomputer Interfacing - How to connect your PDP-8 to the outside world 1972

Heath Schlumberger
Heath Schlumberger logo
BugbookHeath / Schlumberger computer interface brings the inside of your PDP-8 computer outside to the real world - 1972.        This was the advertising byline for the interface unit.
Click photo to enlarge -
Heath Schlumberger EU-801E PDP-8 Interface
Heath Schlumberger EU-801E PDP-8 Interface

 The Heath/Schlumberger interface unit brings all the address/data bus and control signals to the outside world in the instrument you see to the left of the PDP-8 computer in the photo. I have found very little information on the web about this unit.

Here is the interface connected to a PDP-8L minicomputer with a graduate student testing the operation.

 I was a consultant for the Heath/Schlumberger company on this project - Here is the short story of this adventure.

 Dr. Howard Malmstadt at the University of Illinois was a pioneer in the teaching electronic instrumentation to who people who were not engineers but were scientist and technicians needing to know about electronics and electronic measurements. Howard  did this work in the early 1960's with the help of Dr. Chris Enke at Princeton University.  Dr. Malmstadt named this teaching technique and equipment "Electronics for Scientist".  The course work consisted of a text books and a equipment in a teaching station.

I was fortunate in 1967 to attend 4 week workshop"Electronics for Scientist" at the University of Illinois taught by Dr. Howard Malmstadt.  Professor Malmstadt invited me back to be an assistant for his workshops for the next 4 Summers. Working with Dr. Malmstadt during this time developed into an invitation to consult with the Heath Schlumberger company in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Professor Malmstadt and Professor Chris Enke were working with the Heath Schlumberger company on the  interface package for the PDP-8 minicomputer.This device was the EU-801E. It simplified the teaching of computer interfacing/automated instrumentation and designing projects using PDP-8 minicomputers.

While writing this blog I was able to make contact with Chas Gilmore the Engineering Manager for this product at Heath Schlumberger.  Chas had some interesting information about the development of the EU-801E.

 Chas Gilmore - Here is a synopsis of what I remember of the EU-800 saga--Dave may well be able to add more. Way back when, I worked with Dave Larsen when he was consulting on the EU-800 Series. He was at Blacksburg--Virginia Tech at the time if I remember correctly. I was the design engineer on the EU-805,
When I got to Heath in 1966 that system was in its very beginnings and the design was mostly discrete components (jam packed cards) and was pretty impractical. They then decided to use RTL but still struggled with cards, especially for the instrument which were really too complex. I found digital integrated circuits intriguing as can be and started doing investigation in that area on my own. That was when I found this new technology called TTL. So, just for grins I took some of the functional blocks, they had designed (one card was a decade counter and it drove a second card that had latches and Nixie tube decoder/drivers--again all discrete) and redesigned it in TTL. That reduced the design to a single card and not a lot of parts. I took it to the project engineer who scoffed at the design. That got my back up so I took it to the department Chief Engineer--our common boss. He was intrigued and arranged a meeting with Malmstadt and Enke. They were also very intrigued--and liked using the latest technology. The net result was the other guy was relieved of project responsibility and I became the project engineer--and the whole project went to TTL. We also boosted the speed of the counter from 2 - 3 MHz to 12.5 MHz (a truly blinding speed!!).

I still have manuals for these products but no longer have either an EU-805 nor an EU-801.

The EU-801-E came along later as a companion to the recently introduced PDP-8L--a PDP-8 computer available for just under $10,000. What a breakthrough. By then I was the Engineering Manager for the department. This extension of the EU-800 series came along after the EU-805 and EU-801 had been on the market for a couple of years. Unfortunately, none of it sold terribly well and it didn't take long for Jimmy Lee (who had been brought in to head up the Scientific Instruments Department and was my boss) started to push for non-EU products (all of the EU-series were related to the Malmstadt/Enke Electronics for Scientists systems which were created as laboratory hardware which supported experiments for the Malmstadt/Enke textbooks.) I don't remember exactly when Dave became associated with the project but it may well have been in conjunction with the EU-801-E.

PDP-8 minicomputer Interface
Advertisement Heath Schlumberger EU-801E

Here is an advertisement for the PDP-8 Heath/Schlumberger interface equipment in the June 1972 issue of the Analytical Chemistry  journal.

This is about the only item I can find online about this Heath/Schlumberger product.

I have one of the interface units in my museum warehouse and this is the buffer amplifier used to connect the PDP-8 interface signal to the the interface  trainer.

Card to access all the PDP-8 I/O signals
Card to access all the PDP-8 I/O signals

The computer signals from the buffer box come out to this interface card giving you access to the computer address and data bus plus control signals. 

Bugbook computer museum
Heath Schlumberger Digital Trainer
The interface card above plugs into this unit for power and wiring your custom interface.

Heath Schlumberger EU-801E PDP-8 Interface
Heath Schlumberger EU-801E PDP-8 Interface

Here is a view of the interface unit wired to a PDP-8L with a custom interface being tested.

bugbook computer museum
David Larsen
These units never became widely used - I would estimate that only a few hundred were sold. It was just to complicated for most people to consider making their own custom interface to a minicomputer. 

This is me using one of the interface units teaching about minicomputer interfacing.

Professor Dessy and I taught a number of workshop using this equipment until the microcomputers made the PDP-8 minicomputer obsolete.  Teaching these workshops away from home was a real challenge - we packed the PDP-8 in a crate with the other equipment and sent it ahead for the workshop. This must have been a least 400 lbs of equipment.  We went as far as San Francisco for one program and in the early 70's. This was the start of my 22 years of teaching various Computer Interfacing and Instrumentation workshops in many parts of the world including the old Soviet Union.

Heath Malstadt teaching station

My experience with Dr. Malmstadt helped develop my teaching technique used for  31 years as a faculty member at Virginia Tech. I used his books and equipment as part of my courses in "Electronic Instrumentation".

 Here is advertisement of Professor Malmstadt's teaching station sold by Heath Schlumberger 1963.

I owe Dr. Malmstadt a lot of gratitude for all the help he gave me in my early years of teaching. Howard was one of the most kind and humble professors I have known. He was just a great and wonderful person.

Take a look here  about Dr. Howard Malmstadt's work at the University of Illinois. Dr. Malmstadt passed away July 7, 2003.

David G Larsen
David G Larsen

John Simkiss visited the museum on Friday September 4th and picked up
his Altair 8800 computer. The computer has been restored to full working condition and is low serial # 414. We had a great day talking about the history of microcomputers and visiting the museum & warehouse.

"by David Larsen" KK4WW Computer Collector / Historian         
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Sunday, September 6, 2015

MITS Altair 8800 SN414 Microcomputer goes to new home

John Simkiss
John Simkiss
BugbooksIt was a pleasure to have John Simkiss visit our  Computer Museum & Warehouse to pick up the Altair 8800 to take home for his collection. We spent the day having great conversations about the history of microcomputer and the people that made it happen. It was fun and a lot of reminiscing about old times while touring the museum warehouse with thousands of items from my 40+ years of collection microcomputer memorabilia.

Introducing John to our tiny village of Floyd,Virginia (419 folks here) and a tour of our Chantilly Festival Farm project along with some good meals made for a great day.

John describes his visit to the  Computer Museum in his own words
    A video of the MITS Altair 8800 transfer from the museum to John Simkiss. - "CLICK"

Click photo to enlarge
 John Simkiss - David Larsen
LR John Simkiss - David Larsen

This is a happy John Simkiss with his new addition of the Altair 8800 to his collection and the  Computer Museum curator on the right David Larsen.

This Altair 8800 was restored by Win Heagy to make it fully functional.

I will miss this computer however it will be replaced by one from our museum warehouse. I also have a lower serial number Altair 8800 - Number 0021 here is video  "CLICK".

Bugbook Computer Museum
John Simkiss with Titus 8080 Octal Code Card

John went  home with several additional historical microcomputer items including this "John Titus's 8080 Octal code card shown in the photo.

Several other first of a kind from our museum collection for John - One of the first Intel 8 bit microprocessor chips the 8008 and a never out of the box - one of the very first Intel EPROM chips the 1702A.

John added some nice items to our museum collection as well as taking some home - he donated  HP 41C, HP41CX, HP 19B2 calculators with manuals. Really nice addition. I think that 19B Business Consultant 2 will be used in our business in addition the museum collection.

Altair 8800 microcomputer
John pointing our the MARK-8 computer

John pointing out one of our MARK-8 computers on display in the museum.

Here is a full audio description of this display case including the MARK-8 -- "CLICK"

Apple-1 microcomputer
Apple computer display

Looking over part of our Apple microcomputer displays. We also made a visit to the local bank vault where our museum's original Apple-1 computers are stored for a good look. More about our original Apple-1 computers look here "CLICK"

Here is a video of this Altair in operation "CLICK"

Bugbook computer museum
Altair original CPU board version  0

A peak inside John's Altair at an original MITS CPU board revision 0 with serial number in the 400's on the board.

C8080A Intel Microprocessor
C8080A Intel Microprocessor

Original C8080A microprocessor chip in the Altair.

1K MITS Altair RAM memory
1K MITS Altair RAM memory

Original 1K MITS Altair RAM memory board revision 0 and serial number 451 with computer sn 414.

David G Larsen
David G Larsen
This was just a fun day with John reminiscing about microcomputer history in our little town of Floyd, Virginia.

 "by David Larsen" KK4WW Computer Collector / Historian 
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Microcomputer Computer Museum curator looks at old times

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When writing one of my blog post or working in the computer museum I always think about events in my past various careers. This may be of interest only to me however here are few milestones that came to mind tonight. My wife and I also get to talking about old times now and then and it is fun to look back over my 76+ years.

Bugbook Computer Museum
David Larsen W7VZW
My growing up years were in Oregon during the 40's & 50's.

This photo is my amateur radio station in 1954. My interest in electronics and amateur radio would determine my career for the next 51 years.

Graduated from Oregon State University in 1963 after a 2 years of duty in the Navy.

To enlarge "CLICK" on photo,s
Bugbook Computer Museum
David Larsen 1957 computer school
Started Navy duty in September 1957 and was sent to school at Remington Rand Univac in St. Paul, Mn. This was so long ago that the famous Dr. Grace Hopper was there at the same time working as senior scientist developing computer programming. She wrote the very first compiler program. Dr. Hopper was 51 years old at the time I was at Remington Rand Univac. She retired from the Navy in 1986 at 80 years old as  rear admiral and lived until 1992.

Bugbook Computer Museum
David did complete the training 

While in training for the Navy at Remington Rand Univac I did manager to complete several courses of study.

This was my first experience with computers and it created a curiosity about computers that has lasted to this very day.

Bugbook Computer Museum
David's First design project at VT
After graduating from Oregon State University in 1963 I worked as an engineer for several companies before my 31 years as a faculty member at Virginia Tech (VT).  The companies were Raytheon, Konel, Fairchild, and Varian Associates then on to VT in 1967 as a faculty member.

This photo taken in 1968 was one of my first projects at VT. I designed some circuits that would take the output of a digital multimeter and print & punch out the information on  paper tape using the ASR33 teletype. It may not seem like much now but data was read off a strip chart recorder and then manually digitized for computer entry before I designed this automated digital data logger.  A few years later I did some consulting for IBM and Analog Devices and they both built and sold commercial products using my ideas.

Bugbook Computer Museum
David teaching PDP-8
Interfacing workshop 1970
During my 31 years at Virginia Tech I taught many short courses in "Data Automation and Computer Instrumentation.  These workshops were just great and also provided travel to dozens of countries. Tonight just received an email from Nick Cloyes who attended one of our workshops in 1976 - a lot of reminiscing with this.

This photo is one of the early workshops using a PDP-8L Minicomputer about 1970. I did not do this work alone and was joined by various faculty during the 31 years at VT. Some of my colleagues were professors Dessy, Rony and Field, Jon Titus & Chris Titus at the Blacksburg Group and others on various occasions.

Bugbook Computer Museum
Outboards - digital teaching aids

About 1974 I designed some very simple digital teaching modules and called them "Outboards". They were marketed by E & L Instruments of Derby, CT along with the Bugbooks and other products developed my colleagues at the Blacksburg Group.

Bugbook Computer Museum

A catalog page from E & L Instruments showing a few of the "Outboards" in 1975. E & L also sold most of the digital products developed by our "Blacksburg Group" - some of the products were the MMD-1 computer, Bugbooks, Outboards, and other digital teaching equipment. See more here "CLICK"

Bugbook Computer Museum
teaching a digital electronics workshop 
Digital electronics were new to everyone in the late 60's and we taught many short courses to Virginia Tech faculty and researchers in digital electronics - learning all about Gates and Flip-Flops.

These folks are using the Outboards and powering the experiments with a 6 volt lanter battery.

That is me leaning over at the back of the room near the screen in 1974.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Their are many more milestones and stories along the way for me however; I have ended up at this time with a wonderful collection of microcomputer memorabilia and writing this blog. A small part of the collection is displayed in the " Historical Microcomputer Museum"  Floyd,Va.  I sure have lots of fond memories working with these old computers.

David G Larsen
David G Larsen

 "by David Larsen" KK4WW Computer Collector / Historian 
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Websites & blogs for computer collectors & historians

Bugbooks bugbook
Bugbooks "CLICK"

David Larsen KK4WW dec
Old Digital Equipment Corporation Computer 
I have been a collector of historical computer memorabilia for more than 40 years.   To help with the search for information I  have also collected a list of websites of computer museum's,  computer  history blogs and other sites useful for information about old computers.

Here is my collection of these websites I hope you fine this useful. Save this URL for getting the newest updates "CLICK"

Computer History - Websites & Blog's

David makes a few comments about this page. 
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Click Name to go to blog or web page.  
These are not in order - New sites are added at the bottom of the list.

Great History Resource - Computer History MuseumCollector of Classic Computers Rich Cini
Mark 8 Microcomputers
History of Computing in Learning and Education Project Wiki!
HCLE Virtual Museum Blog by Liza Loop
S100 Computers  John Monahan 
Bugbook Computer Museum
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
The Calculator Reference - Rick Furr, Blacksburg , VA 
Bob Denton  History - pioneers
Bill Degnan's  Vintage Computer. net        
David Greelish's Classic Computing
David Larsen'sVintage Computer Museum Video's  
Obsolete Technology Old Computers 
Bruce Damer Digibarn
Rick Crandall   a pioneer of computer timesharing services
Erick Klein's Vintage Computer
David Larsen's Apple 1 Computer Video's 
Dan Reganti's Classic Computers
Mike Willegal's Hobby Blog 
Jeffery Jonas Classic Computers
Mid Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyist
Computer History Museum   
Living Computer Museum
Rhode Island Computer Museum
Official IMSAI web site 
Inventors - computers 
SCELBI computer museum - Cameron Cooper 
Herb's S-100 stuff  Herb Johnson's Blog
The Unofficial CP/M Web site 
PC History
SOL 20 
Vintage Calculator Museum Great Information by Nigel Tout
Apple History 
Michel Bardel's list of calculators.
Rhode Island Computer Museum 
Photos of old computer/calculator
Endicott History & Heritage Center is presenting the IBM Endicott Collection 
The Museum of Information Technology at Arlington
The Personal Computer Museum       SYD BOLTON , Brantford, Ontario, Canada 
Fun with Electronics and more - Tronola  by Stephen H. Lafferty 
Historical Computers and Vintage Computer Restoration
 Rich Cini Classic Computer Pages
Eniac a real vintage computer - great stories and photos 
Old Technology Collection     Mike Loewen collection 
Vintage CPU Computer Chips  -  Collectibles, Memorabilia & Jewelry
IBM Archives 
Classic Computer Magazine Archive
Terry Stewart's vintage computers
Early Office Museum
Antique Chip Technology Revisited
Top 40 Vintage Computers Selling on ebay weekly  
Les amis du Bolo's Computer Museum - Lausanne switzerland   More Museum    Blog
Apple Museum in Moscow, Russia 
Hewlett Packard computer museum
Alex's Apple Orchard Bill and son Alex
Carl Friends minicomputer site 
Jason Fitzpatrick - blogger / collector
I T History Society
American Computer & Robotics Museum
Vintage collection of Flat Pack IC's  VINTCHIP site
Future Bots By Dan Mathias
Virtual Display by Santo Nucifora
Computer Museum Collection of Brian L. Stuart a faculty member at Drexel
TRS-80 Revived site by Ira Goldlang
Shrine Of Apple creation of Jonathan Zuf
VintageMicros Inc. specializes in vintage and obsolete memorabilia
RetroMacCast Where old Macs live again
 Vintage Mac Museum working collection of the pre-Intel Apple Macintosh
Computer Museum of America 
Dalby Datormuseum Sweden 
American Radio History - David Gleason's 2 million pages on line includes Byte Magazine
 Computer Asylum  
New Zealand Computer Museum    Techvana      
Museum of Computing UK     history of computing and digital development     
Vintage Mac Museum   private, working collection of Adam Rosen
6502 Microprocessor resource  by Mike Naberezny Computer Preservation  Mary E. Hopper website
The National Museum of Computing
The Turing Digital Archive
Center for Computer History UK
Vintage Computer Festival
DECconnection dedicated to the memory of our founder and hero, Kenneth H. Olsen (20 Feb 1926 - 6 Feb 2011).
SInclair ZX 81 Museum 
Freeman PC Museum  Jim Cox Lab Manager at Microsoft
Glenn’s Computer Museum - CenTaur Technology
Retro Computing News  Stuart Williams, Walsall, England
.history of personal computing in Audio & Pictures by Jeff and David   Stefan's Personal Collection
Computer communities

David G Larsen
David G Larsen

A computer web site you like and not here - send it to me for adding.. 

 "by David Larsen" KK4WW Computer Collector / Historian 
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