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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Computer collecting heyday for historical microcomputers 1985 - 1999

bugbook Microcomputer Museum, David Larsen
Altair 8800 microcomputer- January 1975

I am fortunate to have been collecting historical microcomputers from the very first day they were available. I was not thinking at the time how nice this would be 44 years later.  Obtaining them from the original purchasers was a hayday in the years 1985 to 1999. During this hayday period many owners of these early computers had their first computer stored in the closet or basement and had not used it for years. 

These early owners were pioneers in many ways and they had their heart and sole in their first computer. They often paid what the wife considered a lot of money for a toy that could do very little or in fact nothing useful to the family. Remember prior to the microcomputers a minicomputers cost from $10,000 to $30,000 and was not possible to own one for most individuals. That was the price of a small house in the 1960s .The early users of  these machines invested a lot of time and money and wanted to have someone  preserve their computer. 

I placed a small wanted advertisement in several electronic publications for 35 or more years. hundreds or really their were thousands of responses to my request "Wanted pre1980 microcomputers for historical collection" . Most of my collection was acquired during this time including the 4 original Apple-1 computers in the collection. 

 I recorded all the phone calls in log books and kept all the letters with offers. Looking though some of these letters in the past few days I found them very interesting and decided to share several.  Most people thought I had lost my senses for collecting these unwanted computers however it was great fun for me.  A very big part of the fun was the hunt to find a new computer.

 Sometimes I would wait months or even years before working toward getting the computer offered. You will see this in the letter below taking 5 years between first contact and receiving the computer.
To read CLICK on the letter to enlarge
First letter September 29,1990 about the Altair #21

This inquiry letter from Dean was received in 1990 and it was 5 years later I ask dean if he still had the computer. This resulted in my very best Altair 8800 ( Serial Number 21) . When I received the first letter in 1990 I already had a number of the Altair 8800 computers and did not think too much about adding one more.  

To read click on image 
January 10,1995 letter ready to send the Altair 8800
Five years after the first letter I began to understand that the computers with low serial numbers were much more desirable for a collector and remembered the offer for the Altair 8800 serial number 21. To my surprise and pleasure Dean still had the Altair and was glad to work out a deal for me to add it to my collection.

    The receipt for the Altair is dated December 17,1974. This is the month before the computer was announced in the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. This has to be the very first batch of  Altair computers. The CPU card in the computer is serial number 10.

I loved this part in the letter "The first program I ran was a music program which used an AM radio to pick up bus signals so that music would come out of the speaker. My wife was politely interested." I seem to remember that this music technique was one of the early programs to run on a PDP-1 minicomputer in the early 60's. 

Video of Altair 8800 SN 21 "CLICK" a real good look at this computer


Bugbook Computer Museum
Apple-1 computer offer from Craig Solomonson
Here was a great offer in July 1996 of an Apple-1 from Craig Solomonson. The offer was for more than $15,000 but less then $40,000.  It was a bit short sited of me not to purchase this computer - here is the history of this computer.

Purchased from Frank Anderson, an electronic dealer in Great Falls, Montana by Craig Solomonson for MECC.  Craig reports that this computer was sold by Jobs and shipped from his parents address. Woz seemed a bit confused when Craig showed him the invoice and asked about it. He said "Not sold by us, although Job's may have sold it without telling me." 
  • Sold by Craig to Jesse Sackman in California
  • $50,000 unit sold in Ebay auction 320447681957, late in 2009
  • This is the unit auctioned by Christies in London for 133,250 pounds in November of 2010 to Italian businessman and private collector Marco Boglione
  • Marco continues to have this computer in his collection. 

However this was not the only offer I received for an Apple-1 computer. I had about 10 offers during this period and did purchase 4 Apple-1's - see this for the story of the four Apple-1's.

David larsen, KK4WW
Letter from Jim Trent N3EGE September 1996
Here is a letter from Jim Trent who had been seeing my advertisement in "World Radio" and other publications.

His wife was very glad he found my advertisement now he could get rid of all that old stuff and not have it tossed out in the junk. 

I seem to remember getting all his items for the historical collection.


bugbook computer museum
Post card from Tim Walker N2GIG

Sometimes I would get a simple card like this one from Tim Walker N2GIG.


David Larsen KK4WW
Macintosh Computer
Current Steve Jobs Movie "News": Aaron Sorkin on Steve Jobs, Facebook, and why he ignored the iPhone

David Larsen

I am glad I saved all these letters offering computers as many of them are humorous and often include interesting stories about the owner. I think an interesting book could be written from the stories told by these letters from early microcomputer users.  Thank you for reading my blog and have a wonderful holiday season for 2015. Dave

Monday, November 9, 2015

Computer Museum Curator's Birthday -David Larsen KK4WW is 77 November 17,2015

KK4WW, bugbook computer museum
LR brothers Howard, Chris & myself Dave
This time of year I always reflect on where I have been for the past 77 years (November 17,1938) and what is ahead for the next unknown years. A reflection on my family of 5 brothers & one sister always comes to mind first. The family is small now with only 3 of us brothers still kicking dirt above ground.  Chris (83 years),brother Howard (94 years) and myself  remaining. My parents were just great folks and they grew up in hard times during the early 1900's and Great Depression. Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles long gone now and memories faded.
Happy Birthday Dave

LR Chris & wife Thema, Me & wife Gaynell,
We had a great time during our September 2015 visit to home of Howard - Missouri.

Here we are in Branson having a wonderful BBQ lunch at the famous "BBQ Hut".

This is all the family I have still remaining - down to some second cousins that I do not know. All parents,aunts & uncles, first cousins have passed on.Don't wait to have that family time.

I grew up during the 40's & 50's & the Aunts & Uncles were scattered far and wide from my home and I did not get to know any of them very well.   Cousin's - their are many dozens and I know only a few of them - This is so sad for me.

I do get together as often as possible with my two brothers and always wonder - Will this be the last time? I wrote this in 2014 and we  did get together again in September 2015 - we are sure all getting to look older and my brother Howard at 94 is still living an independent life in his own home but getting a bit on the feeble on his feet.

Brother Howard is a writer and he wrote this "Ode" about our mother. He is correct she was a great Mom always showing us her love. Mother was born in 1899, 99 years old and died in 1999. We enjoyed her loving care for many years.
An Ode To Mother”

I was standing by mother's bedside, watching and praying, as she lay in her tilted bed. Passing the time was very sad. God entered my soul and changed things. “Your mother is on her way to heaven to spend the rest of her days with dad.” Dad went to heaven several years ago. I lost my best friend.

You have been such a comfort to me mom. Your ninety nine years on earth have finally come to an end. As I walk this earth and get older each day, I'll have the rest of the family to enjoy as they work or play.

My children grew up knowing their Grandma. Her love was something they always would feel. At the end of the day before leaving, you would make them a tasty cooked meal. You never had a harsh word, always giving praise when I was around. Mothers and Grandmothers like you are someone that's hard to be found.

When I was just a youngster, we lived on a farm in the woods. You were always up early doing chores and working real hard. When that work was finished you chopped wood in the yard. We bathed ourselves in a galvanized tub. You were always there to give us a scrub.

In the winter you were outside working sometimes in the wind and blowing snow. You never gave up till your face turned red. Then you would go inside, clean up, put some wood in the old cook stove and make cinnamon rolls, and homemade bread. These are the things you did all your life, besides making my dad a wonderful wife. You lived several years after dad passed away, just part of your family is left here to stay.

I will stay here for the rest of my life remembering the good, forgetting the sad. You will be resting in heaven while living with dad. “Goodbye Mother” As you have been lifted above, you have left this earth with all of my love.

I am feeling good now forgetting the sad. When you are resting in heaven say hello and give my love to Dad.
Your Loving Son Howard

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Dad Will, me  & Mom Ruth  1945

This photo brings back the good memories of my mother and father. I was 7 years old in 1945 and in the back ground is a 1941 Chevrolet - just delivered. Dad ordered the Chevy in 1941 however World War ll delayed the delivery by 4 years. 

David Larsen
I am counting down - only 23 to go ?  Could be 23 years or 23 seconds & I vote for the 23 years but sure know I don't have full control of the timing.  I am looking forward to slowing down in the next few years - don't need to travel much as been there done that - I would say just enjoy our children, grandchildren & great grandchildren and the great outdoors we have here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wayne Green founder of; Byte magazine; 73 magazine, Kilobyte, Kilobaud,80 Micro & more

info click
computer museum kk4ww
Wayne Green 
Wayne Green was a prolific person when it came to creating magazines, companies & 100,s of ideas for products. Wayne was also an amateur radio operator W2NSD and many of his creations were related to amateur radio as well as microcomputers.

I was well acquainted with Wayne and we had many meetings and discussions over the years.  He wanted to travel with our group going to the Soviet Union and his comment was "I can fix a lot of their problems'. This comment should give you the idea he had a very big ego and was sometimes eccentric & strange in the way he acted.   The short of this story is he did not go and cancelled at the last minute due to some business deal he was working on. I am sure his staying home was a real blessing for me as if he would have made the trip it would have been an international disaster.

Wayne did have a brilliance about him and created many successful ventures. He proclaimed to be the best in about  everything  including finance, marketing, health, food, travel, microcomputers, politics, cold fusion and the moon landing, the list does not end. He also served as a founder and first secretary of American Mensa.

computer museum
73 Magazine September 2003

I liked Wayne and helped write some articles for his publications over the years. Here is an issue of his ham radio magazine "73 Amateur Radio Today" September 2002 -  I furnished the cover photo and did a story about our "Foundation for Amateur International Radio Service" (FAIRS) work in Dominica. Read the FAIRS story.

That is me at the top of the ladder putting up our ham radio antenna's in Roseau, Dominica.

As we have said Wayne was an interesting fellow and Randy Kindig published "Floppy Days 48 - Kevin Savetz Interviews Wayne Green". This interview was January 29, 2013 and Wayne died the following September. This had to be nearly the last recorded interview given by Wayne Green.

I have posted the whole blog below with permission from Randy Kindig. I think you will find this interesting history about Mr. Green. You can even check out the FBI file on Wayne.


Welcome to a special interview-only episode of the Floppy Days Podcast.  For this show, we have an interview conducted by Kevin Savetz, interviewer-extraordinaire from the Antic Podcast.  Kevin conducted this interview 2 years ago.  Since the interviewee and topic are not Atari-related, but are very much vintage computer related, Kevin and I thought perhaps Floppy Days would be a good medium for publishing this interview.

Wayne Green, Computer Magazine Publisher
Wayne Green was founder of 73 magazine; Byte magazine; Kilobyte, which became Kilobaud, then Kilobaud Microcomputing; 80 Micro magazine for the TRS-80; Hot Coco for the TRS-80 Color Computer; Run for the Commodore 64, inCider magazine for the Apple II; and several other computer magazines.

This interview took place over Skype on January 29, 2013, when I was doing research for a book about the very first personal computer magazines — Byte, Kilobyte, and Creative Computing. Although I've decided not to write the book, I am publishing the interviews that I did for them.
Wayne Green died on September 13, 2013, eight months after we did this interview.
Teaser quotes:

"Sharing is the big deal for me. When I find something fun, interesting, I have to share it."
"Steve Jobs ... I heard about the Apple computer so my wife and I stopped by to visit him. ... He took me out to the garage and showed it to me. He says, 'What do you think?' I said 'I think you've got a winner. There's a first computer conference is going to be in Atlantic City in two weeks. Be there.' He says 'Oh, I can't afford to fly.' I said, 'Take a bus. Be there.'"

"Amelia Earhart kept her plane at my dad's airport. ... I used to play in that when I was a kid. ... I'm one of the few people who knows exactly what happened to her."


An article remembering Wayne:

Wayne Green FBI file:

Kilobaud Microcomputing issues: 

See  Randall's original podcast here published October 24,2015.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
David Larsen
Wayne Green was an interesting person and prolific writer. I always enjoyed reading his editorial "Never Say Die" in 73 Magazine .

           ."by David Larsen"  KK4WW Computer Collector Historian

Monday, October 19, 2015

8008 Microprocessor and how it became Intel's first 8 bit chip.

Updated 11-7-15
Here is a fascinating story about the how the Intel 8008 microprocessor chip became the first 8 bit chip designed at Intel. The 8008 microprocessor used the logic  of the Datapoint 2200 terminal.

bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Datapoint 2200 terminal 

The Datapoint 2200 terminal - was an 8 bit programmable computer that came to market in 1971 --- way before Apple, IBM or Microsoft.

Datapoint 2200 terminal - audio description of the terminal/ computer and the Datapoint Corporationa and the 8008 microprocessor.

   More information "CLICK"

Here is a good look at the Datapoint Corporation  and a good read - also a lot of early history about the first microprocessor chips and Intel.

"Datapoint - The lost story of the Texans Who Invented the Personal Computer Revolution" by Lamont Wood - ISBN 978-1-936449-36-1
(2010) 325 pages

This book is about "Computer Terminal Corporation" and later known as Datapoint.

If you are interested in the start of the microcomputer revolution and the history of the pioneers - this is a must read book. Amazon Link

Click photo to enlarge 

The Man Who Invented the PC,Invention & Technology, Fall 1994 , by Lamont Wood.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
David Larsen
 I have 2 of  the Datapoint terminals in our museum and they always generate a lot of interest and questions for the curator.
           ."by David Larsen"  KK4WW Computer Collector Historian

Monday, September 28, 2015

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

info click

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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