We're nearing the end of one year and the start of another - and that means the Retro Challenge 2012 Winter Warmup is about to begin! The Rc Winter Warmup runs over January each year, so I'll be kicking off January 1st.
The 8800micro is a kitset that looks similar to, and emulates, a MITS Altair 8800 which is widely regarded as the first commercially successful personal computer - in fact the term "personal computer" was coined by the Altair's inventor, Ed Roberts. The 8800micro is based around an Atmel ATMEGA8515 microcontroller running an emulated Intel 8080 core and a built-in Pocket Term serial to VGA + PS/2 converter. While it's not a real Altair, it's as close as I'm likely to get.
I'll be posting regular updates, so watch this space.
The Atari Portfolio was a small, handheld PC compatible computer developed by, and licensed from, DIP, a Guildford, UK company founded by Ian Cullimore, David Frodsham and Peter Baldwin. The three founders had previously worked on the Psion Organiser - the world's first handheld computer.
The Portfolio, aka DIP Pocket PC, was the first hand held PC compatible, and ran a custom version of DOS called DIP DOS. Powered by three AA batteries, it was entirely solid state and had an excellent battery life. Sporting a suite of built-in applications - Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Diary, Contacts and Calculator - it came with everything needed by the busy executive.
Removable storage was provided by battery backed RAM cards used a predecessor to the PCMCIA standard, which was also developed by Ian Cullmore. The RAM cards had a button cell battery which could retain their contents for several years and appeared on the system as a removable floppy drive.
Unfortunately the Portfolio was not perfect. It had a habit of locking up, requiring a full reset to recover. It had no standard interfaces built-in, so getting data out of the Portfolio required bulky plug-in modules, or a special RAM card reader connected to a desktop PC.
The LCD screen was clear and readable, but was not backlit, and has a small 40 x 8 character resolution compared to the more traditional 80x25. To provide for programs which used the larger 80x25 display it could be configured to treat the LCD as a "window" to a larger full-size screen.
The Portfolio featured in the film Terminator 2: Judgement Day in which it was used by a young John Connor to steal money from an ATM. Despite it's foibles it was moderately successful, and is still used by some enthusiasts today.
CPU: Intel 80C88 @ 4.9152 Mhz ROM: 256KB, containing the OS and built-in productivity applications. RAM: 128KB DISPALY: 40x8 character monochrome LCD SOUND: Beeper PORTS: RAM Card slot and proprietary expansion slot
It was 40 years ago, on the15th November 1971 that Intel released the world’s first commercially available microprocessor.
Work on the 4004 had begun in 1969 when the Nippon Calculating Machine Corporation commissioned Intel to create series of chips for its new Busicom calculator design. At this time, chips were designed for specific purposes, and could perform only limited functions. In order to build a complex device like a calculator large numbers of specialised chips had to be connected together.
When Ted Hoff, the manager of Intel’s Application Research group saw the complexity of the Busicom design he proposed an alternative approach, using a single general purpose processing unit with supporting chips for ROM, RAM and shift registers. This project was initialted as the MCS-4 family, and in April 1970 chip designer Federico Faggin was hired to lead the design project.
Faggin and his team worked on the design over the rest of 1970, and in January 1971 Faggin took delivery of the first 4004 wafers off the manufacturing line. Faggin worked overnight testing the new chip and my early the next morning had confirmed that the chip worked.
The 4004 was a simple 4 bit processor containing about 2,300 transistors. It was a general purpose processor, but was intended solely for calculators. In fact, Nippon Calculating Machine Corporation had exclusive license for the chips for calculators, but Intel retained rights to the design and marketing for non-calculator purposes.
Intel was not the first, or only, company to come up with the idea of a general purpose processor. Notably, Four-Phase Systems Inc. had designed a general purpose computer around such a design which was sold in 1970, but this was a multi-chip CPU design compared to Intel’s single chip. Texas Instruments had a chip available a couple of months after the 4004 was sold to Busicom, but it was rumoured not to work, and was never used. Rockwell International has a single chip CPU ready in 1971.
On 15th November 1971 Intel advertised the 4004 CPU in Electronics News magazine as a general purpose processor, cementing its place as the first commercially available general purpose processor chip. Intel went on to release the 8008 and 8080 8-bit chips, and Federico Faggin left Intel in 1974 to found Zilog, with the express purpose of designing a better 8080, which became known as the the Zilog Z80.
The 8080 and Z80 chips were two of the most popular processors of the early Home Computer Revolution.