BlathrWayne Lorentz

Showing blathrs with the tag “Vintage computing.”

♫ Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer ♫

Friday, December 23rd, 2022 Alive 18,868 days

MicroChess on a KIM Uno hooked up to a MacBook Pro

I almost beat a computer at chess today. Almost.

I've been playing chess against computers for four decades now, and have never beaten one. Not even once. Not even on “novice” levels. If a chess board had pieces more worthless and expendable than pawns, I would be one of those pieces.

But I keep playing. Atari 2600 Video Chess? Kicked my ass. Sargon Ⅱ on a Commodore 64? Took my lunch money and gave me a wedgie. Battle Chess on an IBM XT? Bought me flowers, took me to dinner, brought me home, kissed my hand and then didn't call me the next day.

Tonight I did something I have never done before: I managed to “check” a computer opponent.

The opponent was MicroChess on a KIM Uno, the modern-day incarnation of the old MOS KIM-1 machine.

The KIM did eventually beat me, but for once it wasn't the sort of Gulf War shock-and-awe defeat I'm used to.

I got the KIM because I nurse a fascination with the early days of computing, and because I found out that one can be built for under $20. That's another of my fascinations: Ultra-cheap computers.

My KIM Uno, happily letting me know that white pawn 0F moved from space 13 to space 33. I later housed it in a cardboard box

The KIM Uno is a good way to get a taste of what it was like to compute in 1976. But it's not a faithful reproduction. It's more like a tribute than a recreation. The KIM software runs on a miniature single board computer, and has been modified in ways that make a lot of concessions to the limitations of the Arduino side of its split personality.

There are a lot of web sites on the internet that talk about the Uno, but it's clear that the people who blog about this machine put the parts together, poked in about six instructions of 6502 assembly, and then moved on to other things. If they had stuck with the KIM Uno, there would be an extensive library of modern software available for it the way there is for other new models of old computers.

One sure sign that nobody has ever used a KIM Uno for anything other than a minor plaything is that nowhere on any of the web pages flogging it do the writers mention battery life. I surmise that none of them used it long enough for that to be a concern.

The Kim Uno's primary problem is that it lack expandability. One of the greatest assets of the original KIM-1 was that it could be expanded in many ways. You could add memory. Add storage devices. Add circuits and relays and printers and terminals and pretty much anything the hobbyist could imagine. The KIM Uno leans on the Arduino's built-in serial port, and that's about its only connectivity. But even that serial port is fixed at a speed and parameters that make it incompatible with a number of era-appropriate terminals.

There is an expansion port of sorts on the KIM Uno, but it isn't documented. There's a single picture on the internet of the KIM Uno driving a small OLED display, but no information about how to do that. And worse, the KIM Uno machine driving the display isn't even running the KIM-1 ROMs. It's being used to emulate a COSMAC ELF.

To summarize: unlike the KIM-1, the only thing the KIM Uno is good for is to play chess. But on the other hand, the KIM-1 cost the equivalent of $1,300 today dollars, while the KIM Uno can be had for less than $12 in parts. But with that reduction in price comes a reduction in possibilities. And the whole reason people got into computers in the 1970ʼs was because at the time, we thought the possibilities of technology were endless.

❖ ❖ ❖

And the price hasnʼt changed, either

Friday, December 2nd, 2022 Alive 18,847 days

A screenshot of the film Trading Places

In the 1983 movie Trading Places, Don Ameche can be seen reading a Wall Street Journal. The back page has an ad for the Apple ][ and Apple /// with the line “The first problem they solve is what to give for Christmas.”

Thatʼs just as true today, 39 years later, as it was then.

❖ ❖ ❖

You are about to be eaten by a grue

Sunday, July 3rd, 2022 Alive 18,695 days

Some people like to measure a computerʼs ability to asking if it can run Linux. Some ask if it can run Doom. I ask, ”Can it run Zork?” The answer for my TRS-80 Model 100 is “Yes, with a little help.”

❖ ❖ ❖

Itʼs the Tower of Pisa

Monday, March 15th, 2021 Alive 18,220 days

Htop, seen with a TRS-80 Model 100 terminal

Today I learned that top does not respect terminal settings. But htop does.

❖ ❖ ❖

Because it's nano

Sunday, March 14th, 2021 Alive 18,219 days

Nano editing a file in a terminal on a TRS-80 Model 100

Today I learned that Nano works fine on the tiny screen of a TRS-80 Model 100.

❖ ❖ ❖

You are likely to be eaten by a grue

Saturday, March 13th, 2021 Alive 18,218 days

Zork in a terminal on a TRS-80 Model 100

I can finally play Zork on my TRS-80 Model 100. Sort of.

Iʼm actually using the Model 100ʼs terminal program to connect to a wifi dongle on the back of the machine which connects to my wifi router, which connects to my Mac Mini, where the game is actually running.

Some day Iʼd like to run Zork on this actual machine, but that would entail installing CP/M on the 100, which is still a very experimental process, and more complicated than I have time for.

❖ ❖ ❖

Welcome to 1983

Saturday, March 13th, 2021 Alive 18,218 days

…and weʼre online!

Slightly less dramatic than connecting to CompuServe for the first time, but nevertheless a personal communications victory.

❖ ❖ ❖

Did you press the button?

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 Alive 17,691 days

A Halloween decoration at Target
  • Square, black keys?
  • CLR/HOME key?
  • INST/DEL key?
  • RESTORE key?
  • RUN STOP key?
  • and cursor keys?
  • Dedicated currency key?

Yep, the Commodore PET has been immortalized as a Halloween trinket at Target.

In keeping with the Halloween theme, the HELLO, HELP, and Escape keys have been highlighted.

❖ ❖ ❖

Recursive

Friday, February 22nd, 2019 Alive 17,468 days

A TRS-80 Model 100 running the Associated Press Mouse program

I have written down my memories of using a TRS-80 Model 100 as a journalist.

To keep it kosher, I wrote it on my TRS-80 Model 100.

❖ ❖ ❖

Monday, February 18th, 2019 Alive 17,464 days

The Wikipedia entry for “Teletype”

How much knowledge has been lost thanks to the “information age?”

The entry for “Teletype” in Wikipedia is just 2 paragraphs.

❖ ❖ ❖

Friday, February 8th, 2019 Alive 17,454 days

I just found a USB memory stick in the dryer.

This is why old computers were better. Nobody ever accidentally left a floppy disk in their pants pocket.

❖ ❖ ❖

Friday, August 24th, 2018 Alive 17,286 days

A TRS-80 and a coffee at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Relaxing, retro style.

❖ ❖ ❖

Friday, July 13th, 2018 Alive 17,244 days

Worst tech job of the 1980’s: Typesetter at Computer Shopper.

❖ ❖ ❖