Notes from the vault – 0x02

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Transputers

– Why are you disposing of all this hardware?

Garage bygones

6Oct2020, V1.5
Which hardware? This. One of the prospective buyers asked me that question. Why am I disposing of all this hardware?

I had saved these transputer TRAM boards from becoming e-waste some twenty years ago.

But when I had set up the extra work lamp and crept in below the low roof, I was surprised. In that little space there was so much to remember. Or re-collect.

But there were two boxes there with contents that I did not at first recognise. Not until I recollected that I had, at the time, been surprised when I discovered that another colleague’s stuff had already become e-waste. This was rather soon after this person had died. I saved the boxes, also from the fate of being flipped over, into the waste cage. The other day I found some really powerful transistors, some vacuum tubes, resistors and capacitors, diodes and screws in those boxes. Nice stuff, but we only talk about some delay. You know what I mean.

I have learned that calcium in our bones is kept in balance by calcium absorption and bone tissue breakdown working together. What comes in, must go out. I have some genes making me collect, but I also have some that make me dispose of. And I have this nagging feeling, as proven by the two extra boxes, that this won’t last forever.

If I don’t open my own boxes and find out what’s there now – and do enjoy, neither my wife nor children or grandchildren might come close to the pleasure I just found. When I do all this XMOS XCore and XC stuff, I know where it came from. I know what technically changed my life. From what I did find in the head banging part of the garage loft.

Once a year I have, up to now at least (in these covid-times, that’s a year ago) been invited to tell freely about what I have in mind, for students in real-time programming, at the local university (NTNU, where I also am a censor). Some of my lectures started with a picture of a box containing a roll of punched tape from my diploma. Yes, I also found that box the other day. And I think the students enjoy! As a starter it’s ok to be coming from → out of this world.

My 1994 Compaq PC

I do have a PC where I could, I guess, add the smallest TRAM motherboards, install the beautiful D7405A occam 2.1 toolset (from 1996, I still have all the manuals, but no disks..), insert some TRAMs and really enjoy delving into occam. Again.

When I started with Macs in 2002, I kept the 1994 PC in the house for some years. In 2011 I carried it over to the garage. It has ever since resided in another, more spacious room.

But I like working with XC so much, and plan to do some more ASIC work, and even have some other things I want to spend my time on. I think it almost doesn’t matter what we are interested in, as long as we are interested in something.

I guess, that’s why I now dispose of all this hardware. There are people out there who have enjoying keeping the transputer legacy as a future-recollectable art – as a hobby! Great! Or stronger: thanks!

By the way, fancy a Compaq Presario CDS-523 with Windows 95 from 1994? In 1994 this was the most Apple look-alike that I could find. It would cost postage only.. My “lamp” iMac G4 has not entered the garage yet, even if I haven’t powered it since 2016. By the way, it’s not for sale, not even for money. I think.

Update: I have got comments. I should not sell them all, I should keep some, I should let my XMOS XC hobby join the transputer as a hobby. I should find fun ways to connect them. Thanks, very good points! But when all TRAMS on the list have gone, there would be crumbs left. There would be some boards with a T225 16 bits transputer and a boot TRAM and the display TRAM. Should I do this, I’d start there. But I don’t know what to make. All my XMOS / XC projects have ended up in boxes that are finished and do a job. The aquarium controller, the aquarium radio client that reads its values, the audio bass/treble box and the LED PWM controller unit. There are manuals and buttons to press, displays to view values. I can even show them to someone who would understand what I have been making. And I can tell why. A year ago I started with ASIC and Verilog, but that is left behind. I plan to take it up. I remember that I started on a big oscilloscope with tubes when I was a youth, in the sixties. I yawned too high, so I could not finish. But I have the CRT tube. I then started with a large double superheterodyne radio, also with tubes. I haven’t had the courage to let the remains go, but the radio didn’t happen. But I learned a lot, also about what to start and what not to start. Getting a transputer system up and going, sitting on my Mac, and finding some one-of-a-kind product to make, might also end up as never having happened. And, should this ever, still happen, I could buy a TRAM or two back, couldn’t I? Maybe they could read from a 32*32 bits magnetic-core matrix I have, and show the results on a row of 12 nixie tubes that I also have? I could make a lecture or two on computer archeology. I could even embark the Intel 4004 and all surrounding chips that I also have. All, so interesting. Those would be quite some new starts. Grand, especially at my age. Or polishing to finish what I do have and watch the new xcore.ai space. I just can’t wait to get this sale finished.

Fun fact

Lucky Strike with Missing Bytes

See published article in IEEE life members newsletter (Dec.2020) (here)

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