[ExI] The most important personal computers in history, ranked
William Flynn Wallace
foozler83 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 15 21:20:31 UTC 2021
The way I heard it was at IBM: you could wear any color shirt you wanted
as long as it was white or blue. Buttoned down of course.
But the people who never met the public, i.e. the techs, could have long
hair, wear jeans, etc.
The guys in the white shirts designed nothing except marketing strategies.
The hippies did the tech work. bill w
On Sun, Aug 15, 2021 at 12:52 PM spike jones via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
> -----Original Message-----
> From: extropy-chat <extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org> On Behalf Of
> Bill Hibbard via extropy-chat
> Sent: Sunday, August 15, 2021 10:11 AM
> To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Cc: Bill Hibbard <hibbard at wisc.edu>
> Subject: Re: [ExI] The most important personal computers in history, ranked
> > Forty years ago this week, the iconic IBM PC made its debut, . . .
> > https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/most-important-personal-comput
> > ers-in-history/
> >...That brings back memories. In 1981 I was part of a small company, named
> Davis Hibbard Mayer Norton and Phillips Inc, that developed a product based
> on the IBM PC to simulate GOES weather satellite signals. Davis and Norton
> engineered a custom circuit board that went into the IBM PC and I wrote the
> software. The GOES signal was about 1.8 MHz which we simulated on the PC's
> 4.77 MHz 8088, an 8-bit processor. It was a tricky design problem. We ended
> up selling ten of our simulators to organizations that wanted a way to test
> their GOES receiving systems.
> Long time ago but also long after 1981, I did some controls support work
> the follow-on to GOES. I remember that program: it was a troubled but
> friendly enough office environment. Turns out that particular GOES-Next
> design never closed, but it wasn't a controls problem that spanked us, it
> was a sensors group that was a bit too ambitious beyond the technology of
> the time (this was about 2002.)
> But regarding the IMB PC, this event brings back mixed emotions for a lot
> us. I was a hardcore math geek and had gone into the specialized and
> new-ish discipline of figuring out math problems by letting a computer
> calculate a jillion calculations, finding the pattern with the eye and
> intuition, guess at the end result formula, then after the fact create a
> derivation, hide the computer, dress up weird and go act like a bigshot
> mathematician who discovered the new finding the honest way.
> They caught me of course. I was socially awkward, but I just couldn't
> compete with real mathematicians in social awkwardness, regardless of how
> hard I faked extreme geekiness.
> But we had fun with it. I was using Apple 2 computers the university had
> bought to do my trick-math, but soon found severe limitations from that
> M6502 slightly overclocked to a mighty 1.2 MEGA HERTZ! Oh mercy, 1.2 MHz,
> we shall rule the world, ja? But then we heard, the mighty IBM was coming,
> and it was going to EAT APPLE's LUNCH, a phrase commonly tossed about in
> geek community until we recognized the redundancy, after which it was
> shortened to IMB was going to EAT APPLES. This brought my much personal
> satisfaction, for Apple was developed by... hippies. Long hair, beards,
> dope, the works. Oh mercy. But IMB was staffed by serious engineers
> dontchaknow, in white shirts, skinny ties, pens in the pocket, everything
> one needs to design a real computer.
> OK then.
> A professor ordered one, and we planned a big unveiling party at his house.
> He urged us geeks to write up some benchmarks. I wrote some Lucas Lehmer
> benchmarks, ran them on the Apples, collected some data, came over to the
> professor's house, ran them. Oh dear. The nerds in white shirts let me
> down. That mighty Intel 8088 running at aaaaalll thoooose megahertz, was
> only a little faster than the hipster Apple, which cost less than half as
> much. Dang. Establishment 0, hippies 1. I didn't like hippies but if
> produce a product with better value, they win. They won, IBM let us down.
> With aaaalllll thooooose resources and alllll those guys in white shirts
> pocket protectors, they aughta be able to do way better than something the
> hippies already had on the market for three years. They did just enough
> better to have slightly higher numbers, which wasn't good enough for what I
> was doing.
> Fun aside: the research I was doing could be split to run two calculation
> threads simultaneously, or really arbitrarily many simultaneous threads.
> was way better to run two Apples in parallel than to have one IBM PC which
> cost more than the two Apples combined. The hippies won that round.
> Speaking of round, I live within a few miles of the Great Donut, the
> Mothership. A good friend happened to own a house within walking distance
> of that toroidal monstrosity. His home value alone went up so much in 33
> years that he can retire comfortably anytime he wants.
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