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This is all about me and computers


                      I was first introduced to computers at South East London Technical College (SELTEC). We had a class demonstration of what was probably something like a PDP8. Using only a teletype for input and output, it ran a horse racing game. I was totally intrigued. I knew about binary logic, but had no concept of  how that could translate into words and figures. Several years down the line I saw adverts for, first the Sinclair ZX80, and then the ZX81. The ZX80 still seemed a bit expensive for an unknown quantity, but the ZX81 , in kit form, was too much to pass by. I duly ordered the kit and quickly built it. It didn't work, but a workmate of mine had a cunning plan. The local W.H. Smiths were selling them and he wanted one as well. So off he went to buy his. Brought it into work and we swapped my non-working one for his and he took it back to Smiths to exchange it - no problem !

       That ZX81 was a marvel. Within a very short time I was bashing out little Basic programs fit to bust. The concept of programming at that simple level had become crystal clear. I even bought Rodney Zak's " programming the Z80" and tried my hand at "machine language" programming. I never fully mastered that, but still managed to learn a lot of concepts from it.

        I did move on to a Sinclair Spectrum that someone gave me, but my next computer of note was a Panasonic MSX machine. I was very intrigued by the video possibilities that it had to offer. ( It was also in an "end of line" sale and quite cheap). They were originally built with the idea that they would be interfaced with Panasonic Laserdisc players, as well as conforming to the poorly conceived Japanese MSX standard. Their one major feature was the ability to lock the internal graphics generation to an incoming video signal and then overlay the graphics on that signal. At the time I was playing around with video a lot having bought a cheap(ish !) semi-industrial editing machine. The MSX was ideal for overlaying text on top of my video.


Enter the PC

                            My first PC was a Amstrad PC1640. It came with two 5 1/4 inch floppy drives and no hard disk. It was a cheap surplus item and also came with no monitor, and hence no power supply which would have been built into the monitor. I made a huge ungainly linear power supply for it and made an interface for the EGA graphics output to a RGB TV monitor. It was terrific fun and I was able to run standard DOS programs on it. After a short while I bought a "hard card" for it (combined IDE controller and hard drive on one plug-in ISA card). That gave me a whopping 30 Megabytes of space to experiment with. I started to relearn Basic on it and made the change from Sinclair Basic to Basic-A ( or was it M-basic ?). Soon after I learnt of a shareware program called Asic. this was very similar to Basic, but it could be compiled into a stand alone executable. The Amstrad was good fun and excellent to learn on, but I was after something faster and more capable.


Enter the 486

                               My first 486DX66 powered PC was probably the start of the continual upgrade cycle that most PC geeks, nerds, enthusiasts * ( *delete where necessary) seem to do. It gradually got more memory. A sound card and a CD rom drive. Of course it was still not powerful enough when Windows 3.11 appeared on the scene. By this time I had pretty much given up on writing any programs as the complexity required for anything remotely useful began to pass my level of competence. I was ( and still am) happy to delve into the inner workings of a PC and play with this, that and the other. One of my triumphs at this stage was to delve into one of the files associated with a program called Mopy fish with a hex editor and turn on all the fish tank accessories.


Build it yourself :

                                  All my next PC's were all home built. First was a PC powered by an AMD K6-2/300. That was soon upgraded to a 550Mhz processor and is what I am using to make this web page on. Then there is the 1.4 Ghz Athlon used for audio editing and the Athlon XP2100 that I use for video editing, and finally (but only counting PC's in working order) is another PC using the old 300 MHz processor in my bedroom for occasional mp3 or videoCd playback.


Operating systems :

                                      Most of my PC's are running various flavours of Microsoft Windows, but this PC ( The AMD K6-2/550) has a removable hard disk caddy for other possibilities. Currently I do have one hard disk set up with SuSE Linux on it. It is interesting and very usable for the most part. However there are two programs that are tying me to windows still. They are Paint Shop Pro and Cool Edit Pro. Both have similar programs that run under Linux. For Paint shop Pro there is "The Gimp". It is probably more powerful in skilled hands that Paint Shop Pro, but I cannot get on with the interface for it. Had I started with the similar interface of Adobe Photoshop I might have been OK, but Paint Shop Pro has spoiled me. Cool Edit Pro is a sound recording/editing program whose nearest Linux equivalent is called Audacity. Audacity works, but is somewhat crude by comparison, and once again it does not have a very attractive interface.

            If I had to compare Linux and Windows at this point in time I would say that Microsoft has some mediocre programmers and highly skilled ergonomics experts, while Linux has some highly skilled programmers and very mediocre ergonomics experts.


Most of the web pages on my site have been checked to display correctly with Mozilla, Konquerer and Galeon web browsers running under Linux.


Other Stuff :

                           Apart from my PC collection I also have a small collection of Mac's. All are fairly old and verging on , or are, obsolete. They range from an SE/30 , via a couple of 68K laptops to a couple of PowerPC machines. All were obtained very cheaply or entirely free. I do not actually use any of them as such, but it is interesting to learn alternative concepts.


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Copyright Bill Kelsey 2003