Tuesday, April 25, 2006

History of Computing - Lesson Learnt

My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81. The thing I remembered out of this was, that I bought it from the shelf of a Magazine shop called WHSmith in 1979. I also picked up a magazine and learnt programming in order to use this Sinclair. This was my first encounter with the Programming world. I also remembered that 1K or RAM is not much becoz, as I was typing the listing in, the cursor sort of didn't want to move further.

My Second computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. This came with a 48K RAM (Whoooohh, lotsa RAM at that time - mind U this is a 8 bit machine), and there are lotsa of listing of games. I learnt to create characters out of block figures and it was also my first introduction to gaming. Sprite was only available on "higher"end computers like the ATARI. I think the rubber keyboard gave away within 6 month.

I later "upgraded" to a BBC Micro with 32 K RAM because it was suppose to have a more "superior" BASIC which had structured Procedure calls. This was my first serious Computer as it had Disc Drives as opposed to the Sinclair which depended on Audio Tape Cassettes for Storage ;)

Early on in my working career, I then moved on from desktop computers to Minis and Mainframes. This was my first encounter with Prime Computers and Fortran. I need to learn Fortran to run simulation and analysis on engineering problems. As the programme were run on "batches" (phantom mode), I kinda picked up cracking at this stage as I needed a Super User ID. I used to leave simulated "Login screen" created with CPL scripts just to capture Admin password. The other thing that I picked up during this time is programming dicipline. I had a mentor who had a ruler beside his monitor screen to unsure that the Subroutines and Return statements were aligned for ease of debugging.

My annoyance with the IBM Mainframe and the costly price required to upgrade the DASD (Disk Drive to you and me), drove me to revamp the IT Division to use Novell. This upgrade saves the organization half a million Ringgit. I also remember the stress in trying to churn out application within 3 month, till I discovered a neat 4GL application Builder called Clarion. I was churning out simple apps at the rate of 2 for every week.

Tinkering with the PC, I got wise to its memory management at that time, trying to squeeze every bit of available memory in order to fit the Fat Novell Client. I also saw the war between the Emm386 and XMS386. It was also at this time I picked up assembly language trying to make use of the extended memory area of the PC. I was and still am continously amazed at a programme called Sidekick, (which had a calculator, notepad and a few other utilities) all written under 48K and fits nicely inside a memory space just above the 640.

My most memorable time was the availability of Tools made by this brilliant guy called Peter Norton. I survived and live by his Diskedit and DiskTools having to use it dwell into File Allocation Table and copy protection at that time.

It was also this time that I got myself my next computer which was a PC with 386@33Mhz/387 Co processor and with 8 Mbyte RAM(woooohhhh and Ahhhh) becoz I needed to run AutoCAD. That did not last long as Intel had immediately launch the 486 Chip which revolutionizes computing as we know it. RAMS got bigger and cheaper, programmes got fatter and more complex. The change of pace and rate of change also kill my appetite in chasing technology in so far as keeping up with the Super Chips for my Desktop/Notebook resource. It is also during this time a ran a Bulletin Board and later discovered the Internet.

I remember the Internet nearly drove my life to the ground. I live, eat , sleep on the Net. I also remember stalking and tracing someone on the net at 3 am, while emailing to and from with an acquaintance by the name of MAL (Dr Mohamed Awang Lah).

Looking back, it has been a memorable 27 years of history with the Computers. So much lessons, so little time.


tynon said...

Ni baru old skool :-)

The Editor said...

Old skool, old skool lah as long as not relegated to Museum and relics. Luckily I didn't bring up the story of using slide rule (and how to create slide rule from lograthymic scale)