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Old 11-29-2006, 03:17 AM
Zeus80-1 Zeus80-1 is offline
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Default Too Nice - and Thanks!!

Thanks for making this Nice Machine.

Your journey to make this kit, in order to have a kit, reminds me of my own journey, to have a good working microcomputer ready to go. I believe this journey has been experienced by many people in the quest for new artifacts over the generations.

Anyway, here is what I did.

I read the PE issue featuring the Altair while working for MAI/Basic Four (MAI used Microdata 1600 CPU and proprietary Business Basic). I then began some research into the 8080 and 6502 by purchasing the manufacturer manuals and followed this up by reading Byte and Doctor Dobs Journal (DDJ). By 1978 I could see the demise of the minicomputer sector after I did the simple Moore's Law calculation for microcomputer progress. Rather than buy an Altair I purchased a KIM-1 to learn more (cost $149.00, 6502 based) . I bought a used Creed baudot device for hard copy and built my own copy of an ADM3A on three perf boards. By now I saw CP/M as the target OS so I bought a low end S-100 CPU and some RAM cards plus a 6 slot backplane. I designed and built a 2708 ROM burner for the Kim-1, wrote an 8080 I/O monitor which worked like the KIM's, burned it and brought up my 8080 by lashing on a perf board based ROM socket to the CPU board. I next made my own version of the Processor Technology (PT) VDM-1 video card and CUTS 300/1200 baud cassette tape controller (CUTS = Computer User Tape System by PT). I next purchased some PT software such as 5K Basic, CUTS and TREK80 on cassette. I loaded CUTS with a small manually entered hex routine, then loaded TREK80. It was almost magic, mainly because I had in past years made an MAI/Basic4 computer from scrap boards at work. The CPU alone needed a 70 lb linear power supply and a 19" rack which made the unit weight around 150 lbs, so this tiny microcomputer system was just amazing.

I had done more in-depth research, thanks mainly to articles by DDJ contributers, and realized the 2Mhz 8080 was close to the MAI system in overall performance. With the 4Mhz Z80 on the horizon I deceided to clean up my home brew S-100 system and find a small firm to start building it. Within six months I had located a firm to build the system. They hired me and for the next four years I continued to develop the system to meet a wide range of pedestrian and off-beat applications.

I could see the future of the microcomputer as being all-pervasive and really, all-powerful. The advent of shrink-wrapped software was the greatest breakthrough however, as it provided really cheap solutions and good alternatives to the super-high cost mainframe and minicomputer applications. Bill Gates was in the right business - it is the business of virtualizing reality as software can be fashined to put so many physical human tasks onto a computer screen, or hidden inside of nearly every other artifact we want to improve.

The Altair made that future palitable for everyone who read the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics.
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  #2  
Old 12-01-2006, 11:35 PM
Grant Stockly Grant Stockly is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2005
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Are you Bruce Jones? I did a search for Zeus80 and came up with a page about the SDS VDB-8024 VGA modifications.

http://retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/sdvdbmod.html

Did you make an entire computer or just Z-80 processor cards? Your story is very impressive! Its really hard to prototype boards for weels on end just to have a computer. The current generation that I am a part of can't sit still that long. Of course, for a lot of people in the early to mid 70s, if you didn't make it - you didn't have it.

Thanks for the post!

Grant
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