A not-quite-heir to the Model M

So today I came across the story of a new Cooler Master keyboard, which claims to be very IBM Model M-like, but with modern styling and conveniences.

The verdict is that this keyboard is even stiffer than the Model M, which raises a question that not many are asking. Maybe I’m showing my age and everyone else is too young. But to me, the obvious question is how the Cooler Master CM Storm and its Cherry MX green key switches compare to the Model M’s predecessor, the IBM Model F? Read more

Phase-change memory could change everything

I won’t call it a revolution, because I wrongly predicted that RISC (in the form of DEC Alpha and Motorola/IBM Power PC) would start a revolution. But Micron released a new form of memory this week that promises to at least be a game-changer.

It’s non-volatile like the flash memory in your cell phone, digital camera, or SSD, but with a longer life expectancy, and it’s much faster. It’s fast enough to potentially use it for system memory, as well as storage.
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RIP, Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie died this weekend, aged 70. You may not know who he is, but if you’re reading this, you’re using something he invented.

Dennis Ritchie was, among other things, co-creator of Unix and the C programming language. Even if you run Windows, Windows was heavily influenced by Unix, and a lot of programs you run were written, if not in C, in its successor, C++.
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Was CP/M overrated?

Was CP/M overrated?

Veteran tech journalist Dan Tynan recently published a list of 10 overrated technology products, and CP/M was on his list. But was CP/M overrated? I want to dig into that question a bit.

I think everyone knows the story of how IBM almost used CP/M as the operating system for its PC, but ended up using an upstart product from a small company named Microsoft instead. We’ll probably never know exactly what happened, seeing as the author of CP/M is dead and his business partner is no longer able to recollect those events from the 1980 timeframe, and IBM and Bill Gates have no reason to embarrass themselves by revisiting the story.

But CP/M was the first and most popular operating system for early 8-bit computers, so people who used it remember it fondly, and the way Microsoft steamrolled it made Gary Kildall and his operating system folk heroes to underdog lovers everywhere. Even people who never used it and weren’t even born when Kildall’s company ceased to exist have at least a vague idea of what it was.
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Microsoft: No x86 apps for ARM

So, The Register reports that Windows on ARM will not have compatibility with apps compiled for x86. Intel has been saying this for a while, while Microsoft has been mum. So now we know.

There are arguments both for and against having an x86 emulation layer.
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A snapshot in history of Gates and Microsoft, 1992

Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire is a 1992 autobiography of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. It’s old. But it’s a compelling snapshot of what the industry thought of Gates and Microsoft before Windows 95, before Microsoft Office, and before Internet Explorer. Indeed, it gives an early glimpse into the struggle to bring Windows to market, some of the bad bets Microsoft cast on its early productivity software, and just how close Microsoft came to betting the company on the success of the Apple Macintosh.

If Microsoft’s history were written today, many of these stories would probably be forgotten.

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Writing Tight 6502 Series Machine Code

This article appeared in the final issue of Twin Cities 128/64, published by Parsec, Inc. of Salem, Mass., sometime after April 1994. Parsec never paid for the article, so under the terms of Parsec’s contract, all rights reverted back to me 30 days after Parsec failed to remit payment.

So now I’m re-asserting my rights to the article. You’ll find the editing poor–all my semicolons appear to have been replaced by commas, for instance–and the writing full of cliches. But I would have been 16 or 17 when I wrote it, and I don’t think it’s a bad effort for a 17-year-old. And the article had some pretty clever tricks. I have to admit I’d forgotten 90% of what was in the article, but I recognize my own writing when I see it.

I’d like to thank Mark R. Brown, former managing editor of INFO magazine, for finding the article and bringing it to my attention. And one final word: Although I wrote this with the Commodore 128 in mind, the same tricks apply to any computer or console based on a 6502 or derivative.

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Nonstandard configuration on a vintage PC? Maybe it was gray market

Nonstandard configuration on a vintage PC? Maybe it was gray market

I saw an interesting question about the configuration of mid-1980s (pre-PS/2) IBM PCs on a vintage computer forum this week. The question regarded how various machines came from the factory, especially when some collectors have PCs they bought from the original owners, including an invoice, showing the machine didn’t match known factory configurations. This made me think of the gray market.

The gray market referred to the practice of discounters getting genuine IBM PCs and reselling them, sometimes modified. The most famous gray marketer was Michael Dell–the “Dell” in Dell Computer Corporation–who got his start by upgrading bare-bones IBM PCs and selling them out of his dorm room and later, out of a condo. Eventually he decided he wanted a steadier supply, and started manufacturing, becoming the company we know today.

But Dell was far from the only one. Read more