May 21, 2006

Retro, retro, retro...

Posted by Scott at 10:43 PM

Retro - Oh yes, nothing gave me more street cred than having Microsoft BASIC skills!

Goofy retro ad

That's the way I always write test code at ATI… in a tux with a television monitor on an Atari computer. Don't all engineers? Note the similarities to my office. Sometimes I think we should give Microsoft just as much respect these days. "Windows XP — engineering to be infected within minutes of a broadband connection!"

Credit for finding this goes to a mention at

Sunday - We did split shifts for Mass this weekend. I took mom, Suzanne, and Claire last night while Michelle went with Abby early this morning. When Michelle and Abby returned, all nine of us went for breakfast at Parker's Maple Barn. Before returning home, I took Claire, Suzanne, and mom on a casual Sunday drive around Brookline, Pepperell, and Hollis to get an idea of some of the scenic backroads I take in my commute. Around mid-afternoon the girls did some shopping. Michelle picked up a small dresser that guests can use when they stay in the spare room.

Retro part deux - Later in the afternoon, because of the storms, I was doing a little random surfing and came across the site: Warning: If you watched television in the 70's, 80's, or 90's, you can waste a LOT of time there. Suzanne and I probably wasted an hour reliving the title sequences to old shows. Charlie's Angels, Wonder Woman, The Love Boat, The Six Million Dollar Man, etc. My goodness! We had fun dialing up the wayback machine.

Retro part trois - As the afternoon grew into evening, Michelle reminded me of a box that I was supposed to go through. It was one of those left over from when she cleaned out the garage to make room for next winter's wood. The stuff in there went back to college days. I gave Claire my "portable" CD player. It was about the size of some $30 dollar model you can now buy at K-Mart but it weighed more than a brick. It was fun trying to explain to Claire that once upon a time such a compact unit commanded a high price at a time when most CD players were about the size of a TiVo. I also gave her my old Sony Walkman although radio reception stinks here in Milford. Mighty Timbo got a kick out of seeing my TRS-80 "Pocket Computer". Nowadays a typical thumbnail image I use on a posting requires more space than that so-called pocket computer has in it. Even a modern dial-up modem could swamp it in a second or two. I also found some manuals and a card reader for my HP-41CX. Man! That calculator got used like crazy for my first few years of engineering school. I decided to toss my old micro-cassette recorder. I haven't had to tape a lecture in decades. Tape… in this era of Flash based digital storage? There were a few other odds and ends in the box, but those were the highlights.

Mile Away - We wrapped up the evening with the grownups going for dinner at Milford's own Mile Away Restaurant. I don't think it's possible to have a bad experience there. If nothing else, it was nice just to eat a meal in quiet without any sibling fights, spilt drinks, wiping off little hands and faces, etc. In a way you could say that even our dinner was also retro in that the house attached to the restaurant was built in 1746. The restaurant is in a restored barn originally built in 1812. One might say that's way beyond retro…


I remember that when I was learning to PEEK and POKE together a knock off of Space Invaders in BASIC, I was also still young and goofy enough to be playing the program storage tape on my portable cassette player to provide background effects for the cockpit of the spaceship I was pretending to pilot... I was definitely not wearing a tuxedo or drinking a martini...

Posted by: Ernesto at May 27, 2006 07:06 AM

Hi Ernesto,

You know, it's funny... To this day when we computer hardware designers talk about reading and writing custom hardware registers, we still say 'peek' and 'poke' even though many of us haven't touch BASIC in many years! To us, peek and poke always implied more than simply reading and writing ordinary memory. It always had some side effect that you were trying to leverage... and that's how hardware registers work.

I've often wondered in this day of gigahertz PCs with fast harddrives, gobs of memory, and beautiful Integrated Developer Environments (IDE's), whether it is remotely possible to have the same early computer experiences we did back in the 1980's...

Posted by: Scott at May 28, 2006 09:47 PM