Computers I Love

Computers I Love

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Introduction Partitioning
Windows Machine Server Machine
Former Machine My First Personal Computer
OCR My First Computer

Introduction

People often need to know the configuration of my machine, so I composed it in the form of a web page. This essay also contains nostalgic material about computers I have loved.

Windows Machine

The upgrade was much more traumatic than I expected. It turned out my Acer motherboard, case and power supply all had proprietary quirks. They did not take well to being mixed with generic components. I had to buy a new case, power supply and DVD (Digital Video Disc) burning that I did not originally intend. The bright side is I have an almost complete second working computer. To go, a new Kinesis Keyboard.

Roedy’s Green’s Upgrade in Progress Configuration
Equipment Size/Speed Brand Model Description Comments
motherboard 4 PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) slots Asus M5A88-M

This board packs maximal punch into a small µATX form factor. It has an Am3+ socket for CPUs (Central Processing Units) up to 140 watts, I am using an FX-6100 to keep the power usage/heat down. They recommend a 450+ watt power supply. Up to 16 Gig of DDR-3 1866MHz RAM (Random Access Memory) (not counting overclocking). 4 slots of 4 Gig each (non ECC (Error Correcting Code), dual port). 6 SATA-3 ports, 2 USB-3, 6 USB-2, 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16, 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1, 1 x PCI.

The weakness of the board is the integrated ATI (Array Technology Inc) Radeon HD 4250 GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) which has no RAM of its own. It uses a gig of your system RAM. Specifications. Download manual. You would probably upgrade if needed with a separate Video card in the PCIe x16 slot. It comes with heat sinks for both the support chips. 2, 4 or 8-channel audio. It has what they call a Q-connector which lets you plug and unplug all the case-mounted LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) in one fell swoop, even though the case does not directly support the Q-connector.

The back panel supports 4 USB-2 ports, 2 USB-3 ports, 1 Ethernet 1 Gb, 1 DVI (Digital Video Interface) port, 1 HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), 1 SP/DIF port without internal cabling. The software and drivers come in Windows versions only. It comes with 2 SATA-3 internal cables period!. You get have to get internal cabling elsewhere for: 4 SATA-3 ports, 1 serial port, 1 LPT port, 8 USB-2 ports. The USB-2 ports need 9-pin female connectors. There are no PATA (Parallel ATA) ports.

It is made in China. The workmanship looks first class.

M5A88-M rear

  1. ↑ keyboard or mouse PS/2 connector
  2. ↓ 2 × USB2 (black)
  3. ↑ SP/DIF optical sound out
  4. ↓HDMI
  5. VGA (Video Graphics Adapter)
  6. DVI
  7. 2 × USB3 (blue). These don’t work for USB2 devices.
  8. ↑ Ethernet
  9. ↓ 2 × USB2 (black)
The analog sound connectors on the back are colour coded, but have no labels or icons. You need to memorise the colour code.
ASUS Sound Connectors
Colour Shade Purpose
orange   separate channels for center and subwoofer
black   rear speaker out, both L/R
grey   side speaker out, both L/R
blue   line in, connect tape player etc. input.
lime   front speakers, both L/R, earphone.
pink   microphone in.

I have installed hundreds of motherboards and this one is by far the most complex. Happily most of the options have an intelligent auto setting. However, the manual gives very little explanation of what the options do. They typically have documentation of the form: [enable]=enable the skurtlewax feature, [disable]=disable the skurtlewax feature.

It has a number of utilities with overlapping function. Many refused to install. Some did not work. I was underwhelmed. Oddly I could find nothing to help me configured the video, not even the amount of main RAM it borrows.

You must set the CORE UNLOCKER switch to enable both on the motherboard and in the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) to allow use of more than one of the CPU (Central Processing Unit) cores. The BIOS alarmed me be saying I had only 8 gig of RAM installed when I had 16. Windows however reported the full 16.

Sata Ports

Port Device Model Sata Type AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface)
1 SSD (Solid State Disk) Corsair Neutron GTX SS, 120 GB 6 Gb/s
2 hard disk Western Digital Green Caviar 1 TB (Terabytes), WD10EZRX 6 Gb/s
3 DVD burner RP-DVRW-20I 3 GB/s?
4 DVD burner Lite On, IHDS118-04 3 GB/s?

Ports 1-4 are AHCI and ports 5 and 6 are IDE (Integrated Development Environment). The connectors are arranged like this:

1 2
3 4
5 6
CPU 3.3 GHz AMD FX-6100 socket Am3+ Six cores. L1 Cache Size : 48K, L2 Cache Size : 6MB total 1MB per core, L3 Cache Size : 8MB. I expected with 3 times faster CPUs, 3 times as many cores, and 5 times as much RAM, that the speed would blow my hair out. Not so. Psychologically, it is not that much different. The main difference is background tasks don’t slow down foreground tasks. I suspect the problem is two fold:
  • The hard disk is the bottleneck. I needed an SSD.
  • Most of my apps are single thread. They cannot exploit the additional cores.
DDR-3 RAM 16 GB Corsair CMZ16GX3M4A1600C9 16 gig
4 × 4 Mb DDR-3 1600 dual ported, not buffered, not ECC.
4 slots, 240 pin DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Module) The disabled onboard video steals one of the 16 gigs of RAM. I could have bought 1866 MHz RAM, but it is 50% more expensive. Possibly Corsair CMZ16GX3M4A1600C9 Vengeance 16GB Pc12800 DDR3 RAM - 1600MHz, 4x4096MB, Non-ECC, Unbuffered, dual channel.
Video card 2 GB Zotac Zotac NVidia GeForce GT 640 65 watts, 2 gig DDR3, Max resolution 2560 × 1600, 128-bit. It has a Windows experience index of 7.1, It has HDMI, DVI-D (Digital Video Interface — Data), DVI-I (Digital Video Interface — Integrated) and a converter to make the DVI-I into VGA. Ports are labelled! It has no S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format), composite or s-video. It is made in China. The workmanship looks excellent. It does not need an extra power connector. Core Clock: 900 MHz, Memory Clock: 1782 MHz, 384 Stream Processors. 128-bit. DirectX 11. It did not make much difference other than artifacts going away when rendering Java, which was my main motivation for the upgrade.
DVD/CD Reader/Writer SATA Retail Plus/LG RP-DVRW-20I I have it hooked up as my R: drive. It identifies as R:\HL-DT-SC DVD RAM GH 24NS95 RN01. CD Read Speed: 48X, CD Rewrite Speed: 32X, CD Write Speed: 48X, DVD Read Speed: 16X, DVD Rewrite Speed: DVD +RW 8X, DVD-RW 6X, DVD Write Speed: DVD +R 20X, DVD-R 20X, DVD+/-R DL 12X. It is odd in can write faster than it can read. It prefers DVD+ blanks to DVD-. Specs. I got this one at Staples, the only model they stocked. It seems quieter than other drives I have used. It comes with all kinds of software written by LG: backup, two burners, a disk doctor to analyse and recover damaged disks and software to find/install new firmware. They have toll free support number. The consensus on the net is CDROMs (Compact Disc Read Only Memories) should be configured to a SATA/IDE port not a SATA/AHCI port. My American Megatrends BIOS told me the drive could not be detected, but I just configured it, and it magically appeared on the next boot. It supports LBA (Logical Block Architecture), uses PIO (Programmed Input/Output) mode 4, supports Multiword DMA-2 and Ultra DMA-6. (discovered by setting to auto and rebooting).

Fix for Insufficient Space on Blank Discs

If software to write on your CD/DVD says there is insufficient space to write on every blank disc, here is how to fix it:

  1. Uninstall all the DVD/CD drives in the device manager of Windows.
  2. Delete the UpperFilter and LowerFilter settings (both key and value) in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} registry key with regedit.exe.
  3. Uninstall all the CD/DVD writing software.
  4. Reboot and reinstall the writing software.
Incantation courtesy of HP.
Second DVD/CD Reader/Writer SATA Lite On IHDS118-04 I have it hooked up as my S: drive. It identifies as S:\ ATAPI (Advanced Technology Attachment Packet Interface) iHAS124 W HL0F. CD Read Speed: 48X, CD Rewrite Speed: 32X, CD Write Speed: 48X, DVD Read Speed: 16X, DVD Rewrite Speed: 8x, Write Speed: 48X. I got this one at Canada Computers. The consensus on the net is CDROMs should be configured to a SATA/IDE port not a SATA/AHCI port. My American Megatrends BIOS told me the drive could not be detected, but I just configured it, and it magically appeared on the next boot. It supports LBA, uses PIO mode 4, supports Multiword DMA-2 and Ultra DMA-5. (discovered by setting to auto and rebooting). It thought every blank disk was already full. I used the incantation above to fix the problem.
case µATX (Advanced Technology Extended) tower no name no name ATX It has a polite feature, two sets of mounting holes. If you lose the screws, you have twice the odds of finding some replacement screws what will fit.
µ ATX power supply 500 watts Cooler Master Extreme Power Plus I chose this power supply partly because it comes with 15, count-’em connectors. This gives be the flexibility to add pretty well any new or legacy peripherals. Unfortunately, it has only three SATA connectors, now all in use. To add more SATA I will need adapters. It has a honking huge fan and intelligent fan controller. It is Energy Star compliant.
integrated video 500 MHz ATI Integrated Radeon 4250   It borrows 1 MB of system RAM. It has no V-RAM of its own. It supports Crossfire, so I later add a video card it can act as an aux processor. Up to 1920 × 1200. Supports Direct X 10.1. Connectors for HDMI and DVI-D.
hard disk 1 TB Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB Hard Drive Caviar Green WD10EZRX 3.5 Inch, 32 MB Cache, 7200 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute), SATA 6 Gb/s.

It arrived 2012-04-27. It was easy to set up. I just connected the SATA power and data connectors, booted and used Boot-It Bare Metal to copy the partitions from my old drive to the new. The RPM is variable. It speeds and slows depending on load to lower power consumption. The fans drown out any noise it makes. It calculates optimum seek speeds to lower power consumption, noise, and vibration. It arranges that the heads arrive from the seek just as the data rotates into place, not unnecessarily sooner, thus minimising energy consumed for the seek. Other than the silence, the main improvement I noticed was faster console displays. I am not sure why that would be. specifications. jumper settings. The 8 pins for jumpers normally have no jumpers on them. You might mistake them for some sort of male pin connector. It comes without any cables, screws or mounting hardware.

Partitioned using NTFS (New Technology File System) C: D: E: F: G:

Integrated Sound 8 Chanel Realtek ALC892   The analog sound connectors on the back are colour coded, but have no labels or icons. You need to memorise the colour code.
ASUS Sound Connectors
Colour Shade Purpose
orange   separate channels for center and subwoofer
black   rear speaker out, both L/R
grey   side speaker out, both L/R
blue   line in, connect tape player etc. input.
lime   front speakers, both L/R, earphone. Duplicated on front panel.
pink   microphone in. Duplicated on front panel.
Flat Screen LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) monitor 24” Samsung SyncMaster 2443BW Energy Star rated, with PowerSaver logic The good:
  • 1900 × 1200 pixel resolution. This feels quite huge. I used to run most apps full screen. Now other apps and the desktop are always accessible.
  • The image is 51.84 × 32.40 cm (1.70 × 1.06 ft). It is advertised as 60.96 cm (2 ft) diagonal. Note, unlike digital TVs, monitors still use diagonal measure.
  • 5 ms response time.
  • 1000:1 / 20000:1 (dynamic) contrast. I don’t know what dynamic contrast is.
  • 170° / 160° horizontal/vertical viewing angles which makes it easy for two people to look at the screen at once. The image colours stay stable no matter where you move your head.
  • 300 cd/m2 brightness, i.e. very bright
  • It does not have that glossy look of the more expensive monitors. I prefer this flat look.
  • It has connectors for VGA, DVI and HDMI and comes with all the necessary cables!! Will wonders never cease.
  • It is very wide. I was surprised at how easy it was to configure — not Samsung’s doing, but due to the magic of mature Plug & Play. The control panel showed me a list of resolutions/geometries, and let me try each out before deciding. I was pleased to discover I did not need to get a new video card to exploit the full size and resolution of the screen.
The downsides:
  • An image looks completely different depending if it is displayed in the top, middle or bottom third of the screen. At the top it is many shades darker and much of the detail disappears. For any sort of pixel work, I must ensure the image I working on is at the center of the screen. Text backgrounds are much darker too in the top third.
  • At first, I could not figure out how to turn it on. It has no buttons or switches. It turns out you rub your finger over a part of the smooth front bottom panel.
  • The manual (paper or online) does not have the full specifications. Happily a CNET review fills in the blanks.
  • The Rosetta stone paper manual comes in 16 languages. This means there are effectively only 3 lines of English text per page. It is hard to find what you are looking for.
  • The manual is pretty awful, telling you the obvious, but without cookbook instruction to guide you through. Happily the monitor out the box seems work just fine.
  • Samsung no longer lists the monitor in its lineup. It must have been an end-of-the line.
  • The controls are too sensitive. It is very hard to press a touch sensitive area just once.
  • It is advertised to have built-in USB (Universal Serial Bus) hub, but it doesn’t.
  • In hibernate mode, a bright blue LED (Light-Emitting Diode) flashes. This could be especially annoying if you sleep in the same room as the monitor.
  • You cannot adjust the image size. The image is too big and positioned too far to the right. Neither the video card not the monitor give me a way to correct it.
I chose it since it was less expensive than the competition and gave a sharper picture with more accurate colour. It seems to me the more expensive models just give you gloss, which is nice eye-candy in the shop, but who wants glare when you are trying to work?

When you first use each video resolution, including the VESA (Video Equipment Standards Association) boot mode, press auto to automatically adjust the screen size and position.

recycled DSK Keyboard Ergonomics Kinesis Classic QD Dvorak layout keyboard Unusual, very expensive DSK/QWERTY keyboard. Supports firmware keystroke macros and layout remapping without software. I tried a programmable foot pedal so that I can hit ctrl-v and ctrl-c with the foot pedal when my right hand is occupied with the mouse. With DSK (Dvorak Standard Keyboard) you can’t hit those combinations left-handed. To key them left-handed you would need to hit ctrl-k and ctrl-j. The problem was I could not anchor the foot pedals sufficiently securely no that I could find them with my feet easily. I gave up on them. I have simply worn it out after 14 years and 11 months of pounding and will replace with one as close to it as possible.
recycled mouse 3-button with scroll wheel Logitech USB port mouse wireless M310 laser cordless Wheelmouse bought 2011-01-16 This is not a particularly expensive mouse, but I like it better than any of the dozens of mice I have used previously. It has a nice solid feel — with rubbery grips. It moves smoothly. The vertical scrolling is unusually fast and precise. It has only three buttons, which have a nice solid feel. I find other mice have buttons too easy to click by mistake. I have the silver version which is not as flamboyant as I would like. It is a fairly large mouse by today’s standards which suits me fine since I have large hands. The only thing seriously wrong with it is it is not designed to be taken apart to clean.
recycled Ethernet 1 Gigabit Intel PRO 1000 GT Ethernet card for LAN (Local Area Network) I am using it at only 100 Mbit for my local, and 10 Mbit to access the Internet. The router does not support 1Gb.
Integrated Ethernet 1 Gigabit RealTek 811E integrated Ethernet for LAN I have two pipes. I am using it at only 100 Mbit for my local, and 10 Mbit to access the Internet. Not supported by Ubuntu Linux, at least not without a fight. The router does not support 1Gb.
all-in-one printer speed: rated 22 ppm black, 17 ppm colour (BS, perhaps if you print only one character per page) Canon PIXMA Mp210 black 600 ×600 : colour 4800 × 1199 dpi USB. Acts as an ink-jet printer, scanner, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and copier. It cost only $20.00 CAD new as an almost freebie that came with the Compaq laptop. It prints nice vivid colours. It is not too noisy. It is quite a large box. No USB cable in the box. It did very poorly in my first OCR test. The Nuance Scansoft Omnipage OCR software is very complex. Usually freebie OCR software you get bundled is very stripped down. It works very well printing HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) tables in browsers. It futzes about for a very long time before emitting the first page. It has no way to print DVD s or CDs (Compact Discs). It futzes about clicking and whirring for about a minute before it gets on with printing a page, at quite clip. I have no idea what is a doing. It is like superstitious athlete going through a ritual to warm up. It is not very good about aligning the paper after it grabs it. It takes either #30 black, #31 colour ink cartridges or the larger #40 black and #41 colour cartridges. The #41 cartridge costs a whopping $35.00 CAD more than the printer itself cost.
Router 4 Port 100MBit DLINK DI-604 rev E3
firmware 3.53
acts as firewall, router, 4-port hub, Connects computers in a LAN and the LAN to the Internet via an ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line technology) modem with Ethernet port. No WiFi (Wireless Fidelity). Much faster than previous SMC router. Ports are clever and automatically compensate if you use the wrong sort of Ethernet cable, straight through or crossover. You configure it with a browser to http://198.162.0.1 The big problem with it is the cables don’t stay put. I must arrange pressure by various Rube Goldberg means to keep them pushed in, or the contact breaks.
Operating System   Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 64-bitt   It is better than their previous efforts, vis a vis crashes, bit it drives me crazy going so slowly I cannot type. Further, they have dropped support for 16-bit utilities. They had the emulation working, but removed it. I think back to the day when RAM dropped below $1,000,000 a megabyte. We were able to run an entire utility on half that much. Microsoft deliberately finds ways to waste resources.

Software

to go

Former Machine

This was what is left after upgrading. I gave it to a friend.

Roedy’s Green’s Former Personal Computer Configuration
Equipment Size/Speed Brand Model Description Comments
Computer mini tower Acer Aspire AST180-ED380A desk top PC (Personal Computer) Off-the shelf-Acer product. Previously I always built my own machines from components, and made my own custom cables. This one had a nice set of components at a great price  $620.00 CAD It includes video, 6 USB-2 ports (2 front and 4 back), 1 Firewire port, sound, speakers, Ethernet, V.92 modem, 1 legacy parallel, 1 legacy 15-pin serial for the Olympus D-360L digital camera, and a 9-in-1 card reader but no floppy. My partner bought an Acer laptop which has behaved well, (until the monitor exciter packed it in after two years, and the cost of repair was higher than the cost of a new laptop) and did not have a lot of quirks the way Compaqs and HP (Hewlett Packard) s do. Extremely quiet.
Magic booting keys:
  • Del : bios settings.
  • F12 : select boot drive.
  • F8 : maintenance mode.
  • F11 : Acer recovery mode.
Acer advertises that Vista is included. It is not. There are no CD (Compact Disc) s or DVDs (Digital Video Discs) and they won’t sell you any at nominal cost. All you get is a partial Vista image on disk. You can’t repair a damaged install or reinstall Vista without losing all your data files as well. If your disk is physically damaged, you cannot restore at all. I consider that deceptive advertising and fraud.
CPU 2 GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ socket 939 Dual core. Makes usage more smooth. The system is steadier in response than a single core machine. Other than that you would not notice. My machine is mainly disk limited. I picked this CPU because it let me experiment with dual CPUs at low cost. Further, it uses a dual ported CPU cache which benchmarks showed really gave it some zip. I bought the 512K cache version. The bigger cache did not seem to make that much difference. The dual porting did. Windows rating 4.8. The socket become obsolete in 2006-05 with the release of the Am2 socket. This means I can’ pop a recent CPU into my motherboard.
DDR-2 RAM 3 GB Acer   2 gig
2 × 512 Mb DDR-2 4200
2 × 1 Gb DDR-2 5300
4 slots, 240 pin DIMM, each could hold 1 gig, giving a max configuration of 4 Gig. Windows gobbles up so much of the RAM. Also the internal video card eats up about a 256 MB of system ram, since it does not have its own VRAM (Video RAM). Windows rating 4.2. With only 1 Gb, Vista is almost unusable. The most recent 1 Gb module was a Kingston that comes with some very-well done installation instructions in many languages. The only upgrade possible now is to remove the two 512 MB modules and replace them with two 1 GB modules giving me a net increase of 1 GB.
One of the 1 Gig RAM modules I bought from Compusmart in Victoria did not work. They advertise an immediate replacement warranty. I bought the RAM on 2007-03-05 but did not get a replacement until 2007-05-28, almost 3 months later. Compusmart also refused to supply the missing Vista disks, and charged me  $50.00 CAD to tell me the RAM was indeed defective. I told them I would never buy anything from them ever again. Others apparently had similar experiences. They have gone out of business.
motherboard 4 slot Acer HT 2000 2 × PCI
1 × PCI Express x16
1 × PCI Express x1
4 × RAM
Only 2 PCI slots, one occupied by the modem. One PCI Express x16, which is Intel’s upgrade on an AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) video slot. One tiny PCI Express x1 slot. 4 RAM slots giving up to 4 Gig of RAM. BIOS id:ROI-B1 2006-12-29. Board id:EM61SM/EM61PM. Slot 939 for AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) CPU. µ ATX form factor. 24.38 × 24.38 cm (9.60 × 9.60 in). width × depth. There is wiggle room for a 0.76 cm (0.30 in) deeper motherboard. Uses DDR-2 RAM, max 4 × 1 Gig.

OCR

Here is how to do OCR with the Canon PIXMA Mp210:
  1. Click Canon Solutions.
  2. Click scan/import.
  3. Click OCR.
  4. Ensure you have configured 1=scan greyscale, 2=automatic, 3=save to file.
  5. Make sure you have configured view page image.
  6. Click 1.
  7. Click stop loading pages (alternatively more pages).
  8. Click the t icon.
  9. Drag a box around the text you want to capture.
  10. Click 2.
  11. Proof read the OCR, making corrections in the OCR text editor.
  12. Click 3.
  13. Select Desktop\novel (or wherever you store your documents).
  14. Save in MS Word 2001 *.doc format.
  15. Go to (6).
Later you can load the documents up in Open Office and save them in *.odt format.

Partitioning

After giving up on dual boot with Ubuntu, my machine is partitioned like this:
Partitioning on Roedy’s Machine
Drive Size
Mbytes
Use
- 6,997 Acer recovery
- 8 Boot-It NG
- 48,007 unallocated
C: 49,999 Windows 7 system
D: 4,793 free work space, physically the last partition
E: 7,397 Data
F: 16,994 Programs
G: 19,995 Attic (downloads, sleeping projects, obsolete material, hot backups)

Server Machine

A new standalone server was installed on 2009-09. Revenue from Google ads paid for this new server, located on Granville Street in Vancouver, BC Canada. I did not have any part in the hardware selection or configuration. You might wonder at the choice of Intel CPU and motherboard when I am boycotting Intel, not for any technical reason, but for its support of Israel’s wars.

The new server looks like this:

Canadian Mind Products New Standalone Web Server Configuration
Equipment Size/Speed Brand Model Description Comments
Motherboard Intel D865GBF Motherboard It turns out this board does not support 64-bit operation, so we switched to something else I don’t know the name of Has two Integrated Ethernet ports. 4 gig dual channel RAM. CPU speed is not a big consideration. Even the old server uses only 1% of capacity (or 3% when we get Slashdotted).
Disk 1.5 terabytes/3 gigabytes per second Seagate ST31500341AS SATA-2 32 mb cache.
Operating System 64-bit Unix NetBSD 5.0.1 Berkeley Unix is mature and fast. We use the PF (Packet Filter) firewall which gives us the ability to shut out everything then let though precisely and only what we want.
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) server Apache HTTP server 2.2.6 A touch of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), but almost all static content.
Connection 2 × 100 gigabit Intel Ethernet The server is connected to the upstream ISP (Internet Service Provider) via two 100 gigabit Ethernet links. From there they go a bank of 65+ peers and 10 Gbps ethernet connections to various backbones (some which are even faster than that).

My First Personal Computer

lgp30

My first personal computer was given to me in 1972 by Hume & Rumble Electrical Contractors. It was a Royal McBee / LibraScope General Precision / Control Data LGP-30. I had programmed it for them in the summer of 1968. It had no RAM, just a rotating magnetic drum, calculating at roughly 60 Hz (Hertz). It contained mainly tubes with a few transistors. Input was via 4 or 6 level paper tape prepared on a Friden FlexOWriter. It had a 32-bit accumulator, but data in storage had to have the low order bit set to 0. It featured hardware integer multiply and divide. Much of my time coding was spent placing operands at auspicious places on the drum so that I could do more than one operation per drum revolution. I created paper prayer wheels as an optimisation tool.

My First Computer

ibm 1620

In 1962, IBM (International Business Machines) decided to perform an experiment to see if they could teach children to program computers. I was among the children selected. They taught us to write simple FØRTRAN programs on the IBM 1620 using punch cards. As you might expect children learn faster than adults. Starting that summer, the West Vancouver School Board and the University of BC hired me to write a computer program to work out high school student timetables and schedules. IBM told me I was the youngest computer programmer in the world at that time. Back then it was a bit like being a child astronaut, allowed into the holy inner sanctum computer room. The 1620 at the university had an experimental new storage device called a random access disk. A short time later it was replaced with an IBM 7044. I rubbed shoulders with people like Vern Detwiler (later of MacDonald Detwiler) and Nelson Skalbania who later became a famous tycoon.


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