snippets from the memory hole...
This may specifically date me, but in high school around 1976, we
did a brief lesson series on computers. This involved learning some
BASIC commands, writing them out on a piece of paper, and then filling
out punch cards with number two pencils to run through the card
reader to see if our programs would run. The school computer itself
was in a separate room upstairs near the back stairway, across from
the science room where the "computer club" met. Mostly,
it seemed they specialized in generating ASCII art, but I digress.
computer itself had a terminal, which allowed you to input command
lines. This was regarded as the "slow" way to work, as
you had to type in the BASIC commands, then RUN them. With the card
reader, which was a separate beast, you could put the cards in the
hopper and push the go button, running batches of different commands
which would generally fail in ways you had not considered.
we were comfortably "off the back", but didn't realize
The Apple II that we were using had 64K of RAM. This was used for
music sequencing, which meant that the MIDI data - i.e. keystrokes
from the synthesizer - used up the available memory. The Roland
MUSE software had a handy memory "bar" which decremented
as you pressed keys. This meant a 3 minute song was pretty much
pushing it, less if you used the "bender".
Macs had 128K out of the gate.
the time I bought mine, it came 512K of RAM, which I upgraded to
1 megabyte pretty quickly. Because I lacked the loooong screwdriver
necessary, I had to have the local Mac shop do the dirty deed.
early Macs used these cool small discs in a hard plastic shell,
as opposed to the big 5.25" "floppy" disks that the
IBM's used (see "Wargames" for reference"). They
were single sided, which meant that they held something around 400K.
Actual usable space was a little less, as you had to format the
they added usability for the other side of the medium. Voila - the
DS (Double Sided) disk! 800K! Now we're talkin'!
they started writing a little tighter on the disk, increasing the
density. Soon we had DSHD, giving you a stunning 1.4MB of storage
on a single disk.
Hard Drive Connundrum -
Most of my friends have suffered through this story, now it's your
big upgrade for your Mac was a second disk drive. That way, you
could leave the program disk in the computer, and have your data
disk in the second drive. Then you wouldn't have to do the dreaded
"disk swap", as the Mac spat out whichever disk you fed
it, requesting the other, as it appended the 12K or whatever of
data to the file, and did whatever checksum the program disk required.
this time, you could buy an external hard drive (or an internal
one, but remember, the first Mac's were convection cooled, so this
meant attaching a fan as well, or watching your computer get reasonably
warm...). This was not a cheap endeavour, and the difference between
the 10mb and the 20mb may have been a couple hundred bucks, IIRC.
At least a hundred, which was worth more back then anyway.
one of my friends was considering this, and after much thought and
conversation, he decided to get the 10MB, which was likely to be
more than he'd ever need. I mean, just what would you do to fill
up a 20MB hard drive?
Stuck Hard Drive Fix -
The early hard drives were finicky beasts, of course. Some made
you mechanically park the heads before you moved them. The other
quirk that most shared was that the grease used on the drive system
for the heads would tend to solidify, after a while preventing the
head from moving out over the platter. It would sit there and "click-click-click"
as it tried to start.
fix was to start up your drive, and when you heard the "click",
give it a hard whack. This would jump the head past the obstruction.
It would often work, though it was generally agreed that this was
then a good time to backup the drive (to floppies.... oy...) and
then never turn the drive off again.
as I think of things...
is a work in progress. If you have ideas or feedback, please feel
free to email me.
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