• Starchild

So, who am I?

As we get older you would think this would be an easy question to answer. At least I know who I wanted to be a long time ago.

I believe I am honest; I am married, pretty healthy (except for sore ribs after a kite surfing accident before Xmas) and generally very happy with life. That’s a start.

I have adult children, who have all moved out, although one I’m not so sure of, as he keeps coming back home during mid-work breaks. Works in the country!! It’s always good for what-ever reason to get to spend time with your kids as their own lives evolve. In that regard, I know I’m very lucky.

Considering I was NOT a normal teenager, I know I’ve done Ok.

Yeah, I was so focused on electronics (not girls), reading the monthly “Electronics Australia” and “Electronics Today” magazines was my source of knowledge. Most boys would be flicking through other ones. Sometimes an American magazine “Radio Electronics” or “Popular Electronics” but only if I collected enough bottles to sell for recycling or did rubbish pick-up at the local shopping center for pocket money. Yes we had to earn it back then. But my curiosity (should have been in girls) got worse. As my older brothers were into Amateur radio, I got pulled into this too. Studying and getting my own amateur radio license at 16. It was an exam back then. Now I think you pay money and they give it to you. I even had to pass a Morse code test.

Although Radio communications did interest me, my real interest at that time was for digital electronics. I remember an interesting article in one of the mags detailing the design information (as projects) for building your own micro-computer.

It’s not like you could just go out and buy one. No-one knew what one was yet. To be fair, the American magazines were advertising some incarnations of micro-computers, usually being made by someone a little older than me, and making them out of their garage. You have all seen the TV series “The Pirates of Silicon Valley”. It’s a pretty accurate account of that time as it walks you through the overlapping stories of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Yes, this was my time too, although I was a little younger and not born in America. Unfortunate!

Anyway, my big first project, well after building metal detectors, frequency counters and modulated light beam transmitter/receivers for spying on my friends “Probably why I didn’t have a lot of friends”, I began building my first computer.

It was based on a Signetics 2650 microprocessor (8 bit). Two 2114 RAM chips (each 4bit x 1K), a 2708 Eprom (8 bit x 1K) and a 2651 (I think) PCI asynchronous communications interface. After printing circuit boards, PCB assembly, metal casings it was well on its way. I also needed to build my own terminal (screen) and keyboard, RS-232 to/from the old black-and-white TV now re-purposed as a video monitor. The keyboard switches panel was a little more challenging as I had to source it from America. At least US dollars were cheap back then. AU$1.00 = US$1.24 “Wish it was this way today”. But it was ordered by mail (yes post) and a money order from the post office.

Finally, after many, hour, days, weeks, “It works!”. It spoke to me. Well … it printed a single “>” onto the screen, and pressing the ENTER key would print another one onto the next line.

Truly amazing. At least it was to me.

Now to write some software, for the first time, in hexadecimal machine code. No modern text Mnemonic representations here. This lead to many of my own little projects, Morse code encoding/decoding, antenna rotator control via DTMF over radio, tape deck interface and control to save and retrieve programs onto cassette tape. My version of a DOS file system.

This was to be the beginning of my life long addiction.

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