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My first bleeding edge computer

Discussion in 'Fred's House of Pancakes' started by jerrymildred, Nov 27, 2020.

  1. Ronald Doles

    Ronald Doles Active Member

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    I know I am a 72 year old geezer but computers have come such a long way in my lifetime and I enjoyed the journey.

    I attended the University of Akron in the early 80's. My Fortran IV class programming was done on punch cards and then submitted at the computer center. You would get a wide greenbar paper printout with the results of your programming effort. A later class, Fortran 77 was entered on computer terminals "Widgets". The result was still a printout on wide greenbar paper.

    I was delighted when enough computing power and the cost of a DOS box could be had at home. You could write a basic program in the privacy of your own home. Imagine, IBM didn't think that there was a market for home computers.

    I remember buying 9 memory chips that you had to plug onto the mainboard to expand the memory on a "286" from 32kilobytes to 64 kilobytes. Today, memory chips are surface mounted on ever higher capacity sticks that you just plug into a slot.

    I remember my first "286" computer had a whopping 20 meg hard drive. The drive controller was a card that plugged into an available ISA bus card slot and was connected by a ribbon cable to the actual mechanical hard drive.

    I remember plug-in jumpers had to be set for any card you plugged into the ISA bus. They determined which interrupt a sound card or modem might use and if there were conflicts nothing good could happen.

    My first P.C. had a CGA video card. It had 16k of memory and was 640 x 200 16 color video card that plugged into an ISA bus slot and attached to a boat-anchor monitor. This CGA card was eventually replaced with a VGA card with 256k of memory that was capable of 640 x 480 and 16 colors.

    My first modem was connected to the computer with a serial cable. It was an external box that could exchange data at the blinding speed of 300 baud (300 bits/second). Rapid developments led to that being quickly replace by a 9600 baud modem.

    My first printer, a dot matrix version which used a parallel cable to connect to the printer. There was always a box of fan-fold printer paper under my desk and threaded through the printer.

    Along with my first 386 computer, I paid $600 for the first CD drive. It was an external drive kit with a scsi card plugged into an ISA bus and called the Sony Laser Library. The external drive had a carrier which you placed the CD in and then pushed the carrier into the front of the drive. The kit came with 6 disks. One was Compton's Family Encyclopedia, Microsoft Bookshelf, Languages of the world, National Geographic, Mixed Up Mother Goose, and a World Atlas. I couldn't believe the storage capacity and unlimited possibilities of a CD. Somewhere along the line engineers realized that you didn't have to run a digital disc at the same 1X speed of a music disc and then there was an arms race of ever faster 4x then 8x then 16x CD then DVD then BluRay discs.

    My first suite application was Lotus Smart Suite. It was Lotus 123, Word Perfect, Lotus Approach etc. It came on 27 3 1/2" discs. I dutifully loaded each one into my computer and after loading the last disc it began to install. It stopped and said that there was a disc error and I needed to reload the program. I repeated the process and got the same result. I called Lotus and they were going to send me another disc set and I inquired if there was a CD version available. They asked if I wanted that instead. Of course.

    My flatbed scanner piggybacked into the computer with the printer parallel port. You plugged the printer into a port on the rear of the scanner and plugged the scanner into the parallel port of the computer. Resolution and speed were not great but those quickly improved. Today you can get an all-in-one remarkable ink jet or color laser printers

    Once Windows became a mainstream product, one of the serial ports was required for a mouse with a ball that required constant cleaning.

    Along came USB ports. Not much was available for them at first and now everything can be connected to a USB port.

    My introduction to portable computers was for my job as a controls engineer. It was a Compaq. It was the size of a lunch pail only wider. You unsnapped the keyboard off the front and it was on a coil cord like the old phone cords. It had a floppy disk and a monochrome screen and required plugging into a power source but you could take it anywhere.

    Compaq.jpg
    Who could have imagined the power in a cell phone, tablet or laptop that you can buy today for a fraction of what this hardware cost. Probably people a lot smarter than me.
     
  2. Rmay635703

    Rmay635703 Senior Member

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    Sounds like some folks are Prime candidates for...

    Active topics \ VOGONS

     
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  3. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    The last modem answer tone I could successfully whistle was for 1200 bps. Above that, the answer tones got too complicated to whistle (unless there's somebody here who can do it and prove me wrong).

    It was handy when I needed to confirm the operation of a bunch of outbound modems in a rack in the machine room. I could just sit at my desk at a terminal, connect to each modem in turn, and tell it to dial my desk phone. When the phone rang, I'd pick it up, whistle the answer tone, and see "CONNECT 1200" on the terminal, then hang up and repeat with the next one. Bystanders near my desk could find it puzzling.

    That was, I believe, also around the last time that baud rate was the same as bit rate. After that, instead of sending sounds faster over the phone, modems sent more complicated sounds that could encode more than one bit each, but continued to send only, say, 2400 of those sounds per second (the baud rate). So a 9600 bps (bit per second) modem is in fact not a 9600 "baud" modem. But at the ancient low bit rates, you could say "baud" or "bps" interchangeably, because back then they happened to be the same number.
     
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  4. Ronald Doles

    Ronald Doles Active Member

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    VOGONS is a trip down memory lane for us Digital Dinosaurs. Were those really "the good old days?"
     

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  5. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    “Good Old Days” are as aptly named as “Common Sense.”
    I do not know ONE SINGLE person who would willingly go back and live in the “Good Old Days” without a return ticket.
     
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  6. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    Just won a few auctions on eBay and bought two used but working Google Pixelbook (7th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB NVMe SSD). Priced originally at $1649, a brand new one still sells at Amazon for $1345. I got used ones for less than $200 each. Yeah, it is a bleeding-edge computer (Chromebook wise) of yesteryears. But it still has solid performance and 4 more years of OS support and updates from Google. I have been using Google Pixelbook (i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB eMMC) for a couple years now. It is now the go-to machine for my daily use, for it turns on instantly (always on) like a smartphone and almost never crashes. Even for my aging Pixelbook, the battery lasts good 6+ hours of continuous use. When it was new, it had a rated battery life of 10+ hours. I now use less and less of Win10 boxes except one for my work and haven't touched my only Mac mini box for years. I plan to replace the aging Windows boxes I have around my house with them. The good thing about the current Google Pixelbook is that it can run native Android apps and can be set up with Linux(Beta) OS right out of the box. Should be a fun project to set up a powerful Linux OS running along with the streamlined Chrome OS.

    upload_2021-2-15_8-19-33.png
     
    #66 Salamander_King, Feb 15, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2021
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  7. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    I was about to offer my condolences till I got to this part. :D

    BTW, I finally made the fan run on my M1 MBP the other day. I was stabilizing some video in iMovie. The fans ran at about 10% for maybe a half a minute. On my i7 MBP, the fans ran almost all the time, even just browsing the web. Right now, my hottest cpu core is cooler than I am at 93ºF with half a dozen apps running and 7 tabs open in Safari.
     
    #67 jerrymildred, Feb 15, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2021
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  8. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    My i5 Piexlbook is the same Chromebook as the i7 ones I just bought, just with a less powerful CPU and memory and storage. I paid ~$500 on a used (the original MSRP was $1299) a few years ago. I have not played with Linux(Beta) on it. At the time I first switched my daily drive from Windows box to Chrome OS, I thought it would be just a fancy web browser but nothing more. I was totally wrong. It is a very sleek and powerful operating system. There are certain things it can not do as well as Windows OS, Linux OS, or even Mac OS, such as image manipulation, video editing, or game playing. But I don't do video editing or games. I am still using a Windows box for photo editing, but that's a such minor part of my daily computer use. For 99.9% of my computer use, ChromeOS is perfectly suitable and vastly superior to Windows, Linux, or Mac OS.

    If I can get Linux running on my Pixelbook and install GIMP and run a few other editors like Luminar and Photomatrix, I may get away from using Windows box forever. Well, maybe not entirely eliminating a need for a windows box ... since I know there are a few vendors that just do not develop apps for Linux or Chrome OS. Being an anti-Mac user, I still have to keep at least one or two working Windows machine for things like TurboTax and various firmware update apps.
     
    #68 Salamander_King, Feb 15, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2021
  9. Prodigyplace

    Prodigyplace Senior Member

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    I just endured 38 hours with no electricity or running water. Not really by choice though. The ice storm did it.
     
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  10. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    My Pixelbook has no fans. It is the quietest computer I have ever owned. It is warm to touch while being charged but otherwise almost always cool to touch. I think even a diminutive 10" Acer netbook I was using some years ago had a cooling fan and got warm easily. And my Pixelbook always has 60+ tabs open in Chrome with half a dozen apps running alongside. It weighs less than 2.5lb with a charger. It is a 2-in-1 laptop that can be used as a tablet, although I have never needed to use it that way. IMHO, it beats MacBook and iPad Pro in both configurations.

    BTW with a tiny 45W PD USB-C charger, it will replenish the battery from 5% to 90% in less than 1 hour.
     
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  11. Data Daedalus

    Data Daedalus Senior Member

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    IMG_4416.JPG

    This was my first laptop. A mono screened Zenith Supersport 286e. It had 1024kb of RAM, a 21MB HDD, a mono screen, ran Windows 2.0 or the version earlier than that.
    I bought it practically unused from an educational establishment. It languished in a cupboard and was never used by the deputy head teacher it was allocated to. It apparently cost £2,000 brand new back in the day. Got it for £50 - it’s a family heirloom now sitting in the loft!

    I presently use an early 2011 MBP 13” with an Intel core i5 processor, 4GB RAM and a non Retina display screen. Oh, and a 500 GB HDD, purchased as a refurbished machine about 3.5 years ago.

    About 18 months ago, bravely upgraded it with a 1TB SSD, and installed 8.0GB RAM.
    Was genuinely shocked at the impressive improvement in speed / performance!
    It’s still my primary computer at home, even though it can’t upgrade to the latest MacOS.

    Also just purchased a used Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with the Intel M processor - chosen as it’s absolutely noiseless - no fan!
    Runs perfectly, resolved a few teething problems with the pen that wouldn’t play ball...!!! Now it all works fine. Got it stupidly cheap from an acquaintance who had upgraded to a newer Microsoft Surface Pro 5 (or 7).

    I’m a sucker for buying older technology and squeezing the best out of it!

    Have a white 2006 iMac 17” Intel Core Duo that had literally become unusable due to an ancient Mac OS that couldn’t be upgraded - eventually I couldn’t even watch YouTube on it - or reliably surf the web.

    Upgraded the OS to Linux Mint 19, after upgrading the RAM to 4GB from 2GB. Original 160GB HDD.
    Suddenly it does everything! I can stream live video on it, watch YouTube videos endlessly and access virtually any website I want.
    That ancient iMac is 16 years old...!!!
    And that’s why I love technology from “The Mothership”....!!!


    Source: iPhone 12 Pro Max 512GB ? Pro
     
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  12. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    That really is fun. But this M1 MBP isn't a toy, it's a tool that needs to work so I can accomplish what they pay me to do. And they don't pay me to tinker ... which is sad because I love tinkering!! LOL! These machines last forever, as you noticed and they are more like appliances than playthings. But I'd still love to have my old Amiga!!

    I think it's a safe bet that the image and audio editing and video work I do would heat that i7 up and it would get throttled down to almost a standstill without cooling fans. :LOL: My i7 MBP sounded like a hair drier. :ROFLMAO: And, yes, I did open it to make sure the fans were clean.

    With what you do, a Pixelbook is probably fine. You don't need the kind of processing speed I use almost daily. I would not want to try to do the stuff I need to do on a Pixelbook. My old i7 got it done but this gets it done silently and uses about 1/4 the electrical power and does it almost exactly twice as fast. And it never slows down. Running flat out, the M1 uses about 39 watts and scores 7433 on the multicore Geekbench test. The i7 running flat out burns through 122 watts and only musters a Geekbench score of 4768. The M1 also outscores the i9. It's just a whole generation different. And that's why investors are asking Intel some hard questions that are something like, "What the heck have you guys been doing?"
     
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  13. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    I've never been confused with an apple worshiper, but Windows started going in directions that I did not want to follow years ago, and so I've been a Linux driver for a while now.

    My CFO is not, and so she uses a $200 Chromebook for biz and banking exclusively and a base model MB for everything else.
    If they had been selling i7 or even i9 class 'puters for $200 I STILL would have happily paid $917 for a Macbook....delivered (discounted for .mil, .gov and .edu)
    This...despite the fact that I'm frankly a little concerned about not being able to replace a piece/part that will go bad, and I'm more than a little gun-shy with apple products after buying a iphone XR that was a festering, bleeding disaster of a phone.

    However (comma!)
    My beloved CFO is happy with the box, there have been ZERO issues that start with "How do I....?" and HOLY FREEKIN COW that thing is powerful!!
    She will NEVER stress-test this box even while doing light photo-editing, and if the hardware holds up, she will be using it for 8-10 years...which is sorta the whole point.
    I hope that some geeky, physical challenge of 5nm manufacturing does not rear up and bite us all in the butt in a few years, but for now I'd call this thing a walk-off grand-slam.

    I was trying to recommend a replacement laptop for another family member who say that they do not want/can't use a Mac because of NMCI (dot.Navy.mil computer system) issues.....and lets just say that I was very underwhelmed with what is available out in the wild for $917.
    OK....
    So....I'm old enough to remember when the on-ramp for notebooks and laptops ALWAYS had a comma in the price tag (good old days ;) ) but today's $800 computers are mostly warmed-over i3s and i5's.
    Serviceable for most 'norms', but nothing you would want to force a gamer to use.

    THIS computer (work) is a two-year-old HP "elitebook" that set my company back well over 800 bucks (AMD i5 clone @ 2GHz-ish / 16GB / 250GB) and on paper and in the real world it's really not bad, but the only two advantages that the HP have over the MB are the fact that it's slightly more rugged and it has Phillips head screws on the bottom of the hull....and it was a few tens of dollars cheaper.

    Given the grunt that cell phones possess, and the fact that you can buy any of a number of almost credible desktop replacement SBCs for less than $200???

    Intel deserves those questions from their investors.
     
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  14. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    Yup! Well said. I agree in total. The right tool for the right job. You don't take a bulldozer to go get groceries and you don't ride a bicycle to Mars. (Man! Talk about your mixed metaphors!!! LOL!) Undoubtedly, the M1 caught Intel & AMD napping on their laurels. [edit to add: In fairness, they were competeing with each other, but they weren't innovating and looking outside the box for something totally disruptive like ARM processors. They were caught in the paradigm that ARM is just for tiny handheld devices or imbedded technology.] Apple may have done the same thing with processors as what they did with phones in 2007. They gave fair warning but the establishment blew it off. And now the establishment is making dumb commercials to try to make the M1 look inferior, which just makes the X86 look even more pitiful by comparison. There are better ways Intel could spend their money.

    I wouldn't call myself an Apple fan. They have really done some dumb stuff. But I like that they don't consider me a product to sell to advertisers and I don't have to keep proving that I didn't steal my operating system by authenticating or registering or whatever euphemism M$ uses.

    Frankly, I prefer Linux for the fun factor. But the way my watch, phone, tablet, and computer mesh so seamlessly is worth the price of admission all by itself. And then there's Time Machine which has saved my bacon several times even though it requires no effort from me other than an external drive about about a half minute of mouse clicking.

    Oh! I'm curious what was wrong with your wife's XR. My wife totally loves hers other than it being just a little big for her tiny hands.
     
    #74 jerrymildred, Feb 16, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
  15. ETC(SS)

    ETC(SS) The OTHER One Percenter.....

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    The XR was MY phone.
    Some XRs...including my previous unit have modem issues...most particularly when you're operating in fringe areas but sometimes even in towns and cities. Mine was CLEARLY a lemon and the missed calls and SMS issues were starting to exacerbate my dear wife and cause me to get to be a little harder for my work to contact off site.
    My work phone (iPhone 7) and my CFO's phone (11Pro) were flawless in these same areas.
    Big bell manages many of the features of their issue phones (no Apple Store access) so just carrying my work phone and ditching my personal phone was not an option.

    Buuuuuut you know the mothership.
    It's far easier to get a certain former President to admit to being in the wrong than it is for them to admit that they made a defective product.
    Their tech support is phenomenal.
    Their PRODUCT support is abysmal.
    They ran the clock out on my "warranty" and I had to write the unit off....but hey....
    They didn't get to be the world's richest company by being NICE, now DID they?

    The good news for your wife is that if she's not experiencing problems with hers then she's golden, and the better news is that the base 11 (and 12, I think) share the same form factor.
    If her XR is a little big for her hand she might be a good candidate for that trial-size 12 (mini)- which is NOT selling particularly well, but you'll want to wait until after April because there's whispering around camp fires about the new SE(3).

    Good Luck!
     
    #75 ETC(SS), Feb 16, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
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  16. Trollbait

    Trollbait It's a D&D thing

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    In fairness, Apple doesn't sell their OS to third parties or individuals not also buying an Apple product, and the field of HacIntosh makers is going to be a fraction of PC builders. Partly because of the extra hoops of getting a copy of that OS.
     
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  17. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    In fact, Apple doesn't sell their OS at all. It comes with an Apple computer or it doesn't come at all. That's what's frustrating for so many people but also what makes it possible for it to work so efficiently.
     
  18. Trollbait

    Trollbait It's a D&D thing

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    Pros and cons to everything.

    Built my computer over two years ago. Went Windows because it was being made for gaming.
    I don't get hassled for Window authentication.
    Didn't pay for it.
    Nor did I pirate it.

    You can install Win10 without activating it. You don't get full use with the "trial" version. For me, the only thing I've come across that would need to activate it is changing the desktop. I'm sure there are other features that are locked(can you fully turn off Update?), I just haven't come across them. There is an "Activate Windows" watermark in the lower right corner that is irritating at times.

    I intend to activate it at some time. When I come across a sale. But it isn't on my priority list.
     
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  19. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    What do they charge for Windows OS nowadays? Many years ago, I built my own PC using the best MB, baddest looking case, fastest CPU, RAM and video card I can afford. I even built a few systems with a Peltier CPU cooler so I can overclock the CPU above the spec. But I had to purchase the stand-alone version of Windows OS. In the end, it almost always ended up costing more than buying a well built system of similar spec. That raw speed and computational power were only needed for gaming since photo and video editing was still in its infancy and I had no hobby in that area yet. I had no need to use the box for CAD or 3D rendering. Yeah, that was fun, but a couple of thousands of dollars spent on a box to play the video games. And it never stayed fast enough. Within a few years, all the hardware is obsolete.

    When I lost interest in gaming, I quit wasting money on high spec new computers year after year. A budget netbook or 2-3 years old used laptops are fast enough for office work, spreadsheet, e-mails, and other business writing. After all, I can only type 40wpm. That speed has not increased in 40+ years and not likely to increase in the future. Most of my personal computer use is now for media consumption. For that, a $200 box (used or new) is plenty good, and not going to pay for the OS separately.
     
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  20. Trollbait

    Trollbait It's a D&D thing

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    $140 for Home edition. An OEM version might run $10 to $20 less, but that is stuck to one machine. $15 or free if you take a course at the community college.
     
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