Thoughts on computers today

I’m sitting here reading through “Build Your Own Z80 Computer” by Steve Ciarcia.

It sucks that stuff like this (knowing how your system works, literally, from the ground up) isn’t taught anymore, or really pushed like it was in the 70s and early 80s. You can’t even really find *books* like this anymore – a used copy can run you as much as $200 depending on availability. The title originally cost $20 in 1984.

Having multiple different hardware platforms and OSes that ran on them led to more innovation. Now, its more along the lines of “Here’s the API, code to that”, and a lot of programmers couldn’t care less about what lies underneath as long as things work as they’re supposed to.

As much as I love my Mac and my other UNIX boxes, there’s nothing more fun than building a single-board computer, applying power for the first time, and watching it behave as its supposed to. Nothing is quite as fun as taking a pile of chips, components, and a PCB, and a couple of days later, typing this in:

10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD"

RUN

and having it spit back out

HELLO WORLD

One thought on “Thoughts on computers today

  1. It was this DIY information that got me interested in studying electrical engineering. It wasn’t just computers, but ham radio and such. It never occurred to me that computers would become a commodity item like a dishwasher or toaster. I assumed only the most geeky among us would own computers and we’d all know how they worked. I thought college would teach me how to build bigger and better computers and ham radios. When I got out I felt like I knew less about the topic than I did when I started, I just knew the math behind it all now.

    Sigh…. sadly I’ve become comfortable not knowing how my iBook works. turn it on, it works, that’s good enough for me.

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