Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Windows File Manager

The Windows File Manager was the file manager included with Microsoft Windows starting with version 3.0 until Windows 95 and NT where it was phased out in favour of Windows Explorer. The Windows File Manager was used to perform file management and hence replaced the functionality of MS-DOS (earlier versions of Windows had a simple file manager called MS-DOS Executive).

Why are we talking about File Manager? Well an updated version has been released that will work on Windows 10! You can download it here if that kind of thing floats your boat.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

SNOBOL (StriNg Oriented and symBOlic Language)

SNOBOL does seem at first glance a typo of a more familiar sounding programming languages like COBOL but is in fact SNOBOL a series of languages developed at Bell Laboratories by David J. Farber, Ralph E. Griswold and Ivan P. Polonsky in the early 1960s. SNOBOL was designed for text processing and pattern matching and was quite different to most other programming languages of the time.

SNOBOL was originally developed for the symbolic manipulation of polynomials on the IBM 7090 mainframe in 1962 but the language became popular and was refined and expanded culminating in SNOBOL4 in 1967.

SNOBOL4 was based on a virtual machine which meant it was much more portable. The language was popular in teaching, artificial intelligence and text manipulation in the 1970s and 1980s though it has been eclipsed by newer tools and languages.

More recently derived languages like SL5 and Icon have added structured language concepts to SNOBOL (which has none itself).

So how do you do a "Hello World" program in SNOBOL?

OUTPUT = "Hello world" 
END

Sunday, 1 April 2018

The story behind Apple DOS

This is a fascinating article on the Apple's first Disk Operation System (DOS) which it needed for the Apple II microcomputer. As the article describes, Apple was forced to buy in a Disk Operating System (DOS) from an outside company to work with the Apple II and the innovative disk drive Steve Wozniak had designed as they didn't have anyone in house who could develop the DOS in time.

Apple DOS was critical in the success of the Apple II and hence Apple itself which may not have survived long enough to develop the Lisa and Macintosh if the Apple II had not been the success it was. Indeed the Apple II continued to be a success well into the late 1980s.

Apple DOS was written by Paul Laughton, and it together with Woz's disk drive and VisiCalc (the first killer app) made the Apple II a success in business. Interestingly it was developed on a minicomputer, stored on punch cards and debugged on that system before being put on Apple's microcomputer (more about this can be read here on Laughton's own website). This is nothing new of course, the Apple II itself was used to write early Lisa and Macintosh system software.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

ICL 7500

The ICL 7500 was a range of terminals and workstations that worked with the ICL 2900 series mainframe. The range included the 7502 Modular Terminal System, this distributed basic computing tasks such as data input away from the mainframe and was designed for office environments. The typist could tap away without worrying about lag on a slow network, the mainframe only getting involved when the typist got to the end of the line and the data was sent to it. The 7502 had quite a meaty enclosure and could hold up to eight PCBs and dual 8-inch floppy drives. The actual terminal which sat on top was known as the ICL 7561.
Public domain image (from here)

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Making OSX look like... well System 7.5-ish

Great as Mac OSX is I do miss the old Finder and GUI from the pre-OSX Mac days. Of course it crashed a lot, didn't have very good multitasking and less toys than OSX but some charm and fun was lost when Apple transitioned (plus was a lot faster a lot of the time). I miss the days of trying a funky extension (remember the one that rendered your desktop in ASCII characters?) and Resedit to do weird (and dangerous things) to your Mac.

Well we can't go back to those days on a modern Mac (though maybe I'll boot up one of my relics one of these days) but we can do a few things to make our uber-modern Macs more classic, more retro, only without da bomb so to speak. One thing i have done is use the excellent Displaperture.app to give my desktop rounded edges, as Steve insisted rounded rectangles are everywhere ok?

Another thing is to use a retro wallpaper. I used to like the green tartan wallpaper and the pebbles, luckily some other people had a yearning for the old wallpapers too and they are available to download so now I am pebbled-up. Now all i need is Chooser and I will be in retro-Mac hog heaven...

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

1970s Computer Adverts... an occasional series

Introducing the Emulator Terminal, it can be an ADM-3A, VT-52 or other terminals. I want one. Now.