I received a few geek-nostalgia comments in response to the news about the historical marker for the invention of BASIC. Here’s a good one, from David Stamps:
Your article on the signpost commemorating the history of BASIC reminding me of another probably unsung story of computers in New
In January 1978, at the then Arts & Science Center (now Nashua Theater Guild), one of the first computer shows in the Northeast opened and ran for one month. Although boldly named, it was probably the first “science” show at the Arts & Science Center.
1978 was a tipping point for Nashua. The digital revolution was already under way in the whole north of 128 area. Wang, DEC (Digital Equipment Corp.), Sanders, Harris, Centronics, Mitre, Textronix – to name a few were exploding in size and technical prowess. The late 70s was a kind of tipping point for computers as well. While IBM, Honeywell and others represented the BIG computers surrounded by the black tie and white shirted acolytes, technology was nibbling at their heels.
Even as DEC & Wang saw themselves as becoming king of the hill, other geeks in Cambridge, Austin, Cupertino and Seattle were busily undermining their undermining.
The late 70s was also a perceptual tipping point. “The computer did it” was a common excuse for human failure. Computers were viewed as imperturbable monoliths that would take over the world – all powerful. At the same time, the counter-culture was beginning to assert itself in the technology world.
During 1977, I joined with Gus Jaccaci (augustjaccaci.com) and began dreaming and scheming to create a new kind of vision of the future. We wound up in Nashua where the A&S Center was hoping to live up to both parts of its name. At the same time many of the new businesses were trying to “infiltrate” the communities they were over-burdening with growth. We managed to raise funds and awareness and most importantly amazing exhibits of cutting-edge technology from leading tech companies. From a biorhythm calculator, t-shirt printing of your face, geodesic domes, graphics design, memory typewriters … technology we yawn at today but was once new.
We were rewarded with hundreds of visitors including the 3rd grade from Nashua that wrote me thank letters like: “Thanks for inviting me to the
Computers are for People” show. I expect that 3rd P grade emerged with a vision of ways computers can be harnessed by people rather than the other
My background: I grew up the 50’s as a granite geek building Heath Kits and crystal radios. In 1978, I bought a TRS-80, taught myself BASIC and found an entry level contract programmer job in Needham. Soon, I was programming in RPG, PASCAL, FORTRAN, FoxBASE and whatever else came my way. Eventually I moved back to NH (phew) and onto the internet where I use several open source languages to program business
Good stuff – David(s). Good memories, TRS(one in my basement), I loved RPGII – so logical. 80 and 96 punch cards. Bringing coffee and sugar to the SysOp to run my program deck !twice! in the same day! Regarding BASIC – I REMember always writing REMarkable code.
HeathKit irritating electrocutions. I hated the smell of burnt electronic components at 1:30am while running my somewhat illegal CB rig- looking for that elusive “SKIP” from Waco, Texas. My collection of QSL cards (in my basement as well as 5,318,008 calculators). Shuddering CQ CQ CQ all the next day.
RadioShack when they knew more than I did. Getting my “FREE” monthly battery. Going to the grocery store (or RadioShack) to test some television tubes.
Never quite got good enough at code(morse) to get my license. Remembered when 555s and 8080s came out – I figured it was only a fad(just kidding)
Whew – that was a (stack) dump. I need to get back to working on a Email message – lately hte cmptr hass beeen making mestakes
The Basic versioin I loved was REALITY BASIC (OH the hubris) that ran on Microdata(?). The operating system (now owned by Boeing) in 1976 was far advanced with variable length storage… drove me crazy when I went to the General Systems (GSD) RPG training in Waltham and had to enumerate every single byte storage.
PASCAL was fun. One long afternoon I was stepping through the hex debugger and discovered I was looking at myself… I had blundered in the video memory and was watching myself debug!
Every time I built a Heath Kit, I had order another tester to debug all the cold solder joints.
Don’t forget Burroughs Corp. They made a nice mid-range, the B800, which ran RPGII. I used one to write software for a beer and wine distributor in Michigan while in college. Fun times. If I recall correctly, the SEA building at 207 N Main in Concord was once a Burroughs office before becoming an IBM office before becoming NHPR….
I meant to include Burroughs but alas that memory register has been corrup^&*d.