A retrocomputing day

Have you ever tried to spend all day with no modern computers? I haven’t. Not being able to look things up online would probably be an issue for me, as soon as I tried to do anything - I’d have to go old-school and use books.

Bill Kendrick presented a talk “Get work done” at Linux Users’ Group of Davis in 2017 where he relied mostly on his Atari 1200XL (8-bit 6502 CPU @ 1.79MHz) with 256KB RAM upgrade. Here are his notes:


(For the most part, he’s using the Atari as a smart terminal, as far as I can tell.)

Now, I’m fairly sure I read someone’s blog about spending the day only with (some variant) of an Apple II, but I can’t find it now.


Well, of course being in the older crowd, we grew up that way, without internet connectivity. I remember getting excited about contacting other machines, so I built a 300 baud modem (I was in high school at the time). Only problem was, there was no one local I could call. All of the BBSes were long distance from where I lived. I kept an extensive library of IC pinouts and books on the VIC20 I had. That was it. Learn by exploring!

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The infamous Circuit Cellar Steve Ciarcia modem! (we talked about this already on Mastodon).

So when I saw this topic, I thought it was about a day on the calendar when we celebrate Retro-Computing. Kinda like Record Store Day, and Comic Book Day, and Star Wars day (May the Forth), and Pi day (March 14th).

So we definitely need to create a Retro-Computing Day, and it needs to have a clever date, like Star Wars Day and Pi Day.

Let’s brainstorm this and make it happen!

Aha - found it!

I think Brian Lunduke did this a year or two ago as well.

Probably this, then:

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Yes. Sorry, I was in a hurry to get to my aunt’s so I didn’t have time to search for it. But that’s the one.

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Thanks for the pointer to Lunduke - skip to about 14:22 to see the GUI on the IIGS. (The preamble before that is mostly just an overview of the specs and OS features.) I don’t think I’d seen GS/OS - it does look like a Mac but with a dash of colour. Skip to about 21:00 for the applications (and then 34:00 for games.)

Thinking about what it means to have a retrocomputing day, what’s the minimum application set you’d need?

  • Being able to write would be good, and perhaps enough, if you’ve got some writing to do. So any kind of text editor or word processor or note taker would be enough.
  • Programming is always fun, so any interpreter, or assembler, or compiler would do for that. It’s a good measure of a system, whether you can develop for that system on that system.
  • Being online is another way to spend a day, so a terminal emulator and a serial connection would be the minimum for that.
  • A TCP/IP stack, and SLIP or PPP, or even an ethernet connection, would be another step up. Otherwise a modem and a list of BBS numbers to call would be enough.
  • And then of course a web browser would be nice - even better than telnet and ftp put together!

Edit: oh, and of course, a spreadsheet would do for programming of a different kind, or even for the legendary “balancing your checkbook.” A paint program, as Lunduke finds, would allow you to spend a day on pixel art. And any kind of music program could be enough too, if that’s your thing.

There doesn’t seem to be a follow-up to Lunduke’s “Using an Apple IIgs in 2017…” that I could find anyway…


Hmm, maybe it wasn’t so compelling a prospect! Or maybe he’s got it on his to-do list.

I like the idea of having a retrocomputing day. Bit hard to pick a clever date that covers the complete hobby from the early minis (or earlier) up past the home micros. And Programmer’s Day has already locked down the 256th day of the year.

Maybe August 8 as an “8 bit day”.

Or March 23 is the 1977 hour of the year if I’ve calculated correctly. But that is really tied to the home computers in particular.

Something more encompassing could be October 10th which we’ll winkingly refer to as the 2nd day of the 2nd month as a binary joke.

Or how about July 31st as retro new year’s eve? It has to be then because we run out of bits to store the month and day in 8 bits. Or perhaps that is August 30th if you consider January the 0th month.

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How about the second day of the year since we all use base 2?

This me reminds me much of our efforts on G+ to establish a Maze Day, celebrating mazes as one of the traditional pillars of playful, recreational computing.

First Intergalactic Maze Day
Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mazes have always been a great application for research and recreational computing, be it about rendering mazes or solving them. In an earlier post [1], I proposed a Maze Day to celebrate them. In honor of Claude Shannon and his famous maze solving mouse (Theseus), we picked July 21 for the date, since July 21, 1951 marks the earliest document on Shannon’s maze-related activities [2].

So, everyone is invited to contribute. Any historic articles related to mazes and computers, programs of your own, posts, blog-entries, screenshots or videos of mazes rendered and/or solved on your esteemed retro computing device (or emulator) are welcome.
Let’s celebrate Maze Day!

[1] <some G+ post>
[2] http://cyberneticzoo.com/mazesolvers/1951-maze-solving-mouse-claude-shannon-american/

P.S.: Obligatory fun-link: https://www.masswerk.at/pet/?run=maze.txt

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Oct 10 is eight, not two!

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Sadly we just missed 07 07 …

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Perhaps Oct 10 for microcomputers and 07 07 for minicomputers? (And July 21 for Intergalactic Maze Day. I found myself going down the same rabbit hole, chasing up the G+ posts on that subject in my archives. Which I ought perhaps to do something with, one of these days. Some 6000 posts on computer history and retrocomputing. Or indeed double that.)

07 07 is definitely 12-18 Bits Day! :slight_smile:
However, internally, the 6502 is halfways octal (at least for its instruction decoding).

Regarding Pi-Day,

In Europe we prefer the upcoming July 22nd - as an alternative approximation.

But I think it was Chuck Moore who suggested 355/113 as being a very close approximation to Pi correct to 6 decimal places.

Seriously, getting work done on a typical 6502 machine would require

Text Editor
Language Interpreter (BASIC or Forth)
Some modem connection to an online service, such as Minitel, Texletext etc.
and patience - you ordered datasheets or samples by phone and often waited 2 days for them to arrive by mail.