Hello all, Brian here, born 1960, spent the first twenty years around the fringes of NW Kent and SE Greater London.
I was fascinated by electricity from an early age, and this led to electronics as a hobby (and a lot of two transistor multivibrator circuits). I got most of my components from scrap circuit boards from a local electrical junk shop. Desoldering ICs was tricky until I discovered that the earth pin of a UK 13A plug could be clamped to the tip of a soldering iron and fitted exactly between the pins of 14/16 pin DILs. I had always been fascinated with computers, but the idea of having one of my own seemed an impossible dream at that time.
In 1977 I got a place in a MOD Apprenticeship (engineering technician). And so my obsession with computers began in earnest.
The apprentice training center had a HP 2000 time share system where I discovered BASIC (a gateway drug?), as well as a few microprocessor trainers (8080 and 6800). Around that time, my elder brother gave me a set of empty PCBs and construction manual for a NewBear 77-68 system. It took a while to collect all the components, but eventually I completed the CPU, UART, VDU and RAM board, although I could only afford to part populate the RAM board, the 2102 RAMs would fail faster than I could afford to replace them, so only ever had 1K available.
Bought a ZX81 kit, it stopped working after a month (ULA failure suspected) and got my money back.
After the apprenticeship, MOD(N) offered me a job at HMS Dryad as a maintainer in a team of engineers looking after their Warfare Team Trainers (basically a giant game of battleships). Initially looking after a FM1600 ship computer and FM1600B simulation computers (24 bit core store machines). Most of the time the fault-finding was just board swapping and only occasionally working to component or back-wiring level.
The warfare trainer complex was an interesting job that kept me busy for the next 25 years with new systems and simulators being added every few years ; FM1600E, F2420, Locus 16 (a control computer for aTepigen), Argus 700, Harris Nighthawk, Advance86b, SGI Origin 200, SGI Onyx 2, and SGI 02, As well as a few F100L, and LSI J11 embedded in the simulation equipments and 386, 486 and Transputers in the ship equipments.
Sadly the simulator complex became too costly to maintain and has been replaced by a new facility a few miles away. But some of the old equipment has found new homes.
During those years I had an Acorn Atom, then a Sanyo MBC 555 an early PC clone that was only compatible at the BIOS level. Eventually frustrated by the incompatible hardware I bought a 286 clone, which served me for many years, I upgraded it so many times that it became like Dave’s broom. Also had an Atari Portfolio, a Toshiba T3100 and an Epson PX-8 with the 120K Ramdisk.
During these years, my elder brother passed the remains of a PDP 8/E to me, it had no case nor PSU, and no front panel. Without any documentation there was little hope of getting it running again. A year later he then passed to me a complete but faulty PDP11/20 with lots of documentation. It took a while to diagnose the fault, a logic gate failure in an IC, but not a standard TTL part, appeared to be proprietary to DEC, but fortunately the PDP 8/E used a few of the same IC. A moment agonising and the deed was done, IC removed and transplanted and the PDP 11/20 came alive (but I only ever ran BASIC on it).
Then my wife became pregnant. The spare bedroom was needed for a nursery. It all had to go as there was nowhere else to store my toys. I gave some away and scrapped the rest. I can only say that impending fatherhood clouded my judgement as it seemed that I would have little time for hobbies for the next decade or two.
^^^ All that remains of my early machines, a few souvenir scraps. ^^^
I eventually had enough of the stress of the job, retired early, and moved to a bungalow. Still have a few boxes left to unpack, but have found that I still have a Casio PB-80, an Asus EEE PC 700, a Compaq Mini 700 (currently runnng Sigrok with a cheap Chinese logic analyser), a Toshiba Tecra 500 CDT (that I keep for a DOS app for programming a Parallax Stamp 1), and a pair of Nova 600 PC104 boards (that I used to use with small Linuxes).
My elder brother has recently paid me another visit, and passed a box of stuff the he no longer uses/needs …
But I think that needs to be a separate post.
P.S. I did not mention the Kindle Fire, Windows 7 PC, or the four iPads as I did not think they are retro enough (though maybe the iPad 1 soon will be).
“Always remember that you are unique, just like everyone else.”