Day 245, vintage computers, mulch prep

I went to the concert at Rinconada, but left fairly quickly. The opening was “Business Casual”, a local a cappella group. They do covers of well-known songs, with percussion by a pretty talented beat-boxer. The main act was I Forget Their Name because they weren’t very good. Trying to do Eagles and other 70s bands and not good at all.

Back home by 7:30 I watched half of the RiffTrax version of  Cat Women of the Moon.

Sunday, 8/4/2019

Had coffee at Mlle. Collette. Then went down to the Museum to attend the Vintage Computer Fest. One of the features this year was a meeting of an Apple I user’s group, touted as the largest assemblage of Apple I ever, or at least for a while. There were at least half a dozen on display. Steve and Steve sold about 200 of them. The user group’s registry lists about 75 known to exist now. One of the ones on display included the original shipping box, with a return address of, not Apple, but Steve Jobs’ own house.

I was disappointed by one exhibit that initially intrigued me. In the past few years there have been some amazing small computers released, the Raspberry Pi, the Arduino, and so on. Complete systems with video out, USB in, competent CPUs and for a file system, a 16GB SD card. (Note the G, it still boggles me that you can get a 16 or 32 gigabyte “disk” in a chip the size of your little fingernail.) Well, one exhibitor here was the founder (and sole proprietor) of MakerLisp, a credit-card sized system with a Lisp interpreter in ROM. With the Pi, the Arduino, the BeagleBone, you write code on a PC in a dialect of C++, compile it, and download the binary to the little system. That makes the development cycle somewhat tedious, and the C dialect is not a pretty or friendly language. So the idea of a card computer with an interpreter for a (sort of) high-level language on board is attractive. So I eagerly opened the MakerLisp website and was quite disappointed at the very shallow support and documentation level. Basically if you aren’t already a Lisp maven, you can forget it. There’s no help here. To call the docs (which I downloaded and looked through) “minimal” is to flatter them. The only people who could buy this pretty little machine and put it to work are people with the same depth of experience as the designer himself.

(Hmmm…  I wonder how hard it would be to implement APL on a RasPi…? You know, that is not as silly as it sounds; there already exists GNU APL, free, runs on Linux; and there is an Ubuntu port for the Pi. Use an APL shared variable to map to the I/O pins on the Pi….)

Another educational effort is the 1620 Jr. project, for which I can’t find a website although I’m sure they have one. A real 1620 was restored and sometimes demonstrated in the old exhibit space ten years ago, but has since been put into storage, partly because it was too hard to maintain its typebar-typewriter output device. Some of the guys who did that restoration have obtained the console of a 1620 and backed it with a cycle-accurate simulator and a modern typewriter for output. Their aim is to offer a course in which students will learn how to program the 1620, practicing lessons on simulators on regular laptops, then bringing their debugged programs to the realistic console to run. But the Museum is in the throes of personnel changes, so it’s on hold.

I headed home for the afternoon. At 3pm I remembered to call Lyngso Garden Supply and get the delivery time for the 3 cubic yards of mulch tomorrow. 9am-11am. I emailed that info to Richard the gardener, saying I would go and spread out the tarp in the morning. Then I got anxious, worried that the big tarp that I had carefully stowed at the back of the garage might have been tossed out by a contractor. So I drove over to Tasso street. The tarp was fine, so I spread it out at the end of the driveway, weighted it down with bricks, and just to make sure no contractor decided to drive into the driveway and park on it, move the garbage cans out onto it as a barrier.

Back to C.H. for supper and a quiet evening.


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