Posts Tagged ‘Retrocomputing’

My Home Office Desk Setup

April 23, 2010

Whilst at home, a large part of my non-sleeping time is spent at my desk.  I generally work one day a week from home and find this my most productive day of the week, having a block of uninterrupted time, it gives me the necessary head space to effectively strategize, analyze, and prioritize.  This blog post is about my desk at home, the technology devices that it hosts, and how they are used.

My Home Office Desk Setup

1. Apple IIe Platinum computer, 1MHz 65C02 Motorola processor, 128KB RAM, dual 5.25″ floppy drives, MicroDrive IDE card with 128MB compact flash, color composite video monitor                   

2. Dell Adamo 13 laptop, 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD SATA hard drive; contained in a 13.3″ Toffee leather brief                     

3. Amiga 1200 AGA computer, 14MHz Motorola 68EC020 processor, 2MB RAM, 3.5″ floppy drive, Blizzard 1230-IV expansion card with 50MHz Motorola 68030 processor + 50MHz 68882 co-processor + 64MB RAM,  internal IDE adaptor with 4GB compact flash, PCMCIA compact flash reader                      

4. Apple iPhone 3G, 412MHz Samsung RISC processor, 128MB RAM, 16GB flash storage; contained in a Sena Ultraslim leather pouch                 

5. Dual Dell 24″ LCD monitors, UltraSharp 1920×1200 wide-screen with soundbar speakers, connectors for HDMI, DVI, VGA, S-video, component video, composite video                   

6. Belkin N1 Vision wireless router, ADSL2 broadband modem, 802.11n wireless, wired gigabit ports, and interactive network display

7. Nintendo Wii console, 729MHz IBM PowerPC processor, 88MB RAM, 512MB flash storage

8. Dell Precision T5400 workstation, 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor, 8GB RAM, 2x 750GB SATA hard disk drives, DVD drive, 512MB nVidia Quadro FX1700 graphics card, media card reader, WinFast Digital TV tuner               

9. Dell PowerEdge 1800 server, dual 2.8GHz Intel Xeon processors, 4GB RAM, 6x 146GB SCSI hard disk drives in RAID 5 configuration, 2x DVD drives

10. Lexmark X215 multi-function laser printer

My Home Office Desk Setup in Work Mode

The picture above shows my desk setup in work mode.  The Dell Precision workstation is running Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) and the most frequently used software is MS Office Ultimate 2007, MS Visual Studio Professional 2008, Internet Explorer 8, and NVivo 8.   I also keep a secondary boot partition on the workstation for installing beta software and undertaking software evaluations.              

The Dell PowerEdge server is running Windows Server 2008 R2 and MS SQL Server 2008 Standard.  Both of the 24″ LCD monitors are connected to the workstation via DVI connectors, whilst the server is connected via a VGA connector, allowing quick switching of displays via a button press.                   

My Home Office Desk Setup in Entertainment Mode

The picture above shows my desk setup in entertainment mode.  The Dell Precision workstation is utilized to watch and record digital TV, surf the internet, dual-box MMORPG game Everquest 2,  and most recently play the RPG game Dragon Age Origins.              

The Apple IIe is running DOS 3.3 and ProDOS 8.  It is used to play 8-bit games that can be downloaded from sites like and transferred via compact flash using CiderPress.  The Apple IIe is a favorite of my children, who particularly enjoy playing the original Mario Bros.  The applefritter forums is a useful forum for discussing everything about older Apple computers.                

The Amiga 1200 is running AmigaOS 3.9 with WHDLoad which makes it possible to run programs originally designed for floppy disks.  It is used to play 16-bit games that can be downloaded from sites like Lemon Amiga and transferred via compact flash.  The Amiga 1200 is used to play games like Barbarian II, Bubble Bobble, Pinball Fantasies, and Rainbow Islands.  The English Amiga Board is a great forum to discuss everything Amiga.                

The Nintendo Wii is used to play games, with the current favorites being Guitar Hero, The Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess, and Wii Sports.             

To finish, I quote Bill Gates in his 1995 book The Road Ahead       

There will be a day, not far distant, when you will be able to conduct business, study, explore the world and its cultures, call up any great entertainment, make friends, attend neighborhood markets, and show pictures to distant relatives — without leaving your desk or armchair.       


How my Interest in Computers Started

September 7, 2009

Many people have asked me how I got into Information Technology.  This blog post recounts where my interest in computers started.

In 1983, at the age of 11, I received my first computer as a gift from my Uncle.  The computer was a Sinclair ZX80 which had a 3.25MHz Z80 CPU and 1KB of memory.  I used a small black and white television to tune the computer’s UHF video signal.  I studied the manual on the syntax of Sinclair BASIC and typed in programs from the ZX Computing magazine I bought from the local news-agency.  The computer did not have a storage device, so any programs I typed in could not be saved.  It was this computer that sparked my interest in computers and reading various computer magazines about the advances in new computer systems and the latest software being released inspired me to learn more.

Sinclair ZX80

Sinclair ZX80

In 1984, I got my first job as a paperboy delivering the The Herald newspaper after school.  I saved up $449 to buy an Amstrad CPC464 which had a 4Mhz Z80 CPU, 64KB of memory, a built-in cassette tape desk, and a green screen monitor.  I studied the manual on the syntax of Locomotive BASIC and typed in programs from the magazine The Amstrad User.  More excitingly at the time, I purchased many games on tapes – including the titles Boulder Dash, Commando and Sorcery.

Amstrad CPC464

Amstrad CPC464

In 1985, I commenced High School which had a computer laboratory containing four Apple IIe computers.  The Apple IIe had a 1MHz 6502 CPU, 64KB of memory, an external 5.25 inch floppy disk drive, and a color monitor.  Me and two friends gained the trust of the school janitor and obtained after hours access to the computer laboratory where I self taught myself to program using DOS 3.3 and created several graphical demos.  The ability to save programs on disk made it significantly easier to learn to program.  I even convinced my English teacher to allow me to write my English papers in the computer laboratory, though my intent was to write my papers quickly and spend the rest of the time playing games.  I also made friends with a senior student who had an Apple IIe at home and he would lend me games – including the titles Aztec, Hard Hat Mack, and Wizardry.

Apple IIe

Apple IIe

In 1986, I sold off my Amstrad CPC464 to buy the improved Amstrad CPC6128 which had a 4Mhz Z80 CPU, 128KB of memory, a built-in 3 inch floppy disk drive, and a color monitor.  My familiarity with Locomotive BASIC and the ease of saving and loading programs on disk got me really interested in developing software.  I sketched out several game concepts on paper and drew game sprites using graph paper.  I ended up developing an arcade isometric maze game and a turn-based 3D dungeon game.  I also played some great games – including the the titles Barbarian, Elite, and Ikari Warriors.

Amstrad CPC6128

Amstrad CPC6128

In 1988, I got a summer job working at the local toy-shop assembling bicycles for Christmas.  I saved up $999 to buy a Commodore Amiga 500 which had a 7.1MHz 68000 CPU, 512MB of memory, and a built-in 3.5 inch floppy disk drive.  Whereas the previous computers were all 8-bit computers, the Amiga was a 16-bit computer that had dedicated chips for graphics and sound.  I never really learnt how to program the Amiga, as the availability and quality of software was incredible, including the titles Bards Tale, Bubble Bobble, Fusion Paint, Kindwords Word Processor, and Test Drive.  The Amiga was the first computer I bought additional hardware peripherals for, including a memory expansion card and a dot-matrix printer.

Commodore Amiga 500

Commodore Amiga 500

It was not until I finished High School and went to university to study computing that I got further into developing software, and it has been for the IBM PC platform ever since.  If you are interested in home computing from the 1980s I recommend reading the UK magazine Retro Gamer.