Feeds

Love on the buses: The S-100 and me

An illustrated affair

Business security measures using SSL

This Old Box Although the IBM PC had been released in August of 1981, the system of choice for true geeks in those days was a home-brewed computer based on the S-100 bus architecture.

I may have not been a bull geek in those days, but I was working on it - so I built one in 1982. It served as our family's computing workhorse for a few years, even after it was joined in our home office by an Apple Mac in 1984.

The S-100 bus was an outgrowth of the Altair 8800 of the mid-1970s - and, no, I'm not going to call the Altair 8800 the "first personal computer". There are so many competitors and such a vague history surrounding that claim that I'll let you folks dig into that contentious subject on your own.

First or not, the Altair 8800 did give rise to a bus technology that was eventually standardized - as much as anything was standardized in those early days - into the S-100 bus. Much of the popularity of the S-100 bus can be credited to the efforts of George Morrow - one of the true greats of the early days of personal computing - and his S-100 Bus Standards Committee.

This Old Box - S-100 XOR enclosure

It may not have been pretty, but it was a business powerhouse

Supported by broad range of systems, the S-100 bus made assembling your own system a relatively easy chore. First you opened up the back pages of Byte magazine, found an enclosure with enough slots, bays, and power that you might need, and wrote a check. Then you shopped for cards, drives, and cables.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, that latter chore was decidedly more enjoyable, as the quest led me to the San Jose Swap Meet, where companies and individuals put up makeshift tents or backed-up their pickup trucks, and sold everything from chips to cards to cables.

This Old Box - S-100 system case, inside

Inside there's plenty of room for cards, drives, and power supply

I recall that when I asked the guy from whom I bought a bargain $300 64KB RAM card - out of the back of his truck, by the way - about his warranty policy, he simply laughed. The suits hadn't yet tamed Silicon Valley.

So here's the system that I assembled, and which has been languishing in my basement since the early 1980s. Some basic specs:

  • Size: 22 by 20.75 by 10.75 in. (55.9 by 52.7 by 27.3 cm)
  • Weight: 77 lbs. (35.4 kg)
  • 8-bit processor: 6MHz Intel 8085
  • 16-bit processor: 8MHz AMD 8088
  • Memory: 64KB SRAM
  • Storage: Two 1024KB 8-inch floppy drives
  • Ports: Three RS-232 serial, one Centronics parallel
  • Operating system: CP/M 2.2
  • Spreadsheet: SuperCalc
  • Word processor: WordStar
  • Database software: dBASE II
  • Management utility: CP/M Power
  • Price: $2,100 (£1,420) in 1982 dollars, or $4,630 (£3,130) in 2009 dollars

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Half a BILLION in the making: Bungie's Destiny reviewed
It feels very familiar - but it's still good
Apple's big bang: iPhone 6, ANOTHER iPhone 6 Plus and WATCH OUT
Let's >sigh< see what Cupertino has been up to for the past year
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
A SCORCHIO fatboy SSD: Samsung SSD850 PRO 3D V-NAND
4Gb/s speeds on a consumer drive, anyone?
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Get your Indian Landfill Android One handsets - they're only SIXTY QUID
Cheap and deafening mobes for the subcontinental masses
Apple's SNEAKY plan: COPY ANDROID. Hello iPhone 6, Watch
Sizes, prices and all – but not for the wrist-o-puter
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.