Feeds

Love on the buses: The S-100 and me

An illustrated affair

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

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

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets
Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Seventh-gen SPARC silicon will accelerate Oracle databases
Uncle Larry's mutually-optimised stack to become clearer in August
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.