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The passing of Steve Jobs has us thinking about the early days of personal computing, but this focus on the success of Apple could distort our understanding of the process of developments that has led to the connectivity that everyone who is reading this takes as just part of life.   The New York Times series on the history of the personal computer had this to say in an article on August 19, 2001 "How the Computer Became Personal":  

In the pantheon of personal computing, the LINC, in a sense, came first—more than a decade before Ed Roberts made PC's affordable for ordinary people. Work started on the Linc, the brainchild of the M.I.T. physicist Wesley A. Clark, in May 1961, and the machine was used for the first time at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD, the next year to analyze a cat's neural responses.

Each Linc had a tiny screen and keyboard and comprised four metal modules, which together were about as big as two television sets, set side by side and tilted back slightly. The machine, a 12-bit computer, included a one-half megahertz processor. Lincs sold for about $43,000—a bargain at the time—and were ultimately made commercially by Digital Equipment, the first minicomputer company. Fifty Lincs of the original design were built.

LINC, and thus Clark, is seen as competing with others for the title of first personal computer in this description of his 1981 award by the IEEE Computer Society.

Wesley A. Clark ( not to be confused with General Wesley K Clark)  and his wife happened to live just across the hall from us on the West Side of Manhattan for ten years.  Not only did I not know of his importance in this field, but neither did anyone else in the building.  He was this quirky guy, who always barked at our door when he came home to get a conversation going with our little Westie.  His relationship with him may have been deeper than he had with me.  

His story is too complex, so the best I can do is provide a few verbal snapshots. In the 1960s when he was doing his work that earned him the title in the Times article, he lived in the world of technology development, government grants, and academic politics, all the while creating his inventions that would have immediate use in medical research and national defense along with transforming the world in ways he could have only imagined.   I don't think he ever thought about the potential wealth that could be realized, as few did at that time.  No one had ever gotten rich on these small computers

Unlike those who have made vast fortune in the world of computer-internet such as Gates, Jobs and others, who jumped into it without the any advanced eduction, Clark earned degrees from UC Berkeley and MIT.  He was located in academic settings, but brought his own funding from two main sources, NIH, National Institute of Health, and DARPA,  Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.  (I will include some interview transcripts that can be found-with a bit of digging at this valuable web site,  

Here are some observations on the funding  process

NIH funding v. DARPA

O'NEILL: Well, I am interested from someone who is actually involved in getting money from both of these organizations - how you viewed them.

CLARK: Well, you must remember, that was in the 1960s. It was kind of a heyday of government funding. NIH and DARPAhad budgets that were growing. I almost felt as though I was called up from time to time to see if I wouldn't be willing to take another quarter of million dollars off their hands. You see, it wasn't quite the same sort of thing.

The DARPA work was on contract, the contract mechanism and the NIH funding was through the grant mechanism, and those are quite different kinds of things. The NIH has considerably more paperwork associated with the grant  mechanism than it does from its own contract mechanism, which it also has or did have, but we did not use. And  ARPA operated only on the contract mechanism. On the other hand, in the ARPA system once you were in you were a member of a club, a stable of supportees by the IPT, with the early meetings in exotic places (preferably, but not always), and a pretty good sense of community with other people who were receiving support from that office. And of course, IPT also had a sense of mission that the NIH people generally did not manifest, although they may have had.

This was an open source culture.  One man started to write a book about Clark's involvement with LINC, but he abandoned it, and gave all the interview material eventually to this museum that sponsors the website linked above.

Here's a part of the interview that describes one of Clark's greatest contribution, his seeing that the then current model of multi million dollar computers that were shared by multiple users could never provide the full potential for visual graphics and interactivity that he saw as so valuable.  This was a conceptual insight that, while perhaps shared by other, he was in a position based on his successful work in the field to advance.  Here's a snippet of the relevant interview on this subject:

O'NEILL: In the early 1960s there started to be a lot of talk about time-sharing. What were your views on timesharing?  Do you recall?

CLARK: Yes. I'm one of the oldest continuous floating (?) objectors in the business. I still think it's a bad idea. (Diarist's note- Clark was making an illusion to a song from Guys and Dolls, that the transcriber wasn't familiar with , thus the question mark)
Time-sharing, I assume, in your question means capital T, capital S - Time-Sharing, as defined by Project Mac (nothing to do with the Apple Mac, of course
The term "time-sharing" came out of the early work with WHIRLWIND and the SAGE system where it meant something far less grand. The SAGE system was built around a pair of computers - one of them serving pretty much as a backup. The SAGE system per node... I mean a network of computer nodes around the country built
around a pair of computers - one primarily a backup, and yet accessed by hundreds of operators through display consoles in dark rooms looking at radar pictures and computer re-representations of the important parts of radar pictures and tracks of airplanes and the military hardware at hand to defend, and all sorts of other things that went into the air defense problem.

This intellectual insight of Clark, was when the technology based on massive mainframes with time sharing not only the norm, but the expectation of this being continued.  This describes his planting the seed of the idea, that was not at first received with applause.
O'NEILL: While this committee was coming up with the report, did you have discussions with the people on the committee about these issues? I mean, was it active...?

CLARK: You mean, were the committee meetings active? Well, yes and no. As I recall the sort of case study proposals of how well things would work if we only had this kind of stuff, and so forth. I tried to point out that it was going to be very hard to do real-time work, or even non-real-time, but display work, for displays. You see, the image
in mind was that of a typewriter, or teletype machine actually, as the principle means of interacting with this timesharing machine. And that's very limited. But there was other work going on at the time with these displays starting with WHIRLWIND and through MTC and TX-0 and TX-2, all of them display-based machines - screen display, CRT.

And that was going to be nearly impossible to do, even on a very small scale, on a few displays, on a time-sharing basis with the technology we had at the time. And I thought that would be a loss because I knew very well that that is your principle means of interacting with a computer if you start to do any kind of interactive work. But the committee was not interested in hearing stuff like that.
O'NEILL: Did they respond at all to your objections?

CLARK: Not so much. I think they were simply swept aside or tucked in the, "Yes, that's an interesting consideration," department.

Here is Clark's eureka moment where he conceived of the design that would become the Internet:
CLARK: Oh, yes, I mostly heard all of these people talking about the various problems, and maybe for the first time and not with that much zeal, and was quiet for most of the meeting, if not all of the meeting. But toward the end, just before we broke up, I do remember suddenly realizing what the meta-problem was. They hadn't quite realized what they had, all of the proponents of the network. And so, I must have lit up in some way that caught Larry's attention.

No, I passed him a note; that's what I did, I passed him a note saying that I thought I saw how to solve the problem. So they collared me once we left the meeting and wanted to hear about it. I just suddenly realized the fairly obvious thing that they had an n-squared (n2) interaction problem within computer nodes, and that that was the wrong way to go about it. It would be hard to fund and control, and everything else.

And so, the idea was to simply define the network to be something self-contained without those n nodes... without those n ARPA-supported big computers,
they had a number of PDP-10s, as I remember. I think that was PDP-10s time, I am not sure. But, in any case, leave them out; put them outside the network. They weren't part of the network, the network was everything from there in,
and that should be around a single, common message-handling instrument of some kind, so that the design of that instrument and all of the lines were under central control - ARPA central control. They could fund it, get projects started to design the parts, define its finest characteristics and so forth. You had from n to only one interactions, translations, or protocol translations, or whatever to get on the network, and one more to get off, instead of nsquared.  Because they were all talking different requirements, and timings, and concerns and so forth.


Here's why I wrote this essay:  

Some of the statements that Clark made that are quoted above are unverified, and could be considered self serving and distorted, except for one thing.   He never sought any acclaim or reward for what he had contributed.  Once again, I don't claim to have had a friendship with him, much to my loss; but he never showed a hint of arrogance.  I even had a few discussions with him about computer technology, assuming we were sort of at the same level.  He never disabused me of this conceit, as others may have.

The earliest development of the technologies that paved the way for the technological advances that we now take for granted were done in the open source era.  Until recently computer code could not be patented, only copyrighted.  This is a major difference, as the ideas were in the public domain, but only the exact wording was owned by the writer.  The restrictions of patented code (details here), would make advances such as Clark's much more difficult.  

His work was not isolated incidents of his mind, but the long slog of insight enhanced by coordinated effort of a group of talented people.  This kind of achievement, probably more representative of most advances, does not lend itself to dramatic narrative, but just may be the way our complex world continues to improve.  

I believe from my limited knowledge that Wesley A. Clark has lived a full life,-and continues to do so- and never felt any remorse that his insights have created the road for hundreds of people to become billionaires, while he is remains somewhere in the middle class.  Most importantly, his life and work gives the lie to the conservative myth that creative invention would not happen without the incentive of amassing vast fortunes.  

This has become a self fulfilling prophecy that obviates the ever greater personal satisfaction that comes with creating artifacts that benefit our world.  It cheapens and debases us all, distorting our personal values while doing grave damage to our system of economic rewards.

I believe Wesley would share this view.  

I sent this essay to Wesley indirectly, and waited for his response, his confirmation that I told his story fairly, and also that we were still O.K. with each other.  The days, and then the weeks went by with no response, and I started to feel bad, had I misstated who he was, what he felt during that time of great creativity, his good humor in looking back at those times and the many who became obscenely rich based on his innovations?

And then finally, this response- annotated to clarify his unique style:

What the hell ho,* Al:

Of course I remember Chumley, and with a fond little smile too. Many thanks for bringing this delightful beast back to mind, and for sending us such an astonishing surprise, your "My neighbor" blog!

But - hey! - Al ... all them glowin' words in thar? Even tho ah glows along with 'em, it's still jes me, Wesley --- still that quirky guy who lived across the hall.

And thanks, too, for the update on affaires Rodbell.

So, fare you the hell well, good sir,

-- Wes

* the long form of "hello"


Originally posted to ARODB on Sun Oct 30, 2011 at 04:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Systems Thinking and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The patent system (15+ / 0-)

    is a mess. It has been distorted by corporate influence to create the opposite effect of its original purpose, which was to protect an inventor long enough to profit from their invention, then open it up for others to build on later. Now the patent system is so screwed up, they are horded by huge corporations and used to threaten and extort other companies.

    Advances in technology are necessary for a highly developed economy to continue to flourish. Much of the technology and infrastructure which provides our country its advanced economy was built or developed in previous generations. Corporate control of our political system is strangling the future growth and productivity which the US would otherwise have.

    "If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again." Groucho Marx

    by Ruh Roh on Sun Oct 30, 2011 at 05:30:49 PM PDT

    •  Aparently from my reading... (8+ / 0-)

      the supreme court had decided that code could not be patented.  An appeals court disagreed, and the case was never adjudicated again by the top court.  

      It could be that the recent patent law has made the court hesitant to intervene.  It sounds like a terable system, that any elaborate program must contain elements that are patented, and must pay a royalty, if they get permission at all.

      Imagine if this had been in effect when natural language was evolving, and words and phrases were patented.  We are approaching this with Service Marks, so that with a lawyer on retainer you can demand compensation.

      Actually letters of the alphabet, like O, for Oprah etc have been so protected.

      •  Oprah owns "OWN" now, I guess, lol. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        arodb, ColoTim, Mr Robert, Bluefin

        I wonder if "OWS" is close enough to OWN to have legal troubles?

        In a world where the linked list can be patented 40 years after I had to do homework problems involving linked lists, just about anything can happen. I read the patent, granted in 2007. I could hardly believe my eyes.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 06:00:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  O/T: Oprah's Trademarks (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          arodb, billmosby

          I did a quick search for trademarks that Harpo (Oprah's business name) owns and it was quite interesting.  FTR, I did not find OWN, I did find seven separate applications for "THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK".  They should be issuing soon.  But, more amusing were some of the trademarks she is applying for, like: "SPECIAL MOMMY HUG", "AMERICA, ARE YOU NORMAL?", and "JOY RISING". Scary, but she also owns the trademarks, "RELEASING YOUR INNER SEXPOT" and "BETTER IN BED".  Finally, I thought it amusing that she owns the trademark, "GAYLE KING".  You'd have to pay me buckets of money to register my name!

          •  There was a famous case involving Jeep. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            It was the given name of a guy who ran a bar somewhere near Jackson, WY. Chrysler sued him; he was actually born and named before the Jeep name was applied to the vehicle by its originator, which was bought much later by Chrysler. He was named after a cartoon character, but the originator of the name never gave him any problems. Or Chrysler, apparently.

            Moderation in most things.

            by billmosby on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 03:49:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for your recollections. (10+ / 0-)

    This is fabulous stuff, and there is so little of it -- real pieces of the history of science and technology in our times.

    Many thanks again!

    The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

    by magnetics on Sun Oct 30, 2011 at 06:54:30 PM PDT

  •  Sorry, but I built the first personal computer (18+ / 0-)

    Really. I did.

    In 1959.

    So there.

    My father was a computer engineer working for Remington Rand and UNIVAC during those years. The customer had recently replaced their Remington Rand UNIVAC 120 with the latest and greatest UNIVAC Solid State in 1958. The cabinet of used parts for the UNIVAC 120 ended up in our basement.

    So, for a 6th grade science fair project, I built a 6 bit binary counter out of old TV parts and the salvaged spare computer parts.

    It had 6 neon lights on the front panel, a reset button, and a pulse telephone dial. You could reset the beast, dial some numbers, and the neon lights would display the sum of the numbers. You had to add the binary values of the lights, though. The neon lights were labeled 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32.

    You could fry eggs on the cabinet. Actually, you could burn the eggs. It probably draw about 400 watts of power.

    I could have built the thing out of a few electrical relays, but I was only 11 and had no money. Besides, there was a basement box with a cache of vacuum tubes and related parts and there was a TV repair shop at the end of our city block.

    This was my "home" computer.

    So there.

    "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Sun Oct 30, 2011 at 08:53:58 PM PDT

    •  Congratulations... (12+ / 0-)

      That's why I wrote this, to smoke out those with a prior claim.

      LINC had no capability to fry eggs, so your device had certain advantages that it did not have.   Now if only you had an uncle who was a patent lawyer,  you could have been so wealthy you can have been one of those mega rich liberals, like Soros and Gates.

    •  Back in '64/65 (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GrumpyOldGeek, Shotput8, am, Bluefin

      I enrolled in an "Electronic Data Processing Course" at San Angelo Central High School in San Angelo, Texas.

      The course consisted mostly of learning to keypunch cards, sort huge stacks of cards into sequence on sorters, etc.

      One of the really cool pieces of equipment was an IBM 604 Electronic Calculator. It contained over 1400 vacuum tubes and generated so much heat that we had to put something that looked like a range hood on the top to capture the heat and vent it outside.

      The refrigerator sized box was attached to a card reader/punch and was mostly designed for payroll calculations. The program was controlled by a plug panel containing jumpers that determined the operation to be carried out on each of 50 program steps.

      Back in the 1960s there was a television advertisement for some toothpaste, possibly crest, that had incorporated the matrix of neon lights on the front panel.

      The box was as big as a commercial refrigerator and weighed many hundreds of pounds.

      I got my start wiring boards for those machines, but quickly moved on to using real computers like the IBM 1620 and IBM 1400 series machines.

      Here's a link to a picture of the 604 calculator.

      Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

      by Mr Robert on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 10:59:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My brother built a home computer too (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, billmosby, GrumpyOldGeek

      When he was studying mech. engineer at Cal Poly, one school contest was to build a robotic car that could drive through a (known) maze. All the other students of course used a programmable microprossessor and went on from there. My brother, being a mech E, and knowing zero about IC's and chips, built a totally mechincal 'computer' using a disc with slots cut into it to 'program' the car's course. The disc is read by a rod which controlled the car's steering with a series of strings. At the very end of the course, the car actually had to reverse and back out. His car actually did this as well using the self same mechanical disc computer. And it worked.

  •  My high school may have been one of the first to (11+ / 0-)

    have its own stand-alone computer for student use. I graduated high school in 1968, in Queens. During my final semester I took what was, for some reason, NOT considered an advanced placement class in which we (I believe it was all boys in the class but it was a very long time ago) got to mess around with what I think was called a Monro[e]bot 1 (or 2? The exact name, spelling and model number has been lost to the mists of the past). It was an off-the-shelf thing and was pretty limited. It literally was a desktop computer; while there was no keyboard or display, the CPU and paper punch-tape reader together covered about half of a schoolroom desk. We typed a program onto tape using a more or less standard keyboard (I don't know what language the thing actually ran on), inserted it and...voila! could perform arithmetical calculations on it in about the same amount of time you could do them on paper. It was remarkably primitive, limited and slow but for all intents and purposes it did the same sorts of things that the time-share mainframe on my college campus did in the early 70's and the same sorts of things that a simple, Basic program would do in the mid-1980's.

  •  In terms of valuable inventions (8+ / 0-)

    the digital computer will shortly come to be viewed as the crowning achievement of the 20th Century.

  •  sorry arodb (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arodb, cville townie

    but could you translate what Clark said when he explained his  flash of insight on how to solve the problem they were working on?
    Just a brief explanation, if you have time.
    Interesting diary but I don't understand the lingo...


    •  Thats what I appologized for in advance.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eve, cville townie

      There were many technical and organizational references that would have opened a very deep abyss.  I included the transcript verbatim in the off chance that it would have meaning to a reader or two.

      I hope it captured some of the flavor of his world even if the details remain hazy.

      •  thanks (0+ / 0-)

        i wish i were one of the "a reader or two" but dadadata provided (below) the thrust of his discovery of how things could work out and what the problem was in the first place.

        yowza - really incredible thought processes to recognize, identify and solve these problems to make the internet what it is.

        I look at it as a democratization enabler if we can hang on to the free exchange of information (free also meaning unfettered by government control like supposedly happens in China)

    •  In essence: (6+ / 0-)

      the network would use one "language"

      Anyone who wanted to connect to the network would write a converter, or translator, for their own computer (IBM, Dec, Control Data, yadda) for whatever was traveling on the network.

      It would take DECspeak and make it into TCP/IP or whatever the network's "language" was to send stuff.

      It would take TCP/IP and convert it to DECyak to receive stuff.

      In a nutshell that's it.

      Think of a French person (pas d'Anglais) and an American (no spikka da French).

      You both wanna read Moliere and Shakespeare. Someone has translated the play (which Yvette can already read) into English for Babs.

      Meanwhile, Babs can read Shaksper after a fashion, and someone has translated the play into French for Yvette.

      Neither has to know how to get from one language to another, only that they should go to the library. The library catalog stands in for the network here. The people who did the translations stand in for the conversion software.

      That's an imprecise analogy, but it's useful.

      Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

      by dadadata on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 07:38:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My dad worked on (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arodb, billmosby, Mr Robert, Bluefin

    the SAGE program back in the 60s. Trying to link up computers for real-time information retrieval and display back in 1964 was apparently pretty...interesting, let's say.

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 07:07:21 AM PDT

    •  At blazing 35 and 110 baud speeds, yep. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      arodb, milkbone

      "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

      by Bluefin on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 09:58:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A great many people contributed a great many... (6+ / 0-)

    ... codes, devices, linkages, physical packaging and early applications for what would become computers, then "personal computers" and then Apple and the Macs.

    For me, the real geniuses were those few individuals working within a supportive group who put the elements together to form what we think of today as the desktop/laptop. I nominate the crew at Xerox PARC followed closely by Jobs and Wozniak at Apple as the true hero-founders of the personal computer.

    Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

    by TRPChicago on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 07:43:32 AM PDT

  •  It wasn't the technology (7+ / 0-)

    ...that made the personal computer "personal".  It was the price and a business model that kept driving the price down so that more people could afford to buy one.

    Lots of folks played around with the technology for years, but it required the invention if printed circuit boards, integrated circuits, and microprocessors to actually lower the price.  That technology did not appear for hobbyists until the early 1970s.  And was not put together into a kit until the invention of the Altair.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sold kits to hobbyists during this period.  And hobbyists built the demand for personal computers before easy-to-use ones were available to the public.

    The first personal computers were expensive toys for those wanting to learn programming (in BASIC) so that they could build their own programs, saved on diskettes because hard drives scaled for personal computers did not exist.  The Apple II was thus pitched primarily to the educational market and commercial software developed for education.

    It took the launch of the business "personal" computer by IBM and the appearance of the Visicalc spreadsheet program for things to take off.

    Apple's release of the Macintosh with its graphical user interface and bundles of software was the first really usable personal computer.

    It took the deployment of the internet in 1990s for the personal computer to become really "personal".  A means of interpersonal communication.

    The idea of the one great individual behind an invention is a Horatio Alger mythology.   In fact, inventions have always depended on previous invention and previous business models.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 08:04:36 AM PDT

    •  Both parts were needed.... (5+ / 0-)

      Certainly the popularizing of what had been a geeks toy was required.  I remember the first, and at the time, only hobby shop that had a small computer section.  It was on fifth avenue around 29th street in N.Y.

      That was it, until Radio Shack and Apple came out in the late 70s.  

      The technology did not come from these shops, as they had been developed with billions of dollars of research as described in this diary.  I used the title of invention of the personal computer as that's how we think about these things, but really to refute the single inventor concept.

      Yet, there was genius and creativity that Clark possessed, in the opinion not of me, but of his peers.  Popularization is essential, but only happened because of people such as Clark, and thousands of others.

      •  Oh, I forgot (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ColoTim, Mr Robert, billmosby, Bluefin

        The folks a Xerox PARC who put together some user interface items.

        And the Whole Earth Catalog, which was very early covering the books about the technology and the sources of supplies.

        And then there's the good ole Department of Defense and NASA, without whose multi-billion dollar investments there would not be the heavy-duty technology to begin micro-izing.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 10:16:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think the mouse was also invented (0+ / 0-)

          at Xerox PARC possibly under a DARPA contract.

          Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

          by Mr Robert on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 11:16:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Englebart, Stanford Research Institute, 1963 (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mr Robert

            Moderation in most things.

            by billmosby on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 11:29:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, the concept of a "trackball" (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              billmosby, arodb

              was invented in Canada.

              According to the same wikipedia article

              The trackball was invented by Tom Cranston, Fred Longstaff and Kenyon Taylor working on the Royal Canadian Navy's DATAR project in 1952. It used a standard Canadian five-pin bowling ball. It was not patented, as it was a secret military project.[3]

              I suspect that the researchers at SRI were already familar with the trackball and packaged it as somthing that we now know as a mouse. The SRI device is tiny in comparison to the first device that had to be pushed around on the floor.

              Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

              by Mr Robert on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 01:44:29 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I saw that part, but I hate trackballs, lol. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Mr Robert, arodb

                the article said the canadian one was part of a classified system, I wonder when the concept reemerged or was reinvented? I do remember seeing them pretty early on, before I ever saw a mouse. Can't remember where, though.

                Moderation in most things.

                by billmosby on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 01:47:40 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  At some point, I saw a picture of it (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  billmosby, arodb

                  and it was really a gigantic mouse-like device. It was a cube shaped device mounted on wheels. It contained a trackball like many mice do today that was in contact with the floor. It was mounted on wheels and when you pushed it around encoders would detect the movement of the wheels and send them to a computer.

                  It was really just a very crude version of a mouse that you pushed around the room.

                  Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

                  by Mr Robert on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 02:02:01 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  If that was the Canadian version, (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Mr Robert, arodb

                    it puts me in mind of how South Park would portray it, given the way they draw Canadians....

                    Moderation in most things.

                    by billmosby on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 02:21:56 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  On second thought (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    arodb, billmosby

                    the gigantic mouse that I saw was definitely not the trackball device mentioned in the Wikipedia article.

                    The Wikipedia article on trackballs shows a picture of the DATAR device and it looks and works like a trackball in spite of being built around a bowling ball.

                    The one I saw must have been much earlier considering the size and all. And, I've looked and looked, but I just can't find it.

                    Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

                    by Mr Robert on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 02:22:48 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

    •  don't forget (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby, Bluefin

      the trs 80 or trash 80. Where it fits in I have no idea. My neighbor who ran a small jewelry business gave me his as they got something newer and better.
      I'm convinced that most of us would be perfectly happy with our first computers if it wasn't for the internet requiring more and newer machines all the time. My little mac plus had all the math, spreadsheet, and word processor capabilities I would ever need.
      Of course now I need streaming video capacity.

      music- the universal language

      by daveygodigaditch on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 12:21:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  TRS-80 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        My first adventures online were in the mid 80s with a slightly modified TRS-80 Model 3 and a 300baud modem. Ah, the memories.

        •  I had one also that I bought used... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          djMikulec, billmosby

          it had all of 64K memory, (this was the expanded version) with 2 floppy disk drives that held, maybe a quarter of a meg, not sure.  The cost used was $1800.   In those days a mini computer such as Digital only had 5 megs of storage if I recall and costs about a hundred thousand dollars.

          The killer app was Visicalc, from which came lotus 123, and then excell.  I developed an estimating system for the printing industry on that machine.   And it worked and saved countless hours of calculations.

          Oh, and then there was Dancing Demon, a little stick figure that you could control his moves and the music.  It was a real kick.

          •  I hacked mine... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            after finding out that IBM full height DS floppy drives could be installed in them, with each side being a separate volume. Doubled the storage capacity!

            My first game (for the Model 3) was a text adventure... Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Still have it, in the original box.

      •  I have single images bigger (0+ / 0-)

        than the whole hard drive of a Mac SE we used to drive a nuclear waste drum scanner at Argonne-West in the late 80s.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 03:45:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Or the Sinclair 1000 (0+ / 0-)

        ...with the optional tape cassette storage.  And all the software entrepreneurs pimping their stories of success in Venture magazine.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 05:23:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Comments (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billmosby, Snud, bobinson, Mr Robert, Bluefin

    Strictly speaking, everything in the history of digital technology is connected to everything else.  So 1960s-era minicomputer architectures were certainly a pre-requisite for the 8-bit CPUs that powered the Altairs of the world and later the Apple II.

    What's different is this: until the mid-1970s, there was no real mindshare for the concept of a "personal computer" intended to run stuff like spreadsheets and document editing, let alone the idea of using one principally as a networked delivery platform.  There was a concept of "personal computing" and a personal computing reality via a green screen or even dumber character-mode printing terminal if you were in the right university or research environment but these all involved green screen (or before that printing) devices attached to remote central computers.  Other people had tried and succeeded at building personal computers in the 1970s but Jobs had the idea of building one that was actually useful to people who weren't tech heads.  I am not a fan of Apple technology (I own a Windows desktop and laptop and an Android smartphone) but Jobs, more than anyone else, figured out that he was selling a lifestyle accessory, not a technology product -- his industrial engineering runs rings around any Windows hardware platform and iPhones are so slickly constructed and marketed that by the time you realize that you're being corralled into Apple's proprietary pen you are hooked.  That Windows is easier to manage in bulk and doesn't tie you into hardware (and thanks to antitrust law Microsoft's software-level incest is more annoyance than problem)  This was what Steve Jobs wrought.

    •  Homebrew Computer Club (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ruh Roh, Mr Robert, billmosby, arodb, am, Bluefin

      When I was 10, my father dragged me to one of the Homebrew Computer Club meetings in the mid 70s. It was during the time that Jobs and Wozniak were introducing their computer. They rolled it out over the course of about 6 meetings and I was at one of them. As a 10 year old, I can say that I was much more interested in the light switch in the desk than anything taking place on stage.

      Up front, there was a bearded guy in overalls talking about stuff that I had zero understanding of. Years later, my dad filled me in. The club was made up of techies and engineers who liked to build computers. They liked talking about the processor boards, input boards, output boards, BIOS boards, printer boards, modem boards, memory boards, all kinds of boards that go in the computers.

      Wozniak went up on stage and said they could put all of this stuff on one single board. The collective reasoning of those in the audience was, "Why in the hell would you ever want to to that?"


      by bobinson on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 09:03:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry, I'll have to come back (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, billmosby, arodb

    and enjoy this in detail, when I'm not at work.

    One tidbit:
    I worked at Datapoint back in the early 80's.  Company lore is that they went to Intel in the mid '70's and asked about combining all of the microprocessor functions onto one chip.  Intel of course said it couldn't be done, they were too busy with their single board solutions.  Soon afterwards Intel developed the single chip microprocessor....  Now that the patent has expired, Intel has allowed Datapoint some credit for the concept.....  Datapoint itself couldn't make the transition from selling desk top business computing solutions (networked workstations with centralized storage and shared printing) to PC's....

    •  Datapoint Corp is still around, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      arodb, joe wobblie

      in the call center and networking biz.
      Datapoint Drive is near the medical center off Frederickburg in SA, close to USAA.

      "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

      by Bluefin on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 10:22:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Used to work at 9725 Datapoint Dr. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Datapoint's token ring chip far outlasted the rest of their hardware business.  About the time I left, we had 6,000 networks installed vs. DEC's Ethernet having about 60.  Back then you had to drill into the Ethernet backbone every so many feet and wedge in this complex plug for a connection.  We were RG 94? with a BNC connector wherever you wanted a machine.

        •  Good ole coax/BNC, derived from radio (0+ / 0-)

           interconnections, mostly microwave, another real interesting area.
          Farinon (microwave equipment) had a big campus near I-10 and DeZavala too (Farinon Drive?), behind the old Crystal Ice Palace.

          "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

          by Bluefin on Tue Nov 01, 2011 at 08:27:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The crucial takeaway here: role of the GOVERNMENT (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, billmosby, arodb, Bluefin

    in funding this most important innovation of our time. Lest people forget- the GOVERNMENT funded IBM in the very beginning. The GOVERNMENT funded Clark when he had his vision of the personal computer. Same government started the Internet. Some other governments funded the World Wide Web.

    Teabagging fools ranting about the evils of socialism needs to be made aware of all the good things that socialism has brought us.

  •  Clark proves several things. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arodb, Bluefin

    Not all creation is motivated by the prospect of wealth. The government provides a much needed role in creation. Job creators such as Clark (millions and millions of jobs created via the PC and Internet) do not crave tax cuts over all else.

    Food for thought on many levels. Thanks for this diary.

    How quickly the Pacifist becomes the Warrior when it's "our side" doing the killing.

    by edg on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 01:02:50 PM PDT

  •  Great history. I have tech roots that go back (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to the DEW and SAGE systems, awesome stuff, and I was a part of those early 'timesharing' systems and what followed.
    Recommended reading as to how it was to work (work hell, it was fun) in this stuff is the book about a slightly different system: "Soul of a New Machine", by Tracy Kidder.

    "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Sie Angelegenheit nicht mehr.

    by Bluefin on Mon Oct 31, 2011 at 08:17:12 PM PDT

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