My CPU Diary

Here’s a diary of my personal CPU history going back to my college years in the late 70s/early 80s.

Prehistoric systems

8080A – This was the processor used in the lab systems that we worked with when I was in tech college in 1979. It was programmed in octal machine code.

Z80 – Later we also had systems with this processor, the Timex Sinclair.

MOS 6502 – This processor was used in the Commodore VIC-20 machines that were used in the labs in the tech school where I worked as an equipment technician/part time instructor from 1984-1987.

MOS 6510 – This is the processor that was used in my first home computer, a Commodore SX-64 briefcase system. I learned how to program in Forth on this machine… just for fun. I’ve completely forgotten it.

Intel 80486 – This processor was in a system that I used where I worked in 1993-1994. It ran MS Windows 3.1. It was the system where I first experience Microsoft Project. I HATED that program! I also got my first taste of AutoCad on this machine. Now that was a cool program!

More “modern” systems

Intel Pentium I – This is the processor that was in the little computer that my brother gave me in 2000 after purchasing his Gateway AMD Athlon K-7 Thunderbird monster. This is the machine on which I first experienced the World Wide Web portion of the Internet. I had previously experienced USENET and Gopher on some of the older machines above.

AMD Athlon K-7 Thunderbird – This is the processor I used in the very first modern machine (ericsbane01) that I built for myself (from a bare bones system purchased at a computer fair here in Tampa). This machine was souped up a bit with a larger hdd, more RAM, and a better vid card and given to a friend of mine quite a few years ago. He still uses it.

AMD Athlon XP  – This was the processor in my next home built machine (ericsbane02). This one was built from the case up, though, not a bare bones start. This was also the first machine on which I installed GNU/Linux – Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake in June of 2006. Slackware followed a few weeks later and became my primary OS almost immediately.

AMD Athlon 64  – This processor was the heart of my ericsbane03 home built system. It was my first 64 bit system.

AMD Turion 64 X2 – This is the hearty little workhorse processor in my ericslaptop01, a Dell Inspiron 1521 given to me by pal Josh (securitybreach from Scot’s Newsletter Forums). I’m actually typing this on it right now. :)

Intel Pentium M – This is the processor in the Sherman tank laptop, a Dell Latitude 610 (jenslaptop), given to me by my niece a while back. It sits on my office desk running Slackware 14/Xfce with no trouble at all.

AMD Athlon 64 X2 – This processor was the heart of my ericsbane04 (later to become ericsshop02, my current shop system). I actually bought the processor for this home build used from a fellow on eBay. The price was right!

AMD Phenom X4 – This processor was the brains of my ericsbane05, my most recent main system which crashed (bad mobo) on me just a few days ago. It was a great system… until it broke. :(

If you’ve read An Open Letter to Santa, you already know what I’m shooting for on my next system. ;)

And that’s how it was…

~Eric


Machine vs. Man – Could It Happen?

Data scarfing by BIG Tech, data sifting by BIG Gov, autonomous machines, smart phones, smart cars… Could it happen?

Kyle Reese: The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human… sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him.

Sarah Connor: Look… I am not stupid, you know. They cannot make things like that yet.

Kyle Reese: Not yet. Not for about 40 years.

– From The Terminator (1984)

Most folks who read this blog are techies in some way or another. You all know the possibilities of current and near-future technologies. Have you ever wondered what lies ahead? Will something like SkyNet ever happen? Will Google’s massive server complex someday wake up and decide that it doesn’t need its masters anymore? How much is science fiction and how much is possible?

Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to craft superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended… Can events be guided so that we may survive?

Vernor Vinge, 1993

They’re just machines, right? We made them… our refrigerators, our industrial robots, our predator drones and autonomous tanks, our communication satellites. We control them. We utilize them to achieve our design goals. We make the machines. What happens when the machines start making the machines?

It seems probable that once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers… They would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage therefore, we should have to expect the machines to take control.

Alan Turing, 1951

I started wondering about this the past week or so due to a marathon viewing session of the Terminator franchise movies and from reading a fantastic book, which I’ve reviewed elsewhere, called Robopocalypse by Dr. Daniel H. Wilson. It got me thinking, which often leads to me to trouble. ;)

I know technology. I’ve worked with it all my life as an electronics technician. I understand the underlying principles of digital computers, networks, security, etc. I also have some experience in the mechanics and electronic controls of robotics… a fascinating field, indeed. It has come a long, long way since I was working on small robot arms at a local trade college in the 80s.

When it’s quiet in this room at night and all I can hear is the fans in the computer tower next to me on the desk here, I begin to wonder what will be sitting on this desk or in the corner of this room in 40 or 50 or even 10 years from now? How “smart” will it be then? Will it ever be smart enough to know that it exists as an entity in space/time? At that point, should that point ever come, what will determine its behavior? Programming from neurotic humans or programming from a smarter machine? How will a self-aware machine view the fragile bags of fluids and minerals that created them? What happens if/when those machines are part biological?

Musical interlude: I, Robot by The Alan Parsons Project courtesy of GrooveShark

The next major explosion is going to be when genetics and computers come together. I’m talking about an organic computer – about biological substances that can function like a semiconductor.

Alvin Toffler, author of the visionary book Future Shock

Many questions, right? Things to ponder. I don’t have the answers. I’m just here to stimulate your late night thinking while you’re sitting there listening to the whir of those cooling fans in that box on the desk next to you.

T-600 Terminator

Could this rubber-skinned metal menace really haunt our future? If so, could human spirit, intelligence, and the same ingenuity that got us there also help defeat it? Makes one wonder, huh?

We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

H. P. Lovecraft, 1926

Later, if we’re still here by then… ;)

~Eric

Image credits: T-600 Terminator from the movie Terminator Salvation owned by Warner Bros., used here under Fair Use rules with appropriate credit given.

Memo: Many hyper-links in my articles point to further information provided by the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. This wonderful resource is made possible by people like YOU. Please donate if you can. Every little bit helps. No. I’m not affiliated with Wikipedia, other than as an occasional contributor; I just think it’s a good thing… one that deserves our support.


The Helios Project (Revisited)

The Helios Project

Posted by V. T. Eric Layton on Apr 4, 2010

Once there was a needy child who wanted to learn, but had no computer.

A man named Ken Starks in Austin, Texas saw that child and wanted to do something to help. Ken had been a student of Bruno Knaapen of Amsterdam, a tireless, selfless teacher of All Things Linux. Ken created something that served to provide that needy child with that necessary computer so that exploration of the world of the Internet could begin; quenching that burning desire to know what is out there to be known. How did Ken do this?

By creating The Helios Project, an Austin-based not-for-profit organization that provides computer systems installed with the GNU/Linux operating system to needy children. There are no paid directors or staff at The Helios Project. Everyone volunteers his or her time and effort to this cause. Bruno Knaapen himself deemed Ken’s project highly worthy of praise and support, as do I… as I’m sure you will also, once you become familiar with it.

A child who wants to learn but has no means to achieve that goal is indeed a sad thing, in my opinion. Knowledge should be the most free of the freedoms that a society enjoys. No child should be denied knowledge for monetary reasons. Those who hoard knowledge to themselves, guarding against its spread to the masses, are paranoid and selfish souls; securing knowledge to themselves and as a consequence… power.

FREE knowledge = FREE world = FREEDOM!

Help Ken and the Helios folks spread that knowledge. Visit the site and see if you have anything they might need in the way of hardware and parts. If not, maybe just consider clicking that Donate button, hmm? Feel really ambitious? Follow Ken’s example and set something like The Helios Project up in your own town.

Check out The Blog of Helios when you get a chance. Also, Ken was just recently awarded the Dewey Winburne Community Service Award. Congratulations, Ken!

Until next time…

~Eric

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This article was originally published on my Nocturnal Slacker | Lockergnome blog. You can click HERE to see the original.


Linux – How I Got Here… and Where I’m Headed

Sometimes, we all have to look back down the path we’ve taken to more fully understand that path that lies ahead.

I started my Linux Adventure a bit late in life. I’ve always had an interest in all things technical. My career for the majority of my working life was as an electronics technician (component level repair). I had aspirations at one time of gaining an engineering degree in electronics; other paths were taken, though.

My first experience with computers and programming and such was in 1979-80, when I was attending tech school. We were trained on kit-made 8080A computers that were so primitive that they were programmed directly via octal machine code. The outputs of the machines were led light displays. This was ridiculously simplistic by today’s computing standards.

I didn’t choose computers as my field of endeavor, though. I was much more interested in RF (radio frequency) and audio electronics. That decision probably made for a much different life than others would have. I regret lacking the vision that others had regarding the future of the computer. Hindsight shows me that I would have enjoyed a career in that field very much.

I did not have much interaction with computers from the early 80s till about 2000, with the exception of some fun times with a Commodore SX64 and some intriguing games from a company called Infocom. Oh, I had some experience with PC-type systems at the workplace in the early 90s, but I never really developed a passion for them.

I remember in the late 90s sitting at my kitchen table reading computer store ads and dreaming about getting a system for my home. I never could justify the money for it, unfortunately. I had other priorities. In 2000, my brother bought a new system for himself and passed his old system on to me. It was a little Pentium I – 90Mhz machine. I set that guy up and signed on to a bunch of free dial-up ISPs and off I went…

My current passion with computers and operating systems came about directly from my initial experiences with the Internet in 2000. Yeah, I was a little late coming to the party. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. I have come a long way, though. I’ve been building my own systems since 2001 or so. I crossed over from MS Windows to GNU/Linux in 2006. I’m currently reading and learning all I can about the GNU/Linux operating system.

I made some resolutions in the new year to learn more about specific Linux subjects; one in particular was shell scripting. I’m currently reading and experimenting with that now. I’m also publishing some basic lessons regarding this stuff as I go along. I learned a long time ago that a great method for learning is to learn by teaching. I have to research and learn something before I can write an article about it here.

Whatever I learn, I like to pass on to others. That is the beating heart of the GNU/Linux Open Source community. I have learned so much from the selfless acts of others in this community that I am driven to give something back. It is a mission of mine to educate, to assist, to entertain, and to ease the transition of new Linux Adventurers into this wonderful community. I am no guru when it comes to Linux, but I have gained enough knowledge to get around without getting lost too often. I have much to learn yet, but when I do learn it, I’ll be here or somewhere helping others to learn it too.

A man called Bruno inspired me.

I would one day love to earn a living writing technical related articles or books regarding GNU/Linux. I would like to be employed in some fashion that would allow me to use my knowledge in a GNU/Linux business environment; as a systems administrator or a technical writer for some company or other. Sadly, my late-coming to the party and the fact that I’m no young spring chicken anymore has hindered my abilities to secure any positions like these. I’m totally self-taught and hold no industry certifications. I would love to attend school again to learn more in this field, but again… it doesn’t always work out that way.

I’m not at all sure what my future path is going to be like. It’s a day-to-day thing right now. However, I will always be learning; and with any luck, I’ll always be here passing it along to you.

Thanks for reading/commenting.

Later…

~Eric


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