Computers I’ve used – The Spectrum

My experiences with computers has been largely restricted to micro computers (considering the fact that I was born in 1983). There’ll be lots of people who would have dealt with all kinds of machines I have never even seen (maybe heard of), but let me do my best.

One of the first computers that I happened to work on was the Spectrum (Sinclair – wikipedia entry) which belonged to my grandfather, which he had purchased around 1987 (PCs were quite expensive then, especially in India). There were quite a lot of varieties of the Spectrum available (started from 16K and went up to 128K), with this one being a 64K db Spectrum model. Some of it’s contemporaries would be the BBC, Atari, Commodore 64 and quite a few others (I hope I’m right). The machine used ordinary tapes/cassettes for storage, and you had to wait for 3-5 minutes to load a program from them. There were floppy drives for the Spectrum though (in fact the person from whom my grandfather used to purchase software for the spectrum had one.

The machine itself was just a basic keyboard cum CPU unit to which you had to attach the tape recorder, joystick and other peripherals. The machine used Sinclair BASIC for programming, and the keywords were typed from preset keys and other special keys (not sure if I explained it properly – maybe this picture will help). What made the Spectrum special was probably it’s graphics capabilities. I used to play a lot of games on it, ranging from Arkanoid to Batman, tennis, cricket and lots more. We had quite a few books with programs for the Spectrum, and I wrote & stored a few of them with some help from my father and grandfather. My grandfather used the machine primarily for storing his contacts, journals etc (writing programs for each).

It’s been a very long time since I last worked on it – my grandfather gave the machine away to one of my cousins when he bought a new PC (as late as 1998). With that he also had he give up all the daat stored on the old tapes.

However, it’s still possible to go back to the spectrum environment right on our PCs using emulators. I’ve tried out a few of them. Some of them even seem to have support for reading tapes (I had tried it a long time ago by hooking up the tape player to the PC’s line-in without much success though). So, if you are one of the persons who used the Spectrum, do check out the following sites (in fact you might have already):

There are quite a lot of others available containing both emulators and tape images (not sure about the legal issues though, if any). Also in case you want to have a look at old computer photos, if those old computer names made you nostalgic, check out the following links (all from TechRepublic – might require you to register):

So, what are the computers you’ve worked on?

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A little bit of desktop hardware for a change

I purchased a computer over a month ago, and its been performing quite well. I used to like looking at hardware reviews, but it had been a long time since my last look at a review (around 4 years). However, I did quite a lot of catching up during the course of my computer purchase, and got updated on the latest specs. Techreport and Anandtech were quite useful during my market survey, and have quite a lot of reviews on different hardware.

Interestingly, the time of my computer purchase coincided with the announcement of the launch of the new Core 2 processors by Intel. Going by the reviews I came across, these processors have a totally different architecture from the Pentium 4 series, and are more closely related to the Intel mobile processors. The processors are really top notch performers and score well in all the three main P’s for processors – performance, price and power consumption. This in fact seems to have given back the performance crown for destop processors to Intel from AMD, whch had been doing very well for the last few years. Here are a few of the reviews on the Core 2 processors:

Coming back to the specs of my machine, it would have been good to have a Core 2 based machine, but they were ruled out due to the budget and availability. In fact the one of the best available here in Kolkata was the AMD Athlon 64 3200+, and given it’s price along with the corresponding motherboard, that’s what I opted for. So, here are the specs of my machine:

To go with them I have 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard disk and a Sony DVD writer, along with a Lacie 80 GB USB hard disk for portable storage which I purchased 3-4 months ago. All in all, the configuration would have been a high end one over two years ago, barring the graphics card, but now is a pretty average one. However, it meets my basic requirements, including that of playing games. In fact the onboard graphics is quite decent, having DirectX 9 hardware support, and can play 3-4 year old games at the highest settings quite comfortably. This chipset would be quite well suited for office users, mainly due to its onboard graphics which should be able to handle Windows Vista’s high graphics requirements.

Want to rule over your own nation?

Think that you could do a eally good job of ruling over a nation, want to tackle different issues everyday for a nation and make decisions which will change the life of those you rule? Then try out NationStates, an online nation simulation game.

It’s an interesting game, in which you get to create a nation of your own with a flag, currnecy, national animal, type of government and what not. Once you have your nation, you’ll have to tackle or just ignore the issues that come up (the frequency can be set). The stats and description of your nation, like population, economy etc are influenced by your decisions.

Your nation also belongs to a particular region (you can switch regions too), and your nation also features in different rankings. In fact, the simulation even has a United Nations like body in which regional members get elected. So, there’s quite a lot of political simulation happening too (not all simulation actually since nations are controlled by real people). It can be fun to try and develop your nation along a line, but find that the decisions you make end up driving your nation along a different path altogether.

In case you try out the game, pay my nation, Somewhere in the world, a visit. It will also give you a basic idea of what the interface is like (basically text based), and what the game looks like.

Tom Riddle’s diary on the net

Does the name Tom Riddle ring a bell? Then you must have read the Harry Potter series, in which Tom Marvolo Riddle is the original name of the greatest dark wizard and Harry‘s enemy, Lord Voldemort. And, if you have read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you must be aware of Tom Riddle‘s diary which was able to converse (as in write back when you wrote something in it) with people.

I had come across a site (Tom Riddle’s Diary) quite some time back (through a mail forward), which uses a software robot to give the same effect as the diary in the book. When you type something into it, it erases the text and replies. It’s quite an innovative way to demonstrate the capabilities of a technology.

Coming to the underlying technology, it‘s based on Pandorabots, ”an experimental software robot hosting
service based on the work of Dr. Richard Wallace and the
A.L.I.C.E./AIML free software community“. It is possible to use this bot in many different ways, and there are quite a few implementations available (including a conversation with God spinoff). So, if you’re interested in the underlying technology check out pandorabots.com, where it possible to sign up for an account to create your own bots.

Play 20 questions on the net

Many of us would have played 20 questions at some point of time or the other (a game in which a person thought of some object/famous person & another person had to guess by asking a maximum of 20 questions, with answers being monosyllabic in nature). I liked to play it quite a lot. However you require two players for the game.

Now though, it is possible to play it online against the computer at the following site: 20q.net (actually it has been around for a while). The computer is usually quite good at guessing the object you thought of, though it might at times ask irrelevant questions. It can also learn new objects not in its database. Also if you try to mislead the computer by giving wrong answers, it will point out contradictions when you give out the answer finally or when it guesses correctly.

There was also another flash based site (sithsense created for Burger King) which used the 20Q engine, but with a radically different UI. You had Darth Vader (from the Star Wars movies) asking you the questions. The original 20Q site seemed to be better at guessing though, but this ones probably more fun to play. The site seems to have been archived & asks for authentication now. The authentication information can be found here (cpbgroup site).