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Atari, my love.

This blog post is due to the fact I was just reanimating my Atari 2080ST, which triggered lots of memories I urgently needed to write down… so here we go:
Yes, the 1st proper (i.e. not soldered) computer I owned was a C64… I loved it, really. I loved it for 3 years… and seriously dreamt about getting an C128D – until I’ve read the fist reports about that Atari 260ST.

I was hooked just by the specs on paper. For me it looked like a Macintosh but with a realistic chance to own one some fine day.
Actually there was a day in the beginning of 1985 when I sat with Heinrich-Hermann Huth, (one of the founders of later Application System Heidelberg, ASH for short) discussing what’s the best upcoming computer. He was 100% Commodore 128… until I started my Atari ST anthem.
Around June or July, he invited me to his parents house to “show me something exciting”. There it was, one of the first STs in Germany, serial number 6, directly picked-up at Frankfurt airport. TOS came on an awesome 3.5″ floppy, the included Basic was slow as hell and the the Digital Research SDK left me puzzled. C? Compiler? Linker?
It became clear that I have to learn a lot to be worthy for such a serious system.
Looking back I wonder if ASH would ever been founded without my evangelism ūüėČ

So in early 1986 it was my turn: My Confirmation. This is a big deal over here and the most “profitable” observance. While the standard wish of kids in these days were big stereos, mine was clear.
Thanks to perfect timing, the 520ST just became 520ST+ and now had a whopping megabyte… it was heaven.

The glory of the 80s… bad jumpers and paper 3D-glasses.The right half shows the C64 moved into a far corner before it was sold to buy a 2nd floppy for my ST.

Just about that time, Application Systems Heidelberg was founded… in the child’s room of Heinrich-Herrmann, who somehow managed to get the exclusive distribution rights of Megamax C for Germany.
This proved to be a lucky pick, because the ST was taking the German market by storm and there was no good SDK available. So magazine ads were needed and I was the only one who had a design talent. This was my first design made with my brand new 520+:

The company logo was cut out and glued onto the b/w print which came out of a 9-needle-printer.

Mind the small pencil in the lower left corner. In German, that’s a “Stift”, which is also slang for “apprentice” – which was me ūüėÜ
There’s even an article about this ad in the german ST-Computer magazine over here (pg. 7/8).¬† Quote:

Doch selbst der Software¬≠Gigant aus Heidelberg fing klein an: Auf einer Viertelseite bewarb die Firma in der Ausgabe 07¬≠08/1986 das Megamax C¬≠ Entwicklungssystem, gestaltet wurde die Anzeige mit der Systemschrift und den F√ľllmustern des STs.

Which translates into “Even the software giant from Heidelberg started out small: In issue 07-08/1986 the company advertised the Megamax-C SDK¬† on a quarter-page, designed using system fonts and the fill-patterns of the ST“.
Yeah, that’s all true. And “The Stift” was payed for this and other ads by being allowed to keep the glorious Citizen MSP-20 9-needle printer.

In the following years I spend my time mostly in 3 places: In school because I had to, at home in front of my Atari ST or in the ASH office because it was just so cool. During these days I did many thing for them:

  • Packed so many, many, many Megamax, Signum! and STAD boxes, labeled 100s of floppy-disks (was payed in M&M currency)
  • Some levels for Oxyd, Bolo and Esprit.
  • Some Signum! Fonts (forgot which ones, but they were in the 1st 251-Fonts book)
  • Phoenix Ornitho Database (containing samples of each bird singing)
  • The cartoon on the last page of their in-house magazine. Was quite a fancy oversized, glossy thing.
  • Probably 10 other things I forgot…

Icons and Infobox for Script v1

…and Scarabus.

Boy – this was definitely one of the top-5 times of my life. Thanks for this H3, Volker, Ojo (always in my heart), Karen (my heart ;)), Oili, Thomas and all the other great guys’n’gals from back then! Love y’all!

SPARC – time flies

Recently a good friend of mine gave me a super-duper, crazy-as-hell Oracle SPARC M7 CPU for my CPU collection forcing me into another stroll down the memory lane… and I couldn’t refrain from taking a special “family photo”

SPARC M7 next to SPARC 1 - 29 years appart

Yes, the couple sitting next to the huge M7 is a SPARC (1) from a SPARCstation 1 @ 20MHz, Рthe CPU was manufactured 1989 by LSI (S1A0007), the FPU came from Weitek (3170).
BTW: I personally pulled both back in 1992, when I worked in my 2nd company selling SPARC clones.

If I counted correctly, the there are 26 model-generations and about 29 years are between them (just SUN/Oracle models). Ignoring all the M7 hyper-modern stuff like in-silicon-SQL accelerators etc. numbers are still breathtaking:
The¬†SPARC M7 -still one of the fastest CPUs around (as of 2016)- has ¬†10.000 times more transistors, a 206 times higher clocking, 31 more “cores”. It’s 64MB L3 cache(!) is the same amount, a SPARCstation could address¬†as a maximum system RAM.
Sadly there’s no way to compare their actual computing power, as benchmarks which where ran on the SPARC 1 aren’t applicable on the M7 and vice versa. Or do you have Dhry/Whetstones for an M7?

Anyhow: It’s just so amazing to be able to witness this crazy development in just 2/3rds¬†of an average-life-time. Don’t you think so, too?

My new MacBook Pro from… Redmond!

F*ck me! I would never-neverever thought that this might happen… but last week was the time I switched to the dark side¬† ūüėĮ

Say hello to my new “MacBook Pro”:

Whaaaat? Yeah, I know… but wait a sec before you pull your light-saber.

My Macs are both officially obsolete since macOS Sierra was released. A mighty 2008 Mac Pro as well as my 2010 MacBook Pro. Boy, believe me – did I anxiously¬†wait for the presentation of the new MacBook Pro! That was in 2015… and ’16.. and then the big moment came. And went. I was, mhh, not impressed.
Many Mac users of the “first hour” complained about, well, everything. I have to say, I am a Macintosh user since 1984 – I moaned about the loading times of System 6 on a 128k Mac, I jubilated about the 1MB and SCSI in the “Plus”, ¬†drooled over the IIfx, even admired ¬†the doomed AV’s, ran A/UX, owned the first PowerMac etc.etc.etc… but this time, they just lost me.¬†¬† ūüėē

Missing ports aside (and I really need USB-A) the main reason for loosing me was the price they slapped onto the 15″ Pro… 2699‚ā¨ – holy bat-wallet! That’s nearly $2900US$… $400 more than in the US. I was speechless. Angry. Flabbergasted.

So, after squinting into the Surface Book corner for some months already, I gave it a closer look (I quit using Windoze seriously when VIsta popped up) and had to admit that it helped Microsoft having¬†been pushed into 2nd row. They at least got some things right and there’s always a VM with Linux at hand.
So I did it. Found an i5/8GB/256GB for a whopping 1000‚ā¨ less and must admit: I like it a lot up to now. A speedy, stylish, well designed laptop, a big tablet and it natively runs all the FPGA IDEs, my logic analyser tool from china and Cygwin gives me an instant bash and GNU.

Never thought it would happen…. let’s see how it works out in the long run.

P.S: Apple Mail, I do miss you, though.

Did you drop your Macbook Pro dream, too? Think different? Post a comment!