The Single-Board 6502
The 5th West Coast Computer Faire was FANTASTIC!!! Besides having the chance to meet a number of you, I got a real good look at the latest developments in the small computer industry. I am very excited with what's happening.
Everything is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Music, graphics, interface devices, software, applications… and on and on.
Graphics seemed to be one dominating theme of the show. Everywhere you looked was evidence on the fact. New and lower cost graphics peripherals were introduced. Two drum plotters for under $700, a graphics input device for $200, sophisticated 3-D software for the Atari machines, graphics animation on the Apple, the list goes on.
For low-cost digital input (about $200), how about this? Your Apple (or whatever) simply reads the position of the two pots which are mounted in the pivot points to compute the position of the arm. Clever, huh???
Telecommunications is another area of the industry that is expanding greatly. This is an area which I am particularly interested in because of the fact that as a society, we will be facing an increasing need to replace fossil-fuel burning transportation with energy and time efficient communication. The office of the future will more than likely be in the home for people who can interact with their jobs through a low-cost computer terminal and a modem.
We as computer hobbyists will have much to do with the future of telecomputing. We're the pioneers………
Basically, there are two broad types of information systems accessible today with low-cost equipment. The decentralized type of system includes PCNET (Personal Computer Network), CBBS (Community Bulletin Board Systems) and the like. These systems are fairly casual, since they're more than likely run by hobbyists, have no access charges, and are, at the very least, excellent ways to become familiarized with computer “networking.”
The other, more centralized, approach is that taken by The Source and Micronet (to name two). These outfits have large computers with access to very large data bases and many other services available. You can write programs in many of your favorite languages (BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, APL, RPG), have access to such things as the UPI General wire service, stock exchange quotes, backgammon, bridge, travel club, a buying service, file generators, editors, Star Trek and Football. On one service you can even download complete programs to your Apple, Pet or TRS-80 (how'd that one get in this column?). Anyhow, all kinds of stuff.
All you need to access this myriad of service is a 300 baud terminal and modem. But, to get the full benefit of all the services, you should also have a microcomputer on your end of the phone line.
Of course, with these large centralized information systems, you have access charges, passwords and the need of a plastic bank credit card to get into the system in the first place. Small price to pay for a little piece of the future, though. Beats the hell outa' the BOOBTUBE!