Monday, February 1, 2010

Pocket Computers and Programming

My brother Ernie was a fan of the Radio Shack pocket computers. He started with the original pocket computer. This was a neat little machine with a QWERTY keyboard and a BASIC interpreter. This was a real step up from a programmable calculator. Later on he bought their Pocket Computer 2 model. I think this model had two microprocessors, and you could draw very simple pixel graphics with it. You could save your programs to tape, and there was a printer for it. My brother managed to discover a machine code monitor in that model and he was experimenting with that. This reminds me of what another friend of mine told me about the first model of the HP-41 calculator, that it was possible to program it in machine code in an undocumented way.

Today these pocket computers would seem quite primitive and wanting, but for many purposes even today they would be very useful. Of course nowadays people expect their pocket devices to have Wifi and Internet access. What was great about these machines? They shared the same approachability as home computers like the VIC-20 and TRS-80. Just by reading a simple 100 page manual you could learn how to make the computer do your bidding. Want to be a programmer?

You + pocket computer + 100 pages of reading = programmer

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