Thanks! I did very well competing in a total of 12 science fairs with ongoing iterations of the project (3 smaller iterations per year of high school, with a major re-implementation or large new feature each year). First and second place awards, and a fair amount of cash prizes and scholarship money which helped pay for some of college. I believe I won a $500 prize at the science fair in this video, and it directly went into Atari stuff - a 130XE, XF551, SpartaDOS X, and ComputerEyes. A couple months later I won a bit more money and was able to afford a very bare bones 286 PC, and that was the beginning of the end for the Atari as being my workhorse computer. I remember distinctly it was a debate between a hard disk interface for the Atari or that PC... Bittersweet memories, for sure, but in terms of the potential the PC unlocked for programming languages and growth as a future engineer, it was the right choice.
By the final iteration, I had rebuilt the arm out of aluminum, built much better electronics (including an ISA card), made a primitive image recognition system which could automatically pick up objects placed on the table, programmed a GUI from raw graphics primitives in Turbo C, etc. Super fun stuff, and it laid all of the groundwork for what would turn into a pretty enjoyable engineering career. And it all started with Atari!
Wow you are amazing! This is stuff I could only dream of when I was in high school, but certainly could never have pulled off (not withstanding the fact that there were no personal computers when I was in high school). Thank you so very much for sharing this.
Yeah I held on to my justification to use my Atari instead of a MAC or a PC up until the mid 90's, saying things to myself like who needs a PC when I can get onto Genie or Compuserv at 9600 baud with my A8 just as well. But then 1995 rolled around and I was introduced to what you could do with Windows and AOL (America On-Line), and much faster modems than the A8 could ever hope to keep up with. And the A8 looked very bleak and emancipated in comparison. Also I got a free copy of a DOS PCB layout program for the PC, as well as Corel Draw and a donated PC from my brother just a couple of years before that, and reality couldn't be ignored any longer. And much like you I went into Engineering as a profession, so there was no justifiable reason to pretend my A8 could compete in that world, and it was put aside. Well I'm glad to say that I stopped letting everything revolve around the idea of having to create wealth in whatever I do, and instead I just wanted to have some real honest to goodness fun again so I came back to the Atari. But now I wish I had taken pictures of my earlier A8 creations to share And yes I too butchered a few A8's in the experimentation period