Posted Tue Dec 18, 2001 6:36 PM
Oh, I've been doing this and that. I've been writing a lot more on the fiction side and finding out how hard it is to deal with characters in books (as opposed to, let's say, character sets).
I'll ramble across topics here and do an "update".
I think Linux is incredibly neat and I use it as a tool all the time, most notoriously, to solve word puzzles that drop by from the Internet. Linux on an "old" machine makes the PC downright useful at 200 Mhz with older EDO RAM. That durn thing hums along. My fave is SuSE Linux but everyone has their own fave, and I willingly listen.
I put in some less than memorable time at a few outfits... there are funny stories there. I keep up with some friends. Toad Computers is now an ISP but Dave and Jenn Troy are still my bro and sis; Dave just had him a birthday! Jimmy Hotz allowed me to record a song at his studio; I still go the Hacker's Conference. Quantum computers are a comin' ... learn about QuBits and how to crack PGP stuff very fast.
I had the 800XL on .. let us see, yesterday ... o'scoping out the millisec and microsecs of video timing with son #3, Jamie. It's funny I had never done this before, but I found out each TV frame is 1/60th of a sec (0.016666 sec) (kay, I knew that), that horizontal refresh is about +/- 64 microsec (15000 Hz), and the individual pixel times are around 500 ns. I learned a lot from Don Lancaster's TV Video Cookbook so I learned what I was seeing. I am quite surprised by the _beauty_ I see on the scope just by varying the display. Heck, that 8-bit Atari is a *great* video demonstration tool; Jamie learned a lot.
The Camaro still lives and still Warp Drives.
Hyperweb is still a project in the making. I wish I was more comfortable with "C", but I always feel like I'm playing with something that can instantly shoot me in the foot. Oh, well, getting down and rock and rolling with machine code was always kinda my thing. Maybe I should go write boot Roms? The trick is having enough computer power to drive the user interface, which we finally have, and enough mass storage, which we finally have.
The kids ...
Eric (19) is up at college. Currently he's sitting behind me beating a game called "Counterstrike" on a 1.4 Ghz machine I built up.
Jenny (18) is also off at college and won herself a full scholarship to the place. She looks a lot like Sandy, which I think is a good thing (Sandy looks a lot like Laura Dern). I am impressed with Jenny.
Jamie (13) is still in high school, of course, and going through Argelbra or however it is you spell it.
Those of you who saw them while they were little (or remember Eric breaking his leg and us having to do a shutdown) would not believe he is now 6'3".
I'm sorry there wasn't better information available about what killed Gadgets. I really didn't know that people didn't know.
(Yeah, there's a great sentence! :-) )
Back in the early 90's Gadgets by Small simply died because we lost a lawsuit we filed against a memory controller outfit, for a bug in their chip, which delayed shipping the 68030 SST. The thing had a bug that was nasty indeed to find ... you had to switch "banks" of RAM (4M banks) very fast, and then the controller chip crashed, killing the 68030 and RAM refresh, thus leaving no tracks. You can sorta see this is a way nasty, lay back and bite you sorta bug.
We happened to trip the bug when the stack was around the 4 Meg border, I believe; it hit below, above, below, all *fast enough* to trigger the bug. And doing it with a debug monitor just was not fast enough to cause a crash. I had to go to the absolute best computer guy I know -- who was in my high school computer club -- and he ended up finding the damned thing. Whooo, that was a lot of work.
We took it to trial and I learned the lesson of "Always Settle Out Of Court". I guess the jury didn't "get" what was wrong, or whatever. Anywho, they hit Gadgets with their legal fees > $250K, and it was file b-k for Gadgets time.
To make it all weirder, Jim Allen was the Expert Witness for the chip guys (?), and the Judge disallowed George, the board designer, as an Expert Witness. Puhlease. (Whatever happened to Jimbo?)
The stress of all this was, of course, a world of fun, and I think it played a big role in Sandy and I breaking up in 1996. Yup, we've been apart five years. We had a fine fifteen years together and three great kids. I hear she is a fine Web programmer; she always could code well and had the artistic side covered as well. I wish her well.
It's a lot of fun to look at the emulator market these days. There's around five Mac emulators for the PC. It just amazes me because, who ever expected clock speeds to hit 1000 Mhz? Good Grief! At those speeds it just runs away from (say) a 33 Mhz 68030, and getting the 68030 SST running was just not easy. I have a lot of respect for those designers.
There are also Apple ][, NES, Sega, and you name it emulators around there, and I really think we all had some role in proving out to the world the issues of, basically, the right to do whatever you wanted with your ROMs, including, well, sticking them in another machine! I can sure remember the non-action by Apple and people being mystified; trust me, a lot of work went into defining how to do this thing legally.
We never hit a point where the market for the GCR fell off; we hit a point where the business was wiped out by the legal stuff. Believe you me, I keep some of the Spectre stuff framed on the wall, including some registration cards, which were so kind...
I am not sure if I can get my articles online to the web. There's a good chance the magnetic media they are on has died from, well, just age. I have no idea if my ATR-8000 (remember?) still works. Sure a fine machine for its time, though.
I am having trouble getting my other writing platform from then, an AT&T 6300 (PC clone with 8086) to work again. Scanning the articles in would be enough to stun The Terminator; I believe I have copies of nearly all of them, but whooo, they fill two shelves worth of notebooks (just the articles, not the entire magazines).
If you remember Barb, last I heard she was down in Jamaica, which she loves, with a new daughter (!). Barb was one of the big reasons Gadgets worked and I'll always be grateful.
I don't know what happened to Dan when Supra was bought out by Diamond. Last I saw of him, he was in Vancouver, WA. Anyone know?
Last I heard from Doug Wheeler I think he was up at MECC in Minnesota, I think. I may have gotten a more recent note and spaced it. Alas, my firstname.lastname@example.org signon is getting spammed to death ... it is no fun to ask for mail and get, literally, 1.7 megabytes each time. I wish I had any clever ideas on that, but I don't.
Spectre stopped at 3.0 externally, at about the 16th Beta revision. I worked my tail off at 3.1, especially to address SCSI drives, and we got them working. I got that working in the assembly code, and Dan Moore got it working in the "C" code, which was the frontend menu magic he did, but we could never get the "handoff" of variables from the "C" code to the ASM code to work. Dan was up at Supra by this time and coordinating with him was tough. It was tricky stuff.
I also had some real unfun playing with the MMU on 030 machines, trying to get it to settle down on 12 meg Mac machines. Just never got it out before Gadgets was cashiered.
(And I always wondered why I couldn't map faster, fastRAM memory into the low memory, and make things run faster. It just never worked for me, and I really hacked at it.)
If someone wanted to try and release 3.1, and laugh themselves sick at some of my 68K Gadgets code, that might be okay ... you can sure tell the portions where I got mildly desperate and tried everything. It is *extremely* commented. Dan's C is pretty heavy in my opinion. I'd have to ask Dan if we could release his code under GPL or something. If it'd help one person learn some clever ways of getting impossible stuff done, I'd post it under GPL, no problem.
But as my mentor Wayne Smith told me, it didn't matter how elegant 3.1 was; we never shipped it. What matters is what ya ship. I never got 3.1 out the door, but I did get the TT running Spectre off SCSI hard disks.
The Falcon version just never flew; we did some work on it, the very hard "What about THIS idea?" stuff, but never found a good way to access the disk drive to read McDisks (probably have to go with 1.4 MFM format) nor really use its video capabilities. I wish I'd kept up on what other people did with the Falcon; I saw some pretty cool stuff.
System 7.0 had a bug early on in the boot process that took a horrific amount of work to find. I believe it ended up being a Nil pointer *read* that returned a pointer to a data structure, well, it returned the Atari ROM startup addresses. That then plopped corrupted data all over everything. It was a subtle bug way in the middle of nowhere that caused a chain reaction crash. (The zero reads were a major pain for us because, well, they never triggered a bus error, and thus they were not fun to find and fix). MultiFinder was unstable because it was doing that. The only reason we really found it was the ZAX In-Circuit-Emulator. (This is also the only reason I found an interesting thing in 68K chips ... multiply and divide fail unless the stack is pointing at valid RAM. It uses RAM for a scratchpad!).
I think I had to set up a multiple event trigger ... some line-A trap after this and that ... and then trace into some machine with a huge disk (probably a whopping 20 megs back then), then read to the end and find the disaster. It was really un-fun. I patched it by hand (what fun!) and let the machine run, but it crashed further in. If you remember your Mac history, the first release of 7.0 was not exactly a thrill.
And the tragedy, I think, is the system update fixed the zero-store and zero-read. I never tried it personally but was told the patch issued to the initial release of System 7 fixed it. I don't know myself for sure.
I will try and setup a non-spammed signon here shortly that ya can email; right now, the ones I have get clobbered very, very quickly. Need some work on anti-SPAM tech.
Wish you all a very Merry Christmas and/or a Happy Holiday, hope you had a good 2001 (I did), and hope for a better 2002!