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Submission + - Computer History Museum gets the attention it deserves (nytimes.com) 1

mcpublic writes: "For years the Computer History Museum has been quietly collecting and displaying the computational relics of yesteryear. Now, finally the New York Times Arts Section shines the spotlight on this most nerdy of museums. Speak Steampunk? You can find a working replica of Babbages Difference Engine in the lobby of the Museum's Mountain View, California home. Of course the vast majority of the collection is electronic, and though 'big iron' is king, that hasn't stopped dedicated volunteers from bringing back to life pioneering 'mini' computers like the 1960 PDP-1 and the first video game software ever: Spacewar!"
Hardware Hacking

Submission + - Everything you wanted to know about the MOS 6502

mcpublic writes: The MOS 6502 microprocessor is famous among the vintage computing and classic gaming crowds. It was used inside the Apple II, the Commodore 64, the Atari 2600, and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Need I say more? In 2010, the chip's 35th anniversary year, reverse engineers came out in droves and published more details about the 6502 than ever before—yes, really! For the assembly language crowd there is Michael Steil's excellent 50 minute talk on the 6502's architecture and instruction set delivered at 27C3, the video posted just yesterday. Or maybe you just want a quick read on 6502 history and some awesome reverse engineering efforts? Check out Russ Cox's blog. But if you are looking for the original 6502 netlist, accurate down to the last undocumented instruction, or want to run an animated 6502 chip simulation in your browser, you'll definitely want to visit Greg James, Barry and Brian Silverman's visual6502.org web site. These pied pipers have attracted an enthusiastic following of like-minded engineers who are now photographing and disecting even more classic chips.

Comment Flash is a serious battery waster on laptops too (Score 2, Informative) 443

I'm not surprised Apple doesn't support Flash on the iPhone and iPad. I can personally testify that Flash is a serious battery-life waster on laptops too. One morning I was using a web site that had an animated banner ad at the top of each and every page, and I got only 2.5 hours out of my unibody 13" MacBook Pro's "9 hour battery." Without Flash running I can get at least six hours. Then I found the BashFlash app, and realized how often Flash takes 30+% of the CPU. Now I regularly use it to kill the Flash plug-in. Too bad Adobe doesn't give you tools to manage irresponsible Flash adds. A second or two of animation would be fine, after that Flash should "dial it down," but no... continuous attention-grabbing is what the advertisers seem to want, at the expense of my hard-earned battery life!

Comment Re:Awesome! -- here are some process detalis (Score 1) 124

The 4004 family was fabbed using a 10um pMOS process. Single metal, single poly, self-aligned gate. No depletion. Buried contacts were only used in the 4004 due to density requirements. Pretty sure the rest (4001, 4002, and 4003) used the same process as Intel's SRAMs of the day (e.g. the 1101). Not sure how the diff layer was made. I can ask. Bootstrap loads were used for high-side of push-pull inverters needed to drive big loads. Much to my surprise, diff was used instead of poly for interconnect that couldn't be done in metal.

Submission + - Intel allows release of full 4004 chip-set details (4004.com)

mcpublic writes: When a small team of reverse engineers receives the blessing of a big corporate legal department, it is cause for celebration. For the 38th anniversary of Intel's groundbreaking 4004 microprocessor, the company is allowing us to release new details of their historic MCS-4 chip family announced on November 15, 1971. For the first time, the complete set of schematics and artwork for the 4001 ROM, 4002 RAM, 4003 I/O Expander, and 4004 Microprocessor is available to teachers, students, historians, and other non-commercial users. To their credit, the Intel Corporate Archives gave us access to the original 4004 schematics, along with the 4002, 4003, and 4004 mask proofs, but the rest of the schematics and the elusive 4001 masks were lost until just weeks ago when Lajos Kintli finished reverse-engineering the 4001 ROM from photomicrographs and improving the circuit-extraction software that helped him draw and verify the missing schematics. His interactive software can simulate an ensemble of 400x chips, and even lets you trace a wire or click on a transistor in the chip artwork window and see exactly where it is on the circuit diagram (and vice-versa).

Comment SI: Stop harassing SparkFun, it makes you look bad (Score 1) 219

Dear SPARC International, Inc,

If you want lots of current and future tech professionals to hate you, keep hassling small businesses like SparkFun. Your trademark case against them borders on frivolous. It is a battle that you are unlikely to win in court, and that you will certainly lose in the court of public opinion. Stick with your bread and butter mission: championing the SPARC architecture. Leave popular "Davids" alone, unless the goal is to smear your own brand name.

Comment For ages 7-11, keep things VERY simple (Score 1) 136

In grad school I studied and developed methods to make programming accessible to young children. At the time, the general consensus in the field was that before the ages of 11-14, children don't typically have the cognitive ability to write programs, even simple ones. Even though I am a professional programmer now, when I was introduced to BASIC at age 9, I definitely didn't "get it." When I got to 7th grade I did.

Radia Perlman did some groundbreaking work in the 1970's to develop technology in the hope that 6-years-old could learn programming skills. Years later, Ken Kahn developed a game/programming environment called ToonTalk. From my personal experience and research, I don't think you can expect kids younger than 9 to build and program robots, but they can start playing with the physical and conceptual "building blocks."

I see from LEGO's literature that WeDo is aimed at children 7-11 years old. Their approach is very sensible: Keep things very, very simple: One motor, one motion sensor, and one tilt sensor. RoboSoccer can wait until they are older.

For further information

Comment Re: He should be incarcerated or worse (NOT) (Score 1) 63

Back in the late-60's and early-70's, when the Busicom 141-PF calculator software was written, United States copyright law was very different, you needed to explicitly mark a work with a copyright symbol, and register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Nowadays everything is automatically protected by copyright law. Back then it was not. There was no copyright on the Busicom binaries, so this code is free-and-clear. The re-created "source code" was written without access to the original Busicom source code. In this sense it was done using techniques similar to a traditional "clean room".

Submission + - Historians Recreate Source Code of First 4004 App

mcpublic writes: "The team of 'digital archeologists' who developed the technology behind the Intel Museum's 4004 microprocessor exhibit have done it again. 36 years after Intel introduced their first microprocessor on November 15, 1971, these computer historians have turned the spotlight on the first application software ever written for a general-purpose microprocessor: the Busicom 141-PF calculator. At the team's web site you can download and play with an authentic calculator simulator that sports a cool animated flowchart. Want to find out how Busicom's Masatoshi Shima compressed an entire four-function, printing calculator into only 1,024 bytes of ROM? Check out the newly recreated assembly language "source code," extensively analyzed, documented, and commented by the team's newest member: Hungary's Lajos Kintli. 'He is an amazing reverse-engineer,' recounts team leader Tim McNerney, 'We understood the disassembled calculator code well enough to simulate it, but Lajos really turned it into "source code" of the highest standards.'"

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