in Computers, History

Blast From the Past

I found this program called Cathode that does an incredible job of recreating the experience of writing code on a CRT display, ca. 1980–83. Many was the hour I logged on the Lear-Sigler ADM-3A — in those days time was logged, so you could pay for it. That was incredibly unfair since the I/O (for l’users) was throttled down to 4800 baud.

CRT Recreation

Check it out. Then give it up, before the ergonomics make you blind.

As a sort of colophon, the code I’m editing here is genuine K&R C, from the Old Testament. There are two anachronisms:

  1. I’m using vi to edit it, but in the day I was busy getting all carpal with emacs. I had no choice here: there might be an Emacs on my system, but if there is, I can’t remember how to get out.
  2. I wrote this code in 1992, by which time we used terminal emulators like Kermit on PCs, instead of real terminals. However, it was a recreation of something I wrote in about 1983 to translate English into “Klingonese.” (Not the stuff used by Star Trek fans. That came later. I’m talking STA KANG, PUSHJ JRST.)

To be fair, I don’t think I ever wrote C on the ADM-3A, or even a VT-100. I don’t think the DECSystem-20 even had a C compiler. All my C was on the VAX, which had HP-2621A terminals.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.