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Computers...

Nearly antedating 'The Computer Age', my first computer experiences (c.1965 or so) involved the early Olivetti Programma. Much later (c.1980) I bought a SOL-20 (S100 buss) with a 1Mhz 8080 CPU, 16kb RAM, and a tape-player for mass storage.

SOL-20
SOL-20 ™   c.1980
This is the Processor Technology "PC" machine used in the GENFILES PC/mainframe network mentioned on another page.
At one point I owned six; a few for parts, but three worked and some were very highly modified. When all these were lost in the 1991 fire, my daily-use machine still was a SOL. A very highly improved SOL:  10Mhz Z80 CPU, 128kb bank-switched RAM, dual floppies, and a 5Mb IBM hard-disk, ...inter alia. Nonetheless still a SOL, even if it were the "screamer" of those days.

The SOL-20 hasn't been buried: Jim Battle has coded a very capable and complete SOL emulator. Aficionados of old machines will be well repaid by visiting this site. Though coded to run under "32-bit" Windows (which I won't put on my machines), I play with it from time to time. It runs just fine under OS/2 Warp, using the free Odin on-the-fly converter.

Since then I've owned several computers. Right after the 1991 fire, I wanted an Apple MacIntosh. But my wife needed compatibility with her job. So we bought a 33Mhz Packard-Bell PC with Windows 3.1 bundled. Then as now, Windows just wasn't what I needed. At first I tried Whitesmith's UNIX work-alike Coherent, installing it on the Packard-Bell alongside Windows. Like most of the then-extant *nix family, the user interface left something to be desired.     ...Said he, with a wry smile.

In 1994 was given a cast-off copy of IBM's OS/2 2.1. After a few weeks of use, it was apparent this was IT. Truly "the operating system for the 90's" as Bill Gates(!) admitted. I've never looked back. OS/2 Warp 3 was Heaven. Warp4 is Nirvana! In 2004 my current version is 4.52 ("Convenience Pack 2") officially, though we all know it's really the "non-existant" Warp 5. Hugely improved, again, and issued in 4th-quarter 2001 yet!

OS/2 doesn't have the cachet it did once. Marketing wars settled the issue; ...IBM lost. The too numerous and far-less-capable versions of M$ Windows security-risk enjoy almost complete hegemony. That's such a shame. Still, OS/2 Warp continues to be one of the most reliable and capable OSs around. It's no accident many major corporations and small offices continued using OS/2 through 2004 and beyond.

Many continue in 2009, especially outside North America. And the third-party Warp-derivative Serenity Systems "eComStation" incorporates virtually all of Warp-4.52 (licensed from IBM), with scads of third-party add-ons. So... the ever-reliable OS/2 is nowhere near dead!

Well, the official end came and went. In July 2005, IBM announced they would withdraw everything OS/2. All sales and advertising gone by late December 2005. All support by the end of December, 2006.

By then however, eCS was available. And UN-officially, loyal developer/enthusiasts picked up the baton. Applications continue to be updated; new applications continue to appear. This is expected to continue for several years at least. In any event the core OS remains: rock-solid, secure. Am I worried? No.

Next text is updated 7-2008:   My NEW machine (11-2007): AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core, 2.4Ghz, 2GB RAM, and 550GB mass storage in 2 SATA hard drives. I've upgraded to a flat-screen monitor, but still use my elderly HP DeskJet 932C printer. When I want really good color prints, say photographs, I use my wife's HP color LaserJet 2550L, via our few years old home LAN. And I've added a new-to-me Dell Latitude D610 laptop computer to my menagerie.

Both new machines are running eComStation 1.2R - I've fully converted from Warp 4.52. Well, in name: Under the hood, eCS is Warp 4.52, updated and with a full load of additions and improvements. Additionally my main machine dual-boots an eCS 2.0 'Release Candidate' which is really nice!

Stlll keeping a wary eye on the future, I continue playing around with Linux. Mostly Debian flavors, but with an increasing interest in Ubuntu.

But my main OS likely always will be some flavor of Warp, like eCS. Nothing matches it for reliability, versatility and solid performance!

Right now I'm proudly using   Warp logo, animated  (eCS 1.2r)       ...In other words: I'm No M$

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...and Programming

I learned to code on that early SOL. A friendly computer guru at UCSF advised I not start with BASIC: "...gets people into bad habits" quoth he. The machine came with BASIC, but also the early 8080 development environment ALS8, the heart of which was an assembler. In an issue of Dr. Dobbs (which had a much fancier, longer name back then), I found Leor Zolman's article with the full assembler code for a dis-assembler. Promptly entering that into the SOL, I was chagrined when it didn't work: There were a few errors in the printed text. I really learned assembler then, finding and correcting both the typos and some problems in the code. Then I could, and did, go on merrily to disassemble and modify almost all my software. That feeling of total control is addictive: Don't like how it works? Change it, and recompile! It's a pity more users today can't do the same. They might help themselves avoid some of the M$ monopoly's worst practices.

Other languages came into play, notably BASIC, Small-C, Forth, PILOT, and a few others. PILOT is pure fun. Forth is pure elegance. Later I picked up a very little "real" C, and am modestly useful using REXX. I used them all, under the oh-so-adaptable Warp 4.52. And still, but of course under eCS 1.4r and most recently also under eCS 2.0!

Being interested in computer I/O (through which I might control the world...), early-on I built some special-purpose S100 boards, learning hardware fundamentals in the process. More importantly, I became familiar with coding drivers. This became an urgent matter for me: The SOL's vendor support was waning; the S100 buss was becoming passe. When the PC burst upon the scene; a whole industry changed. Software and support for my machine vanished overnight. But I was able to, uh, 'adjust' old software, 'tweak' alien hardware, and survive right through 1991, when the machines were lost in the 1991 fire. The skill remains important, of course.

Now retired and with plenty of time (huh!!), I'm again plowing my way through the intricacies of C/C++, ...sloooowly. Years ago I'd purchased Watcom 11 (the last-ever commercial version). Quickly finding it couldn't handle correctly many modern constructs, I needed something else.

Fortunately Open Watcom 1.7a was available. It was an Open Source version of the last, venerable but much-loved Watcom 11c optimizing C compiler. Updated and re-introduced around 2002, that worked for me far better.

But the majority of eCS-OS/2 developers have moved on to the more modern and more useful open-source GCC compiler. The GNU people no longer support OS/2 directly; so our version is provided by an "international community" of volunteers. Currently giving us frequent updates is the Australian developer Paul Smedley. As of February 2009, my latest download was compiled in January 2009.

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Supporting Warpstock 2008 Santa Cruz
Supporting Warpstock 2008





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Copyright © 2002-2009 William D. Loughman.