Interface with tickle process, bingo cards at N2C4

Manhattan conference also featured Programmer’s Tool Kit with deluxe pizza, popcorn

By Lawrence I. Charters
InfoWorld, The Newsweekly for Microcomputer Users, Vol. 4, no. 18, December 6, 1982, pp. 27-29.

Let’s face it: The computer-industry press blew it this year. Jaded observers complained about the lack of dramatic innovation in 1982. Making the rounds from San Francisco to Houston to Atlantic City, they dismissed the West Coast Computer Faire, the National Computer Conference and COMDEX as “more of the same.” But the press made a serious error: It was looking in the wrong place. The big news this year was at the New National Central Computer Conference and Conclave [NNCCCC], known to insiders as the N2C4, held in Manhattan.

Manhattan, Kansas.

Show organizer Melvin Hollerith, inventor of punched magnetic tape, was enthusiastic about Manhattan as a convention site. “It’s mutually inconvenient for everyone in the industry,” he said, “which makes it very democratic.” He also pointed out that because many exhibitors got lost on their way to the show, he was going to make a killing in non-refundable booth deposits.

Instead of a large convention hall, N2C4 was held in a series of insulated, inflatable shelters cooled by portable air-conditioning units. Some people wondered about the dark-green color of the shelters, and asked if Hollerith had swiped them from the Army’s base at nearby Fort Riley. Hollerith laughed this off with a jolly “no comment.”

Show Highlights: Hardware

Power Supply: TMI Associates introduced the largest microcomputer peripheral to date. Because of restrictions on booth size, the company did not have a demo unit at N2C4, but the brochures were impressive. The TMI-2 10-megawatt, self-contained, uninterruptible power supply can run any microcomputer and all peripherals at full power for 750,000 years. Optionally, it can run a medium-size town [population: 30,000] for 50 years.

The introductory price of just $4 billion does not include shipping or handling. The power supply is available in kit form or partly assembled, and is for sale to U.S. addresses only. Send certified check or VISA/MC (include expiration date) to:

Assembled: TMI Associates
1 Nightglow Road
Harrisburg, PA

100 Desert Waste
Hanford, WA

Terminal: Eight microprocessors are used to give the DNE-2001 workstation its flexibitity. The DNE-2001 features a 24-inch, high-resolution RG8 [red-green-blue] color monitor, with text formats of 80 x 25, 132 x 25 or 160 x 40, and graphics resolution of 1000 x 1000 in any combination of six million colors. Uppercase and lowercase, 100 intensity levels, 150 types of field protect and up to 30 simultaneous user-defined cursors in up to 60 screen sectors are offered as standard screen attributes.

The keyboard has 426 keys, in a wraparound, “surround the operator with buttons” design that includes a numeric keypad, a Star Trek command console, two joysticks and a trackball. The DNE-2001 also accepts voice input: you speak to the Return key. You can activate the touch­sensitive screen using the patented tickle process by using a fingertip, light pen or small hammer. Standard character sets include Russian, Mongolian, Aztec, Egyptian hieroglyphs and APL [Thai and Urdu available soon; English, French, German, Chinese and Japanese available over the next year or so].

At present the DNE-2001 is plug-compatible with IBM 1401, HP-35 and Sol 20 calculators and computers. Apple, Radio Shack and S-100 interfaces will be available soon. It uses standard 440-volt, 28-cycle current, and transmits and receives all 4-, 6-, 12-, and 24- bit codes [an 8 and 16-bit option will be available soon]. The DNE-2001 will be shipped with 11 manuals, toolkit and software on paper tape. For more information contact:

Darn Near Everything Terminals
North Aress 232-C
Tubeville, TN

Microprocessor: Engineers at the show were delighted with the new Megahard APU. This revolutionary chip can run any program written for any of the popular microcomputers, as well as ones written for most of the unpopular ones, too. The APU has no trouble handling 8080, 8086, 6502, 6809, 68000, and Z8000 machine code, UCSD p-code and several other combinations of letters and numbers. No cross­assemblers or program conversion is necessary, nor is any specific operating system required.

Using a proprietary process known as MLTE [Multi-Layered Thiotimoline Etching], the APU “anticipates” the machine-language protocols of the program being run, all without operator assistance. Just 90 x 2OO X 3O millimeters, the 512-pin chip can be placed on a board or put in a box [whichever is appropriate) to interface most machines. Special manufacturing techniques allow the APU to operate at 0.12 MHz, eliminating most RF interference. Sold in quantities of one million only. To place your order, contact:

Megahard Products
Apathetic Processor Unit Division
1010 Two Street
Silicon, CA

Printer: Incredibly Big Machines used N2C4 to announce its newest ultra-high-speed printer, the Coverit-1. Using a combination of 144 lasers, several microprocessors and more than one megabyte of PROM firmware, the Coverit-1 can be used as a stand­alone photocopy machine as well as a more conventional hard-copy printer. You can dedicate as many as 16 of the lasers to security protection, preventing unauthorized use.

In normal operation, Coverit-1 can print one million lines per hour, using any combination of 300 correspondence-quality fonts, on standard paper. Using special paper, Coverit-1 prints one hundred thousand lines per hour, in full color with high­resolution graphics. Under the draft mode, you can use Coverit-1 to duplicate all the printed information ever produced, since the dawn of writing, in a little more than one week. (Note: An E.P.A Environmental Impact Statement must be completed if you want to use the draft mode.)

You can produce three-dimensional plots, graphs and sculpture by feeding Coverit-1 liquid cement, liquid plastic or wood pulp. For more information, simply think hard and a team of Incredibly Big Machines’ sales representatives will intercept your thought waves and arrange a demonstration.

Operating systems: Operating systems have reached the level of a high art form with the introduction of Megahard’s AOS. AOS is the world’s first operating system capable of running on any computer system, from an 8-bit Intel 8080 to the National Security Agency’s super-secret 1024-bit [deleted]. With AOS, multitasking, time­sharing, concurrent programming, distributed processing and other theoretical operations are, finally, possible.

Address restrictions that limit some processors to as little as 64K are removed, thanks to the AOS “transparent memory-bank select” Any desktop computer, operating under AOS, can run as many as 60 ten-terabyte programs — simultaneously.

As a demonstration of AOS’s ability, each copy comes with a six-megabyte copy of Space Invaders, featuring three-dimensional, feature-film­-quality color graphics, joystick controls and Dolby stereo sound. All these features are available without a color monitor, joysticks, speakers or amplifiers! Minimum hardware requirements for AOS are: typewriter keyboard or terminal; video monitor (any kind); CPU (any type); and six megabytes of memory (12 megabytes to play Space Invaders). [Note: The TRS-80 Pocket Computer version does not include the demo program, and operates on as little as one megabyte of memory.] For more information contact:

Megahard Products
Apathetic Operating System Division
1011 Two Street
Silicon, CA

Show highlights: Software

Word Processor: MicroMelting Software is quick to point out that the Word-a-Matic Word Processing System is not a “me-too” word processor, but a highly sophisticated, integrated approach to writing. Besides all the common functions, Word-a-Matic includes an unabridged Oxford English Dictionary (words and definitions); 20 different style manuals (for newspapers, dissertations, threatening letters and so forth); several foreign-language dictionaries, and a professional writer’s thesaurus and random word and story generator with nine useful options:

  1. Poetry,
  2. Science,
  3. Science Fiction,
  4. Murder Mystery,
  5. Best Seller/Smut,
  6. Literature/Obfuscate1,
  7. Computing/Obfuscate2,
  8. Government/Business/Obfuscate3, and
  9. Academe/Obfuscate4.

Also included are several “pretty­printing” features that allow you to create decorative BASIC, Pascal and assembler listings; a crossword puzzle generator and solver; a Scrabble game; and a printer-picture generator (given the name of an object. the generator prints a picture of the request on the printer). For the ultimate in word slicing, dicing, chopping and shredding, order Word-a-Matic from:

MicroMelting Software
#2 Big Business Place
Suite 1024
Bellevue, WA

Information Management System: At one of the N2C4 seminars it was revealed that a new computer is announced every 12 minutes, and a new computer publication every 15 seconds. RWS Corporation has developed a combination hardware and software package designed to tame this information explosion: Bingo Card Writer. Bingo Card Writer can scan all your computer publications and automatically fill out the reader-response cards [“bingo cards”] according to your interests.

In tests at RWS corporate headquarters, Bingo Card Writer increased staff productivity by at least 87%, since no one bothers to read any of the computer magazines anymore. “Most people never read the articles, anyway,” states RWS President Jake Smith. “All anyone cares about are the new product announcements and advertisements.”

Bingo Card Writer can also play up to 14 bingo games simultaneously. For a limited time only, all orders for Bingo Card Writer will be shipped with a bonus program, Product Announcement Translator, which includes, among other things, a definition of “ergonomic.” For mere information contact:

Really Weird Software Corporation
c/o Jake Smith’s Bingo Parlor
10246 1/2 Skid Row
New York, NY

Educational Software: Everything, Part 1, by Bedlam Software Ltd. of London, England, is described as the “first true educational software for computers.” Bedlam’s President, Henry Tudor, described this package through a translator (he has trouble with modern English): “Most educational software is designed for humans. What a waste! We at Bedlam design our educational software to teach computers!”

According to Bedlam officials, Everything, Part 1 will teach your computer all the world’s knowledge that begins with the letter q. “We thought about picking one of the more popular letters – such as a or s – but decided that a computer would be so happy to learn anything it would not mind starting slowly.”

Bedlam’s next package, Everything, Part 2, will cover x, z and j. “Your computer must finish Part 1 first, though,” insists Tudor. “If your computer cannot handle q, there is no point in going on with the rest of the alphabet.” For more information contact:

Bedlam Software Ltd.
c/o Bethlem Royal Hospital
London, England

Programmer’s Aide: Recognizing that there are certain items that all programmers need, Melbourne Computer Corporation revealed its PTK: ­ Programmer’s Tool Kit. “In the past,” says President A. Melbourne, “programmers had to shop around, gathering together over a period of time those essentials that made their work easier. But now we offer one standard package for everyone.”

PTK: Programmer’s Tool Kit contains an error trap, bug spray, hammer, odd-sized scraps of paper, screwdriver, crowbar, drill, can opener, masking tape, eraser, and coupons for soft drinks, deluxe pizza and popcorn. “We are establishing a nationwide network of Melbourne-approved pizza parlors and popcorn suppliers,” notes Melbourne, adding that the popcorn and pizza used in the production of the movie Tron was provided by his firm. For further information contact:

Melbourne Computer Corporation
Melbourne Corporate Circle
Hayward, CA

Future Plans

Hollerith is off to a great start with the N2C4. Next year he promises everything will be even “bigger and better.” Plan now to spend next August in London.

London, Arkansas.


Western Pacific dragons and other real creatures

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