A few years ago on a long flight across the North Atlantic, the perfect choice for a good read was iWoz, the autobiographical account of [Steve Wozniak]’s life. In it, he described his work replicating the wildly successful Pong video game and then that of designing the 8-bit Apple computers. A memorable passage involves his development of the Apple II’s color generation circuitry, which exploited some of the artifacts of the NTSC color system to produce a color display in a far simpler manner than might be expected. Now anyone seeking a connection with both Pong and the Apple II can have one of their very own if they have enough money because [Al Alcorn]’s Tektronix 465 oscilloscope is for sale. He’s the designer of the original Pong and used the instrument in its genesis, and then a few years later, he lent it to [Woz] for his work on the Apple II.
This may be the first time Hackaday has featured something from the catalogue of a rare book specialist, but if we’re being honest, for $135,000, it’s a little beyond the reach of a Hackaday scribe. The Tek 465 was a 100 MHz dual-trace model manufactured from 1972 to the early 1980s and, in its day, would have been a very desirable instrument indeed. This one is in pretty good condition with accompanying leads and manual and comes with a letter of authenticity and a hand-written annotation from [Al] himself on its underside. It can be seen up close in the video below the break.
As a ‘scope it’s an instrument many of us would still find useful today, but as the instrument which set in motion not one but two of the seminal moments of our craft, its historical importance can’t be overstated. We hope it will find its way into a museum or similar place where the story of those two developments can be told and that [Al] profits handsomely from its sale.
Continue reading “It’s A Humble ‘Scope, But It Changed Our World”
The Apple 1 was one of the three big hobbyist computers that burst onto the scene in 1977. Unlike the PET 2001 and the TRS-80, only a couple hundred Apple 1s were ever produced, and with only a handful in existence today, you’ll have to fork out some serious money to get a Wozniak original for yourself.
The Apple 1 experience is easily emulated, of course, but this ESP8266 emulates the Apple 1 on hard mode. Dubbed the Espple by its creator [Hrvoje Cavrak], it emulates the 6502-based original in all its 1-MHz glory, while providing 20-kB of RAM, a considerable upgrade over the 4-kB standard. The complete original character set is provided for that old-timey feel, and there’s a BASIC interpreter ready to go. The kicker here, though, is that the emulator is completely wireless. You telnet into the 8266 rather than connecting a keyboard directly, and video is transmitted over-the-air using a GPIO pin as a 60-MHz PAL transmitter. A short length of wire is all you need to transmit to an analog PAL TV on channel 4; the video below shows a little BASIC code running and a low-res version of Woz himself.
You’ll find Apple emulators aplenty around these parts, everything from an Apple ][ on an Arduino Uno to a tiny Mac on an ESP32. There hasn’t been much in the way of Apple 1 emulations, though, at least until now.
Continue reading “Espple: A Wireless Apple 1 On An ESP8266”
From the Forbin Project, to HAL 9000, to War Games, movies are replete with smart computers that decide to put humans in their place. If you study literature, you’ll find that science fiction isn’t usually about the future, it is about the present disguised as the future, and smart computers usually represent something like robots taking your job, or nuclear weapons destroying your town.
Lately, I’ve been seeing something disturbing, though. [Elon Musk], [Bill Gates], [Steve Wozniak], and [Stephen Hawking] have all gone on record warning us that artificial intelligence is dangerous. I’ll grant you, all of those people must be smarter than I am. I’ll even stipulate that my knowledge of AI techniques is a little behind the times. But, what? Unless I’ve been asleep at the keyboard for too long, we are nowhere near having the kind of AI that any reasonable person would worry about being actually dangerous in the ways they are imagining.
Smart Guys Posturing
Keep in mind, I’m interpreting their comments as saying (essentially): “Soon machines will think and then they will out-think us and be impossible to control.” It is easy to imagine something like a complex AI making a bad decision while driving a car or an airplane, sure. But the computer that parallel parks your car isn’t going to suddenly take over your neighborhood and put brain implants in your dogs and cats. Anyone who thinks that is simply not thinking about how these things work. The current state of computer programming makes that as likely as saying, “Perhaps my car will start flying and we can go to Paris.” Ain’t happening.
Continue reading “Kids! Don’t Try This At Home! Robot Destroys Mankind”
[Steve Wozniak], Last of the freelance hackers and Greatest swordfighter in the world, lives a hacker life you couldn’t even dream about. The folks over at medGadget ran into him and learned about his watch. In their interview (embedded after the break) [Steve] shows off the Nixie tube wristwatch that we can only assume he created himself.
The watch consists of two tiny tubes, a PCB, and battery. There must be an accelerometer in there because the display is switched off unless the watch is held at a certain configurable angle. Once held in the correct position the display flashes the hours, then the minutes.
The time is set by two buttons inside the watch’s case. [Steve] goes on to explain the trepidation his fellow passengers have when he disassembles the watch mid-flight and starts to monkey around with the buttons inside. Not to be stopped at electronic tomfoolery, he also shares his delight in sneaking ceramic knives on board so that he can properly cut his steaks.
Lifestyle aside, the small Nixie clock packages we’ve seen don’t even come close to this. We assume this is pretty hard on the battery and wonder if the watch gets hot if you’re stuck in a long meeting and constantly looking at the time. We can get over both of those limitations just for the cool factor alone.
Update: Reader [Stephen] left a comment pointing to the origin of the watch. It is controlled by a PIC microprocessor, boasts a four-month battery life at 50 viewings per day, and there’s some code available. It is for sale but currently out of stock.
Continue reading “Woz’s Watch Makes Air Travelers Nervous”