Douglas Engelbart, Inventor of the Mouse
By Dick Estel
The name of Douglas C. Engelbart is hardly a household word but his contributions to the world of computers surpass those of many better known names.
Born in 1925, he passed away
Dr. Engelbart entered the field when computers were room-size beasts, but early on he had a vision of what could be. In 1950 “he saw himself sitting in front of a large computer screen full of different symbols — an image most likely derived from his work on radar consoles while in the Navy after World War II. The screen, he thought, would serve as a display for a workstation that would organize all the information and communications for a given project.”
In December 1968 he gave a remarkable demonstration before more than a
thousand of the world’s leading computer scientists at the Fall Joint
Computer Conference in
For the event, he sat on stage in front of a mouse, a keyboard and other controls and projected the computer display onto a 22-foot-high video screen behind him. In little more than an hour, he showed how a networked, interactive computing system would allow information to be shared rapidly among collaborating scientists. He demonstrated how a mouse, which he had invented just four years earlier, could be used to control a computer. He demonstrated text editing, video conferencing, hypertext and windowing.
The technology would eventually be refined at Xerox’s
In 1969 he helped create a system called the ARPAnet computer network, which developed into what is today the Internet.
Dr. Engelbart was one of the first to realize the accelerating power of
computers and the impact they would have on society. In a presentation
at a conference in
Speaking of the future, he said, “Boy, are there going to be some
surprises over there."
Speaking of the future, he said, “Boy, are there going to be some surprises over there."
By utastro!nather (May 21, 1983)
A recent article devoted to the macho side of programming made the bald and unvarnished statement:
Real Programmers write in Fortran.
Maybe they do now, in this decadent era of Lite beer, hand calculators and "user-friendly" software,
Lest a whole new generation of programmers grow up in ignorance of this glorious past, I feel
I first met Mel when I went to work for Royal McBee Computer Corp., a now-defunct subsidiary of
I had been hired to write a Fortran compiler for this new marvel and Mel was my guide to its wonders.
"If a program can't rewrite its own code," he asked, "what good is it?"
Mel had written, in hexadecimal, the most popular computer program the company owned. It ran on
Mel's job was to re-write the blackjack program for the RPC-4000. (Port? What does that mean?)
Mel loved the RPC-4000 because he could optimize his code: that is, locate instructions on the drum so
"You never know where its going to put
things," he explained, "so you'd have to use separate
It was a long time before I understood that remark. Since Mel knew the numerical value of every
I compared Mel's hand-optimized programs with the same code massaged by the optimizing assembler
Mel never wrote time-delay loops, either, even when the balky Flexowriter required a delay between
After he finished the blackjack program and got it to run, ("Even the initializer is optimized," he said
Mel balked. He felt this was patently dishonest, which it was, and that it impinged on his personal
Alter Mel had left the company for greener pa$ture$, the Big Boss asked me to look at the code and
I have often felt that programming is an art form, whose real value can only be appreciated by another
Perhaps my greatest shock came when I found an innocent loop that had no test in it. No test. None.
The RPC-4000 computer had a really modern facility called an index register. It allowed the
Instead, he would pull the instruction into a machine register, add one to its address, and store it back.
The vital clue came when I noticed the index register bit, the bit that lay between the address and the
He had located the data he was working on near the top of memory -- the largest locations the
I haven't kept it touch with Mel, so I don't know if he ever gave in to the flood of changes that has
When I left the company, the blackjack program would still cheat if you turned on the right sense
Blasts from the Past
By Dick Estel
Recently I had occasion to try and contact several Commodore users that I’ve known and exchanged email with in the past. Their replies give a hint as to the state of Commodore today.
From Dick to Roger Long: I notice that your list of active Commodore clubs is long out of date, and assume you are probably no longer maintaining it. If you are, Fresno Commodore User Group has a new address.
Roger: I really haven't done anything with the list for many years now, but have plans to move it over to a wiki so that everyone can help keep it up to date.
From Dick to Rob Snyder: Fresno Commodore Group is putting together a new, updated list of active Commodore clubs. As you can imagine, it's a sadly brief list. Is "Meeting C64/128 Users through the Mail" still active? I see that the link I have no longer works. If it is still active, here's what we wrote about it last year so you can let me know anything that's changed (followed by the update Rob provided in 2012).
Rob: Sorry, our MUTTM club
closed down after 2012. I asked for a new president and editor and as
nobody stepped up I told the members the club was closing as of the end
of 2012. The leftover funds were sent to several commodore organizations
such as CommodoreFree, CCCC, and the Fresno Commodore User Group (for
The Commodore Computer Club of Toledo, CCCT, of which I was the president, also folded then, as the other longtime member Frank Kaspitzke, passed away. (The January 2001 issue is on line here as a PDF File.)
From Dick to Rolf Miller (of
clubs): Hi Rolf, are you still out there?
From Dick to Rolf Miller (of
clubs): Hi Rolf, are you still out there?
UCUGA (United Commodore User Groups Association) still active?
Commodore User Group has put together a new (very short) list of active
Rolf: Yes, I am still here, but my Commodore use has dropped to near zero.
UCUGA is not active -- hasn't been for years.
I appreciate the info -- I get requests for info from time to time. And it is good to know you guys are still active.
Roger ’s List(interesting from a historical point of view)
Finding a Long Lost Relative and a Commodore User
By Dick Estel
Back in the late 20th century or early 21st I was looking through a newsletter that we received from the Commodore Computer Club of Toledo. It was a typical Commodore newsletter of the time, but what caught my attention was the return address.
First, it was
After several exchanges back and forth, I finally received information that Rob’s wife Annette was "descended from the Smiths of Raab’s Corners." I asked Mother if she knew this family, and she said that we are distantly related.
Additional inquiries revealed that my mother and Annette are both
descended from Gardner B. Mason (1829 – 1897).
remarried, and had several more children, one of whom was my great
grandfather. My genealogy program says that Annette and I are half 3rd
cousin once removed.
It also turned out that Annette’s grandmother, Meredith Kline Gillen, went to school with my dad, and my parents had visited her on some of their Ohio trips, but were not aware of the relationship.
In 2002 my parents and I visited the Snyders in Metamora, enjoying a nice dinner and getting to know them and their three delightful kids. At the time I wrote the following in my report of my trip: “Today we visited Rob and Annette, and their three children. They proved to be the kind of people you are glad to discover are related to you; nice and friendly and helpful in filling in blanks in the genealogical record. The kids are cute, smart and polite. We had dinner there, watched Helena (age 7) and Jacob (age 3) set up their model zoo, and enjoyed seeing 1 year old Catherine try to take a few steps.
“Rob ’s Commodore set-up includes a C128-D, two 1581’s, two 1571’s, hard drive, CD-ROM player, and a C64 that can be switched in. He also has an Amiga and an SX64. Annette has an Apple laptop to round out the collection.”
Then in 2004 my grandson Mikie and I again paid the family a visit, this time at a rural home complete with pond near the town of Delta. By this time there was a new addition to the family, and as of another visit in 2014, the Snyder kids now number six.
eventually became the president and editor of Meeting Commodore Users
through the Mail, an international organization that finally closed down
barely a year ago. He also had the sad duty of being the final president
We have stayed in touch over the years, and I have Commodore to thank for bringing me together with some “long lost” relatives whose existence was previously unknown to me.
The Rough Road to Commodore Meetings
by Robert Bernardo
again! I was stuck at the top of a mountain, miles
and hours away from the Commodore meeting I was to attend... with no
help in sight.
things I do for Commodore! For years I’ve traveled to club meetings,
whether it is 50 miles for the monthly Fresno Commodore User Group
meeting or three hours for the monthly The Other Group of Amigoids
(TOGA) meeting or three hours for the bi-monthly Southern California
Commodore & Amiga Network (SCCAN). It is inevitable that I’d run
into auto troubles after all that mileage on the road.
the early 2000’s one of my cars was a 1991 Honda Accord station wagon
time a friend and I drove to the Saturday TOGA meeting in
I pulled the car over to the side of the highway. It was night, and the
highway was very dark. We were far from any city, and there was no cell
phone coverage in the place where we had broken down. After a couple of
hours, a California Highway Patrol car came up behind us. The officer
got out of his car and walked over to us. After ascertaining our
situation, he called for a tow truck. The tow truck rescued us after we
had waited another hour. The driver brought us to the town of
I had the car towed to the local mechanics, and they determined that the
clutch had self-destructed. Repair bill -- $600. Two days later I was
back on the road, the Honda running with a new clutch.
forward to 2013. I had to go and preside over the May SCCAN meeting in
morning I woke up, took a shower, had the small continental breakfast
the hotel offered, packed up the car, and checked under the car’s
hood. I looked at the drive belts, observed the coolant in the radiator,
noted the fluid in the brake master cylinder, glanced at the water pump
hoses, and pulled the engine oil dipstick. A quart low on oil. The
nearest O’Reillys Auto Parts store was just a mile away. I drove
there, bought a quart of synthetic motor oil, and put it into the
day was hot… around 100 degrees F. However, I wasn’t worried. Though
the air-conditioner was on, the Crown Vic had enough power to climb the
4,000 foot high mountains that stood in the way of getting to
Northridge. The car cruised along at 73 miles per hour. Traffic on the
freeway wasn’t bad. The car started its climb. I lowered its speed to
just over 65 miles per hour, in accordance to the posted speed limits.
the needle on the coolant temperature gauge had risen a bit. Well, it
was hot outside, and the car was climbing, so I thought that the gauge
measured the added load on the engine. The temperature continued to
rise. Hmm, was the strain on the engine showing? The temp still was
going up. O.K., this was not normal. I turned off the air-conditioning
so that there would be less load on the engine. Temp still rising. I
looked at the hood... no escaping steam coming out of the engine
compartment. I looked through the rear view mirror... no escaping steam
pouring from the rear of the car. But the temperature continued to rise.
I looked for an escape off the highway. I pulled to the far right lane,
but there was no off-ramp for a few miles. Could the car survive two
more miles? After what seemed to be a long couple of minutes, I saw the
exit for the state of
temperature gauge was all the way to the right… hot, hot, hot. I saw
the off-ramp and turned the car onto it. The Ford
SCCAN meeting was to start at
If I didn't show up, the members would
just disperse. My cell phone was working in this area, but there was no
one to call; I didn't know the phone numbers of the other members nor
did I know who would appear at the meeting. It was now
, and it would take me another two hours
to get to Northridge.
opened up the hood of the car and tried to find out what had happened to
the engine. I couldn't see any engine fault. I pulled the engine oil
dipstick. The oil was sizzling on the dipstick! I had never seen engine
oil so hot that it bubbled on metal. There was some oil sitting on the
engine block near the water pump. It, too, was sizzling. For engine oil
to sizzle, I guessed that its temperature had be more than 300 degrees.
Thank goodness that I was using synthetic oil with its greater tolerance
for high temperatures. The dipstick also showed no whitish scum on it;
that meant no coolant had entered the crankcase through a cracked engine
block or cylinder head. I was lucky. The engine may have survived.
didn't dare open the radiator cap; the chance of steam blowing out of it
was too great. I looked at the coolant recovery tank; no coolant showed
through its translucent plastic.
at a state rest stop, the facilities were civilized. There were shade
trees, picnic tables, men's and women's restrooms, candy and soda
machines, and a couple of drinking water fountains. If I had lost all my
radiator coolant, I would have to get water from the drinking fountain.
I only had a 16-ounce iced tea bottle. I drank the last of the tea and
walked over to the nearest water fountain which was near the candy
machines. If the Crown Vic cooling system held 12 quarts and I only had
the 16-ounce bottle, it would take many trips to and from the fountain
in order to fill the system. I filled up the bottle with water and
walked back to the Crown Vic.
I waited for the engine to cool. It had been half an hour since the car
had stalled to a stop. I chanced opening the radiator cap. I twisted the
cap to its first detent and pulled my hand back quickly just in case
steam and coolant were to spurt out. Nothing...no steam...no coolant
erupting out. I twisted the cap fully open and looked inside the
radiator. Even when I shone a flashlight into it, I could see no
coolant. It seemed totally empty!
poured in the 16 ounces of water from the tea bottle. Steam immediately
came out of the radiator throat, and I could hear hot metal creaking and
groaning when hit by the cool water. Not only did steam come out of the
radiator throat but also from the right side of the engine. Hey, steam
was not supposed to come from the engine's right side! The engine was
still hot. I retrieved more water from the fountain and poured in
and forth I went with the tea bottle of water. I estimated I had put in
about 3 to 4 quarts. I would take a long time to fill the radiator at
the rate I was going. Thinking that the engine had cooled enough, I
finally searched around the right side of the engine to find out where
the steam had emanated earlier. I found it. On a heater hose, a plastic
T-fitting for cooling system flushing had broken off cleanly. After a
few years of being in the hot environment of the engine compartment, the
plastic T-fitting had become so brittle that it crumbled when squeezed
by hand. The open ¾-inch diameter heater hose had poured out all of
coolant under pressure from the water pump. So now I had two halves of
heater hose with nothing to connect them. What was I to do? I could pour
more water into the radiator, but without the heater hose closed off, it
would be a useless effort.
I would cross that hurdle when I came to it. I continued the process of
getting more water into the radiator. As I poured more water, I heard a
man behind me say, “Do you need help?” I explained the problem to
him. He and his wife and son had stopped at the rest stop and had seen
me working on the car. He offered a gallon jug of antifreeze. I told him
that I couldn't use up his antifreeze, but he said that it was just full
of water. Grateful, I poured the water into the radiator, and then he
told his pre-teen son to get more water. He asked what was wrong, and I
showed him the sorry state of my heater hose with broken T-fitting. He
then asked me what I needed to fix it. I said, “To connect the heater
hoses, I need a straight fitting.” He responded, “I might be able to
went to back of his late-model Chevrolet Surburban and brought back a
box full of heater hoses and other parts. Wow, was I surprised! “Why
do you have all these parts in your car?” I asked. He replied, “We
was now the moment of truth. While he and his son stood by, I got back
into the Crown Vic. What if the engine had frozen up? No amount of
starter power would be able to turn it then. With trepidation, I turned
the ignition switch on. The engine turned over and started! Success! My
friend agreed that he would follow me for a few miles as I drove on the
highway, just to make sure that everything was all right. He, too, was
heading to the Northridge area, and I invited him to the SCCAN meeting.
He had to beg off, because the family had been on a long journey. I
offered to pay him some money for his kindness, but he wouldn't think of
shook his hand and got back into my car. I backed up the Crown Vic out
of its parking slot and moved forward, slowly at first and then as the
on-ramp onto the freeway came into view, I gingerly accelerated the car.
The car held together. I brought it up to just under highway speed with
the air-conditioner off. I watched the temperature gauge. It rose up to
a bit over normal operating temperature as the thermostat opened up and
any air pockets in the cooling system were filled. Then it settled down
to normal. I listened to the engine, radio off. All was normal. No
clanking or banging sounds from pistons or piston rods. It was as if
nothing had happened to the engine.
to his word, my new friend had followed me for a few miles and saw that
I was cruising along without problem. Then he accelerated and passed me
by, both of us waving to each other. Though it was hot outside, I didn't
turn on the air-conditioner until miles later on the down-slope of the
mountains, and even then, I was ready to turn it off immediately if
something bad were to happen. However, nothing else happened.
I was going to be late for the SCCAN meeting. Fortunately, there was no traffic congestion on the freeways to Northridge. I arrived 20 minutes late to our meeting venue, Panera Bread Restaurant. As I walked to the front entrance to enter, I saw SCCAN member Richard G. walk up at the same time. None of the other members had shown up yet, and I was relieved. Boy, did I have a travel story to tell them as we sat among the Commodore and Amiga computers!
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