Friday, September 14, 2012

Lissajous hippo, retrocomputing and the IBM PC Jr.

By Vasudev Ram

The image below is of a Lissajous figure, found from a Google image search.

I was reminded about Lissajous curves by an interesting blog post I read recently on Fred Wilson's blog:

A VC: After School Programming

While the post is about a new initiative of Codecademy, one of his portfolio companies, there were a lot of comments on the post by readers who got into computers at an early age, describing the computers they worked on then, and what they did using them. That reminded me of my own experiences on the same lines.

I had written a lot of (amateur) computer graphics and other programs, including a program to make the computer act as a piano, long ago, on an old home computer of mine, a used IBM PC Jr., which was the first computer I owned. It was given as a present to me by my aunt from the States, when she came to India for a visit, back when I was in college and had just started learning programming. (I actually got introduced to computers and programming by a high school friend of mine who was an electronics hobbyist, who had got hold of a Casio programmable calculator and lent it to me for a while. Though it was technically called a calculator, it was a sort of micro computer, since it had BASIC in ROM, and you could write BASIC programs on it, and those programs could even display computer graphics on its LCD screen.) The IBM PC Jr. was, ultimately, a commercial failure (see the linked Wikipedia article), for a few reasons (less powerful than a regular business PC, non-expandable, priced too high for a hobbyist computer, etc.) But it had many cool and powerful features, including good graphics (for the time), and quite good sound abilities (3 channels, or so) and even music (you could play notes not just in regular tone but in legato and staccato). And all of this was programmable in their version of BASIC.

For old times' sake, I also googled for the IBM PC Jr., and found this interesting web site about it, by an aficionado of the machine. I count myself as one too :)

Mike's PCJr page

- Vasudev Ram - Dancing Bison Enterprises

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