Re: 1802 ZX81

 

--- In cosmacelf@..., "J.C. Wren" <jcwren@j...> wrote:

I don't know that market very well, but it seems there's a huge
whole btween the crappy 300-in-1 kits that have seriously lame
projects with less documentation than ever, and something like I've
described above.
Hey, now! I got one of those kits when I was 8 and learned plenty
about analog electronics, including how to properly bias a transistor,
how to use complementary transistors, etc. I'm sure thousands of
others can say the same. I know many EE's who never mastered those
basics. Once kids get some of those basics, they have incentive to
learn the math required to build a stable amp, or tune performance
parameters. With computers, the benefit of a "crappy" little machine
is not its power, but the fact that you can open it up and solder
something into it. BTW, there's certainly no impediment to kids
learning to program in simple environments on todays fast machines, if
that's the issue. I believe there are even several free BASIC
interpreters out there. There are also CLISP and GFORTH, which should
be just as easy for a kid to learn.


Another issue is expectations. Turn on a LED isn't exciting
anymore. LEDs are mainstream. People are used to seeing multi-media
applications. The step from "I made an LED go on" to "Look at
gnumeric"
is pretty huge. And people accept gnumeric as a common place item
(replace with Excel, if you're Window-centric). The power of visual
feedback as encouragement is pretty large. Seeing it on a 19" LCD is a
lot more impressive than a LED. Perhaps the word I'm looking for is
"jaded". Kinds are jaded towards expecting the big and shiny, and I
don't think you can give them to that with a little trainder kit.

Perhaps it's unfortunate that there aren't as many modern readily
produced components that kids can be introduced to (SMT vs. DIP, etc),
but that's the price of the technology curve in ANY field. Cars are
more difficult to work on/service because of emissions and performance
requirements, TV sets are now more affordable than ever because of more
compact and less expensive technology. No one wants a MP3 player that
takes up 3 square feet of table space and uses tubes just because it's
servicable. Slight contrive examples, maybe, but it's the price of the
technology curve.

--jc


Lee Hart wrote:

Lee Hart wrote:
What always amazed me about Clive Sinclair is how accurately he
could
target a market, and the design a product ABSOLUTELY suited to
hit it
exactly.
mc71de wrote:
Is that the same Sir Clive Sinclair that I know of? The Visionist
that would build his ideas whether they were considered sensible
or not, and who failed more often than not?
Must be the same guy -- how could there be more than one? :-)

Remember I said "mad genius"? He really is a genius. The ideas for the
products he built were all great. There really *were* large
markets for
all the products he had designed: digital watch, pocket TV, digital
multimeter, oscilloscope, scientific calculator, several computers,
personal electric vehicle, etc. If he could produce a product at the
price/feature point, he'd be rich!

But he's also mad. He built these products *before* conventional
wisdom
said they were possible. To do it, he had to "pull a rabbit out of his
hat" -- find some fiendishly clever invention or design or
construction
shortcut to do the impossible. "Uncle Clive" was very good at finding
such tricks. However, normal design, manufacturing, and sales people
often had a lot of trouble making his tricks work in the real
world. The
ideas weren't bad; in fact they were often downright brilliant.
But the
implementations were often horrible.

The Sinclair ZX-80/81 went from non-existent to the #1
selling computer in the world in just 4 months!
Uh? I doubt *that*...
That statistic came from an article I read on the history of
microcomputing. He saturated the media with ads and a low price,
and so
really *did* score #1 in sales just 4 months after introduction.

He never sold to Timex... after the ZX80 was mainly sold in kit form
(only a lower percentage was built by home workers, it is said)
and he
could not fill the demand for a prebuilt unit, he contracted with
Timex to manufacture the ZX80 in their british plant (Scotland, i
think). Part of the deal was that Timex got the exclusive rights for
the US market (renaming the ZX81 to the Timex 1000). Timex was
clever
enough to include 2K ofRAM, and by the time the Spectrum came out,
they backed out and sold their own design (Timex 2068) instead.
Interesting. I don't have any good references as to how this all
happened.

some "CPU" that is very easy to program and use for a beginner
-- kinda like the 1802.
I beg to differ... no, it is by no way easy to learn. You run into
its limits too soon.
Easy-to-learn implies that there are limits! The whole *point* is to
deliberately have a small, limited, restricted subset specifically
so it
is easier to learn.

This would be in stark contrast to the PICs, ARMs, and
all the other modern chips, which you essentially have
to be a professional engineer to use.
Nonsense.
Simple dev board for an Atmel: <$20...
Everything you described is exactly what a professional engineer would
want. A beginner wouldn't even know what the heck you are talking
about.

Look at the original Popular Electronics ELF articles, or the RCA
Microtutor or VIP. They were expressly written and designed for people
with ZERO computer experience, and ZERO computer hardware. Rank
beginners.

*ALL* of the modern micros assume a considerable amount of computer
experience, and access to considerable computer hardware. While their
on-chip memory and peripherals are very powerful, they also make
consideralble demands on the skill level needed to use them. BASIC
Stamp
BASICs aren't "basic" at all, and bear essentially no relationship to
the actual BASIC language -- I think they just use the name
"BASIC" for
marketing reasons because it implies "simple". They all use surface
mount chips, and assume NO home or hobby construction.

They are designed for professionals, not hobbyists.

Maybe this FPGA directly executes Pittman's IL code, so it
runs Tiny BASIC as its native language.
Then, you will lose TB's easy expandability.
No, because Tiny BASIC is written in IL. You could also write Logo or
FORTH or some other language in IL (though it is optimized for
interpreted languages).

What's bad with taking one of the existing BASICs? If it comes
hard-on-hard, you could even give them MS Word and teach its macro
language. There's a reason that it is called Visual Basic for
Applications. Depending on what you want to do, it is wuite
suitable.

I'm talking about a computer like the ZX-81, which is *meant* to
be used
by a first-time novice, with no previous hardware or software
experience. By its very nature, it has to be exceptionally easy to use
understand and use, even when that means sacrificing power, speed, and
flexibility.

All these modern languages require considerable computer power and
resources to run them, and demand considerable experience and
expertise
on the part of the user.

I guess my thesis is that "kids today don't program because they don't
have any computers that make it fun and easy to learn how."

Since the IL code is extensible,
Only if you run it as interpreted language on a 'Meta Micro'
No; it is extensible even on an 1802 ELF, as Richard has shown by
adding
new keywords.

What I would do if I had to design a BASIC from scratch: Implement
something like 'object modules' so that you could write your own
commands and functions just in BASIC itself, or in any other
language
for that matter, just as Pascal has not only its procedures and
functions, but also Units (or is that a Borland specific?)...
combined with an easy-to-understand assembly language of the
underlying processor. I am not too sure if -given today's computer
speed- I would make it a compiler, so that every RUN would just
compile it without the user really taking notice. Just a few
ideas...

BASIC made a great start at being simple to learn. Unfortunately, it
lost focus as it grew. Everyone expanded it in different directions,
leading to an incomprehensible mess.

FORTH makes an excellent start, and has a philosophical underpinning
that has allowed it to expand considerably without losing its
focus. It
starts with a very few keywords, but defines the way to add new ones
that behave exactly like existing words. FORTH includes an
assembler and
compiler. Programs are stored in source form, and are
compiled/assembled
as needed; great for learning and experimenting.

But FORTH's reverse polish notation and stack orientation are
difficult
concepts for beginners. FORTH programs tend to be "write only"
such that
even the author can't figure out what they do unless well commented.

I suppose you could marry the best features of the two, and have a
language that is as good for beginners as BASIC, but keeps the
extensibility and power of FORTH. I think Seymour Papert tried to do
this with Logo; but it too has wandered off into professional
programmerese.
--
"Never doubt that the work of a small group of thoughtful, committed
citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever
has!" -- Margaret Mead
--
Lee A. Hart 814 8th Ave N Sartell MN 56377
leeahart_at_earthlink.net

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