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Historical Computing

It's not quite a PDP-8, but the C=64 is one of our favourite old computers - many of us having cut our programming teeth on them. Well, I cut mine on a C= VIC20 and Apple ][+, but I'm just a little bit older...

Now you can relive those glory days in your commuting time with the Frodo Commodore 64 emulator for PalmOS :) Check out these screenshots:

One day when 3 opens up my Motorola a920 I can port the EPOC Frodo ( to UIQ Symbain devices.

11:58 PM, 30 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Serious Mousing []

This article (linked in the title above) if for people who take their mousing seriously. Fraser Pearce tests and rates six professional mousing surfaces (seven if you include his IKEA desk) with both an optical and rolling ball mouse.

I like people who take things seriously!

If you take your typing (and RSI) seriously, the best keyboard on the planet is the Kinesis contoured range ( I'm still saving up for mine though...

11:47 PM, 30 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

The Procrastination Paradox []

Hello, my name is Mark and I'm a procrastinator.

Aaron's blog entry about procrastination by tech workers (link above) is so true!

I'd write a summary, but you can read it for yourself :P

10:53 PM, 29 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Age based technology fear

I was walking through a car park today, carrying a large box of IT equipment, and cursing at a car that was slowing me down. It was hard to understand how I could be walking faster than the car which was on it's way out of the car park (so not looking for a spot) ... until I realised that it was a very elderly gentleman driving, having obviously taken his grandson out for the morning since grandson plus baloon were in the passenger seat.

Well, I guess it was his grandson holding the baloon - I couldn't see because whoever was holding it did not come higher than the window sill.

My second thought (after a mild curse) was that I wouldn't want MY son being driven around by someone who could barely make out the line markings. Since I'm not even married or have any children, that's not a problem I'll be having any time soon.

But THEN I had the interesting thought that is actually worth writing here (sorry for the previous filler - my English teacher always did use a lot of red ink scrawling waffle across great swathes of my essays...)

I thought about how this old guy may well be fearful of cars, Sydney traffic, and automatic traffic lights. Such things would have seemed fanciful in his younger days of horse drawn milk carts and gas lamp lit streets (I'm guessing he was over 80).

THAT made me wonder what technology advances, that would sound fanciful now, will become reality and scare the pants off ME when i'm driving my grandson home from the virtual mall in my banged up old hovercraft...

Interesting way to think about what the future holds...

07:55 AM, 27 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

The One true Mel

A while back I blogged an entry about The story of Mel, a Real Programmer, a story which is nowadays legend in the circles of true nerds (like me 8-). The story was posted to a usenet newsgroup by Ed Nather in 1983. You can believe that it was 1983 because noone posts to usenet anymore. If they do, they don't call it usenet. Even if they do that they CERTAINLY don't give their email in UUCP form. (His UUCP email was, by the way, utastro!nather - so short! People would have chosen employers just to get an email like that!) Anyway, back to the story, which opens with the following paragrahs:

An 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 but back in the Good Old Days, when the term "software" sounded funny and Real Computers were made out of drums and vacuum tubes, Real Programmers wrote in machine code - not Fortran, not RATFOR, not even assembly language - Machine Code. Raw, unadorned, inscrutable hexadecimal numbers, directly.

Lest a whole new generation of programmers grow up in ignorance of this glorious past, I feel duty-bound to describe, as best I can through the generation gap, how a Real Programmer wrote code. I'll call him Mel, because that was his name.

I first met Mel when I went to work for Royal McBee Computer Corporation, a now-defunct subsidiary of the typewriter company. The firm manufactured the LGP-30, a small, cheap (by the standards of the day) drum-memory computer, and had just started to manufacture the RPC-4000, a much-improved, bigger, better, faster -- drum-memory computer. Cores cost too much, and weren't here to stay, anyway. (That's why you haven't heard of the company, or the computer.)

The trouble was, no-one knew who Mel was! (Inquiring minds need to know these sorts of details...)

Well in 1994 a guy by the name of Bill von Hagen stumbled across some manuals referring to a programmer of the Royal McBee Corporation called "Mel Kaye" and asked "Could this be the one true Mel?". How exciting!

More recently, images have been published of some of Mel's hand written coding sheets (here and here). These images come from a guy called Robert Lilly whose first programming experience was on a Royal McBee LGP-30. He also posts some manual images. Further geeky details of the Royal McBee line of computers (including the full text of an LGP-30 Programming manual) can be found at this link.

Gee I love this stuff - it's in my genes. Maybe that's because both my parents were programmers! (Are you reading this Samuel ;)

07:31 AM, 24 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (9)

The two Allington Bridge controllers witness Brains talking into his watch
Allington Bridge Controller: He's still at it, poor fellow. Seems to be under some delusion that he's in charge of the rescue.
Dave Clayton: We're desperate enough, even to listen to him!
Allington Bridge Controller: Yes, but he's just suggested they should fire missiles!

Japanese phone firm NTT DoCoMo has created a wristwatch phone that uses its owner's finger as an earpiece.

The gadget, dubbed Finger Whisper, uses a wristband to convert the sounds of conversation to vibrations that can be heard when the finger is placed in the ear. --

A phone that uses a wristwatch and a finger seems incredible. If you don't want to listen, you touch your thumb or in a neat reversal of human behaviour, take your fingers out of your ears. -- Phil Baker

At last - we are finally entering into the 21st century! I seem to remember another phone company made a rather bulky wristwatch phone some time ago, but you had to plug in a headset.

I was wondering how you would get your phonebook in - of course the obvious answer is bluetooth, but I still love the idea of the timex watch that could scan in barcodes to set appointment alarms from your PC!

Assuming bluetooth, then you could also use a dialler application on your organiser for when you needed to dial a new number.

When can I get one?!

Thank's to for the above Thunderbirds quote (here) and to my rediculous memory that forgets important appointments, but remembers fine detail about marrionette dialog many years after I watched it! You can see some stills from this Thunderbird episode at

09:00 PM, 23 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

What's SCO-ing on?

It's been a while since I commented on the SCO legal debarcle, mostly because there has been nothing interesting enough to get me going.

There still isn't much, but This Newsforge article has (toward the end) a nice summary of the players and whether the author (John O'Sullivan) thought they were winners or losers in the saga and why.

08:32 PM, 23 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

Embedded Linux

I have been busy with a lot of things lately - the most interesting is looking at producing some embedded devices - probably using some BSD rather than linux.

Soekris Engineering have some really nice x86 compatible boards with built in ethernet, compact flash and PCI, as well as hardware crypto card for accellerated VPN work. The quality of their website suggests that they are very good hardware engineers ;)

09:04 AM, 19 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)


I was having fun with The Wayback Machine earlier tonight. The wayback machine is basically a massive archive of webpages as they were at the time, not just right now.

This leads to a number of very cool things:

  1. you can read some reports I wrote at Uni that are still quoted in numerous papers and articles on the net. One such report is Groupware & Intranets-Driving efficiency and effectiveness in business. Another popular one was The Problems of Urban Sprawl in Victoria, and How to Solve Them. You can still find people referencing that article if you google for my name. (Note that the copies of the articles linked here were on a server called, an ISP that I designed and implemented with Rusty for my then employer - the original articles were hosted on my uni account which has patchier wayback archiving.)

    Or how about this caustic article which was me pretending to be a newspaper writer for some uni assignment: The time & money wasting computer

    All this and more can be read on my super quality homepage - dated March 1996. The humour page has some still-funny stuff. (I seem to remember it was the big re-design. I'd hate to see the original version!! The earliest files in the wayback machine are dated 1996, but the server was having trouble when i tried to go there.)
  2. (yes, the first one was a long expose of my writing talent ;) The other cool thing is a Wayback link. Drag that link to your browser's link bar, and click on it when you are viewing a page and want to see an old version. For instance, if you get nostalgic for the good old days of yahoo - go to, click the Wayback link, and you will find an early 1996 yahoo homepage linking to interesting news stories like "Lotus exec sees huge business-to-business Internet market" and "Gates says NT 5.0 to enter beta this fall". Did you know that in 1996 you could view the yahoo directory in 3D VRML?

    Or, for the Apple nuts, the 1996 homepage of tells us about Apple announcing a "new version of the GeoPort Telecom Adapter Kit, increasing modem speed to 28.8 Kbps" WOOHOO!!
Endless fun :)

07:30 AM, 12 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (1)

geek joke

[Perl] combines the power of C with the readability of PostScript. -- Jamie Zawinski

02:03 AM, 12 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)

spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it

With the arrest of 3 key Nigerian spammers (see below), I thought that my spam levels would go down... but no.

As if in sympathy, I have had more email requiring my URGENT CONSIDERATION (why are they always in CAPS? Maybe they are observing CAPS LOCK DAY Thanks to Tim and/or Russ for the link - can't remember who ;)

I have a TrendMicro anti-virus and anti-spam product on my server (which is great with viruses, but not 100% on spam), and Mozilla's Bayesian spam filter on my mailbox (which I can't trust to auto-delete my spam since sometimes it's too aggressive) and my life is better but not awesome.

Maybe it's time to try out my friend Matt's spam product Alien Camel - looks neat :)

Thank's to the Monty Python spam sketch for the title!

06:58 PM, 04 Nov 2003 by Mark Aufflick Permalink | Comments (0)


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