Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Bought an Altair 8800 Computer

 I've known about the existence of the Altair for decades. I learned about it back in the early 1990s when I had initially become interested in anything with a monitor and a keyboard. That being said, the Altair didn't have much appeal to me. Switches and LEDs? I'll pass. Gimme a keyboard, some games, and the BASIC programming language! A floppy disk drive was always nice too.

So now here I am as an adult. I'd never owned, let alone seen an Altair (or even it's cousin the IMSAI 8080). The most logical reason for this is most of these computers were sold as kits in the United States in small hobbyist stores or out of the back of magazines. I live in Canada. If anyone in Canada wanted a computer back in the mid-70s, they would either have to make a trip to the United States to buy one or order one through a magazine (and it was the IMSAI 8080 that was able to reliably deliver product).

Only about 10,000 Altair computers (the majority being the 8800 model) were sold. The IMSAI sold twice as many, which still isn't a lot. Nobody knows how many Altairs ended up in the garbage or the scrap heap. Because of it's rarity and it's historical significance, these computers fetch a nice tidy amount on Ebay.

That being said, I shit the fuck out of my pants when an Altair 8800 showed up for sale locally for a good price. I phoned the guy who was selling it, and he told me he had a lot of interest in the computer. I asked if I could come down in an hour to see it, and he agreed. I excitingly and erratically drove over to the bank machine to get the money to buy this rare and beautiful oddity. What the hell was I doing? I NEVER wanted a computer with lights and switches!

When I got to the guy's house and feasted my eyes on this beauty, I trembled and dropped another load of shit in my pants. The guy let me pop open the cover so I could look inside. He told me it wasn't working and I could see why.... There was a broken wire inside, and the capacitors looked like the jizzfest on the opposing side of the enormous shit stain in the back of my pants. My girlfriend looked and exclaimed, "THERE'S NOTHING INSIDE OF IT!" Of course there isn't! There's only a CPU board and a RAM expansion. Nevertheless, it's probably the most valuable empty air I had ever breathed into my lungs.

I happily handed him the money, and loaded it into the back of my Jeep.

The basic story behind this computer was... the guy was selling it for his uncle who was the original owner. He had purchased it in the USA and put it together himself. He kept the original manual and the build instructions that came with it (which of course came with my purchase).

So now I'm a proud owner of an original Altair 8800. It is the only vintage computer I own that is older than me. Unfortunately, I won't be repairing it until the fall because I've got a million other projects planned for the next few months. When I do repair it, I'll be putting the entire adventure up on Youtube. For now, you'll have to suffice with some glorious pictures...

And yet again, my Coleco Adam series has been stalled, mainly from me getting more stuff that I never have time to blog about, and dealing with family services because someone reported my ex-wife to them. This year has been riddled with so many personal issues, it's unreal. Hopefully this part of crapfest 2017 is over so I can finally get back to doing the things I love.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Don't Get Dancing Fever... It'll Make You Puke

Happy new year to all my devoted and tortured readers! I'm a bit late to the party this year, but perhaps this may be useful for next year.

First of all, allow me to explain why it took two months to get around to this post. At the beginning of January (when I was initially working on this entry and was nearly done), my dad went into the hospital. I visited almost daily until his passing on February 19th. After that, I had to deal with all the things that go along with a passing family member. So that's where my time has been spent as of late.

In the spare time that I had, I've been trying to get the second episode of Tech of the Century edited. I didn't realize that I had recorded hours upon hours of footage of me refurbishing my Coleco Adam computer, and the initially planned 30 minute episode has turned into 10 or so videos, each about 15 minutes in length. The entire series should be up within then next few weeks, but I really needed to put something up on the blog in the meantime.

So now that I have your forgiveness, I shall make you hate me all over again....

We're going to take a look at these beautiful CD compilations released by Madacy. Madacy is a shitty budget Canadian record label who probably released other crap that I don't care about. I recently reviewed their awful Muppets release I owned when I was a kid.

Today, we're going to dance our asses off with volumes one and two of "Dancing Fever". I think it's funny that they use a phrase from the disco era on these compilations which cover songs from the 80s and 90s. The first volume has been sitting in my queue pile for about a year. I found the second volume about a week before I started writing this entry back in January. I honestly had no clue that a second volume existed!

Both of the album covers are almost exactly the same. The album cover boasts in a dark-purple-on-black-background text, "Dance to the Hits". There's no exclamation mark in that statement, so don't get too excited about cutting the shit out of your rug. I like how these albums brag about using digital mastering, but digital mastering doesn't make a turd more beautiful and pleasant-smelling. Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be "Digital Bastardizing".

Volume one is riddled with terrible covers of rap songs from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Here's some of the "highlights"...

Pump Up The Jam
This one requires an apology. It awful. I don't know what accent that's supposed to be, but it sounds like someone with a speech impediment trying to sound like they're from the south. The music is full of magnificent Casio goodness.

Wild Thing
Funky Cold Medina
Tone Loc's less talented wanna-be cousin makes two appearances here. All the samples that were used in the originals songs (Van Halen's Jamie's Crying and Kiss' Christine Sixteen) have been replaced by a real guitar and a Casio's attempt at making drum noises. I think the cowbell might be real too.

Buffalo Stance
This Neneh Cherry cover is actually not too awful except the intro is nowhere close to the original.

Me, Myself and I
This De La Soul cover cries because this version needs to be taken out back and beaten to death with a shot gun.

For Volume two, you are treated to a plague of lesser known hits from the 1980s. As a person who knows a LOT of music, I have to be honest and tell you that I don't know most of these songs. However, I will post the ones I'm familiar with.

La Ilsa Bonita
Madonna starts off the album by leaving the recording studio, and all we're left with is that same fucking Casio keyboard and someone who aspires to look and sound as sexy as Madonna. It's probably the same chick from "Pump Up the Jam". This song also appears on another Madacy album called "Today's Power Hits" which I briefly touched on in my dreadful Whitney Houston tribute. Incidentally, that version of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" is on here as well.

Let's Go
I'll be honest and tell you that the version of Wang Chung's "Let's Go" included on here is the first one I ever heard. Back when I was a stupid kid, I purchased a two tape set called "40 Super Hits of 87" (also in my Whitney Houston tribute) and this version was the first track on it. It's difficult for me to comment on this version due to hearing it for the last 28 years. From what I can tell, it's a decent cover, but I'll let you be the judge of that one.

Two Of Hearts
This Stacey Q cover is a nice attempt at duplicating the original, but trips over the Casio keyboard and the whole thing falls on it's face, making an extremely glorious racket.

And those are the only ones I know on here!

I really need to dig out that "40 Super Hits of 87" tape set and review it. It's loaded with bastardized Bon Jovi, fucked up Fleetwood Mac, phooey poopy Huey Lewis and the News, shitty scummy Eddie Money, and many other horrible attempts at scamming you out of your money.

So yeah, I'm back in business. I know you all missed this kind of shit. In other exciting news, I'm planning an extreme two day Junq Tour across Manitoba where I visit some of my favourite thrift stores of old. That should be happening in August, and I'll hopefully be putting my adventures up on Youtube.

Until then, keep watching for new entries and a whole shitpile of Tech of the Century episodes!