Front Panel Retrospective
Note: There is a page on this site with the complete schematics and other details of my 8008 system from 1974. This one is merely a musing from a night in the harbor back in 2009.
It’s freezing in the harbor, and I’m on one of my too-infrequent work trips… mapping my normal project-management context-switching into a form so jarringly physical that I have to take laptop breaks. This is not healthy; the ratio of those orthogonal activities should be inverted.
Still, I’m enjoying the night aboard, and the stove is cranking at a cozy Fahrenheit 451° (according to mechanical instrumentation which is urging me to “Burn One”):
The book-length to-do list would be a nice candidate for incineration. Sometimes it seems an end unto itself.
I arrived with a touch of anxiety. Monday night, as I was trundling off to bed, I took a quick peek at the boat’s webcam, remembering that I had forgotten to re-enable the motion-sensor that responds to activity in the pilothouse by emailing me, texting my cell phone, and FTP’ing frame grabs to an off-ship server. It was dark, since I haven’t yet installed the remote lighting control… but my blood ran cold when I saw that the camera angle had shifted significantly downward since I snagged a screen capture Saturday for an article I’m writing.
But on this night, the black grainy scene had two distinct window shapes at the very top edge, and a correlating glint revealing the angle of the railing in front of the wood stove. Yikes.
My mind raced. It’s a long way over and back… and what could I accomplish at 2 AM? There was no current activity in the salon, just the steady refresh showing subtle movement in the harbor water outside… but it clearly had moved. Did someone come in and fiddle with stuff, nudging the camera on its mount? There had been recent north winds, and I tried to imagine the boat whacking the dock hard enough to overcome camera-mount friction. Nah.
I fired off a letter to the port and went to bed, but sleep was fitful… though somewhere around 4 AM, I concocted a theory that the temporary EVDO antenna suction-cupped to the window had fallen down, hitting the camera in the process.
In the welcome light of morning, things looked fine on camera. Other than the angle, there was no evidence of tampering, equipment removal, rifling, partying, nesting, or any other nefarious activity. Then I saw it! A cheesy little plastic stand, part of the antenna, lying on the nav station desk! My theory had been correct… and when I arrived today, there was the proof:
Guess I really oughta finish that sloppy installation. Sometimes incomplete information is much worse than no information.
That big cable-filled gaposis, by the way, is where an ancient Furuno video sounder used to live. That whole panel region is being replaced by the new console, and one of the key jobs on this trip is to cut and fit a template (I have always done better with a hands-on model than with a set of drawings… I’ve measured that space a dozen times, but it won’t feel real until I can touch it).
I spoke in the last posting about the investment in boat parts that rescued at least some money from the doomed stock portfolio; compared to the latter, that pile of shiny gizmology feels like my own little dotcom boomlet, still worth something close to what I paid for it. Even more fun, it’s about to get mounted on a big hinged panel, provided with numerous blinkies, and interfaced to every corner of the boat.
I have a long history of this.
A Front Panel from 35 Years Ago
Apologies in advance, for this is maudlin nerdly retrospective Writ Large. I was chasing something on flickr a while ago, and came across a familiar sight: my first homebrew computer on display at the Computer History Museum:
This is only part of the old machine, which also included a Scanbe “Rapid Rack” card cage filled with 60-socket Augat wirewrap panels, a keyboard enclosure with integrated card reader, and more… a 6-foot rack cabinet that dominated my apartment living room when I was 22.
This was in 1974, predating those newfangled S-100 Altairs and IMSAIs that kicked off the personal computer phenomenon, and it flickered to life on October 31 after a few months of obsessive design and fabrication with only the cryptic Intel 8008 data book for reference. In some primal male response to those first blinkies, I started my beard that day.
Note from August, 2011: I found the original file of 35-year-old hand-drawn schematics made with logic templates and lots of obsessive passion… and scanned them for a post in the “anarchive” of my historical documents: 8008 Homebrew Computer schematics. There’s more explanatory text there, also.
Well, enough reminiscing; I have some new projects to work on. Hopefully I’ll be looking back at these in another 35 years, wondering aloud, before nodding off in my geeked-out wheelchair, how I managed to sail with only a terabyte of disk on that old boat…
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