8 bit journey (Patrick’s Story)

My journey with computers started in high school, where unknown to me at the time, we had some pretty advanced systems. My first experience was in a lab of TRS-80 Model IIIs all "networked" to a master TRS-80 to create, save and run programs. This network connected all the student PCs cassette ports to a TRS-80 Network II Controller; itself attached to a Model III with floppy drives, where individual student machines could save or load files from the master. This was simply unimaginable to my teenage mind in the 80s. Although this was not really a true network (it was a port switcher), the practice of connecting computers together would have a strong pull though out my life. The school also had a few Atari 800s and a set of Commodore PETs with these huge (to me at the time) disk drives. The PET was my favorite so far because of the disk drives, nice screen and keyboard.

After high school, I was hired as a counselor teaching computers to campers one summer. They had a whole lab of Franklin Ace computers;  I later discovered were Apple II compatibles. When I returned home, I got a part time job at the local college, where I was also a student, servicing the campus' microcomputers, mostly Apple II's so that's when they became my favorite of that generation. I would go around cleaning disk drive heads, checking that things worked, but I also learned what people used. One of my first discoveries was these Z80 (Softcards) in Apples that allowed you to run CP/M. I got hooked on Wordstar! On an Apple. Later, I built and ran a computer lab of 40 Apple //e's all networked together with a Corvus OmniDrive (the first network at the college). I would go on to build several Novell Networks and another lab, this one all UNIX PCs connected to an AT&T 3B15 minicomputer.

Next, I worked at a software company where their database product ran on almost every imaginable computer system (well except for those Apples, Ataris and Commodores LOL). It ran on CP/M, MP/M, DOS, Novell networks (Novell was a customer as it was the only product that ran on their network at the time), VMS and about 50 UNIX platforms.

I then worked at CompuServe, which in some ways was a techno step back, as everything was X.25 networking and serial connections to the largest installation in existence of DEC KL20s and clones made in house. I will say it was is nice having a 56K connection at the desk, but it was even better when we got a real LAN again to connect to the CompuServe cloud over IP.  From their I moved to BBN (the guys who really built the internet), running their Network Services business, where I got the ultimate deep dive into every kind of network in use.

A few years back, I was going through boxes from a previous move and rediscovered my collection of Apple IIs.   Not long after I had the first one up and running, I started exploring how these retro systems could be connected in the new world. Wow, I discovered someone had made an ethernet adapter and there was a whole bunch of software to use with it.  My interest in vintage/retro computing was reborn! With Greg's excellent help, several of my systems have been restored (boy can he solder!), and several new and interesting doodads have been made for our systems which we will be posting about here. Stay tuned!

Patrick Kloepfer

Leave a Reply