1981 Hewlett Packard workstation restored

Originally published at: 1981 Hewlett Packard workstation restored | Boing Boing


Ah, when HP was still HP and made good stuff. That worked.


Wow just a 68000 processor in the early 1980s would have cost you about $500, so they only existed in heavyweight workstations like this and the original Sun.

In one of the great ‘what might have beens’ of computing, IBM considered the 68000 for Project Chess - what would become the IBM PC. Bill Gates argued for the Motorola chip which was much easier to program than the 8088/8086 architecture. But the Intel chips were cheaper and getting cheaper fast, so we are where we are.


The thing to note is the circle in the Northwest, which you can spin quickly and precisely without leaving the keyboard. At school we had that programmed to spew forward- and back-one-character commands to the editor (emacs – of course) much faster than the keyboard could, unless one was holding down shift, in which case it would spew up- and down-one-line commands. You could zip around in a file so fast with that thing. HP went on to make external ones to attach to and sit next to your keyboard. And I have never seen them for sale since :sob:

And by 1983, they were used in some coin-op arcade games. A couple years makes a big difference.


This man is a geek of my own heart, and even more so. I’ve finally shed most of my old systems and old software, but I wish we had enough room to set up a space for old computers and gaming consoles with lots of shelf space. Definitely going to add his videos to my rotation, it’s a bit of nostalgia for me.

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I see a number of standalone USB jog wheel devices for sale at a lower price point, with more or less confidence in the manufacturer or driver software, if you’re craving such a thing to noodle around with.

Personally, I’d love one on my phone. The long-press-and-scrub-spacebar trick on my phone is naggingly imprecise with my fumble fingers. At least on a proper keyboard I can arrow-key or chord around. Those old emacs key-bindings still surface in modern editors, but no such love for my handheld 'puter.

According to this NYT article about the introduction of the 68020 in mid-1984, the 68000 was down to $15 in volume quantities by this time. That’s the only possible reason the eternal skinflints at Atari and Commodore were willing to use them in their 16-bit machines.


The other problem with the MC68000 was that it seemed too powerful. IBM didn’t want weird el-cheapo PCs cannibalising the market for their mid-range system offerings. (Later on, when the 80386 CPU became available, IBM didn’t want to build PCs based on that, either, but then Compaq came out with one, and that opened the floodgates.)


It’s also a pretty chonky chip that takes up room. It also needed new support chips, whereas the 8088 could keep using the existing 8-bit ones. The 68008 came along, but a bit too late.


Oh yes, the 68008 which Sir Clive claimed was just as good as the 68000 in his doomed QL. Though the chip was probably the least of that machine’s problems, there was the keyboard, the missing ROMs, and of course those Microdrives…


The 68008 would have been a good choice for an entry level machine at that time. Bus-transfer stuff like graphics would have suffered, but only compared to full 16 bit data bus machines.

After that, there would have been a clear upgrade path through the 68000 and beyond, with few code changes. (Just don’t use the “unused” upper bits of the address registers for storing any … Apple, are you even listening?)

I think it was mainly the company and the product.


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