H7

From CleanPosts

Jump to: navigation, search

H7 - VIKING

GUIDE running on the Astrodyne Micro-77, which revolutionized computing. Robyn got the idea from the 1984 Macintosh in Reality 2.0

The Tuesday night one week before the 1976 elections, CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite reported on President Gerald Ford's eight-point lead over Jimmy Carter in the Gallup poll. Uncle Walter attributed this sustained lead to Ford's bold decision early in 1975 not to pardon Nixon for his role in the Watergate fiasco, which resulted in Nixon being the first occupant of the Oval Office to serve a prison term after his Presidential term. In the closing minutes of his broadcast, Cronkite introduced Dr. Carl Sagan, coming live from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where, Cronkite said, Astronomers have made a truly astounding discovery.

That is indeed the case, Mr. Cronkite, Sagan said. On the monitor next to me is raw imagery taken from the Viking II Orbiter circling high above the Red Planet. Here we are looking at a small section of an enormous canyon on Mars called Valles Marineris.

Excuse me for interrupting, Doctor Sagan, but for the benefit of our viewers, would you compare this canyon to the Grand Canyon in Arizona?

There is truly no comparison, Mr. Cronkite, Valles Marineris is much, much bigger than the Grand Canyon. If it were somehow relocated to the Earth, it would stretch clear across the United States, from coast to coast. Over the last twenty-four hours, a part of this gigantic chasm has filled with white smoke, and so far we are at a loss to explain it. I have in my hands a pair of full color composite photographs which shows much more of the canyon, and you can see what I'm talking about much better. This one shows Valles Marineris shortly after the Viking II orbiter arrived last August. And this second one, which you will please excuse for being somewhat more patchwork, that's how new the data is, shows how the steam or smoke has completely filled the canyon and is spilling out to the east.

Walter Cronkite loved every facet of the space program and expressed his utter fascination at the report, but with apologies to Dr. Sagan he had to cut it off there, because he was up against a hard break. Cronkite promised more coverage in the following days.

The astute viewer would have noticed an Astrodyne Micro-77 computer arrayed behind Carl Sagan, which JPL was testing before it was to be released to the general public. A 4 inch floppy disk drive with 128KB of space was incorporated inside the new unit. The cassette tape deck was dropped, but it was still available as an external device for legacy software. BOSS was changed to load from floppy, permitting upgrades to the operating system without changing the hardware. The 8080 chip was replaced by the Zilog Z80, an improved clone. Astrodyne populated the motherboard with 32 Kb of RAM and still came in under $500. An optional GUI called GUIDE (Graphical User Interface with Desktop Elements) ran on top of BOSS, in black and white.

The first truly "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) word processor, WordGuide, was the real star of the Micro-77 show, much as Matrix had been for the 73. A spooler program converted documents for output on dot-matrix printers exactly as they appeared on the screen, allowing endless fonts.

With a 1200 baud modem built in, Micro-77s were able to communicate with each other point-to-point rather than just to Astrodyne's mainframe, so email and software was copied between machines. The US government ordered Astrodyne to disable point-to-point file transfers to prevent piracy, but Astrodyne won in court using the argument that it was like suing General Motors because the getaway car in a bank robbery happened to be a Chevy.

A quarter of a million Micro-77 units were sold. Astrodyne built a business park at the crossing of SR-169 and SR-516 in Washington State, close to the Green River Gorge and the tunnel to the Land We Know. The Federal government blocked Micros for export because the technology could aid the Soviet Union. Astrodyne was flattered, but smuggled the units out anyway using Binah's avatar, selling at markup to cover the additional hassle.

Personal tools
Strangers In Paradise