A S-100 owner

The following S-100 story, from Larry Ryan of Washington state (USA), was provided in 2008 by Bob Grieb through the MARCH mail discussion group. See other stories of S-100 owners on this Web page, part of my S-100 Web site. Most recent revision dated May 03 2008. My edits are in []'s. - Herb Johnson

I became interested in the 8008 when I left NASA in Fairbanks and got my first teaching contract. I was cleaning out my desk and another engineer mentioned "...a CPU on a chip". It was from an article in EE Times. That echoed in my mind. Being a newbie at Olympic College and seeking tenure, I started on a project to bring microprocessors to our curriculum. I contacted Intel late in '72 and early '73 about the Intellec 8 microprocessor dev system. I received a lot of documentation and later met with their newly formed engineering support that used to visit Seattle at the behest of Almac-Stroum, a supplier. It became obvious that the college was not going to purchase anything called a "computer". The college had time-share contracts and an aversion to owning any hardware. The dept head gave me only 1/4 of my budget request. The State of WA bounced my purchase request. So, I came up with this: 1 ea 8008 (yes, VERY expensive), one card cage (the Intellec 8 card cage), 8ea 1702 UV-eraseable EPROMs (remember those?), parts for the power supply, RAM chips for 4K of static RAM (2114's), and 1 each ASR-33 teletype machine (!). I called the order justification: "8-bit Parallel Unit". I'm not making this up! The order went through like magic. The State of WA bought their first microcomputer.

I built it all on 1" perfboard cards that may have been supplied by Intel engineers…can't remember. I had a great lab ass't that fab'd a case for it and did a LOT of soldering. I was able to talk Intel into giving me a punched paper tape copy of the Intellec 8 System Monitor. I gave this and the 1702s to Almac-Stroum for programming....all for free! So, I had a PROM board, 4K RAM board and the CPU board all plugged into the Intellec 8 card cage. I made the I/O board in two pieces - one in the computer and the other mounted inside the ASR-33. I called it Olycomp-1. On Christmas afternoon '73, I connected it to the ASR-33, hit a reset and the TTY typed: -80, CR, LF. Unlike in "iWOZ", I used schematics supplied by Intel. For the next hours, I used commands in the system monitor to print out the contents of the RAM board in hex until I ran out of paper. Chakety-chakety - it was music! I had a series of switches on the front panel to load any program in RAM and run it. I remember the trickyness of that 2-phase clock and how the pin-challenged 8008 muxed a lot of pins making timing very critical.

Later, I wrote a hex loader so I could load paper tapes I had punched. However, it was not as famous as Bill Gate's hex loader tape. Same thing though. Believe it or not, a company called Scelbi created a version of BASIC for the 8008 called ScelBal. I can't remember how I justified it but the State of WA purchased Scelbal, their first microprocessor BASIC and a brand new 8K RAM board from Intel. I could load the paper tape in 30 min. Then the 8008 machine called Olycomp-1 could run a BASIC program! I still have that object tape for Scelbal! Loading Scelbal was tricky. The 8008 had only a 7-level stack. This severely limited nested subroutines and, as I remember, you had to commit 3 of them before you loaded the tape. That didn't leave many left for executing Scelbal. In order to show immediate value (department and tenure committee was very concerned due to building visibility of this project) I wrote a short program that solved determinants using Euler's Theorem. It worked! They tested it by inputting a matrix that they knew would indicate singularity and I was relieved and very sweaty at the end when it worked. Heads nodded, I got tenure (in '75), my students had a microcomputer at their disposal and I continued my career of having fun and getting paid for it.

That lab tech built a model intersection with traffic lights. I got help from a city engineer and we wrote a program to run the intersection. Later, the City of Bremerton Court would borrow it for trials. Olycomp-1 joined public service!

I just found this link for the Intellec 8: I remember getting the manual for it from Intel. It was my text book on microprocessors. In fact, in 1973, it was about the only thing I could find. No Google search back then!

I REALLY wanted that box but the college purchasing said no. My box didn't have all those switches.

Soon after, the Altair came out and many others. I ended up with the two [MITS] Altairs 8800b and 680b that I mentioned before, a Commodore PET, and Heathkit H-8 and other projects. My main teaching tools were the E&L Instruments MMD-1 and later, the 8085 SDK-85 board. In the mid 1980s, I took 2 yr leave of absence from teaching and worked for E&L Instruments (later Interplex Electronics) and did a lot of work on the Fox trainer that used a Z80. I wrote the manuals also.

As Olycomp-1 became obsolete other newer 8 and 16-bit systems took its place and I finally left teaching. A few years later, I contacted my former colleagues about snatching back good old Olycomp-1 but they said it was thrown out. Sad.

- Larry Ryan

Contact information:

Herb Johnson
New Jersey, USA
To email @ me, see see my ordering Web page.

Copyright © 2008 Herb Johnson and Larry Ryan