:RAM.0/20100701c

The Z88 Continued

Well, it's certainly unusual! Kind of reminds me of the Psion 3 and Psion 5 in the sense that the thing you seem to do least (and to a certain extent is one of the harder options to find) is how to close a file. Now how weird is that? In fact, to be honest, I haven't found out how to close a file yet. The issue belies the true persistence afforded by such a well designed device. I guess it'll start moaning at some point when the list of open files becomes astronomic.

The other thing that strikes me as downright weird is that one of the cartridge slots (there are three propriatory slots available) contains an EPROM cartridge. Not an EEPROM, but a good old fashioned EPROM. To start with I assumed that you must have to program the EPROM outside of the box with programs or files, but no, the Z88 allows you to program the EPROM in situ. To quote Barney off 'How I Met Your Mother' Awesome! I just copied one of my retrochallenge blog entries over to the EPROM and the screen did a bit of 'straining' (programming an EPROM requires a high voltage, something like 17v - I forget) and then BAM the file appears on the EPROM. Pull it from the slot, and you get a cartridge with a window. Sorry this is reciting Electrical Eng. 101 but an EPROM is erased by exposing the die to UV light, so the memory is exposed to the world via a little glass window. It's nice to be able to actually look at the circuit that is storing my blog entries. Do you think if I got a big enough magnifying glass I'd be able to see the words? Reminds me of the old trick for people new to VHS where you pretended to be able to see the images to trick the older generation. Mind, when the CD came along you could see if there was something on the disc, if only giving an approximate size indication.

Talking of 'tape' for a moment, I recently aquired my second TZ30 drive. This is a SCSI tape drive used to read TK50 tape cartridges. These are how DEC used to distribute software to their VAX computers. The cartridge is about 5 inches square and holds 96 MB. It has a somewhat notorious reputation for reliablity. I vaguely remember them from around 1991, but then the CDROM had started taking over as the preferred distribution medium. I also remember at the time seeing PC unix distributions (Intel Unix, Interactive Unix) that came on a huge number of 3.5" or 5.25" floppy discs. Anyway, I digress. The drive I got recently didn't have an essential component, which is a piece of plastic tape which is attached to a take up reel. The tape has a hook on the end which engages into a loop on the end of the tape in the cartridge. There is a complicated arm mechanism which is used to achieve this feat.

Anyway, enough of the talk, I'll take some video footage when I get it working correctly. This is one of those occassions where playing this stuff as a hobbyist means you avoid the reality of having a 'hung' drive in a high pressure work environment. I'm happy to take the drive apart and work out what is going wrong, but obviously in a business context this is unlikely to be an option.

Blimey, what a digression! Maybe typing on this thing is too easy! Certainly the form factor makes it a lot easier to watch the TV at the same time, and possibly more socially acceptable. I guess the ipad has the same effect, although I'm sure the keyboard won't have such a nice feel.

Next time, I promise there'll be some discussion of lunar lander!