Time Travel with a Modern Laptop

Plus, it is more obviously a descendent of some of the computers in existence in at least the 70s. Some of the standard unix commands are ancient.

If this is a lead-in to your next point, I’ll wait. :slight_smile: But as it stands of course what distinguishes “a modern pc” is the “p” part; the “concept” of the modern computer, is variously defined and well established historically for almost a century before.

Yours was a nice long post, but I’m having trouble with this idea.

Conceptual computation is a concept since … Hindus Valley?
Conceptual “boxing” of concepts on data is new is bookkeeping since Sumer.

The business and statistical algorithms themselves, of course, are the fruit of centuries of discovery. I think you go to far, but I must say, the history of the concept of relational databases, regardless of their technological implementation, is worth pursuing.

get a solar charger and you could go back 1000 years.

The spreadsheet was the first “killer app” of business computing. Certainly tabulated calculations existed before then (and were the inspiration for the software), but the software transformed the process from a multi-day one that was done once a quarter at most, to one that could be done in minutes, and every day (or every hour if need be). The huge upswing in the availability of summary data significantly changed the way people work.

After all, the concept is not named after what is calculated, but after the size of paper people would have to use when they were doing it without a computer.

The entire Microsoft Office suite alone contains many powerful technologies, concepts and innovations that would be a tremendous boon. Excel and Access alone are extremely valuable for their concepts alone (spreadsheet and relational databases respectively). Even a normal savvy user should have enough knowledge of those applications to provide valuable knowledge to even the most cutting edge computer scientists of the day. Relational database technology is mainly based on mathematical set theory but it wasn’t fully invented until the 1970’s. You could keep math and computer science professors busy for many years just by demonstrating how they work at a fairly high level.

Word and Powerpoint demonstrate everyday, practical uses of computers that destroy the idea that they are only useful to the military, government agencies and large corporations.

Part of my job is to integrate wildly divergent technologies. I certainly don’t deal with anything that goes back that far but I have designed interfaces that still connect modern servers to other servers of 1980’s vintage with roots that go back much further than that.

It is possible to connect a modern laptop to extremely old mainframes via an acoustic modem. It requires some knowledge but very little hardware.["] Here is a demonstration of a vintage 1964 modem attached to a modern laptop](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9dpXHnJXaE[/url). It is (obviously) very slow but technically possible to connect one to that old or even older to a 1950’s or 60’s era mainframe. I am not sure what you would do with that capability but you could use the laptop to offload any really intensive computing tasks like orbital or financial simulations based on information stored on the mainframe and return the result.

Shagnasty, can you give any examples of your most impressive/challenging/Frankensteinian projects in real life?

“Frankensteinian” I’m thinking would be (not unlike your solution to OP) some god forsaken legacy systems which, correctly or incorrectly, budgeted out (at some point in time) to be worth keeping. Like keeping the hamsters fed in the SD database power generators.

What kind of “wildly different” systems, divorced from the legacy issue, do you work with?

On my current project, we still have host legacy ERP system running on an AS/400 platform with roots from the 1980’s but I have worked on others that have interfaces with IBM mainframes much older than that. You can integrate them with even the most modern applications but the interfaces are usually just text files that get passed back and forth every minute or every few minutes. The hardware side can be even more antiquated. We have gigantic machines (as in small house sized) that depend not only on very old software integrations but also very obscure and obsolete hardware.

The high level solution is just a modern USB connection to an RS 232 serial connection (that standard originated in the early 1960’s but is still supported to some degree) with the old device. Sometimes it is more complicated than that however and requires intermediate hardware to enable them communicate at all. The basic technique is to step back in time until you get a chain of commonality. Device A may not be able to communicate directly with device E but it can if add intermediates B,C, and D so that there is a chain of lingua franca. You can go back surprisingly far by doing that. I am confident I could build an interface between a late 1950’s mainframe and almost any modern computer with very little hardware.

In my current job, it isn’t a matter of budgeting. It is a matter of complexity and the idea that “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it”. It is for one of the biggest mega-corps in the world and it will take years at least to replace even one of their antiquated systems. It is the same reason that the U.S. nuclear readiness program still depends on 8" inch floppy disk and old computers that you can’t find anywhere else except for museums.

If you had an RS-232-USB converter, there would be no problem communicating.

If you didn’t have one, and the laptop didn’t have a serial port, things could be more difficult. There’s no way to make an RS-232-USB converter with 60’s technology.

If the laptop had an integrated Modem, you could use that, or use the serial data feeding it.

You could also (if you were clever) use the audio-out to simulate a modem. You might also make a mechanical typing-unit to type on the laptop’s keys.

I’m very very skeptical of this. Notepad.exe, for instance, is 216K. That’s 216 thousand numbers in the range of 0->255. Without any even starting knowledge of what the machine code looks like, and with only a limited number of pre-existing .exes to look at as examples, and without any kind of debugger to watch what’s happening as it happens, actually reverse engineering machine op codes is probably flat out impossible. Not to mention that opening up an .exe file in notepad doesn’t actually show you the file contents in a nice numeric way. Instead, it looks like this:

Note that many of the characters are just blank. So you can’t even tell the difference between a byte that has value 253 and one that has value 254 (or whatever).

Maybe there’s a tool that is part of the standard windows install that allows for disassembly or binary editing or something, but I don’t know of one.

Shagnasty, that reminds me of the astronomy department when I was in college (back in the 1990s). The controller software for one of our telescopes ran on an Apple IIe. But we didn’t actually use the Apple IIe directly; we had another computer which interfaced with it. That computer was running OS 2/Warp. That computer, in turn, had no I/O capabilities beyond a private network connection to a bank of computers running Windows 3.1. But those at least had 3.5 floppy drives, so you could then transfer data onto a modern computer with an Internet connection.

Huh. That’s alotta OS.

Interesting article and “newly discovered” source documents on Apple’s first OS –http://www.cnet.com/news/the-untold-story-behind-apples-13000-operating-system/
in of light of
… [Wozniak] told CNET, there were no existing disk operating systems for the 6502 chip. And though the Apple II did have a mini-DOS built into its ROM that could redirect input and output streams to any slot by manual or program command, Wozniak wanted more.

Wait, what?

dB trip-levels for all or none binary? (Scream into mike for 1.) Implement telegraphy and compile?

300 baud modems used simple FSK modulation:

No shee-it! See, I figured it out! (Of course you gave me the impetus to think outside the box.) Me and my new favorite band, IS–From your cite:

The American synth-pop band Information Society featured a track entitled “300bps N, 8, 1 (Terminal Mode or Ascii Download)” on their album Peace and Love, Inc. that could be decoded to a text message by holding a phone handset connected to a Bell 103 modem up to the speaker playing the track.

I built a 110/300 baud modem from OpAmps and VCOs in 1978…

Are you one of those Super-Phreaks who whistled into the touch tone phone booths?

A previous OP, by me, as it turns out: The knowledge of the phone phreakers: anything still “useful?”

Also on point, from What would happen if you played a software cassette on a tape recorder?

Note that several modern applications like Microsoft office must hit the internet every 180-Days to Re-Activate, otherwise the license will become inactive and useless.

No, but I can do a dual-tone whistle…

I missed the phone phreak era by a few years. I did do all kinds on non-ATT-sanctioned experiments on my folks’ phone lines (e.g. - building my own digital dialer from TTL ICs).

From Powershell: “Get-Content <Filename> -Encoding Byte” prints out a file byte-by-byte in decimal without installing anything non-standard.