[time-nuts] I want a good micro-controller

wje wje at quackers.net
Sat Aug 16 22:49:35 EDT 2008

   Well, yes, it was. The first computer I actually owned was a PDP-8,
   essentially stolen in pieces from the DEC scrapyard. Core memory, who
   would have imagined that it would actually work? I mean, you could
   actually see the bits. And it had blinking lights, too. I still insist
   a computer isn't a real computer without blinking lights.
   Which leads to yet another little side diversion... there was some
   really fantastic hardware done back in the '70s and '80s, without the
   benefit of DSPs, FPGAs, or microprocessors that had more power than a
   modern wristwatch. I love reconditioning equipment from that era, and
   it's remarkable what could be done with a handful of discrete
   components that today is done with a million transistors worth of ICs.
   My oldest working device is a 5061A from '68, not counting useless
   things like my saturated-cell voltage standard; my favorite is a tie
   between my HP 5370A and my Solartron 7081  laboratory dvm. Another
   little gem (in my opinion at least) is the Polarad 632 spectrum
   analyzer. They're not exceptional by any modern measure, but they're
   dirt-cheap and do manage better than 120 db noise floor and a 10 Khz to
   2 Ghz range. Plus, they have a nifty discrete IC digital video capture
   board that does scan storage, scan averaging, and peak detection, all
   without a single microprocessor in sight.
   Which reminds me, what happened to all that wonderful European
   engineering from companies like Datron and Solartron? Their equipment
   frequently beat the pants off of anything we were doing at that time
   (as I gaze lovingly at my pair of Datron 4910's).
Bill Ezell
They said 'Windows or better'
so I used Linux.

   Dave Mallery wrote:


but wasn't that hardware beautiful??? (gazes at 11/70 backplane on wall...)


On Sat, Aug 16, 2008 at 10:10 AM, wje [1]<wje at quackers.net> wrote:

  You certainly don't need formal training to be a good programmer; I've
  seen plenty of code from CS grads that's terrible, and very nice code
  from art majors.
  In my book, a good program is one one that's organized logically, well
  documented, and performs the job it was designed to do. A god
  programmer is someone that produces such programs. That's it. The
  problem is that, with the advent PCs and easily-accessible programming
  tools, everyone thinks they can write code, and many can't. Then what
  you end up with is a tangled mess that's unmaintainable and
  It's interesting that any number of EE's will take great care in
  circuit design, but then throw together some poorly-designed code to
  run their beautiful circuit. But, this has been endemic in the hardware
  industry for as long as I've been around. Hardware companies frequently
  have the attitude that it's the hardware that's important and the
  software is just one of those minor bits that has to get tacked on.
  This was true even for some companies that should have known better;
  there were plenty of HW engineers I ran into back in the old Digital
  days that, even though they were building minicomputers, really
  considered software an unfortunate requirement that had to be shipped
  with their beautiful hardware.
  Ah well, this is really wandering off-topic and my blood pressure's
  going up. I think I'll go write some C code for an 8-bit micro to calm
  down. And yes, I use vi. :)
Bill Ezell
They said 'Windows or better'
so I used Linux.

   Scott Newell wrote:

At 07:36 AM 8/16/2008, wje wrote:

I have both EE and CS degrees, and I work in both worlds. In my humble
(but completely accurate and stable) opinion, Basic is not a programming
language. It's a tool of Satan designed to convince people that they are
programmers when they really should stick to their janitorial duties.
This is a subset of the general problem that everyone thinks they are
programmers, and usually think their code is perfect. But, that's a rant
for a different audience.

So, how do you tell if you're not a programmer, but pretending to be
one?  My code is far from perfect, but it can usually be made to get
the job done.  I try not to cut too many corners, and the ones that I
do cut bother me.  But when you're the lone programmer on projects,
it's hard to know if you're crummy or decent, since there's no one to
measure against.  (Of course, there's the metric of 'product shipped,
product works, bossman happy, paycheck cashed', but that doesn't
distinguish between good and bad programmers, just programmers that
can fool others along with themselves.)

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