Who is Icky - Hope you like a story

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Icky
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Who is Icky - Hope you like a story

Post by Icky » Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am

Well where do I start? Usually at the beginning.

I was born :) - skip forward a few years.

Electronics was my first love ever since as a young boy I used to watch the TV repair man coming round in the 70’s to fix the TV and trying to see how it worked. Electronics and computing has been intertwined in my life. As a friend of the family the TV guy gave me a box of old radios and TV parts to tinker with. Getting one of those radios working was my first hook into the electronic world. Things progressed from there where every month I waited for the latest issue of Practical Electronics (I didn’t wait that long as my father was a newsagent). This is where I started to build projects from the magazine. Gradually I started to get interested in the projects around building your own computer based on Z80 or 6502 processors. Unable to afford the price of the components I would pour over the adverts for the kit computers that were appearing in these mags. Finally working at weekends for my father I managed to save enough money to buy a ZX Spectrum. The ZX80 and ZX81 which I had longed to build were now being replaced by a new colour computer.

Becoming a proud owner of a 16k rubber keyboard ZX Spectrum changed my life and I think shaped where I have ended up today. I had spent all my money on getting the speccy that I did not have a tape player to load games. Sounds crazy but this got my into programming by typing in the firstly Basic based games from magazines into the machine and leaving the machine on over several days as I had no way to save the games. The last straw came when my younger sister came into the room once tripped over the power cable pulled it out the socket and I lost all my typing.

With a tape player purchased to stop this from happening again I then began to copy games from magazines but from the hex dumps they used to provide. I started to modify the hex to see what happened and gradually started to learn to program Z80 assembly. This allowed me to understand the inner workings of the speccy and I needed more memory to write code. With electronics still in mind I got hold of the memory upgrade from 16k to 48k. This was a case of soldering in the new memory chips. My first ever memory upgrade at the age of 14. Not content with this the Spectrum+ had come out with a new plastic housing and keys, not perfect, but better for typing. This was the next upgrade as they sold Spectrum+ kits.

My time was nearing an end in the Z80 world as I started to look towards the Sinclair QL with its 68008 chip and those strange microdrives. Again saving my pennies I managed to eventually get hold of a QL with a little help from my parents. This is where my programming skills where taking off with 68008 assembly and starting to venture into the C world.

Whilst this was going on my electronics was also growing at school where they had introduced a new O level (yes I’m that old) electronics course. This allowed me to continue my love of electronics and many music (synth related) projects ensued. Electronics featured as the theme from school to college etc. However during this time the QL was starting to feel limited and there were these new kids on the block sporting the 68000 in the guise of the Atari ST and Amiga. Again with saving my pennies I managed to become the proud owner of an Atari 520 STFM. Turning it on putting in the Goldrunner game that came with it and hearing that sample played back was one of those wow moments. Defender of the Crown had awesome graphics for the time making the previous blocky and colour limitations of the Speccy and QL look like something from the dark ages. Another memory upgrade was performed on the ST to take it to 1MB.

At this point in my life electronics was really taking over as this was the career plan I had. After leaving education I went to work for an electronics firm where I started to design thick film hybrids. We used to use this old VAX based CAD system by Calma. It was very clunky. The thing I remember the most about it was the terminal keyboard had solenoids under the keys that clacked back at you to make it feel like a typewriter and the radiator type box under the desk that boosted the RGB signal to the monitor that ran from the computer room across the ceiling.

The firm started to look at replacing the old CAD system and this is where electronics and computing flipped in my life. The new CAD system was from Intergraph and their software was running on their System V based units. The CAD software was based on the Microstation package and plugins could be built in C. This is where I started to look at how my programming skills could start to improve and automate things around the CAD design. The flip was complete I was programming and networking these machines with the accounts departments system running Netware (yep IT departments in most companies started out in the accounts departments as computers were only used for doing accounts).

Then the unspeakable happened, I dropped electronics. I left the electronics firm and went to be a computer trainer. This got me more and more into the world of Microsoft, training courses from Windows NT, MS-SQL and their Visual development platforms. Electronics all but forgotten my career progressed in the computing world mostly around software development. During this time I had started to see these old machines starting to pop up in car boot sales and on eBay in its early days. I started to buy the machines I once knew for very little money as they where at their lowest ebb.

I have now built up a large old collection each one with many peripherals and add-ons but there are a few gaps.
* Atari VCS (woody)
* ZX81
* ZX Spectrum 48k
* ZX Spectrum Plus 48k
* ZX Spectrum 2
* Amstrad CPC646
* Commodore Plus/4
* Sinclair QL
* Atari 520ST - yep the one with a separate PSU and floppy drive
* Atari 520STE
* Atari MegaSTE
* Atari TT (my holy grail)
* Amiga 500
* Amiga 1200
* MiST FPGA

Now that last one is a menace. The MiST box got me back into the old computer space a few years ago and especially the Atari ST space.

So where am I now?

Workwise I am no longer a computer trainer but a software development manager and now spend a few precious hours that I can manage in this day and age going through the collection and upgrading or restoring where appropriate.

I have skirted the various Atari forums but people like Exxos, TerribleFire and many others have inspired me to get more active and begin to flex my electronics muscles again. I have dusted off my old equipment but some is either lost or too old so have a wish list for a scope, a bench psu and various other items.

This new forum has started me off on that path and it is good to see the community alive and full of like minded souls.

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Re: Who is Icky - Hope you like a story

Post by IngoQ » Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:19 am

Thanks for sharing your story :)

I always find it so fascinating, how peoples lifes take turns in one or other direction or go full circle. I see many parallels to myself and most likely many others here feel the same way.
Ingo :geek:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Re: Who is Icky - Hope you like a story

Post by exxos » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:27 pm

:welcomewave:
Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
Electronics was my first love ever since as a young boy I used to watch the TV repair man coming round in the 70’s to fix the TV and trying to see how it worked. Electronics and computing has been intertwined in my life. As a friend of the family the TV guy gave me a box of old radios and TV parts to tinker with.
Sounds a bit like my life. I was given a radio to tinker with. My mum says that she had to hide screwdrivers from me when I was little, as I used take things to bits :lol: 8-)

Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
Sounds crazy but this got my into programming by typing in the firstly Basic based games from magazines into the machine and leaving the machine on over several days as I had no way to save the games.
I remember some of my school friends had spectrums, Commodore 64's, Amiga 500s. I remember typing in lots of hex code on my friends Commodore 64 is to generate some guy in a balloon sprite moving about, but I don't think actually worked as there was a typo in the manual :roll:

Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
..gradually started to learn to program Z80 assembly.
Where I trained, our exams was in Z80 assembly. We had little development boards with LEDs, motors, and all sorts of things to play with. We only had 2K of RAM to play with. I remember one guy spent about two hours typing in all the hex codes to flash LEDs in various sequences. Rather him than me :lol: of course that was similar, there was absolutely no way to save anything. So any project which was done, as soon as you powered off the board, he lost everything and had to start again.

Ironically my old full-time job involved repairing Z80-based systems, among a million other things as well.
Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
Whilst this was going on my electronics was also growing at school where they had introduced a new O level (yes I’m that old) electronics course.
I half remember this was kind of a new thing when I was at school. I took electronics, but overall it was kind of pointless as the work we was doing, I had already been doing in my free time for a couple years previously. For our exams we had to build a project and document it. I built a light sensor, and a smoke alarm which had 10 minutes shut up feature could be powered off mains and have internal battery backup. I think I may have done the third project as well. I just did them all so fast that I had way too much time left over. I think I built some traffic lights and powered them from some PC we had for remote control sequencing or something.

It was actually extremely unfair, as another guy I knew was in a higher maths and English set than me, and he got a "A" for his work, for basically not being able to solder a SCR to latch a LED on when it was triggered. It did not work, and he got a better result than me. :cussing: because I was in a lower math and English group, the best mark I could get for electronics was a "D". Which is pretty pathetic.

Though not long after, I passed a entrance exam to a technical training centre which did computers and electronics. So I did two years training there and passed all my exams.

My school exams I did not revise at all for any of them, I wasn't even bother that even taking the exams, but my parents said I might as well take them. Was totally pointless, I did my two years training, and was offered a job at a place I was doing work experience at, where I was for almost 10 years.

Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
Again with saving my pennies I managed to become the proud owner of an Atari 520 STFM. Another memory upgrade was performed on the ST to take it to 1MB.
The first Atari I actually had was a 2600. Later I purchased a 520STFM. I mostly used it for games and STOS programming. Later got distracted into hardware upgrades.. 20 years later, I still have not finished my STOS programs :lol: :roll:
Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
The flip was complete I was programming and networking these machines with the accounts departments system running Netware (yep IT departments in most companies started out in the accounts departments as computers were only used for doing accounts).
I did a little networking in my old job also, I ran a BBS computer network in our building, anyone in the company, anywhere in the UK could dial in and download software updates. It was fun times is when I started in that workshop, everyone had basically left who knew how the computer system worked. A lot of crashing later, and data corruption later, I took the computer home one day wiped it off and reinstalled all the software myself and started again. I also wrote some custom BBS software, which would aid in keeping our database up-to-date more automatically, and he also had integrated EEPROM programming software. All of which I programmed in VB6.

Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
Then the unspeakable happened, I dropped electronics. I left the electronics firm and went to be a computer trainer.
This also happened with me :lol: a few years ago I sold a lot of my Atari stuff, basically due to a lot of abuse I was getting from people at the time. I left the Atari world and electronics and moved on to Tesla Coils instead.


During this time I had started to see these old machines starting to pop up in car boot sales and on eBay in its early days. I started to buy the machines I once knew for very little money as they where at their lowest ebb.


Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
Workwise I am no longer a computer trainer but a software development manager and now spend a few precious hours that I can manage in this day and age going through the collection and upgrading or restoring where appropriate.
Good stuff :)
Icky wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 am
I have skirted the various Atari forums but people like Exxos, TerribleFire and many others have inspired me to get more active and begin to flex my electronics muscles again. I have dusted off my old equipment but some is either lost or too old so have a wish list for a scope, a bench psu and various other items.

This new forum has started me off on that path and it is good to see the community alive and full of like minded souls.
Fantastic. I want this forum to be a nice open friendly place for people to talk about hardware upgrades such :) there are a lot of really good guys scattered around the Internet, and they are finding their way here slowly :)
4MB STFM 1.44 FD- VELOCE+ 020 STE - 4MB STE 32MHz - STFM 16MHz - STM - MEGA ST - Falcon 030 CT60 - Atari 2600 - Atari 7800 - Gigafile - SD Floppy Emulator - PeST - HxC - CosmosEx - Ultrasatan - various clutter

https://www.exxoshost.co.uk/atari/ All my hardware guides - mods - games - STOS
https://www.exxoshost.co.uk/atari/last/storenew/ - All my hardware mods for sale - Please help support by making a purchase.

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Re: Who is Icky - Hope you like a story

Post by PaulJ » Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:19 am

Icky your past and others comments are really interesting, I assume your from Great Britain since you mention car boot sales. Here is the USA a boot sale would be when a cowboy sells his shoes.

Its nice to see a gathering of technically competent people all working toward a common goat. I just received my board yesterday and waiting on parts I've ordered. I have some catching up to do but I do have the advantage of knowing the issues found to date. Some of these are easier to deal with on an unpopulated board. Still pondering what to use for a memory board. I have a 4meg upgrade board for a st I may try to repurpose.

Keep up the great work, also if people could mention what country they call home would be interesting.

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Icky
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Re: Who is Icky - Hope you like a story

Post by Icky » Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:45 am

PaulJ wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:19 am
Icky your past and others comments are really interesting, I assume your from Great Britain since you mention car boot sales. Here is the USA a boot sale would be when a cowboy sells his shoes.

Its nice to see a gathering of technically competent people all working toward a common goat. I just received my board yesterday and waiting on parts I've ordered. I have some catching up to do but I do have the advantage of knowing the issues found to date. Some of these are easier to deal with on an unpopulated board. Still pondering what to use for a memory board. I have a 4meg upgrade board for a st I may try to repurpose.

Keep up the great work, also if people could mention what country they call home would be interesting.
Hi PaulJ

Yes - I am from Great Britain and you deduced correctly by the mention of car boot sales.

Glad you have your board. Its been great fun getting these up and running.

I think Tuesday this week was an epic adventure for Exxos, Forgottenmyname, myself and with a few suggestions from others we managed to get these into a good state and as of now we now have bombs on stable video.

Regards

Icky

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Re: Who is Icky - Hope you like a story

Post by PaulJ » Fri Sep 21, 2018 2:43 pm

Congrats!!! How about a pic? Let the rest of us admire your efforts. I'll be there in 2 to 3 weeks depending on when my parts orders come in. Lot of work pulling together all the odds and ends. What did you use for a memory board? Also, how many bombs do you get and are they consistent? Keep up the good work!

Paul

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Re: Who is Icky - Hope you like a story

Post by Icky » Fri Sep 21, 2018 5:37 pm

PaulJ wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 2:43 pm
Congrats!!! How about a pic? Let the rest of us admire your efforts. I'll be there in 2 to 3 weeks depending on when my parts orders come in. Lot of work pulling together all the odds and ends. What did you use for a memory board? Also, how many bombs do you get and are they consistent? Keep up the good work!

Paul
Hi Paul,

Have fun building the board. It has been an adventure for me. Improving my soldering / desoldering skills and bring my electronics knowledge back from where I left it 25+ years ago. Am very rusty but am really grateful to Exxos and the many others who are helping me on this journey.

So there is a video of the boot with I think its 20 bombs viewtopic.php?f=64&t=1205&start=90#p10282

For the memory board I actually am using one of Exxos' Falcon Ram Boards that take a SIMM. I have a few 4MB and 8MB SIMMs to play with.

Icky

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