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Does anyone still use an 8-bit (or 16-bit) computer for real work?


BillyHW
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I saw a post on a Swedish C64 forum about someone back in the day rigging up a C64 with custom software and some kind of interface to control the heating system for a large house or something like that, and its still working fine to this day.

 

Hardly can be cathegorized as work though, but it does serve an important everyday function.

 

A school nearby used a Amiga computer for some lab-simulations or something like it. It was all yellow from exposure and all the symbols on the keys worn down but it worked, sadly it broke some 2 or so years ago and they couldnt find a replacement before the principal decided to buy a new PC against the wishes of the teachers.

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Well, there was at least one Apple II being used to make player piano rolls on an episode of 'How It's Made' a few years back. They'd record the music on modern computers, then boot up the old Apple II to run the actual roll production!

I saw that episode. They have supposedly upgraded according to a post I saw on this forum but I don't know where the info originally came from.

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Really, with the right software, I can't see why an 8-bit computer can't still be a light duty chore worker today. Even a decent gaming platform yet! Most of the 8-bit computers were very well-built when compared to today's PCs and the fact so many are still working after over 30 years attests to that. I had someone trying to understand me playing with and wanting to have my old Apple IIe units rebuilt when one can basically buy a new PC for $200-$300. Well, that PC will be trash in a few years where the 8-bit with some new caps in the power supply will probably last another 20-30 years with proper care. Heck, even the Tandy 1000 line of computers are pretty robust!

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I don't, nor would I want to. While I love the countless hundreds of classic systems I have, they're strictly for fun and experimentation these days. I'm happy to say that having to use them for "mission critical" work (mostly school stuff back then) is fortunately no longer necessary, particularly since there's nothing that a modern system can't do better and safer.

 

There was a guy in an Apple II Facebook group recently that mentioned still using his Apple IIGS for sending out post card mailers. He claimed they were cheaper to print on the Imagewriter with fanfold postcard paper than it would to have them printed on a modern printer and matching card stock. The result looked exactly like you'd expect from an old dot matrix printer, though. (he said he did have to watch the printer print since it would occasionally need unjamming)

 

This same gentleman also indicated he writes all of his self published books on his Apple IIGS as well, including a current 500+ pager that he's working on. Of course, he also seems to refuse to want to learn any new software and eschews modern operating systems, so I think there's something a bit deeper there than just not wanting to bother switching out something that more or less still works for him.

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Not really. With modern OS'es tied to servers and subscription software and especially how microsoft examines the content of your personal files - there's something to be said for a legacy environment.

 

With older systems I don't have to continually re-learn tips and tricks and things I already leaned 3 times over already. Half the changes are pointless and tedious and offer no real improvement. Call me a luddite, tech averse, backward, stubborn. I really don't care. I've been done with the upgrade rat-race for some time now. There's better things to do.

 

ADDED:

There's nothing hip, progressive, or impressive about continually learning the same thing over and over again. Especially tedious conventions and trivial housekeeping operations. But learning new packages and things never done before? That's different and not so bad!

Edited by Keatah
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I'm about to do some experiments at work that involve light and temp measurements, and thought this would be an opportunity to wheel out AtariLab. However, I've since acquired an Arduino and suspect that this will fit in my office bag more easily, as well as being less obtrusive to the participants...

 

Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk

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Today? No. They're all for gaming, experimentation, configuring and hacking anymore.

 

I would like to re-pursue TMS9900 Assembly on the TI someday. Been telling myself that for years though, so not sure when that's ever going to happen. She's all hooked up and ready to go and even downloaded the Beginning Assembly book, but we'll see. There's just something compelling about programming on the TI that I don't get out of the C64 or Amiga even. Actually like that little keyboard and once you get used to it... :lol:

 

I do keep a couple of dot matrix printers around and would like to use programs such as Deluxe Print and Printmaster again. If only to maybe create the occasional "retro" card to send to somebody. Again, haven't done so in years and may never get around to it. ha

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..which reminds me. The last time I had my Epson MX-80 powered up to print was with Windows 3.1 and Word 2.0. I suppose I should unpack it and give it a good cycling. Maybe hook it to my laptop and do photoshop on it!

 

Anyhow, at the time, I was astounded to see my old printer work with such state-of-the-art hardware, the new 486. That was a sight to behold! Kind of like a cartoon of a new car with exaggerated starbusts and sunflare reflections.

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Not really. With modern OS'es tied to servers and subscription software and especially how microsoft examines the content of your personal files - there's something to be said for a legacy environment.

 

With older systems I don't have to continually re-learn tips and tricks and things I already leaned 3 times over already. Half the changes are pointless and tedious and offer no real improvement. Call me a luddite, tech averse, backward, stubborn. I really don't care. I've been done with the upgrade rat-race for some time now. There's better things to do.

 

ADDED:

There's nothing hip, progressive, or impressive about continually learning the same thing over and over again. Especially tedious conventions and trivial housekeeping operations. But learning new packages and things never done before? That's different and not so bad!

 

Ignoring the (oversimplified) can-of-worms about what is or is not "spying," I'll take automatically backed up and redundant modern day workflows each and every time over legacy workflows where a single computer crash or corrupt disk could lose some or all of my work. I've been through that from the early 1980s through to about the early 2000s, and I'd never want to go back. Fortunately, I don't have to. Why anyone else with serious work to get done would want to either is beyond me. Surely there has to be a better reason than the fear of Big Brother?

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I'm not against using new systems, but I have to agree there is something nice about disconnecting from the grid and tinkering around on a legacy system. I am also tired of the constant upgrade race and such, being that we are treated like second-class citizens where I live. (Stuck on dial-up with no options means using older Windows PCs that were never meant to last past the 3-5 year mark!) I consider gaming and word processing to be a worthy task for an 8-bit or 16-bit computer. Heck, there is (or was) a bit of a counter-culture movement where younger people were collecting and using typewriters again! Sometimes the tool is just as much an inspiration to write and do things as the surrounding environment. If tinkering with a legacy system spurs someone on to do things, then so be it.

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The last time I used an 8-bit computer for real work was when I used my Apple ][ to dial into a Unix shell account where I used the traditional Unix tools to write professionally. This would have been circa 1995-1997.

 

Of course, the Apple ][ was being used as a dumb terminal at that point. And I was just doing it because I could. Not long before that I was using my Atari 1200XL to dial into Delphi, using Flickerterm-80 to get 80 columns up (again, because I could).

 

I owned a sequence of x86 computers from 1990 onward, so it was really only pre-1990 that I used an 8-bit for real work.

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Ignoring the (oversimplified) can-of-worms about what is or is not "spying," I'll take automatically backed up and redundant modern day workflows each and every time over legacy workflows where a single computer crash or corrupt disk could lose some or all of my work. I've been through that from the early 1980s through to about the early 2000s, and I'd never want to go back. Fortunately, I don't have to. Why anyone else with serious work to get done would want to either is beyond me. Surely there has to be a better reason than the fear of Big Brother?

 

Sure there is and I mentioned them. Modern systems suffer from a near psychotic instability in their interface design. Constant changes here and there. Nothing stays consistent for any length of time.

 

With legacy systems you can (and are forced to) be aware of where your data is all the time. Standard daily or weekly backups are no big deal to make. Nor do they take much time. Maybe a just as much as a re-boot? And partial incremental or targeted backups are always lightning fast anyways.

 

As far as big-brother is concerned. You just simply don't know what parts of your spank'n new windows 10 system are exposed. Put some prohibited items on it and see what happens. And I don't mean WaReZ..

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realistically the majority of the world uses a 8 bit or 16 bit computer every single day in their lives, though they may never see it or think about it cause its embedded deep within their car's, microwaves, elevators, alarm systems, dishwashers etc

 

heck a lot of them are based on intel 8051's (a microcontroller version of the 8080) 68000, Z80, and 6502 at their very base core design

 

so :P

Edited by Osgeld
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I made a few entries to this similar topic in the past. http://atariage.com/forums/topic/184816-whats-the-oldest-computer-youve-seen-in-use-today/

 

While I don't personally use any 8-bit or 16-bit computers for real work, I often run into them as part of my job. I had a client that used a Commodore PET to control a wood drying kiln. This setup was in use until just a few years ago when the PET (with a large, custom interface board) finally released the magic blue smoke. They even loaded the software from cassette tape each day. Another client uses an Atari 8-bit computer to control a mail sorting machine.

 

I have a wonderful client who makes specialized automotive parts. They seem to be stuck in the 80's. Even their office furniture looks like it was purchased before the premier of MTV. They use a Japanese PC with a strange version of DOS to control a machine that makes tools out of wire. (There are pictures in the post above.) They also use a PC running Windows 3.1 to print labels for all of their packaging. I helped them with this PC just last week. The client wants to move to a newer version of the software. The upgrade would require an arduous process of exporting over 800 labels one at a time and importing them into the newer software. We are looking at a way of moving the entire setup (including Win 3.1) to a newer PC - which is still 10+ years old. The label printers are all serial and the software uses a security dongle in the parallel port. If we can get everything working on a newer PC they will likely continue to run Windows 3.1 for another 20 years.

Edited by awhite2600
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I'm not against using new systems, but I have to agree there is something nice about disconnecting from the grid and tinkering around on a legacy system. I am also tired of the constant upgrade race and such, being that we are treated like second-class citizens where I live. (Stuck on dial-up with no options means using older Windows PCs that were never meant to last past the 3-5 year mark!) I consider gaming and word processing to be a worthy task for an 8-bit or 16-bit computer. Heck, there is (or was) a bit of a counter-culture movement where younger people were collecting and using typewriters again! Sometimes the tool is just as much an inspiration to write and do things as the surrounding environment. If tinkering with a legacy system spurs someone on to do things, then so be it.

 

Back when Windows wasn't begging you to upgrade!

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