My OS History

A short autobiographical account by Ralph L. Vinciguerra

Folks often don't realize that an operating system (or in the old days an OS/Hardware combination) was a place that you "live". Much like a house or a workplace, its design, ergonomics, and aethetics have a significant effect on your efficiency, your memories, and "how you felt in those days".

To make this concrete, I'm starting with a list of these OS's I've "lived" with, and I'll attach brochures, box images, screen captures, or whatever can remind me of those days. I've used many more operating systems than are listed here, but these are the ones I was "centered" on, using them for information management, learning, and work.

APL Environment on dialup to System 360
My first exposure to computers! In High School we had access to a "bouncing ball" selectric terminal with a 134.5 baud(!) dialup to an IBM System 360 Mainframe. We used APL ("A Programing Language") to write all sorts of interesting programs in our spare time. After this experience, I decided that I would somehow get my own "personal computer"...
Hand assembled code on Homebrew 8080
I was homebrewing my own 8080 system, modeled after an Altair 8080 schematic without the hardware interrupt handling circuitry. There's really no OS here. I'd hand assemble 8080 programs to hexadecimal bytes, and punch them into a 1K byte RAM with 4 hexadecimal rotary switches (2 address, 2 data) and a pushbutton. This was nutty, but I managed to write programs to implement: the Conway Life Algorithm displayed on an X-Y scope with a dual D/A converter, some trivial music programs by twiddling a bit attached to a speaker, and an audio cassette storage system by controlling hand-wired audio filters and oscillator circuits (essentially a modem at about 100 baud).
CP/M 2.2 on Homebrew Z-80/BIOS
I was homebrewing my second machine, a Z-80, and finally figured out how to host CP/M 2.2 on my own BIOS and hardware, after I managed to design and build an 8 inch floppy disk controller (polled I/O, no interrupts!!). The screen shown is not my system, but it is a CP/M 2.2 boot up on some kind of HP hardware.
AmigaDOS 1.1 on Amiga 1000
My first use of a mass produced consumer OS. This machine/OS was dynamite for its time. Multitasking, multiple color video modes, four channel stereo sound, and accelerated coprocessor graphics. I was going to buy a Mac (PC's were pathetic at this time), and then I heard about Mac-like alternatives, did some research and found Amiga. Many thanks to Greg Donner's Workbench Nostalgia page.
AmigaDOS 1.3 on Amiga 2000
This machine/OS supported me for 10 Years! This is the first Amiga I had which sported a hard drive as well. The performance was always comparable with current machines, although the advent of higher quality VGA cards on Intel started to out perform the Amiga graphics in the 1990's. I boosted the CPU from 7.14 Mhz to 16 Mhz with a clever daughter card and got alot of additional mileage out of this machine. The real reason I left the Amiga is that I desperately needed to start using laptop computers, and there were no laptop Amigas.
RedHat Linux 5.1 on Intel
My main operating system on my Gateway Solo laptop (200 Mhz) and my first use of the RedHat distribution. I experimented with slackware for a short time before this and liked Linux so much I bought my first boxed set. Even though its free I like to help contribute to the cause.
RedHat Linux 6.1 on Intel
My main operating system on my laptop.
RedHat Linux 7 on Intel
My main operating system on my laptop and my dedicated webserver. Reliable! Installations were tricky.
PalmOS on PalmVx
This handheld device has some amazing properties! Although its about as powerful as my first Amiga 1000, its tiny, turns on instantly, and handles so many crucial basic information functions I need, I use it constantly. I even have it running a Java environment, and I've written some Java applications for it. This is a real image of my Palm! It's not maarked as a Vx since it was an early developer release of a new model.
Microsoft Windows 98 on Intel
Used in a VMWare emulation environment on my RedhatLinux 7 and 8 laptops. The last "small and efficient" windows. Everything they made after this is huge and inefficient in my opinion. Only needed for certain cases where I was forced to run windows applications, and where the "Wine" emulator on Linux didn't work correctly.
RedHat Linux 8 on Intel
My main operating system on my laptop and my dedicated webserver. I can't say enough good things about this OS. Once installed (tricky hardware setup on a DELL Latitude C840, trivial on an HP Pavillion), it was extremely reliable and ran tons of free software. Wow! Very mature GUI desktop too!
Fedora Core 2 GNU/Linux on Intel
My main operating system on my laptop and my dedicated webserver.
Fedora Core 6 GNU/Linux on Intel
My main operating system on my laptop and my dedicated webserver.
Windows 7 on Intel
My main operating system on my laptop and desktop work machine. By using cygwin to provide UNIX-like operations this OS is stable enoght to get the job done.

rPCm- 2012-09-05