Category Archives: old machines

Thought Pattern

I am among the millions of users of Evernote, and I have been struck by its many similarities to a software package from the early 1990s called Thought Pattern™. This was a note-taking package that made little impact on the market but which I found very useful at the time.

As with Evernote, a Thought Pattern user can enter notes with text and pictures, and assign keywords to each note. This makes it possible to search later by the terms in the card, or by themes that the cards have in common, even if the name of the theme appears nowhere in the text of the card itself. Unstructured data can be challenging to manage. With a large unstructured database used by many people, communal usage patterns can train the system about related content even in the absence of identical terms. However, for smaller datasets and user bases, explicit tagging of the sort used by Evernote and Thought Pattern is much better. Highly structured data can be handled in a traditional database management system, but a lot of information in the real world doesn’t conform to any simple rigid system of fields and records.

Thought Pattern also allowed the user to link content from other applications to cards, where it was represented by icons and would open if double-clicked. The program had one major feature that Evernote lacks — it was possible to attach an alarm to each card. Thought Pattern also had a better logo.

thought pattern logo

I rode a bicycle across most of the United States in 1993 wearing a Thought Pattern t-shirt.

Thought Pattern lacked of course the networked ubiquity that makes Evernote so useful. Nonetheless, it was a great program that I found useful. Credit to Stephen Zagerman of Bananafish Software for being ahead of his time.

in action

box back

Happy Birthday, Bob

Seven minutes remain in Bob Dylan’s 70th Birthday. I’m listening to Eliza Gilkyson’s new cover of “Jokerman,” and remembering that on the occasion of Bob’s fiftieth birthday I hosted a 24 hour Orgy™ of his music on WHRB-FM. I collected an array of bootlegs for the event, a project that was a lot more fun in the days before digital piracy. During the show, in the middle of the night, an enormous manic-depressive named Wombat stopped by the studio to join us. The station got appreciative letters for weeks, including some from people who drove their cars to a parking lot near our offices in Memorial Hall and sat, listening for hours. One man wrote about holding his young son in front of the radio in the hopes the boy would grow up to appreciate the music the way his father did. Funny the things you remember, decades later.

I found a copy of the Adobe Pagemaker 4 file for the poster we used to advertise the event. The screenshot below is from an emulator running Macintosh System 7 without Adobe Type Manager but I don’t think it looks too terrible.

Bob Dylan Poster

Another old computer — the Powerbook 180c

In 1993, Apple released the PowerBook 180c, which sold for over $4100 new. It was, I think, the final PowerBook with the iconic form factor that had been introduced with the PowerBook 100 in 1991.


Somewhere along the way I picked one up for a percentage point or so of the original selling price. The memory had been upgraded to 14Mb, an amount that would have been astounding at the time, and almost unimaginably expensive, considering the Sumitomo Chemical Plant fire of July 1993 that caused RAM prices to spike. Consider this in comparison to the recent Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which put much of northern Japan at least briefly underwater and had virtually no impact on the global economy. In 1993, a fire in one Japanese factory caused computer memory prices to remain elevated for two years.

about this mac 1993

I hauled the computer out of the basement recently to convert some old floppy discs, and put it through some paces online. Unlike the Apple Lisa I recently connected, indirectly, to the web, this machine has a true TCP/IP stack, and can run mail clients, web browsers, and the like.

The machine was made before Apple routinely put ethernet ports on their computers, so an adapter is needed. There probably exist AppleTalk-to-Ethernet adapters that can be connected to the machine’s serial port. I am lucky enough to have an Asante Mini EN/SC 10T adapter, which allows older Macs to be connected to ethernet via their SCSI ports. The driver software was well coded, and the Mac regards the resulting connection as built-in ethernet.

asante en/sc 10T

Network access in Mac OS7 was handled via the MacTCP control panel, not the network control panel, which back then related only to the AppleTalk protocol I think. If you have a similar device and are having trouble configuring it, select “Ethernet Built-In” in MacTCP, then click the “More” button. If you plan to talk to the world, find the names and addresses of your DNS servers and enter them by hand. Your ISP can tell you, if you don’t use OpenDNS or another alternative.

Set your router address (called a “gateway address” here).

I do not think MacTCP handled DHCP correctly. Anyway, I set a manual IP address just in case.

macTCP 1993

Numerous older web browsers and FTP clients, etc., are available online. I used NCSA Mosaic and Fetch. Then I logged into IRC using the venerable Ircle client, which unfortunately killed itself after 30 minutes to punish me for not buying a license.
irc on a PowerBook 180c

Mathematica 2.2 was loaded on the machine, and I ran a couple of quick problems through it.
mathematica 2.2, 1993

The syntax for simple problems like this has not changed, and those problems can be solved using the exact same commands in Mathematica 8.01. On my home Mac Pro, the first problem can be solved a bit better than 8x as quickly on the modern machine, and the second problem about 127x as quickly.

Using NCSA Mosaic, here’s how this website would have looked in 1993:

monkeywrench as rendered in NCSA Mosaic

Youth in 8 bit

One of my sons discovered the Apple ][e this morning. He likes keyboards, and pounded on this one for a bit.

Youth with Apple //e

2009 youth with 1983 Apple //

I thought it would be amusing to render the image in Apple ][ hi-res graphics. I think it would come out something like this:

Youth with Apple //e, in 8bit

8bit Youth

replacing the i/o card in the Apple IIe

It worked.

Bank Street Writer - Apple II

Bank Street Writer

It’s in black and white only; I don’t know whether to blame the computer, the TV, or the cable. Also, one of the disc drives seems to be shot and I can’t find a functioning copy of AppleWorks. The copy I have crashes when trying to put new files on the desktop. Amusingly, it has saved the date it was last used for use in time stamping new files — May 14, 1986. I suspect that was the day we got our Mac Plus. I didn’t touch the Apple II for another 25 years.

Pirated Apple II games. I feel a little guilty.

Archon worked, as did a number of other games. I found the pirate-added splash screens more interesting than the games. Was there anything to be gained from these other than prestige? Where is “The Burglar” today?