January 09, 2005

Full Frontal Nerdity

I'm not a big fan of those online multiple choice quizzes. Mostly, they are just silly. The recent one about "which Beatles song are you" consisted mostly of questions for which not a single choice was appropriate for me.

I pay more attention to tests of social standing. I was very disappointed by my low score on the geek test which was going around last spring. The scoring was based on the presumption that one's taste in television, film and gaming are major measures of geekitude whereas I occasionally happen past a switched on television, go to the theater for a first run movie more than once a decade and play a couple rounds of Snoods of an evening.

I am therefore pleased to report that I scored 84% on the currently popular nerd test. I took the test while at work, with answers based on the computer I was using, so I took it again, as if I was using this one. I would probably spend more time online if I were able to use Firefox instead of the mandated IE, but changing that answer didn't change my score. Despite the memory intensive analysis programs I run at work, my system at home has more RAM. Changing that answer didn't change my score. I even made the non-geeky assertion that I actually built this computer, when in fact I merely assembled it from standard boards and drives in a standard case. Even changing that answer didn't change my score.

I've assembled many a computer, but only my first would I say I built. It was a MicroAce kit, a clone of the Sinclair ZX80. I soldered all the sockets into the circuit board, plugged in the chips, and then started modifying it. I replaced the RF modulator with a video amplifier, per a circuit found in Dr. Dobb's Journal (the magazine is still around, but it has been a while since they've published a hardware article), to drive a little closed circuit surveillance monitor I bought at a newstand in the Chicago subway system. I cut the traces of the circuit board under a keyboard out of a keypunch machine, and rewired it to match the exceptionally bad membrane keyboard of the kit. One of the toggle switches on the keyboard gave me inverted video (black letters on a white background) by bypassing one gate in the display circuitry, and another switched between the standard 4K BASIC ROM and an 8K Extended BASIC from the ZX81, both mounted in a daughter board I wired up. I even tried to build a memory expansion board which would allow mounting two 16K RAM packs, but even with some help from M.Simon I never got it working. I found out later, when I built an adapter to run Sinclair memory on a Mattel Aquarius, that one of the memory packs was only good for 4K. Anyway, altho there are people who have gotten far deeper into the machines than I have, this is what a geek means by building a computer.

Posted by triticale at January 9, 2005 11:21 PM
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