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Carlos Fenollosa

Carlos Fenollosa

Engineer, developer, entrepreneur

Carlos Fenollosa — Blog

Thoughts on science and tips for researchers who use computers

Digital Deli, reading history in the present tense

March 01, 2017 — Carlos Fenollosa

Digital Deli: The Comprehensive, User Lovable Menu Of Computer Lore, Culture, Lifestyles, And Fancy is an obscure book published in 1984. I found about it after learning that the popular Steve Wozniak article titled "Homebrew and How the Apple Came to Be" belonged to a compilation of short articles.

The book

I'm amazed that this book isn't more cherished by the retrocomputing community, as it provides an incredible insight into the state of computers in 1984. We've all read books about their history, but Digital Deli provides a unique approach: it's written in present tense.

Articles are written with a candid and inspiring narrative. Micro computers were new back then, and the authors could only speculate about how they might change the world in the future.

The book is adequately structured in sections which cover topics from the origins of computing, Silicon Valley startups, and reviews of specific systems. But the most interesting part for me are not the tech articles, but rather the sociological essays.

There are texts on how families welcome computers to the home, the applications of artificial intelligence, micros on Wall Street and computers on the classroom.

How the Source works

Fortunately, a copy of the book has been preserved online, and I highly encourage you to check it out and find some copies online

Besides Woz explaining how Apple was founded, don't miss out on Paul Lutus describing how he programmed AppleWriter in a cabin in the woods, Les Solomon envisioning the "magic box" of computing, Ted Nelson on information exchange and his Project Xanadu, Nolan Bushnell on video games, Bill Gates on software usability, the origins of the Internet... the list goes on and on.

Les Solomon

If you love vintage computing you will find a fresh perspective, and if you were alive during the late 70s and early 80s you will feel a big nostalgia hit. In any case, do yourself a favor, grab a copy of this book, and keep it as a manifesto of the greatest revolution in computer history.

Tags: retro, books

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The best programming font

June 16, 2015 — Carlos Fenollosa

Us programmers like to customize our programming environment to the maximum. If arguing about text editors and customizing your .bashrc weren't enough, we also modify a 20 year old Apple Extended II keyboard to change its keyswitch tone, remap our keyboard layout to redefine the CapsLock key, and of course decide on which programming language to use for our projects.

For those who really like customization, however, there are more aspects to it. One of those is, of course, the programming font choice. Leaving aside the fact that unless you're using a monospaced font you're a monster, some people like the classics, like Courier (New), others use the default ones, and some of us really like the retro visuals and opt for one of the nostalgic typefaces.

My favorite one is DOS/EGA, by Mateusz Viste. Just make sure that your text editor supports rendering typefaces without anti aliasing and that you don't need many non-ASCII characters. Most are implemented but some editors screw either the line size or the kerning and make text look very ugly.

There are other versions of the same font, but Mateusz's is the best one and has the least annoyances.

I don't use it everywhere because of rendering problems with some IDEs, but OSX's terminal seems to handle them well, and it plays perfectly with a black background. Truly retro but, I think, an excellent programming font.

DOS/EGA in action

Tags: programming, retro

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In an alternate universe: the Amiga Watch

April 13, 2015 — Carlos Fenollosa

Jimmy Maher, a digital antiquarian, is writing a series of posts on the history of the Amiga (1, 2, 3) that made me consider how history is written almost by chance, by small wins or small mistakes. A slightly different managerial or technical decision may have caused Apple to disappear, Amiga to succeed, and the best current smartphone could have been a Nokia phone with a physical keyboard, or maybe the best smartwatch may run BeOS.

I encourage you to invest some time reading Maher's blog and, if you're interested in Apple history, check out folklore.org, a recollection of the early Apple days mostly by Andy Herzfeld.

Tags: retro

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The SDF Public Access UNIX System -- Est 1987!

May 19, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

I just recently discovered the SDF Public Access UNIX System, an organization that provides free, functional UNIX shells to users, plus webmail, LAMP and other servers to paid users. Check out their plans, they are very cheap.

If you grew up on the old (not ancient) internet where you read news at the newsgroups, chatted on IRC, played MUDs at college computers and nethack at home since you didn't have internet there, this is your place.

They have a modern service, and provide Minecraft servers too.

If you like their service, don't forget to donate! They accept Paypal and Bitcoin.

Tags: unix, retro

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Chat wars

May 15, 2014 — Carlos Fenollosa

Coming in each morning to see whether the client still worked with AOL was thrilling [...] One day, I came in to see this embedded in a message from the AOL server: "HI. -MARK." It was a little communication from engineer to engineer, underneath the corporate, media, and PR worlds that were arguing over us. I felt some solidarity with him even though we were on opposing sides.

A great story from David Auerbach, who was in the original MSN Messenger team, explaining reverse-engineering AIM's protocol to be able to interoperate with them.

As someone who used Messenger for many years, the piece brought me back in time. Well written, interesting, and entertaining.

Tags: retro, programming, web

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