John Baymore at River Bend Pottery

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Potters and computers

BASIC:  An acronym for Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code - the most common language for personal computers.  Some BASIC features may vary slightly from one computer to another.

 

Memory:  One of the most useful aspects of a computer is its ability  to store and retrieve information quickly.  The amount of memory is a function of hardware, and is measured in bytes.

 

Bytes: Space available in memory to hold data.  Think of one byte holding one character or number.  Memory is measured in thousands of bytes, abbreviated as K.  The Timex/Sinclair RAM memory module has 16K of storage.  For about $120 you can buy a TS1000 add-on in place of the 16 K RAM and bring memory up to 64K.  You can even get a system that has 1,000,000 bytes of RAM - that's about 4000 glaze formulas.

 

RAM:  an acronym for Random Access Memory - the active, temporary repository of information while it is being manipulated inside the computer.  For the TS1000, this type of memory determines the maximum amount of information which can be processed at one time.  Most computer RAM is volatile, which means when the power is turned off, the information is lost.

 

ROM: Read Only Memory is where the language (BASIC) interpreter is stored in the computer; it is non-volatile.

 

Storage:  Where the information stored in volatile RAM is transferred before turning off the power.  The TS1000 uses an audio cassette system for storage.  Once information has been saved on tape, it can be loaded back into the computer at a later time.  A C-10 cassette will hold about 32K bytes of information.

 

Interface:  Hardware that connects the computer to another part of the system.  The keyboard is the interface between the computer and the human user.

 

Peripheral:  Any piece of equipment other than the central computer; includes such add-ons as MODEMs and line printers.

 

MODEM:  A modulator / demodulator (MODEM) is an interface which allows the computer to communicate via the telephone with other computers.  With a MODEM you can "access" the information stored in another computer memory, called a database.

 

 

Putting Hardware Together

 

To have a complete computer system you will need more than the computer and memory module.  You also need a video display so you can see what the computer is doing, and a means of saving information.  The TS1000 uses any standard black-and-white or color TV as a video display, while data storage is on standard audio cassettes, using a simple cassette recorder.  Buying used equipment could bring the price of the system down to less than $100.  (Check with amateur radio buffs and computer clubs to find out about equipment flea markets.)

If you want to add a printer, the Timex 2040 sells for about $99.  A dot matrix printer (each character is composed of dots), it produces copy 32 characters wide and is not suited for correspondence in general.  A good letter-quality printer, such as the Prowriter, with an interface for the TS1000 will cost about $500.

By John Baymore

Originally published in Ceramics Monthly magazine, December 1983

 

 

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