This (boring? background stuff) will be moved elsewhere, but what we’d like to start off saying is that we pride ourselves in customer service and truly helping folk. We don’t make statements like “we offer the best…” – this gets up our nose!! You might see from our background that we have a very deep understanding of computer technology which very few can match.

We’ve seen the rip-off and incompetent “computer store” retailers, the department store discounters, and all the rest – we help when they can’t!

..,.Bob’s computers background

Starting at the beginning…. Way back during my final year of a Diploma of Applied Chemistry at the Caulfield Institute of Technology (Melbourne), I studied the Fortran IV programming language, even spending long nights punching my own boxes of cards to input to the ICL mainframe computer, so I could get the results back the next day. This was fascinating seeing the results of a machine that could automatically process so much information in the exact way one wanted to, but not so fascinating when one’s input (program instructions encoded in punched holes of cardboard cards) contained errors, and having to wait another day at least to see if one’s “bugs” were ironed out!

Following some years of industrial laboratory work, I joined the scientific instruments supplier Watson Victor in Melbourne in a sales role.

My first hands-on with a real world “computing device” was with a “programmable calculator” – the Hewlett Packard 97S had a BCD (Binary Coded Decimal) parallel data interface, and a small magnetic storage card. This device was a perfect companion to the new Mettler (Swiss manufactured) series of digital precision laboratory balances. In fact the very first semi-automated system was supplied to the Government Analytical Laboratories in Melbourne to help automate the work of weighing, recording, calculating, and printing results from a “cigarette smoking machine” to measure tar content.

Following on from this, the relatively powerful third generation HP 9815 RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) desktop device was used in conjunction with Mettler electronic balances to provide statistical quality control in factory environments such as used by Masterfoods.

As a private hobby interest during the late 70’s, I purchased and experimentally programmed a Texas Instruments 59 programmable calculator touted as “the best programmable calculator in the world” at the time. Later I purchased an Exidy Sorcerer microcomputer (Zilog Z80 2.106MHz processor, with 48KB of RAM), which was updated from a cassette tape storage system to dual 8″ floppy disk drives. An S-100 expansion bus was added, allowing all sorts of add-on cards for I/O and customisation). Initially the system was programmed for A BASIC interpretor, and also using hexadecimal Z80 native processor codes. Later the MDOS operating system was replaced with CP/M and customisations to this operating system could be made.

Within a few years, Bill Gates got his lucky break supplying an operating system for IBM’s “PC”, based on code from QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) and CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers). 1977 saw the introduction of the Apple II.

Following overseas training on a new range of laboratory automation equipment, I transferred to Watson Victor in Sydney as the Mettler Product Specialist. This equipment allowed linkage of electronic precision laboratory and industrial balances, ultramicro balances, and thermal analysis instrumentation. The communications standard uses 20mA Serial connections, to cover greater distances’ between devices. To cater for the older instrumentation using BCD parallel ports, I had an interface converter designed to cater for this.

Moving on, I joined another scientific instruments company as Product Specialist for a range of Ion Specific Electrodes and instrumentation. Now using “standard” RS-232C serial communications, some of the instrumentation was supplied with Apple II computers. These were interesting days, as initially I needed to write communications routines in Motorola 6502 machine code, until later on I was able to install and use an Assembler to make the job easier. As the Apple II computers were relatively expensive, I developed an RS232 “buffer box” (initially designed by the CSIRO), to allow instrumentation data storage while the computers could be used for other purposes.
Other instrumentation in the Company’s range that I received training on included spectrophotometers, gas chromatographs, Liquid Scintillation Counters (Gamma counters), and Beta counters. Useful data reduction applications were written for laboratory ease. Some in-field applications included fertility research at the Royal Womens Hospital, cancer research at Westmead Hospital, and neonatal cystic fibrosis screening of all NSW babies at the Oliver Latham Laboratory at the Macquarie Hospital.

Furthering my hobby interests, I built my first 300 BAUD (bits per second) modem, or acoustic coupler, from an Electronics Australia published article. Wow, data could be exchanged between computers over an ordinary telephone line via ordinary handsets. As standards continued developing I built a 1200/75 bps direct connect modem, and then later purchased 1,200 full duplex, 2,400 , 9,600, 14,400, 28,880 commercial units. This led to my interest in setting up the Computrol Bulletin Board system – networked multiuser computers with six phone line modems allowing the public to dial-in and download from a huge selection of “public domain” software as well as exchanging mail messages in various mail forums. In the early morning hours members of our Bulletin Board network (GT Power), automatically dialled each other to exchange mail – sort of a precursor to today’s internet email….

NS 16550 UARTs
First advertising promotion for Ozemail as first dial-up Internet Service Providor
RLL disk drives
Maxtor Hard Disk Drive refurbishing (the 5 1/4″ full-height drives provided heating for the operating room, as well as what we might call an “acoustic barrier” !
First 7-drive scsi cd-rom SYSTEM “ON THE AIR”
Teletype ASR33s
EPROM programming
Voice recognition
AC control via PC relays
Commercial DOS multiuser systems – System Manager
LANtastic Local Area Networking (before Microsoft did it !)
Hayes Modem Expert

…(to be continued) …