Posts tagged history
The original AutoRoute was developed by NextBase Limited in the UK in 1988.
AutoRoute V1.2 (not copy protected)
This beta release was given out only to a small number of journalists prior to completing work on copy protection. From there is spread like wildfire to become one of the most pirated software products of its time in the UK. One unique ‘feature’ of this version was that it would frequently route you via the Isle of Wight because at that time we had not put a delay in for ferries so it assumed you could get there and back in no time at all.
AutoRoute V1.3 (copy protected)
This was the official first release. It was sold in a cloth covered box for £130 (GBP).
AutoRoute V1.5 (copy protected)
A later release.
The original AutoRoute was a route planning and mapping program capable of displaying maps and calculating the shortest, quickest or alternative routes between any locations in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).
Automap Road Atlas was the first consumer route planning and mapping software product ever launched in the USA market. Created by British Software company NextBase Ltd. and sold under license by Automap Inc. in the USA it was launched in the USA in 1991. Automap Road Atlas was a successor to the highly successful UK product AutoRoute, later called AutoRoute Express. A professional route planning product called Automap Pro (AutoRoute Plus in Europe) followed and later there was a professional mapping product for geocoding and territory analysis called MapBase.
Here is a list of a few of the products that NextBase Ltd. and Automap Inc. sold between 1988 and 1994.
Here are some images on an Elliott 803, an early British computer. This is the console through which you could control the computer, load programs or edit memory. One unique feature was a loudspeaker connected to a bit in the currently executing instruction – thus every program that was running had a characteristic ‘tune’ that accompanied it. This allowed the experienced ear to tell when a program was about to fail, and, of course, it allowed enterprising programmers to produce some of the first computer generated music.
The console could be used to change locations in memory or to enter simple programs. The Elliott 803 had a word length of 40 bits, one of which was a parity bit leaving an odd number of bits for actual instructions and data! Each word however could store two instructions (6 bit op-code, 13 bit address) and between them was the B-modifier bit that allowed one instruction to modify how the other instruction behaved.
You can see the Elliott 803 and many other early computers at the National Computer Museum in England.
Software was loaded into the Elliott 803 using paper tapes. It had a main memory of 4k or 8k words in one or two blocks of magnetic core store. You could actually see where each bit was stored! Each bit had its own ferrite bead with wires passing through it in both directions. Amazingly you could turn the computer off and back on and wouldn’t have to reload your program into RAM. 30 years later we are finally getting back to technology that can do that with modern SSD drives.
Paper tapes were prepared using a teleprinter. A single typing mistake could mean you would have to copy the entire tape again up to the mistake and then correct the mistake and then carry on copying it. Most people wrote their programs on paper first and then transcribed them to tape. To view the output from running your program you would take the tape that was output by the Elliott 803 and then run it back through a teleprinter. Some users learned how to read paper tapes without a teleprinter and the more advanced user could edit paper tape without a teleprinter using either a single-hole punch or a piece of tape and a chad to fill in a hole. Of course this only worked for in-place, single character edits. Later, teleprinters were connected directly to the computer so it could output without the intermediary paper tape, and thus the interactive session was born and thus interactive games became possible. A Calcomp plotter also allowed the Elliott 803 to draw graphs, and play more sophisticated games like Tank Battle and Lunar lander.
Here’s a video of the Elliott 803 in action
The computer itself was huge by modern standards. It required an entire room to house the many cabinets.
The Elliott 803 was created long before integrated circuits existed but they did contain a precursor to the modern IC in the form of Minilog devices. You can see some of them on the board in this shot. Each was a rectangular block with a hard white plastic outer. Inside was a small circuit consisting of a couple of germanium transistors set in resin. A single Minilog might implement a single flip-flop device whereas todays integrated circuits contain billions of flip-flops in a much smaller space.
All pictures courtesy of Peter Onion.