In early 1983, thirty-four years ago, I got my first “serious” personal computer, a Heathkit H-89 all-in-one machine. I built it from scratch, which means that I soldered all the components on the circuit boards and assembled all of the subsystems into the completed unit. I bought the computer to help with the business I intended to start – Telecom Analysis Systems, Inc. (TAS). It was the tool I used to write and edit our business plan, and to develop and test the hardware and firmware of our product prototypes. In those days, the H-89 worked like a charm, and never gave me or my co-founders, Steve Moore and Charles Simmons, a bit of trouble.
By the late eighties, the H-89 was pretty much obsolete, so since those days it has been sitting on a shelf somewhere. It sat on a shelf at the company until I rescued it from the trash bin. I couldn’t bear to see my very first computer, a product I built with my own hands, go to the landfill. It sat on a shelf in the basement of my New Jersey home for years. When Kishna and I moved to Michigan in 2007, the H-89 came with us, and it has been sitting on a shelf in our basement here ever since. Sitting on the shelf, but never once operated, or even turned on.
Now the moment of truth. I’m dying to know what will happen when I apply power to my thirty-four year old handmade computer. Will it work, or will it explode? Will I hear the sizzle and pop of a thirty-four year old electrolytic capacitor as it dies a glorious death? Will the electron beam of the cathode ray tube (CRT) display excite the phospor on the inner surface of the tube and trace out that beloved A-prompt (A>)? As I said, I’m dying to know.
Watch this short video as my eight-year-old daughter Nadiyah and I seek to answer the question: Will daddy’s old-school computer explode?