About Me

My name is Howard Smith. In 1977 I built a Nascom 1 [still working today] with the encouragement and financial support of my father, Arthur Edward Smith. The project proved more difficult than I had at first imagined.

The earliest Nascom kits contained mistakes, and some boards displayed timing issues. Fixes were distributed to the community via the Nascom newsletter. 

With no Internet, the only way to acquire knowledge was to meet physically with other enthusiasts or to make repeat visits to the component supply shops who were distributors for Nascom. 

With no sophisticated test equipment and little knowledge of digital electronics, many hobbyists found themselves working in the dark. However, when a Nascom board was finally made to work, it generally stayed that way. 

With only a simple fix to the PSU, my Nascom 1 is still working after over three and a half decades

Later versions of the Nascom 1, which was followed by the Nascom 2, proved an easier kit to build.

The time it took to get my Nascom 1 working was a frustration. It is not hardware that interested me, but software. Once my Nascom 1 was working I undertook what I remember as a long and complex project: porting a Forth Programming Language kernel to the Zilog Z80 from a different assembly language.

Once the Forth kernel was executing correctly on the Nascom, I could type in Forth statements interactively and being to build up a complete Forth environment, procedure by procedure. After adding a number of procedures I would then dump the Nascom memory to cassette tape (via a serial interface). I was then able to re-load the environment and start out from where I had left off in the last session. I eventually had a complete Forth environment running on the Nascom.

The thing that fascinated me about programming from the outset was this ability to create abstractions and to write software at a higher level.

My experience with Nascom 1 and software development laid the foundations for a career in the IT industry. I have worked at Marconi Avionics, Ganymede, Logica and today as a CTO within CSC's Technology Office. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Howard, we'd very much like to use a couple of your excellent NASCOM 1 (Myra) pics for our film called 'From Bedrooms to Billions' We have level 9 Computing talking extensively about the computer and it's importance in getting UK computing and programming moving forward. I'm on b2b@graciousfilms.com if it's ok to discuss. Many thanks, Anthony.

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