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Bill Godbout, a legend in the S-100 community, died in the Camp wildfire (vcfed.org)
156 points by ohjeez on Nov 13, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments

This is sad for me. I had a Cromemco S-III system and two 32K Static RAM cards that were sold by Godbout. They had been recommended to me as 'tanks' and were much more reliable than the dynamic memory cards of the time.

I am truly sorry that his life was ended by this latest fire disaster.

I learned programming on an Indian Altair/IMSAI 8080 clone that used the S100 bus in 1978 - the ECIL Micro-78. One memorable weekend was spent trying to debug an obscure bug which turned out to be single memory location failure in a 16 KByte DRAM board that used Intel 4k DRAMs for the first time. DRAMs had a well-earned reputation for unreliability at that time, but had ~4x the density of SRAM from the same era, so they were more economical. In 1982, I started programming in C for the first time on a Cromemco Z80 box at college, and that one was as bulletproof as it got for a dual 8" floppy box of that era.

The importance of a plug-in bus like the S100 was a crucial insight that enabled the PC revolution, and the first wave of the microcomputer revolution happened mainly due to bus compatibility. Eventually, Apple and IBM also used plug-in buses which were essentially simplified or smaller versions of the S100, using signals from the 6502 and 8088 instead.

The 16-bit extension of the IBM PC plug-in bus became known as ISA, and ensured its enduring domination even to this day (it's still around as the X-bus inside modern highly-integrated Southbridge ASICs, though it's no longer brought out as an external plug-in bus, except in some legacy industrial PCs).

> They had been recommended to me as 'tanks' and were much more reliable than the dynamic memory cards of the time.

Interesting to hear that.... I've recently been reading through old issues of DTACK Grounded, and Hal Hardenberg said similar things, and at length, about the reliability improvements you get with static memory over dynamic. (A few years in, he was also selling dynamic memory products, presumably for scale, and was no longer able to ground DTACK in his designs.)

I missed Hal's rants, you can read DTACK Grounded online here: http://www.easy68k.com/paulrsm/dg/

Family lost everything they own in the fire. Here is their Gofundme campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/godbouttuckcampfirerelieffund

My heart goes out to them but I hate seeing Gofundme campaigns used for such purposes. All the time I see campaigns to cover someones medical bills or accident costs. No, we have insurance for that! What happened in California was a natural disaster and will be covered by what every home owner in Cali is forced to pay out every month in mandatory tax for such cathaclism. We as a society will be in very dengerous spot when people start ignoring obtaining reasonable insurance and just hope for successful Gofoundme campaign when things go south.

Your insurance coverage can vanish in a moment. A current anecdote..

I live in a neighborhood of ~80 small lots/homes a few miles west of Palo Alto. Since Oct.1, nine of our neighbors have had their fire insurance policies terminated immediately on receipt of the mailed notices. Most of the nine had their policies in place for >15 years. Not like they were dodging the need for insurance.

Gofundme has its uses. I hope it brings at lease a small measure of ease to the Godbout family.

insurance companies are the vehicle through which the financial lunacy of suburban sprawl will be squeezed to death.

from the perspective of a person that lives in a country with a single-payer healthcare system, that covers pretty much everybody, it is amazing to see Americans use GoFundMe for medical bills.

The fact that you can become completely bankrupt by getting cancer or any other "expensive" ailment is just... Ridiculous.

GoFundMe is a symptom of a much larger problem, not the problem itself.

It's also inherently unfair - if you aren't good at marketing, sorry, you don't get to recover from the disaster as well as your neighbor does.

Let alone room for other issues - English level, technological understanding, hell maybe you're just too ugly to put your face in a GoFundMe video and garner sympathy.

I'm with grandparent, this is boring dystopia shit.

Edit: more thoughts - the amount of "recovery" you get is entirely a popularity contest, and has nothing to do with need or really even the value of property lost. Tick enough arbitrary marketing boxes and you could even profit. It's a remarkably shitty thing.

Insurance doesn't always cover the cost. This is because there is severe demand for builders and building materials after a fire; but also because building codes and regulations have got tighter which pushes up costs. Not everyone includes that in their insurance.


> Wildfires are like hurricanes. Thousands of homes must be rebuilt at the same time when there is not enough building materials or contractors to go around. This, of course, leads to skyrocketing price increases in labor and materials, making the replacement cost of a home destroyed by the wildfire 50 percent or greater than what it would've been before the fires. Assuming you have enough structural coverage, you are entitled to receive the cost to rebuild your home at today's materials and labor costs.


> It will pay the cost to rebuild what you had up to the insured amount if you insured your home for 100 percent of its estimated replacement cost as computed by your agent. Then, if you have an "extended replacement cost" endorsement, it will pay an additional 25 percent, 50 percent, or more of that insured amount, depending on with which company you are insured.1 Finally, if your home is a little older and building construction laws have tightened (such as making your home more earthquake resistant), thereby dramatically increasing the replacement costs, it will typically pay another 10 percent and possibly up to 100 percent additional for those costs, depending on whether you purchased "supplemental building ordinance" coverage.

> For example, if you insured your home for its estimated replacement cost of $500,000, but because of the cost increases following a disaster like a wildfire, the replacement cost is $800,000 for what you had, and an additional $200,000 for added costs from building ordinances, you need $1 million to rebuild. Assume you had purchased the optional extended replacement cost endorsement of 150 percent and an optional ordinance endorsement for 125 percent, you could collect up to an additional $375,000 for a grand total of $875,000. Still short of what you needed, but considerably better than the $500,000 original coverage.

Insurance is pretty much a scam. They can decide to cover all, some, or none of the cost.

It is surprising that the insurance industry isn't regulated.

lol, no other market is more regulated than insurance, except maaaybe utilities. you can almost think of them as a financial utility because they are given special state licenses to allow them to collude on setting prices, which they basically have to do because of how extensively regulated they are.

Right. I was being sarcastic.

There is a name I never expected to see again. That is a real pity, I never had an S-100 system but I read a lot about them and knew what made them tick, it was impossible to avoid reading about Bill and his work if you were interested in that sort of thing.


Sad news indeed. I've been doing a lot of "retro computing" stuff lately, including starting a project to build a Z80 based machine. And one of the things I keep coming across references to is the S-100 bus. It seems to have been a key component of a lot of the earlier PC's.

Anyway, R.I.P. Mr. Godbout. And here's hoping we don't lose anyone else to the wildfires.

> I keep coming across references to is the S-100 bus.

The S-100 bus originated in the Altair 8800, essentially as a direct copy of the 8080 (CPU) bus. From there, it took on a life of it's own, very much like the IBM PC's ISA bus did a few years later... there were companies building S-100 expansion boards for existing computers, new computer backplanes built around S-100, faster CPU's, etc. (IIRC, there were CPU's at least as fast as a Motorola 68020... so quite away from it's more humble 8080 origins.)

S-100 was very important for it's time...

> S-100 was very important for it's time...

Lot of people doing serious software development at the time were either using minicomputers or S-100 systems.

A S100 based system from chromenco was the built to the hilt mac pro in todays terms back then pre IBM pc.

Definitely. I started with a Heathkit H-8 because I could not afford an S-100 based system. I would have very much liked an IMSAI-8080 with the paddles for address and data to manually load RAM data.

R.I.P. For nostalgia's sake, Frank Hayes' S-100 Bus song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow78cUDdTOg

It appeared on the compilation Vince Emery Presents the Funniest Computer Songs (1989).

Tangent: Amazing how there aren't any songs about computers. Or email.

But thousands about "send me a letter."

His S-100 computer was a beast (in a good way). The narrative provided by Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor column in Byte really gave great insights. This is just sad.

> Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor

As soon as I saw the name Godbout, my mind immediately jumped to Pournelle, whom I mainly read as an early-teen in the mid-late 80's. Even at that late date, Pournelle referred back enough to his older S-100 machines that I got a sense of their importance, even if I didn't know of it first hand. (Come to think of it, the S-100 machines were around 10 years old or less at the time, so about as old as an original iPhone is today.)

Also, I can't mention Pournelle without thinking of this: http://www.panix.com/~clp/humor/computers/general/Jerry-Pour... :-)

I remember Pournelle was a big fan of S-100 based systems because you could upgrade them. His motto was something like "silicon is cheaper than iron," meaning that you could replace boards in an S-100 system rather than buying a whole new computer.

I had completely forgotten about the S-100 bus. It was a major development back in the day. Sad news. Condolences to his family and friends.

I'm pretty sure I still have a couple of Godbout S-100 cards in the basement. In particular I think it was a Godbout memory card at the heart of my system.

So sad to hear of his passing, especially in such an awful way.

Miserable news.

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