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Casio AI-1000 Pocket Lisp Computer from 1989 [video] (youtube.com)
178 points by akuzi 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments





An emulator (written in Delphi for Windows) and more information on the AI-1000 and the closely related PB-2000C (which runs C compiled to some sort of p-code) can be found at http://www.pisi.com.pl/piotr433/pb2000ee.htm

PockEmul (https://github.com/matsumo/PockEmul) also seems to support emulating the PB-2000C and AI-1000.


More relevant to this thread, the PB-2000C has a Prolog option. I have one with that card.

wow, a knowledge base in a calculator. Did the calculator have any relation to Japans fifth generation project? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_generation_computer

I learned programming around 1985 on one of these Casio pocket computers. It ran Basic interpreter not lisp. Incredible little machine. It looked like this: https://www.ebay.com/itm/143595147094 I probably would not be a software engineer at a top company today without it.

That was my second Casio "calculator" for Uni, loved it. It had a huge display with four lines :-) -- my first one was a Sharp (Radio Shack) with a single line. Both programmable in BASIC.

I can still remember the fog clearing out of my mind when I started to understand what the code was doing. Being able to plan something up, program it and see it work was an absolute blast, a gateway drug to a career still going strong after several decades.


back in 1992, the first calculator I think I ever touched was my father's Elektronika MK-85, which was essentially an "inspired by" copy (externally look alike and similarly programmed, but all the internals designed from scratch in USSR).

Imagine my surprise when many, many years later, I learnt that the pocket calculator had a full PDP-11 (LSI-11 compatible, to be specific) with QBus inside...


Casio did produce a series of those (I read that thanks to this yesterday). Quite impressive to a C environment in your pocket that long ago. Even more impressive how it died silently. In the 90s mainstream all that was left was graphing calc with a basic like dialect.

For me, my Casio FX-502P when at school - totally caught the programming bug from that thing. The cool kids (in the maths sense obviously!) had HPs; RPN and beautifully engineered, but too expensive sadly. I hate the modern calculators with their 'ANS' nonsense, they can get off my metaphorical lawn.

In the old days buying a calculator with basic meant it went to IT departmemt abd it is me who has to handle the request. Found it funny to deal with hundreds of IBM PC purchase and this one Casio. Still remember how annoying the user is, why I have to see you, write justification and go through approval process for a bloody computer whilst my boss you help him to buy so many PC!

Never saw a lisp one though. Interesting where one can get one for old Tim sake.


I had (probably still have, somewhere), one of those. Good times.

Wow, that display is tiny (^_^)

I has the opposite thought, I learned programming (in 2001) on a Sharp computer pretty similar but with only one line at a time on the display. This one has four, that would have helped me

Edit: it was a Sharp CE-122: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/PC_1210_...


I had a Sharp PC-E 500. I even wrote an operating system with password manager, draw, rtf editor programs, and chat via parallel port. Bricked it multiple times when doing peek and poke commands to lock it down so only login people who logged in properly could use it.

I remember being proud of conpressing 16 pixels of my monochrome draw program into a character.


Did I have Nokolisp running on Atari Portfolio in 1989? No recollection of anykind. Must have been, because why not?

But I had very serious floating point computing needs, because GPS was not yet invented. I managed to install Turbo Pascal in it and steal someones Nautical Almanac - algorithms.


Github seems to agree there where at least some *.LSP - files in Portfolio, doing god knows what. https://github.com/timonoko/sextant

My Guess: SEX.LSP seems like an attempt to Lispify the SEX.PAS file, by utilizing Turbo Pascal's floating point capabilities.

Wasn't the Atari Portfolio used by John Connor in the Terminator movie to hack that ATM?

Fake. The ribbon connector was not connected to anything. It was just snot-glued on the back of the display. All I/O was on separate modules directly connected to CPU bus.

Reminds me of the Lisperati: http://www.lisperaticomputers.com/

.. which seems to have inspired a few like-minded souls:

https://www.clockworkpi.com/devterm


These are very cool devices that I would buy to play around with but, I don't really understand the idea with a hingeless flat screen. That can promote a very bad posture if used on a table as one needs bend the neck to see the screen. Sure, these could be used in handheld mode but how much can you type with thumbs only before you want to use more fingers??

I think the DevTerm is more supposed to be hung around your neck like a hipster. ;) Or, duct-taped to the datacenter wall for when its time to minicom the hell out of things.

The title ticks all the HN top post boxes. Lisp. Pocket computer. Casio. Eighties.

It's not a HN thing, it's everyone with a passion for technology, the same way how someone with a passion for cars will appreciate an old-timer rather than his Toyota Corolla.

Honestly, stuff like this provides some much needed escapism for me as I feel burned out from scraping all the cruff from the bottom of the Jira barrel wihch is most "tech" jobs nowadays and miss the days I used to just tinker with stuf I enjoy. Now, after 8 hours of shoveling dev-ops/CI-CD crap or fixing last-minute shit that randomly broke due to updated lib or package, I just want o put the laptop away and be done with "tech" for the day.


“I think that it’s extraordinarily important that we in computer science keep fun in computing. When it started out, it was an awful lot of fun. Of course, the paying customers got shafted every now and then, and after a while we began to take their complaints seriously. We began to feel as if we really were responsible for the successful, error-free perfect use of these machines. I don’t think we are. I think we’re responsible for stretching them, setting them off in new di- rections, and keeping fun in the house. I hope the field of computer science never loses its sense of fun. Above all, I hope we don’t become missionaries. Don’t feel as if you’re Bible salesmen. The world has too many of those already. What you know about computing other people will learn. Don’t feel as if the key to successful computing is only in your hands. What’s in your hands, I think and hope, is in- telligence: the ability to see the machine as more than when you were first led up to it, that you can make it more.”

— Alan J. Perlis

From the opening of SICP. I didn't think it was the most amazing quote when I read it but when I hear the frustration and cynicism of many devs on the state of computing it makes me wonder.


Interesting viewpoint. Not a lot of empathy towards users.

> It's not a HN thing, it's everyone with a passion for technology, the same way how someone with a passion for cars will appreciate an old-timer rather than his Toyota Corolla.

From my experience at least 90% of people passionate about technology have never heard of LISP. If you restrict that set of people to just programmers then a lot more of them have heard of it, but there's still a surprising amount that haven't.


+1. I hope you saw the dishwasher post from this weekend!

I think airstrike is referring to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27013880

Prices for HP-48’s are through the roof these days. However HP-50’s are not loved currently despite being the same rpn/lisp/graphing calc software just with much faster processors - they are the much better buy right now and can be had under £50.

My 50g is one of the most convenient ways to check my arithmetic when it comes to dates and hours calculations.

I think overall though, these are a relic and the best way forward i’m aware of today are the “mathemtics notepad” type applications that reimagine what a calculator looks like on a desktop.

At the cli i get more mileage out of gnu units than i’d have thought…


A good reason for that is the changed shape and keyboard, which disfavors RPN and mimics contemporary casio calculators (even docs have strange preference for mentioning algebraic mode first).

The large enter of hp-48 and earlier RPN calculators makes way more sense, especially if you're going to do anything fast. TBQH, I'd love a hp-50g internals (or better) in hp-48gx case :)


For context, the 50G came out at the tail end of HP's development of calculators. (In fact, the original Corvallis calculator group had disbanded and the group that produced the 50G was a reconstitution assembled in part from the HP48 enthusiast community.)

By the time the 50 rolled around, computers had reduced the role of calculators in professional work, and HP was left addressing the enthusiast and educational markets. But the educational market was (and is) already heavily locked up by TI. So the 50G wound up being a compromise product (and built to a lower price point). IMO, the diminished Enter key and 'algebraic first' aspects of the design are direct attempts by HP to cater to people who might otherwise be using TI.

As someone who was enthusiastic about HP48's back in the day, I have to admit that I'm a little sad that the market hasn't continued to develop. But to be perfectly honest, modern technology and software is so much more capable, and I have no desire at all to carry another special function device if I can avoid it. My guess is that this is a fairly widespread opinino.

> TBQH, I'd love a hp-50g internals (or better) in hp-48gx case :)

I'd always hoped they'd do both that (With the old school black/blue/yellow color scheme) and a version of the 50g in the 200LX case. Between the faster CPU of the 50G and the much bigger screen of the 200, the result would have been a great rendition of the core RPL software. (For 1994-5, at least).


I was devout HP-48 fan back in the day, even did some custom programming for one for a client (got paid!), deployed about 20 of them in to the field. This thing was a real delight to write programs for. Just RPL, nothing fancy. For $99 at the time, they were a handheld powerhouse.

My singular complaint about them today is the lack of a backlight. It's just plain hard for me to read now.

I do have one on my iPhone which slots right in to the "good enough" category, even though the tactile feedback of the keyboard is lacking. What it lacks there is more than made up in handiness and readability. My go to application for it is equation solving.


Haha. I missed the glory days of hp-48 (plus they never seemed very popular in Poland), but when I got my first android phone, pretty soon out of curiosity I installed Droid48...

Ever since then, I keep an emulated HP48 with me.


> I missed the glory days of hp-48 (plus they never seemed very popular in Poland)

Is that true for the earlier HP's too?

> Ever since then, I keep an emulated HP48 with me.

Oddly, even though I used 48's and still have a couple in a drawer, I've settled on an HP42S emulator. (This was a lower end, but still nice, HP that was more directly a successor to the 41. In some ways, it feels more direct and calcualtor-like than the 28/48/etc series)


Earlier HP had no chance of being popular in Poland, and might have involved smuggling to acquire at all.

don't forget that the form change was done with hp49, in 1999, when scientific/engineering calculators were still in professional work since even in CAD/CAM/CAE era, sometimes you had to work away from the bulky desktops and laptops were still much more expensive and underpowered compared to your typical engineering PC. Of the arguments to move the enter key, only the need to add more buttons is IMO defendable :)

> don't forget that the form change was done with hp49,

Good point - I keep forgetting that one. (In fact, now that you mention it, I think the 49 may have been the first output from the reconstituted calculator team.)


50G isn't loved? My guess is that the 50G will be the most loved over time. Really it is the end of the line and the pinnacle of a HP RPL calculator. It looks great (better then the 49g+), has a good keyboard and is very responsive.

On a side note James Donnelly's HP 48 Programmers Toolkit added CAR and CDR commands.


I have many pocket computers, sadly not that one. My Casio VX-4 might be closest. Not cheap currently $400

https://buyee.jp/item/yahoo/auction/j714515522

Still my all time favorite for the 70 colors ist the Casio PB-100


Hot diggity that's a sweet machine- keys for car and cdr! I want one really badly, but I know it'll just sit in a drawer, because 90s tech just isn't gonna hold up for practical use.

Same here: I have been looking for this one for a while.

Edit: thanks for that site: I will be very poor soon.


I've spent already a lot of money on that site :-)

Oh dear, the thought of typing Lots of Infuriating and Silly Parentheses on a calculator keyboard doesn't exactly inspire!

It's not clear from the bit of the video I watched, but presumably there was some sort of IDE-like help with this?


IDE? Sure, the whole machine is the development environment. Integrated to the nines, everything you need right there in your pocket.

And frankly, that machine was luxurious!! Multi-line display, reasonably sized keyboard? NICE. The ones I used were typically one or two line displays. Workable, but not pleasant.

Today, yeah. We have very luxurious user interface capabilities! Fantastic displays, sounds, keyboards, touch screens, and lots of storage, can run multiple programs at once.

Back then, the inspiration was simply being able to write and run a program. The bonus with these little pocket computers was being able to do that on the go, where you are.

I was doing manufacturing back when these things popped up. Getting one was huge! I filled one with a bunch of programs that could compute things needed to make parts quickly and accurately.

There were good computers, but they were in offices generally far away from where the action was. A lot of effort went into making sure the people making things had the info they needed to do that too.

But, that didn't always happen with prototypes and or jigs, fixtures and other things needed to make the intended things.

I basically encoded my skills into that little pocket computer and could think something up, or be handed a drawing and just go make stuff from that input data and do so with few worries.

Prior to these kinds of devices, people would use reference sheets, or go to where they could use a computer to generate the detail data they need, or just break out pencil and paper and do the math with some calculator or other.

The ones I used offered BASIC. And for the time, getting some RAM, a respectable BASIC, a screen, etc... meant being able to write programs to solve problems and get the benefit of those solutions multiple times, on demand.

Today, of course, we carry around phones with computers attached and they are crazy powerful! Today we've got apps for people to use too.

At that time, the IDE was the device, a reference card, manual in the carrying case, and if you were lucky, some storage options and or printed output options. Otherwise, it was use the little screen and keyboard to bang the program out, run it, debug it, then use it.


Just adding a thought here:

Truth is a couple of Mhz, reasonable RAM and basic I/O can do a whole lot! That is exactly what these little guys did, in addition to being portable, which I wrote a little about above.

Most of the value is still there too. Often we have an app, but we could also have more people writing little programs on their phones.

Lots of resistance to that, and I understand why, but...

This topic got me to thinking about Hypercard for mobile.

Package up all the hard bits, give people a few robust options and a place to input the few lines of code that matter and suddenly we have all the value of those little devices and in a way more powerful form.


Do we have today fully lisp based machines? If not then why not?

A runtime on a general purpose cpu (whose development has been supported by more use cases) is faster.

Emacs is the bastard child between unix and lisp machines.

uLisp/ATmega1284-based Lisp Badge looks similar http://www.ulisp.com/show?2L0C

IMHO the ATmega chips (on the Arduino boards especially) are the easiest and most fun way to learn how CPUs work as they're 8-bit RISC so they have have a really basic and simple to understand architecture similar to that of Apple II's MOS 6502 or Intel's 8008, but have modern documentation and toolchains.

I can easily recommend an Arduino or a clone instead of a Raspberry PI to anyone wanting to get their hands dirty.


This was a duplicate of another thread posted one hour earlier: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27034951

The comment I posted on lobste.rs:

I’ve been curious about this computer for some years, and bid on one some time ago, but at more than 600 € that was more than I was going to pay for it.

As far as I know, the machine is internally the same as the PB-2000C which I do have, just with different key labels and a different ROM. There is an emulator for Windows here: https://pockemul.com/

There is even a Prolog ROM, but again for me it’s not worth the going prices: https://www.casio880.com/categoria_productos/casio/ai-1000/

I wanted to build myself a modern version of this based on the Planet Computers Gemini (https://www.www3.planetcom.co.uk/gemini-pda) which in theory can run Linux, but I’ve had so much trouble with it (running Linux) that I had to postpone it until I can find some time again.

Edit: the video description includes several interesting links including Pocket Emul.


That thread was posted later than this one. You can tell from the item IDs.

When we put a story in the second-chance pool (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26998308), the timestamp gets relativized to the re-up time, which can be confusing, though not as confusing as not doing it. More explanation at https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que....


Thank you for the explanation. I see in those algolia search results that this comes up regularly.

Alas it does, and also in the email inbox. I wish we had a better solution.



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