Nerd news: DigiComp re-released

Sunday, February 26, 2006
DigiComp was a mechanical computer with an awe-inspiring 3 bits capacity.

I got one, after begging my father for what seems now to have been a year, then built it, got it to count from 0 to 7 in binary, and pretty much put it aside because I was able to start programming a real computer, with an absolutely astounding 8K bytes of memory. (IBM System/3 model 10, card compiler.)

Still, if it hadn't been for DigiComp, I might have had to find honest work all these years.


ambisinistral said...

Man, that brings back memories. I got one of those things, or something vwery similar to it, out of the Estes Science catalog. That had to be back in the late 60s.

I too added some binary numbers as per the instruction manual and just put the thing aside. I think I was a middle school student at the time, and the binary number stuff flummoxed me. Kinda funny, 'cause my first class as an Adjunct Professor was teaching Assembly Language.

I may just plunk down the bucks to buy that.

Seneca the Younger said...

I think you mean the Edmond Scientific catalog (and I got mine from the same place.) Estes was the model rocket company.

David Thomson said...

God bless the early technology pioneers. The vast majority of us don’t want anything to do with a new invention until it becomes “user friendly.” Early computer enthusiasts might spend a whole day programming simply to get the answer to 56+23. A certain degree of playfulness is mandatory to accomplish great things.

ambisinistral said...

Bah, my mind is going. I knew that seemed funny when I typed it. I used to scour the Edmund catalog when it came.

Syl said...

Oh my!!!

I've finally met someone else who not only knew about it, but actually had one!!

Memories! I put one together too. The exact same one--named DigiComp--and played NIM with it.

I am not insane after all! LOL

Syl said...


Playfulness. Yes! It was so much fun--those early days.

I had a TRS-80 about a decade after the DigiComp. Carlos would go off to work and I'd sit down at that thing and play all day.

He'd call from his office to tell me which bus he was catching, I'd drop everything and clean, make the bed, do dishes, shower, get dressed, and cook dinner just in time for him to walk in the door!

Only Chico, my dear cat, and I knew the truth about what I did all day! LOL

There were no books except for the manual. There were a couple of games on tape you could get at radio shack. It was just sitting there and playing and learning and programming and experimenting.


In Basic there were 'peek' and 'poke' instructions which allowed you to see what value a specific bit in memory held and conversely to poke a specific value into that bit of memory.

The manual said re 'poke': If you don't know what you're doing, don't!

Well, that wasn't going to stop me! I knew what value I wanted to poke in there, knew I had the syntax correct, but I held my finger over the Enter Key with a slight bit of hesitation, doubts in my head because this was my first ever 'poke'.

I finally took a deep breath, and with my inimitable courage, hit enter.

The lights went out.

At that exact moment the lights went out--all over the complex.

It was a co-incidence. LOL

But, to this day, I still think of it as one of the funnier co-incidences of my entire life.

chuck said...


All I got was a handfull of transisters and diodes that my dad brought home from work. I did make a one bit machine (one, count it, one flipflop). Then there was the MITLL book on boolean algebra written by Irving Reed (Reed-Muller codes) that started off talking about rings and such. That's what happens when a mathematician wants to make things simple: abstract, abstract, abstract.

But the *big* project was based on a ton of telephone relays that one of my friends got hold of. The best bit though, was that his brother build his own relay flip-flop using contacts riding on a retangular cam driven by a solenoid ratchet. I thought *that* was the cleverest thing of all.

Seneca the Younger said...

I am not insane after all! LOL

Syl, honey, the fact that you share this childhood experience with me is not a lot on which to base confidence in one's sanity.

Syl said...


Childhood experience?

Well, okay then.

I was an ADULT.

So there.

Guess I'm crazy after all. :)