Technology Resurgence

Some of my coworkers and I were talking about our past and the various devices, software, etc… that we used back in school and such, and this came up…

This is a pen plotter:

I used something similar to this in high school. I graduated high school 21 years ago.

It is fascinating to me that the technology of the pen plotter is still being used today, and is seeing a resurgence in all of these maker-devices from 3d printers to Silhouette Cameo to our very own Glowforge.

I suppose the pen plotter technology never really went away, it just shifted to the industrial/manufacturing industry and is now being miniaturized as more people want these devices in their homes.


Wow. I haven’t seen one of those in forever. I do remember the carousel of pens and loved watching the robotic action of the head grabbing the right pen.

And people complain about the cost of toner and ink cartridges. They’d be appalled by those little pens and how fast they used up (or dried out despite the capping area in the carousel).


Many years ago I bought a pen plotter after telling my wife how cool it was going to be, in order to justify the price. I used it to draw a few things but for the most part it just set there. Now, whenever I start “talking up” something that I am planning to get, she still says, “is it going to be as cool as that plotter”:cold_sweat: I got a little of that when I ordered my Glowforge but after showing her the video on the website, she is onboard. :grinning:


I remember when my studio got a larger roll-feed pen plotter in the 90’s - couldn’t get over how random it seemed to move as it drew jumping from one corner to the next, but in the end, everything was perfect…

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The first computer in an Alabama high school classroom (1976):

It came as a kit — think bags of chips, LEDs, resistors, etc. — and took our physics club months to solder and test. I/O was via a donated teletype machine with paper tape!

40 years later, I’m waiting on my very own laser! :sunglasses:
Now, about those jetpacks and hovercraft we were promised…


Well I had a hovercraft for years :smiley: Traded it to a guy for a vintage Joe Camel edition Honda motorcycle. Not that I needed another bike any more than I needed the hovercraft. :grin:


I miss film plotters. A friend worked for a company that had apparently scored one surplus from NASA – essentially an oscilloscope screen that could register 0-10Kv in 50-mv steps. (Then when pc’s came out they ditched that and started writing The Next Big Database Program…)

If everyone who wanted jet packs and flying cars had actually worked on building them, we’d probably all have them by now.

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First bike I ever rode and, in fact, learned to ride on and took my test on. Some lady illegally passing 5 cars hit my buddy while he was making a legal left. Ripped the bike in half but missed actually impacting him. An airlift, some plates and screws, time, and a settlement check made it mostly all better but…nice bike.

PS- He’s fine and got another bike the next year after I wrecked my own bike and we got new ones together.

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both of those already exist. “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” - w. gibson.


I’ve still got a couple old HP plotters: why build new robotics when 30 year old models work just fine? (and have bulletproof paper handling mechanisms)


I remember visiting some architects back in the 90s that had a giant version of this that they used to print out full size blueprints.
It would be cool to find one and retrofit a laser on it. :slight_smile:

The good old days. I remember my dad ordering a TV kit from Heathkit back in the 70s. Took him a few weeks to put the thing together.
I also remember shocking the hell out of myself every time i dropped something behind the TV because he never put the back on it.


My dad did the same thing. He was color blind and I had to identify the resistors for him. He would say " give me a brown black red" . That’s how I got into electronics. :grinning:


The company I work for now used to be the place everyone in the US sent your Sinclair ZX81 computer to when you tried unsuccessfully to build it from a kit in the 1980s. That was before I worked here but a couple guys that were here then are still here. Our techs would fix it/finish assembling it.


My 11-year-old keeps bugging me to do the hack that gets composite video out of the ZX-81, because we don’t have anything that will receive the rf…


The Timex Sinclair was my first computer!!! I think we bought it already built. I didn’t know you could get it in a kit.
I wasted countless hours playing Mazogs on that thing.

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I think i have seen RF to HDMI convertors you can get to run them on a current TV. You might want to check amazon and see if they have anything before you crack it open.


I had a Timex Sinclair 1000, too. That one came fully assembled. The ZX-81 was essentially the same thing but you could get it as a kit.


I bought an Atari Portfolio handheld years back because it was a lot cooler than my HP calculators. It still works!