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– Eric Schmidt's BTI Stories

I started in June of 1983 with three other hardware engineering college graduates, Scott Neumann, Bill Olliver, and one other guy whose name escapes me. There were also several software graduates who started as well.

My main project while at BTI was working on the development of the Z80 based debugger for CPU5. The Z80 subsystem was on CPU5, and the debugger was connected via a flat ribbon cable. I worked with John Kinsel and Jeff Libby. The debugger had breakpoint support and, I recall, a 4K deep trace memory to track the microcode addresses. I used the 8085 based "debugger debugger" to develop the Z80 code for the CPU5 debugger.

The debugger schematics were hand drawn on large, D size vellum. One of the cool things was the motorized eraser, which I used a lot. You could hear when I made a big mistake as I would fire the eraser up and run it for a while to clean things up.

With all the microcode development for CPU5, there was lots of software testing being done on these new systems. On occasion when a problem was found, we would end up Ron Crandall's office to discuss the issue. I distinctly remember one phrase he used, which I still use to this day, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

One unique feature of the BTI 8000 was the cooling airflow was blown downward instead of upward. The reason I was told was to avoid picking up dust from the floor and blowing it up through the system. With this method, we didn't need air filters. The downside is the fans had to push against the natural convection, and the systems were quite loud.

One day in a lab I noticed an 8000 system with what appeared to be bug splatter on one side of the system, which was quite strange. I asked around, and it turns out they used an open trailer to transport the system to a testing lab, and it had bug splatter on just as you get on your car windshield.

There was a round of layoffs sometime in 85, as I recall. I got in late that particular morning (I think it was a Monday) and I missed out on all the "excitement." After that point, they told everyone who was left to start looking for a job.


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