Talk:Ward Christensen

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Shareware Hall of Fame[edit]

Does anybody know anything about this Shareware Hall of Fame? Is that to be taken seriously or is that just some lobby organization that is really irrelevant to this article? --EnOreg 22:27, 11 November 2007 (UTC)

I've now removed the sentence in question:
 He also was an initial inductee into the Shareware Hall of Fame in 1997.[1]
  1. ^ Shareware Hall Of Fame.

--EnOreg (talk) 21:50, 5 October 2010 (UTC)


Who (or what) is "Randy"?

um, "randy" is randy suess, his buddy, who helped with the inital programming.

c'mon, folks, ward is the man who brought computer communication to the masses. surely wikipedia can do a better job of writing up his bio!


OK, but it [Randy's last name] is misspelled at least once[edit]

You can't have it both ways -- unless there are 2 persons named Randy, with very similar last names, one spelled "Suess" and the other spelled "Seuss".

(and, if there really were two of them, then it should be explained, to avoid causing well-meaning editors to "Be Bold" and "correct" one of them.)

I don't know which spelling is correct. But IMHO, the other one is a TYPO. Just my 0.02, --Mike Schwartz (talk) 08:34, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Birth date?[edit]

I'm looking through Google for any further info on Ward, but there's no birth date, no death date, no nothing. Just whatever that's already been said on this article. I mean, seriously, the guy is very important to communications history, so why the lack of further info on him (or Randy Suess)? Makes no sense... --Toussaint 14:20, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

That's why they call it a stub! --Orange Mike 16:07, 16 February 2007 (UTC)
Death Date ?!?! - Ward is alive and well, and still working at IBM. Email him at --Scotthan 10:00, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Orangemike, please accept that he still works for IBM. If you don't believe it, just send him an e-mail to his IBM address. If you want to be picky about something you might want to start searching for a source for his birth place... --EnOreg 15:26, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
You're probably right, but I need a reliable source. I have no way of knowing whether the IBM address above is kosher; he's not listed in IBM's online employee directory (which does permit "unlisted" employees). (The birthplace is sourced.) --Orange Mike 15:36, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
The only source we have for his employment status says that he works for IBM. As long as we don't find a source that says that he quit IBM I don't see why we wouldn't assume that he still does. Otherwise, if we find a source confirming he still works for IBM today, will you come back tomorrow and say, "yeah, but that was yesterday -- how do we know he still works for IBM today?" --EnOreg 15:40, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
Really, EnOreg, I'm not trying to be stubborn, but the source we have is fourteen years old; the guy's gotta retire sometime (heaven knows he's earned his laurels already). "As of THISDATE" is the way to go with a cite that old, to my way of thinking. --Orange Mike 15:46, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
Here's his entry in an IBM Employee Directory: [1]. Which directory did you search? --EnOreg 17:41, 18 October 2007 (UTC) (which now returns his name & address!) --Orange Mike 17:56, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
Ward is definitely still an IBMer - and we're extremely lucky for that. --Jltibm (talk) 18:59, 27 October 2009 (UTC)

Additional links[edit]

--EnOreg 22:21, 11 November 2007 (UTC)

42nd anniversary with IBM[edit]

Not only is Ward still with IBM, this week marks his 42nd anniversary with the company. I'm fortunate enough to be Ward's manager and I'm honored to work with such a distinguished member of the IT community. There's really no one like Ward. Congrats Ward on your anniversary, and thank you for being an IBMer!Jentrogan (talk) 14:41, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Wipedians with articles[edit]

SeeUser:WardXmodem. --Wtshymanski (talk) 17:59, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

Ward Christensen and CACHE[edit]

Ward Christensen kindly responded to my question about his role in CACHE and added info on his experience as an early computer hobbyist. Copying this here the wiki software has removed cr-lf markings:

AFAICR (made that up - As Far As I Can Remember) the Chicago computer club I was involved with was C.A.C.H.E., the Chicago Area Computer Hobbyists Exchange. I believe there was a meeting approx Apr '75, begun by Robert Swartz, who was lucky enough to be able to affort a "Digital Systems" original 8080 "box" - and the CP/M operating system. (Digital Systems was right up the road from Gary Kildall (the CP/M guy)so they got together. - One making a rugged box and the other the OS for it). The "hobby" as I see it really took off with the MITS Altair on the cover of the January, 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. [Back to Chicago Club] SO one day reading Pop'tronics, I noticed a piece saying there had been a computer club in the Chicago area, naming the people who attended, and saying when the next one was. As I recall it was Lloyd Smith (now my best friend) formerly of Dyer IN, and Bill Burther, Valparaiso IN (R.I.P.). SO we rode together to that possibly 2nd, or perhaps 3rd meeting (? Sept 1975) and I was hooked. MY involvement with the club was to be an "active participant" in that for example. I was sec'y for many years, wrote programs to maintain the mailing list, help with the newsletter, often whipping up a small newsletter myself when no one else helped (this was one of the events that led to the invention of the BBS). I brought my system in to show, back when maybe one in 10 actually HAD a system. My home system consisted of an Altair 8080, to which I had added a Selectric Typewriter and Dynastor FLYING HEAD disk drive (a whopping 256K, yes, KAY). I had to (1) teach myself digital electronics; and (2) design and create the board to interface to these uniquely-mine peripherals (Example: Type a char on the selectric (terminal) and watch what came in - on an oscilloscope) THEN program the Altair to "produce outputs that matched that timing", learning that -- gasp -- IBM put the parity bit at the opposite end of the word than most of the rest of the world!) My machine also -- once "video" became available (I skipped the "TV Typewriter" phase), a 16 x 64 display called a Processor Technology Video Display Module. (and no coincidence, the BBS Randy Suess and I invented and I programmed, had a 16 x 64 size message limit at first). THEN my world opened to assembler programming (not hand assembling or some other hack) when Processor Technology came out with a paper tape-distributed editor and 8080 assembler. (I seem to recall it having 4 things, but don't recall now.) I modified the PT Asm to run on cassette tapes (The "Tarbell" having become a standard) and called the combination of things the "CACHE Cassette Operating System" (CCOS) and several people in the club started writing assembler programs. SO anyway, the club had a huge variety of machines represented - from the "boards" - Kim-1, ?? Trying to remember if the Apple-1 was a "board" - I think so -- and the little Sinclair "pocket calculator" sized ones from TI or with a TI chip. When the Radio Shack computers came along, many of us pioneers thought "this is the end of the hobby". What we meant was, for example (maybe an extreme example) - I could design and make my own boards, AND write the BIOS routines to run them, etc, and THAT was more the fun - so someone buying a "built" machine seemed kind of sad. However, this is the march of time, and I'm sure the "Hams" (amateur radio enthusiasts) felt a bit the same way as more and more products came along making it easier and easier to "talk over the air".. I eventually - and somewhat delinquently - adopted the PC, but by then had pretty much "burned out" programming as a hobby, and did not make a LOT of contributions in that area. ____ END _____ of my thoughts on the club, is this what you were looking for? Just to "come to a better close" -- the fact I'd done my own HW meant incompatability, so I invented MODEM.ASM (named -- and it stuck -- Xmodem by Keith Peterson) to be able to "beep" things back and forth with friends; Then the BBS came about as ME thinking a dial-in system to gather articles for a newsletter, but Randy Suess suggested a club project would be "by committee" so just the two of us - him HW and me SW - did it, independently of the club.

-- posted by Javaweb (talk) 01:41, 18 January 2011 (UTC)Javaweb

Thanks for sharing! --EnOreg (talk) 14:09, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

More Ward Christensen History?[edit]

In the request for history of CACHE, I thought of expanding it to what brought me to computers, digital electronics, home computers, the CACHE club, etc.

Is that appropriate? Unnecessary? Welcome?

My first draft, stopped before Xmodem and BBSs, follows:

Ward Christensen computer-related history leading up to Xmodem and the BBS[edit]

Ward won the West Bend Sr. High School science fair grand prize in 1965, with a (Not very original /Ward) "computer" exhibit, completely scratch-built from circuits published in Popular Electronics citation needed. The project consisted of ten flip-flops using power transistors, with input and output jacks for each. A phone dial supplied pulses to make the device count in binary, in its most common wired configuration.

From this, he learned binary arithmetic, two's complement subtraction, repetitive addition multiplication, etc.

Looking back Ward says "I am now horrified to think of the WIRING in that project, as every wire was point-to-point (through 3-dimensional space)! I knew so little, and learned so much. Obviously routing of wires (like a wiring harness) would have been MUCH better and more professional.

After "wasting" three semesters in a Physics/Chemistry program at the University of Wisconsin, Ward dropped out and came home to West Bend, and picked up a job as the person who worked in the Production Engineering lab of the West Bend Company. Previous summer jobs were, in order, the warehouse, the production engineering lab, the development engineering lab, and the research engineering lab (where a new 'toy' was the microwave oven).

Within a few weeks, the Data Processing Department of West Bend Company asked Ward if he wanted to "program the mainframe", recalling his having won the Sr. Science fair.

The answer was an immediate "yes" followed by a few weeks of riding a Honda 160 30 miles to the IBM facility in Milwaukee to take "Autocoder" training, and beginning to program.

Ward asked the local rep what kind of jobs were available at IBM, and learned that "SE" or "Systems Engineer" was the technical side of the team that called on customers. Asked what kind of degree was required, the answer -- remember "back then" -- was "just about anything, we'll teach you all you need". Computer science as a degree program was in its infancy, and was oriented more toward the internals of computers, computing, languages and their compilers, etc.

When "Uncle Sam" showed an interest in Ward after six months of programming, Ward took a common escape in these Vietnam War years, and quickly signed up for a small college (Milton, Milton WI) where he did well for three years and then went to work for IBM in Hammond, IN (part of the area run by Chicago).

Ward's IBM education was in many programming languages, and of course IBM products. Hands-on was very seldom on those days of mainframes, with the exception of helping set one up when it first arrived.

Ward's creativity showed for example in setting up the first mainframe whose size was 1.5 times another, not 2 times like was also available. The generation of the OS failed because of the odd sized memory. Ward generated systems for both the smaller and larger systems, dumping the nucleus (think, "Kernel") to PAPER with the first, then OVERPRINTING the second, then looking for the unequal character overstrike to know the offset of where the nucleus stored the machine size. For example if an 0080 were overstruck with an 0100, then he knew he had to patch in an 00C0 to handle the as-yet-unsupported size.

Ward's interest in hands-on took the form of a poster on the wall of a Texas Instruments TI 980-A, with its silent-700 thermal printer, dual computer controlled cassette decks, and 16-bit processor. The price, however, significantly exceeded what an individual would likely pay to have their own computer.

Then in 1974, attending an IBM class, Ward learned about "integrated circuits" and the 8008 microprocessor in a single optional one-hour lecture. Ward asked the lecturer "What would I need to know to build a home computer based upon this?" and was told "T.T.L." which he wrote down, having never heard of it before.

By the end of 1974, Ward had taught himself digital electronics, and was making small circuits with TTL chips blowtorched off of used computer boards purchased from a local hobby electronics store in Hammond IN.

Ward felt the 8008 was too feeble, and began designing his own computer using TTL components, with microcode to support changing the instruction set. Progress was slow, rather unplanned, but knowledge gained by experimentation (such as avoiding the glitches he found in his four phase system clock, by learning about "synchronous counters" vs. the ripple carry one he had first made.

When the January, 1975 issue of Popular Electronics came out with the Altair on its cover, Ward realized that the world didn't stop at the 8008, and that a more powerful and integrated "CPU chip", the 8080, was very suitable for his needs.

With his self-taught knowledge in digital electronics and TTL, Ward build a (Serial terminal) selectric typewriter interface, and later a floppy disk controller.

I would go on from there about "Tarbell" cassette tapes, modifying an assembler/editor to work on it, the purchase of the CP/M operating system, then because of my home-brew disk controller, I couldn't swap CP/M files so invented Xmodem, and from the communications experience, programmed the world's first BBS because of the availablity of "S-100" (Altair Clone) computers.

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