Tu-Lake Farm from over Wolfe Lake

The History of Microcomputers: 1923-2003;

From Tu-Lake Farm to the World Wide Wow!


Dedicated to Frederick F. Toeppner (1923-1974)

 And Julianne E. Toeppner (1922-2004)






"There is no off position on the genius switch." -- David Letterman 1994







Written By Herbert G. Toeppner, Esq. © 2003-2005 All Rights Reserved.




This is just the first DRAFT of my ramblings. It is by no means complete, but I did want to share it with some special friends this Christmas.


So here you all go.




December 9, 2003



I’ve been inspired to write some more…. By a friend… TC… they actually read some of this so… on with the show.




November 9, 2004




Dedication and Thanks.



My Father, Fred Toeppner and my Mother, Julianne Toeppner: for obvious reasons.


My brothers, Murray Alexander Toeppner and James Frederick Toeppner: they where there and saw this as it happened, even if they do not remember most of the early years of Dad’s achievements.


My sister Marilyn Ruth Toeppner: I wish that we had the opportunity to grow old together, gone but not forgotten.


My grandparents: Herb and Susan Toeppner.


I will never forget the smell of baking bread, buns and cookies coming from the old wood stove that was used in Gramma’s kitchen.


I have since then never met a cookie that I didn’t like. But none of them will ever taste quite as good as hers.


It took her a long time to adapt to the new ‘Admiral Electric Range’ that my Dad finally convinced her to have. She just couldn’t quite get the ‘feel’ of it and burnt a few batches of cookies the first year or so of her adjustment period.


Gramma did finally manage to get the hang of it and I think that she even set the dial ‘Minute Minder’ correctly to chime when the time was right, but Gramma already had her own built-in timer… common sense told her when the cookies were done, she just knew!


Grampa clanking his spoon on the side of his coffee cup, indicating that the sugar bowl was empty, again! He never did admit that he knew perfectly well where the sugar canister was kept; someone would always refill the bowl for him.


Grampa always was ‘flipping a teaspoon’ into the coffee cup. Another great game to watch: particularly when Gramma would catch him, using the ‘for company only’ cups.


Feeding toast to Rusty or Snuffy his other companion and friend: his dog. Of course, they would have to perform a trick before enjoying their treat. This usually consisted of the old, piece of toast on the top of their nose trick. Now we wait until Grampa says ‘OK’… ‘Wait for it’…  ‘OK now’, then one flip of the head and a quick snap at the toast and everyone was happy. Most of all, the grandchildren: who watched with fascination and delight.


Grampa bugging Gramma in some indiscernible way until she swatted at him with the tea towel, again much to the delight of the grandchildren who are crammed around the kitchen table, just waiting for Grampa to start bugging Gramma again.


Building a fire in the stone fireplace or lighting the woodstove with a wooden match, but only if Gramma or Grampa were there to watch over you.


Walking with Grampa, he with his walking stick, up the lake road to pick raspberries in the hot summer sun… Rusty chasing something in the fields… The sound of the wind in the maple trees and the buzzing of the insects in the distance... Then back to the house to help Gramma make supper.


Going to the barn to ‘help’ milk the cows… Watching as the cats and kittens jockey for the best position for when Grampa or Gramma would ‘accidentally’ miss the milk bucket and let a warm, sweet stream of milk, fresh from the udder, squirt in a lazy arc to the waiting mouths of the kittens. The calves in the little pen looking on: with a very ‘put out’ expression on their faces.


The sugar spoon: with the blunt end.


Little things that I can never forget about that farm and all the people that have passed through the front door: that I can never remember being locked.


Stanley Toeppner: Uncle Sandy (Unk).


Unk getting up before sunrise and eating the breakfast that Gramma had just prepared: oatmeal, toast and homemade raspberry jam fetched from the pantry at the top of the rickety stairs to the basement, bacon, eggs from Gramma’s own chickens and coffee.


Gramma is making tea for the Thermos and thick bologna sandwiches with mustard for lunch.  Sandy going to the tractor shed by the barn, the sound of the tractor starting in the cool morning mist and heading up the lake road to plow the fields or bale the freshly mowed hay for the cows that always seemed to be hungry. He is still living the good life at Tu-Lake Farm, his home.


On Fridays we head to ‘town’. Powassan, Ontario

 To shop at Cox’s General Store ( in Unk’s Chevrolet half-ton truck. Unk, Gramma and Gramma in the front: whichever grandchildren wanted to go to town that day, (which was everyone, of course), in the back.


The grandkids would each get a quarter to spend from Gramma and usually whenever she turned her back Grampa would slip us each another quarter… Shhh… Don’t tell Gramma or else Grampa would be in trouble with Gramma.


 Now in the front window of Cox’s store was every young kids dream. Huge bins of penny candies… 3 for a penny, 5 for a penny, even 10 for a penny. Do you have any idea how much candy one child can purchase when they have the equivalent of 50 pennies in the form of two shiny quarters. I do! Big, huge, filled to the brim bag’s full… that is how much. I get a tummy ache just thinking about it. Of course, it would have to last us a whole week. ‘Town’ was fourteen miles away and a very long bike ride, but that is another story in a later Chapter titled ‘The Great Escape’


My Aunts: Georgie, Greta and Irma, their husbands, Jack, George and Chuck and their children, Fred, Susan, John, Eric, Karen, David and little Lisa: sisters of my Dad, my uncles and cousins.  Thank you for the time spent every summer at Wolfe Lake. Three little white cottages in a row and of course, the raft complete with flagpole and Canadian flag flapping in the on shore breeze.


My cousins: Charlie Toeppner and Tim Toeppner. Charlie’s Grandfather, Walter Toeppner, my Grampa’s brother and his wife Collette lived nearby on another lake (Ruth Lake). Uncle Walter looked exactly like Col. Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.


I am not kidding, exact same features, goatee and all. I think he even had a cane. Or was it only in my mind as a young child. No I have seen pictures of him after I grew up, he still is the ‘Kernel’.


Figure 1- Uncle Paul, Uncle Walter and Herb


When Charlie and I turned sixteen he acquired a Valiant ‘convertible’, red with a white top and the gear shift selector in the dash, what a cool car. I learned to drive in that car and I learned a few other things as well (in the back seat) with unnamed people of the opposite sex, doing things best left unsaid.


Figure 2- Little Red Valiant... Memories


Charlie and I shared many an adventure both in Powassan and at the lake, riding mini-bikes or snowmobiles over miles of country roads. Using his convertible and my access to a little green houseboat to entice willing participants into a midnight swim, but again I must defer to the protection of the innocent.


However Charlie is included in another Chapter- The Great Escape. Charlie I hope you remember that little excursion, I know that I do. There are plenty of things that I remember happening to Tim as well, but I probably should not mention them here.


I would like to include a special dedication to Tu-Lake Farm in Alsace, Ontario, Canada

( The domain of Wolfe Lake and Mud Lake: the two lakes.


To the little green houseboat that gave everyone who came aboard a delightful ride or a ‘blast’ of the siren to the people who remained on shore.


To the children that played in the fields, built tree forts and log cabins from young pine trees, walked the lake roads, swam in the lakes and launched pieces of split cord wood, fashioned into great sailing ships, using baler twine and a nail to attach it to, into the streams of that farm: my cousins and friends. Time well spent walking from the lake to the farm and back again, laughing and playing from morning until nightfall. Building forts in the trees: chasing chickens, until the cows came home. Then up to the house for some of Grammas’ homemade lemonade.


I miss you very much Gramma and Grampa.


My roots: And source of my fondest memories, a little house on Tu-Lake Farm where the frogs can still be heard croaking down at the pond in the evening.


My Best Friends: Hank Carriere, a very good friend of mine who shared his passion of computers and the Internet with me over many cans of Coca Cola and none of that Diet crap either. I have never seen anyone grasp computers as fast as Hank did. Hank started late (in his 60’s) and finished way to early. I miss you Hank, every day, you where one of a kind.


Dean Scovell, we saw the beginning of the micro revolution unfold before us in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. We had no idea that it would lead us to where we are today.


Mike Bezzeg, one of the good people in this world, even if he has never sent an email in his life.


Martin Borrow, another one of the good people in this world. Martin at least has mastered sending email. Keep it up buddy.


Thank you to Brent Yanko and Jason Yanko and their dad Bill.


Max Switzer. 


Mike Lake and Greg Rowlandson, friends from Powassan, Ontario and roommates in Calgary, Alberta. Young men: big dreams.


Steve Topham, Ivan Thompson, Mr Vandersteeg. Electronics class at Almaguin Highlands Secondary School was always my favorite subject in school.


Wayne Johnson (wherever you are), Bill Rennete, Bob Baechlor, Richard Paul, Nick VanWalraven.


Fraser Smith, Robert Baillie, everyone at GWG, Ken and Kaz longtime users and very genuine people.


The Stokes Family; Kelvin is an amazing kid, who I watched grow up. He has the same fascination with computers and electronics that Dad and I have.


To: The girls and women that have touched my life and my heart with love and or friendship over the years.


There will always be a place for all of you in my memories, even if it gets a little crowded now and again


Mom, Gramma, Tammy, Barb Yanko, Ruth Cullen (my other grandma), Aunt Judy, Laurie MacLeod, Ann Thorne, Susan (Suzy Q) Anderson, Traci Costa, Beatrix, Elizabeth Toerien, Shauna Mundle, Jenny Chance, RZ, Hazel Carriere, Marilyn, Rita Switzer, Maggie Borrow, Debbie Lake, Ruth Rowlandson, Anne-Marie Baechlor, Debbie C, Kathy Hummel, Marilyn Stuart, Sheryl (with an S), and Mary-Lynne.


All of the users that I have supported over the years, they provide me with my experience, wisdom and patience.


To everyone else that I mention in these ramblings: a big thank you.



I just realized that I have recently become quite philosophical and just a touch sentimental, for a wide variety of reasons.


I have already been through my Mid-Life crisis (should have bought the Porsche) and so now I will attempt to reach deep inside and put to paper (or some other digital medium) the memories that I have of growing up in what is now called the Digital Age.


This is not my first attempt at putting words to paper.


Figure 3- A Tall Tale - Grade 2.


Here is my first. As you can see I have been keeping my writing talent hidden for quite a few years.  Science fiction is still my favorite and I still have that dream every now and then


It is time now to continue my creative writing.


I have all of these wonderful memories. I want to share them with anyone that will appreciate them as much as I do.


I think that I can tell a good story and writing a book about the memories that I have of my Dad and linking it to the development of computers and how that has evolved into the WWW of today is a good combination. My Dad was a part of history in the area that he was born and lived in his whole life. There are a few newspaper articles written about his accomplishments by the North Bay Nugget (, well two or three that I know of.


Contained in this writing are the memories I have of a time and place gone by. Yet, it isn’t even that long ago or that far away really.


They include a time when there wasn’t a computer on every office desk or at home, in every country in the world, connected together virtually by something we call the Internet, to create the Global Village we all live in today.


Today, I can send an email message to someone in South Africa from where I am sitting right now in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and they will receive it in seconds.


Why, I can even send an email message from my cellular phone while sitting in a park anywhere and they would still receive it in South Africa within seconds. That email could result in a business transaction involving millions of dollars.


My dad would be amazed.


As a teenager living in Alsace, Ontario in the 1930’s he would get excited if the letter he sent to Toronto, Ontario (inside that envelope a postal money order and order form for photography chemicals and paper), would result in a package being returned in 6-8 weeks containing his hard earned and anxiously awaited materials.


A round trip totaling 400 miles and a transaction cost totaling, maybe, as much as 35 Canadian Cents. Including postage and handling charges!


How things have changed.


In fact, there wasn’t even a television in every home when my father was a young man choosing a career path. See Chapter 2 – The Visionary.


I can remember when a telephone was installed for the first time in the farmhouse at Tu-Lake Farm where my Dad grew up and my Uncle Sandy, to this day still lives in. It was in the 1980’s.


The 1980’s, what are you kidding me! My father grew up in a farmhouse that didn’t have a telephone installed until well after he died! That must have saved him a fortune in Long Distance charges!


I have only heard the telephone ring once in that farmhouse in Nipissing, Ontario (


When I did hear it ring, it felt so out of place. As a young boy growing up in that farmhouse the telephone never rang. There was not a telephone to ring within a mile of the place.


Can you imagine living somewhere that didn’t have a phone ringing anywhere, anytime like my cellular telephone constantly seems to be reminding me, no matter what time of day or night.


I can. I was there and it was home to me. I miss that place and time very much.


That place and time is my inspiration for writing this book.


I feel like one of ‘The Walton’s’ right about now, for some reason.


Good Night, John boy, wherever you are.



Herbert G. Toeppner, Esq.


July 14, 2003.

Far from my roots, Tu-Lake Farm in Alsace, Ontario… yet they will always be very close to my heart and thoughts.



Prologue: In The Beginning.



This is the history of the microcomputer as seen from the point of view of a young teenager about to enter the Digital Age.


Included in this history are some memories that I have of my Dad. The microcomputer didn’t really appear until 1973 and my Dad had nothing to do with the development of that or any other technology mentioned in these writings.


The memories that I have about my Dad are simply to illustrate that while he grew up and made a living fixing televisions that he also, in his own way made a huge contribution to the history of television and computers in this world. And I never fully realized that until now.


This is why I am telling his story as well as how I saw the computer world evolve from, Tu-Lake Farm To The World Wide Wow.


In the beginning, there was darkness…. Wait! That is too far back Let us progress a little further into the recent past.


Place: Rural Ontario. Near North Bay: 200 miles north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A place some people still call Alsace.


Year: 1923


Event: A son is born to Herbert and Susan Toeppner (Ulrick); they name him Frederick, after Herb’s father, Fred Toeppner, Senior.


Frederick Toeppner, Senior, my Great-Grandfather came to Canada in the 1800’s (I think) from a region in Germany, near the France border called Alsace-Lorraine

( or (





Fred Sr. rode buffalo, drank whiskey and carved a new land out of the wilderness. No, wait that must have been someone else’s Great-Grandfather.


** Note To Self: Get more info on F.T., Sr. **




Chapter 1.

Choosing a Career 



One day while I was home sick from school I was watching an educational television program about ‘Career Choices’. I was probably 11 years old and didn’t even know what a career was, but the narrator was saying that ‘Computer Programming’ would be a challenging and rewarding career and that Electronic Data Processing was the way of the future.


I remember thinking right then and there that I wanted to be a computer programmer. I had no idea in 1968 that I would be sitting here today in 2003 typing this into my own Personal Computer.


Imagine an 11-year-old boy deciding that he wanted to be a computer programmer. That very day I set myself a goal to work with computers and have followed my dream since then.


The computers in 1968 filled rooms and were maintained by a bunch of IBM employees in white lab coats. They used punch cards and magnetic tape drives that you can still see spinning in old sci-fi movies.


Dad always subscribed to Radio Electronics magazine and I read every issue from the age of 11 or so. Electronics fascinated me and I was always looking to learn more.


I could fix almost any tube radio that was brought in to Toeppner TV to be repaired. Dad had set me up with my very own workbench in his shop. It included an electrical power strip (power bar) and my very own soldering iron and a few old screwdrivers, pliers and other tools. Of course I could get to use the equipment on the big workbench when I needed to access an oscilloscope or tube tester.


When the 8-Track tape player was king, there was no one better to install them in a car or boat than Herb Toeppner. I remember hanging upside down in a little blue Mustang that belonged to a friend trying to get under the dash to fasten the tape deck securely. What a chore!

Figure 4- Dad's Shop 1957



Figure 5 - Toeppner TV 1972



It was a lucrative venture. The shop rate for radio repairs was $2.50 and Dad paid me in cash, under the table. I spent every cent I earned.


The best Christmas present that I ever received was something called a Heathkit 100-in-1 electronic projects kit. It was the coolest thing in the world. It had to be assembled first from hundreds of parts.


Using a fiberboard top with holes drilled into it and then painted red with white lettering that indicated the purpose and ‘co-ordinates’ of the electronic part that was designated for that particular spot.


I had to read probably 100 pages of assembly instructions with hundreds of steps in order to build the main kit. And that had to be done before you could even make the first of 100 different projects. I was in heaven.


There were almost one hundred springs that had to be attached with nuts and bolts to the ‘circuit board’. These springs would allow wires attached to them and whatever electronic part was in place to build the projects circuit.


There were resistors, capacitors, transistors, diodes, switches, buttons, knobs, lights, what-cha-ma-call-its and even a voltmeter. And in order to provide power to the circuits; nine-volt and ‘C-Size’ battery connectors.


 I ripped the wrapping paper from the box, cleared a space on a designated table in the living room, pulled up a chair and spent all Christmas day and night reading instructions step-by-step, checking each step off with a pencil as I feverishly built this amazing thing. I think that Mom had to bring me Christmas dinner to where I was in the living room. She could not get my attention to come to the dinner table for some reason that day.



Figure 6- Today’s Version of 130-in-1 Kit





No matter how much I pleaded Mom made me go to sleep that Christmas night with my kit only half completed.


I may have gotten other presents that year, but I have no idea what they where. I hope the givers of those presents are not upset that I only remember one present from that Christmas.


Finally on Boxing Day I completed the assembly portion of the kit. Now was the time to actually build an electronic circuit.  What would it be? AM-crystal radio? Some kind of a timer circuit that lit up a bulb?


I know that Moms favorite was the ‘Emergency Siren’ circuit. It was really effective if you could make the sound rise and fall for hours on end. Sorry Mom.


I was 17 years old when I started tinkering with microprocessors in July 1974, while sitting in my father’s television and radio repair shop in a small town called Powassan in Ontario, Canada.


This was the magazine that influenced Dad and I to build our own computer.



Figure 7 - The Beginning of the PC


There were a few other young people in the world, mostly in California, doing the same thing at the time. Their efforts are reflected in what have now become normal day-to-day activities for most people.


Dad and I managed to get ‘The Mark-8 Computer’ to blink LED's in a sequence and calculate 1+1 = 3.... uh oh, there was our first bug report.


Figure 8 - The Mark-8 Prototype



Of course our design was a little different than the prototype.


Figure 9 – A Much Refined Mark-8



Our design fell in-between these two illustrations, closer to the refined version. just not as refined.


If only Dad or I could have projected into the future to the year 2003. If we did I can assure you that you would all be using ToeppnerSoft ®, running on the F.R.E.D. 9000 Processor ™.

No, that doesn't sound quite right.

Besides, at almost the same time that Dad and I where tinkering with an Intel 4004 Micro Processor (, working on plans from a Popular Electronics Magazine ( some other people started to tinker with other types of Micro Processors available at the time.


You may have heard of them, Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They built the first Apple computer ( and in my opinion, started this whole mess.


I think Bill Gates was also getting a few good ideas together, but I cannot say for sure.



You may have heard of Bill’s little company called Microsoft. Why they didn’t even have a website until 1993 ( which was only 10 years ago. Wow indeed!


Who could have possibly predicted in 1973 that in 2003 we wouldn’t be using flying saucer cars or living on the moon in domed buildings but, instead using computers in ways that could never be imagined.


After all IBM had earlier predicted that there would only be the need for 5 computers in the entire world. "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
--Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943



Or, that the Internet ( would influence everyone’s life, in one-way or another.


In June 1974 I was supposed to graduate from Almaguin Highlands Secondary School but I needed 2 more credits, so I had to return in September for one more semester. My Dad died in October of that year and I finished my Grade 12 in January 1975.


I signed up for a Grade 11-Drafting course and a Grade 12-Introduction to Electronic Data Processing course. I drafted plans for my dream house and learned about computers.


I still have my Grade 12 Intro to E.D.P. textbooks and it is so strange to look at them today.


Data processing equipment in the 1970’s where truly machines. Lots of mechanical gears, switches, lights and levers. They hardly resemble anything that we call a computer today.


Included in the course they taught us a programming language called HYPO, which stood for Hypothetical Programming Language. It consisted of a syntax that used numbers for the commands and letters for the operands.


For example 10 was the command to add two operands and give the result in the third operand; 10     A, B C would result in C being equal to 3 if A=1 and B=2.


I was hooked.


Oh yea, did I mention that Almaguin Highlands. did not have a computer and that we had to simulate our HYPO programs using paper and pencils. But I knew that I was on the right track.


I had already applied to attend Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario and was enrolled for their Electronic Data Processing Diploma.


My goal, to become a computer programmer, was becoming a reality. Assembler, COBOL, RPG here I come.


If only I could have predicted the future, I had no idea what was to come.

January 1975 at Canadore College they had an actual computer. Finally, some Hardware! And Big Iron stuff too.


It was a state of the art Honeywell Mainframe.




The H2000S. ‘S’ stood for special. It was wonderful. It was possible to ‘partition’ the computer system to perform two independent tasks simultaneously.


Wow! Multi-Tasking. What will they think of next? Ok, well two tasks are better than one.



Figure 10- Computer Honeywell-Bull H2000


You are looking at my first true love. No, not the woman behind the computer console, THE computer console. That isn’t me typing in commands in this picture, by the way.

I did type a lot of commands in to a similar console at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario though.


Within weeks of starting my course I made friends with the Operator of the H2000S. I wish I could remember his name. I owe him a beer or two.


He showed me the basics of the operations of the system. I am forever grateful to him. He even showed me how to power up and ‘Boot-Strap’ the system so that it would accept commands and then would become capable of ‘running programs’.


That is when I became a one-man-show and have been one ever since. You see after being shown how to power up the system I was able to receive permission to access the computer room on weekends in order to run programs for my courses.


I think I was one of the first students ever to receive such a trusted status. You see, that computer’s price was in the neighborhood of  $400,000.00. I could go in on a Saturday and turn the thing on.





Let me describe to you how I ‘booted’ up a computer in 1975.


You didn’t just press one power button and wait for the system to power up and ‘boot’ itself, loading an operating system like Windows XP.


There must have been 30 steps to get it to a point where it became a computer instead of just wires and metal. I think I can remember every one.


The H2000S computer lived in a very special room. It is called a ‘Machine or Equipment Room’. All Mainframe computers did. Many still do. These rooms have raised floors, so that large bundles of wires that connected the electronic equipment together did not interfere with us humans walking around. There are probably other things under there as well, like fire extinguishing systems and cooling systems. I hardly ever look under there. No dust though. Dust is a bad thing in these rooms.


It was also a climate-controlled room. Specific temperatures and humidity levels are critical to the care of these beasts.


There are always a lot of glass windows to ‘showcase’ the star and a securely locked door leading into the ‘inner sanctum’ of the Machine Room.


Look but do not touch is the motto here in 1975.


I had the authority to access the room anytime. I was given the ‘key’ to the door. A 4 digit code that you punched into a push button lock on the Computer Room door. It was changed on a regular basis and not too many people get that code. First line of security, lock the door to the computer room. No one gets in without a code or a key.


The security guards also required me to sign in and out of the room whenever I wanted to work in there, Date and Time In/Out. Just in case I broke something, I guess.


After satisfying all of the security requirements, you open the door and enter the Computer Room. It is usually dark. After all computers do not need any lights to perform their tasks. Especially when they are powered down.


I need light to see what I am doing. So I turn on the lights. Cool fluorescent lights blink on illuminating large cabinets of metal.


Usually the cabinets are gray in color or blue. IBM prefers the color blue. ‘Big Blue’ is their nickname for a lot of reasons, including their design color choices. I have seen probably 30 large computer installations in my time. From Mainframe Machine Rooms to very large Network Operations Center’s  (NOC) in downtown Vancouver, BC, that are part of the “Backbone” of the Internet. The mainframe companies liked to use different colors than their competition to differentiate themselves from one another. Sperry-Univac liked orange and beige a lot. So did Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Honeywell used orange a little to in the 1980’s on some of their mini-computers.


Turning on a computer in 1975 required many steps. The H2000S was typical I suppose.


There was a lot of buttons with strange markings on the back of the console. Some kind of “Secret Code” 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E. What the heck is that? These buttons had to be pressed in a specific order. Also, there is a strange typewriter looking thing. It has a keyboard, QWERTY… sheesh… another weird letter pattern. Where is ABCDEFG- 12345 in this world of computers?


The console teletypewriter was a work of art. It was electro-mechanical to say the least. No CRT display monitor… only a keyboard, a print head and a roll of paper that could be torn off and kept for logging purposes.


It was so cool… when you hit a key the print head, shaped like a cylinder with all of the letters and numbers in raised type, would jump up a bit, spin around to the corresponding letter that you pressed and hit an ink ribbon that would leave an impression on the paper behind it all, spinning back to hits “home” position and then dropping back down and advancing one position to the right. Wow, what a procedure just to get a letter or a number printed onto paper. But it worked… so let’s get this computer “Booted Up”.


The slight whisper of the air conditioning is barely audible. The Computer Room is always very quiet at this point.


Let me check my notes. (from my memory banks) I did this enough times that I can remember exactly the steps that I would have to perform to power on and boot up the H2000S and run a deck of punch cards through it to compile and run a program.


  1. Locate AC Power On button, top right corner of the console back. It is green in color. Press AC Power On until it starts to blink green. OK. Check.
  2. Wait for up to thirty seconds to let AC power supply stabilize and green light to stay lit a solid green color. The humming sound coming from the power supply sounds normal. You get to know what it should sound like after a while. OK, the AC Power On button is glowing a steady healthy green now.
  3. Locate the DC Power On button, just below the lit green AC Power on button. It to is green in color. Press DC Power On until it starts to blink green. OK. Check.
  4. Wait for up to another thirty seconds to let DC power supply stabilize and green light to stay lit a solid green color. The humming increases a little now. Music to my ears. OK, DC Power On button is glowing a steady healthy green as well now. It is alive! Well, almost. It is powered up to the point where the circuits in the computer are able to do their thing. It is still pretty much a bunch of wires and metal still. No programming software is in place yet. Where is that BIOS when you need it. Oh right, this is 1975. It will be a few years yet before someone decides that what I have to do next should be built-in to these stupid machines. OK. What now?
  5. There are two rows of sixteen white buttons centered on the back of the console. To the left of those are some more white buttons. They are all dark now. The cryptic numbers and letters that these buttons are labeled with must be the ‘secret’ language of computers. The labels read 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E. The buttons to the left are just as strangely marked. I think the say things like ‘Run’ and ‘Execute’ or ‘Input’ and ‘Clear’. What is up with that?
  6. Press ‘Clear’ button. All sixteen white buttons should be dark.
  7. OK, I have to press the following buttons on the top row of sixteen buttons. They will light up white when I press them. 1, 5, 6, 8, A, C, E. OK. Check.
  8. Now press the following buttons on the second row of sixteen. 2, 4, 7, 9, B, D, E. They also light up white upon pressing them. OK, Check.
  9. Locate ‘Input’ button to the left of the two sets of sixteen buttons. Press ‘Input’.  OK. Check.
  10. If “Accept’ light located below ‘Input’ is green. Press ‘ Execute’. Wait for ‘Execute’ light to glow green. Press ‘Clear’ button. Go to step 12. OK. Check.
  11. If ‘Accept’ light is red then check your lights on the two rows of sixteen and correct any errors by pressing ‘Clear’ and pressing the white buttons again. Get it right this time.  Return to step 7. OK. Check.
  12. Perform another 10 or so sequences of button presses. Make sure you don’t make a mistake and enter two commands in a row the same or miss a sequence or two. That could result in a fatal-error-has occurred situation. I am programming this computer one freaking step at a time with buttons. There has got to be a better way. Patience. It will not be too long before we can enter commands from the consoles teletypewriter. Progress indeed.
  13. If you have successfully executed the Bootstrap code your H2000S will now actually behave something like a computer. Powering up and Bootstrapping this mainframe was an art and a science that few people knew how to perform successfully. Well I am able to write down instructions and follow them precisely later to do things like this. Many have tried and failed. I succeeded and it felt wonderful to me.
  14. The sound of the teletypewriter to the right of me is a sign that there is some life to the computer. It is hammering out some type of identification and query.


    1. I should have known right then that in 25 years we would be having a Year 2000 crisis. How can a computer keep running in the year 2000 if we assume that there is always going to be a 19 in front of two digits?  Oh right we don’t want something that takes 25 minutes to power up and boot running in 2003, do we?


  1.  OK. Enter the date. Cool. This teletypewriter has a thimble shaped thing that hops up, spins around, hammers itself onto the roll of 8” paper running through the rollers on the console and then spins back to the home position and drops down, advances one position to the right. This happens every time I press a letter on the keyboard in front of me. Hooray! I can use two fingers to type to this day.
  2. Press Carriage Return. OK. Check.
  3. Now the teletypewriter is making another query.
  4. OK. What time does it say on the clock on the wall. 14:22. Remember, computers need 24-hour time. No AM/PM for them thank you. OK. Check.
  5. Press Carriage Return. OK. Check.
  6. Now we are getting somewhere. To the good stuff. Console Command Language stuff. Phew! No more button pressing bootstrap crap, now we get to bootstrap from another device. Where are those notes again? Right. I can now do some amazing things. Like get the computer to recognize and read from a punch-card reader. That has to be a good thing. Punch-cards rule!
  7. Power on Punch Card Reader. OK. Check. More humming sounds.
  8. Power on Line Printer. OK. Check. The printer is the size of a very large chest of drawers. It likely weighs 1,000 pounds. There are chains making the thing print 300 Lines Per Minute. Do not get your tie stuck in that thing. It has eaten a few people already, so stay back when it is running. Close the hood for safety.
  9. The console teletypewriter indicates that it requires attention by hammering out.
  10. Yea baby! Consult notes. Locate Bootstrap Loader Punch Card Deck. OK. Where is that special deck of 15 cards hiding? There it is.
  11.  Load Bootstrap Loader Punch Card Deck into the Input Hopper of the Punch Card Reader Unit. I sure hope that that PCRU doesn’t decide to eat the Bootstrap Deck. Printers that can eat ties. PCRU’s that eat poor little paper punch cards. No wonder the door to the Machine Room is locked. This place is a menace to society. Place weight into input hopper unit. This holds the cards in place while they are read.
  12. At the console, type; LOAD INIT PCRU
  13. Press Carriage Return. OK. Check.
  14. The computers lights on the two rows of sixteen buttons are blinking some kind of semaphore code in white lights. I hope that is a good thing. I saw this in a movie once. Every computer needs to have rows of blinking white lights while it executes the instructions. I remember the Operator telling me that if the computer stopped running for some reason that there would be red lights glowing steady on those two rows and that if you wrote down the indicators you could determine what the error message meant by looking it up in the H2000S Systems Manual. I do not want to see any red lights, ever.
  15. The console teletypewriter springs to life with the following message;
  16. Check notes. Is the power on on the PCRU? Is the BLCD in the input hopper? OK. Check.
  17. At the console; type Y
  18. Press Carriage Return. OK. Check.
  19. More blinking lights at the console. The teletypewriter announces;
    1. LOAD INIT DECK START 03/16/75 14:30:55


  1. The Card Reader begins to process the loader program on the punch cards. The instructions punched into the cards are programmed in assembler language. I don’t even know what they do really, but the computer will store them into the memory and try to execute them until completed. The computer knows what they do. The sound of the Card Reader reminds me of a huge factory with a giant stamping machine. Ker-Chunk. Ker-Chunk. Ker-Chunk.
  2. A furious activity of blinking lights. They seem to be appearing in more of a pattern than a random display. The teletypewriter before me spits out several lines of some kind of message. What is it saying to me? I better look.
    1. LOAD INIT DECK END 03/16/75 14:31:20
    3. EXECUTE INIT START 03/16/75 14:31:24
    4. EXECUTE INIT END 03/16/75 14:31:27
  3. Way cool now we are getting somewhere. Only 10 minutes to get this computer powered on and booted. And it can read a deck of cards too. Now we just have to feed it another deck of cards or two to load in the COBOL Instruction Compiler and we can really make things happen.
  4. Don’t forget to load in the Tape Drive Loader card deck as well. Tape drives are very useful to computer systems. Disk Drives come in handy to.


What a good memory I have. I knew that there were at least 30 steps to boot up that computer.

Another significant moment that I remember was after I had started to work at my first computer job during 1977 in Calgary, Alberta.


I was watching a late show movie called ‘The Billion Dollar Bubble’. It was about The Equity Funding Corp. of America scandal that happened from 1964 to 1973. (


In that 1976 movie they showed how this company had ‘manufactured’ all of these insurance policies and how the programmer had used a special policy number ‘9999’ to indicate that it was a fake policy.


The reason I remember that movie is that on the computer systems that I was programming at the time, we also used a ‘9999’control-field that indicated a special record. However, there was no fraud involved. It simply indicated an End Of File record to our systems.


The concept of the movie fascinated me and I understood how the computer programming worked, so I was even more intrigued by the whole idea of how the company had managed to perpetuate the fraud for so long.


This is when I truly realized that trust and confidentiality where critical components of being a computer professional. After all the information stored on computers are crucial to the operation of corporations as well as people.


The two people who mentored me, in the professionalism and code of ethics of computers, where Jim Stirling and Jim Billings.


They are the people who “molded” me into the computer professional that I am today. Ok, so maybe I don’t fit the exact mold they had in mind, but I do follow their teachings to this day.


During one of my performance reviews Jim Billings told me that I was being promoted from Programmer/Operator Trainee to Operator/Programmer Jr. and would receive an increase in salary from $700.00 to $900.00 per month. Wow, that seemed like a lot of money.


Along with that raise came some responsibilities and expectations.


  1. Dress like a professional. Dress shirt, tie and dress slacks are a must. Jacket would be nice.
  2. Be available anytime of the day or night.
  3. Have a telephone number or pager number that you can be reached at.
  4. Have transportation... get a car.


OK, so I guess I better buy some ties, get a phone installed and a car… so much for the raise.


Chapter Two.

The Visionary


Where do I begin?


I have so many memories of my father. Some so fresh in my mind that I feel like they just happened. Others that are distant and foggy yet somehow, instilled into my memory banks.


Figure 11 - TV Service Course


This is a newspaper article showing my dad on a course for television repair. As you can see he is not the only one entering this field of work.


What the amazing thing is that Dad was learning how to fix TV’s and there was no TV station within 200 miles of Powassan at the time.


North Bay, Ontario did not build a TV station until two years after this course. That is the visionary side of Dad. He knew that there would be a TV station built someday and he knew that the local population would be buying TV’s. He would be ready for that day.


Gerry Alger and Gerry Stanton, using a feasability study by Bruce McLeod, who later became General Manager, put CKGN-TV on the air on December 15th, 1955. On Channel 10, the station was a CBC affiliate. Studios and transmitter were located in Callander.


Legend has it that when the new TV station CFCH-Channel 10 was completed in 1955, and they threw the ‘switch’ that turned on the transmitter circuits; the engineers had no idea if the signal was going out of the top of the tall tower.


“Is this thing on?”


The equipment inside the station showed that everything was functioning. Little lights and other indicators show that the test pattern is being transmitted out, but wait, is any one receiving the signal transmitted through the air? Well, there is only one person within 100 miles that might have a TV. That person was Fred Toeppner living in Powassan, Ontario, some 20 miles away. Let’s call him and see if this thing works.


Ring-Ring. A telephone rings in a small Repair shop in Powassan. Phone number 86.




What the heck kind of telephone number is 86?


I guess 10-digit dialing is a ways off in the future.




Fred Toeppner answers, “Toeppner TV!” On the other end of the line a man asks, “Are we on?”


Dad looks over at the small 7” black-and-white television that is sitting nearby.


Figure 12 - A man slightly ahead of his time


Of course the television has been powered on and tuned to Channel 10 for days now. He has been patiently awaiting the reception of a television signal on that particular frequency. His daily visit to the transmitter site, 10 miles away, has allowed him to monitor the progress of the construction of the areas first television station.



Figure 13- Four Years Before CFCH Is Built.




Dad has been glancing over at the screen every few minutes all day today, seeing just “snow” every time.


This time there is a “test pattern” glowing from the screen. The old Indian Head test pattern that is used to calibrate the picture is displayed there.



History is made in a small repair shop in Powassan, Ontario that day. Television has arrived!


Imagine that. The people living in the area had never seen television before. I cannot imagine not having television. Today I can receive over 100 channels. Dad could receive one now clearly and maybe three others that where very fuzzy and faint from far off Toronto, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.


 I wish that I could have been there. I hadn’t been born yet. I guess maybe I was in some small way. You know. The small “gleam” in Dad’s eye; when he looks at Mom that certain way. Ha-Ha-Ha.


Dad realizes that he is holding the telephone in one hand and replies to the anxious caller on the other end, with these now famous words.


“Yep, you’re on.”


Okay, so maybe they didn’t record this moment for posterity in the North Bay Nugget, make a CBC documentary or otherwise include it in the National Television Museum, but Dad told me many years later that this is what transpired, so it must have gone down that way.

Figure 14 - Fred and Julianne Toeppner


Dad calls to Mom through the doorway leading from the shop into the kitchen of the house, “Julianne! Come and see this!”


Mom peeks her head around the corner, “What is it now, Fred? I’m drying the dishes.”


I am sure that Mom had been called into the shop many times before. Probably to show her something that she had no real interest in. After all, this electronic gadgetry was just something that she didn’t understand. As a young girl there was no electricity at the farm where she grew up. Light switches, electric stoves and such, are more than enough for her. The electric toaster and the new Sunbeam Hand Mixer sure help out in the kitchen when baking and cooking breakfast.


I think that I came along shortly after that, like nine months or so. Maybe Dad had that “gleam” in his eye again. Those dishes may have to dry themselves.

So after waiting for five years or more Toeppner TV can now begin to prosper. All of those college classes at Radio College of Canada in Toronto, Ontario and the other courses that Dad had completed would finally pay off.


Providing courteous and dignified service to his customers within a 50-mile radius.


Servicing just north of Callendar, to Nipissing, Chisholm, Astorville south to Trout Creek, South River, Sundridge all the way to Burks Falls.


Figure 15 - Advertising At It's Finest


Mom disliked these particular ashtrays for some reason… she preferred the calendars with the pictures of trees and animals.


I didn’t seem to mind them so much in my teen years. That was when I found them all hidden away somewhere. Dad always wondered how they got packed in a box and put into the basement. All by themselves, apparently, I am sure Mom had nothing to do with their disappearance.

Chapter Three.

Tu-Lake Farm.


My father grew up on a small farm in North-Central Ontario in the 1920’s through to the 1950’s. It was a rural life to say the least, one-room schools, walking to school on gravel roads, taking the horses and wagon to Nipissing or to Powassan to pick up groceries and supplies. Let’s not forget the Model-T cars.


Uncle Sandy told me that it took 4 hours each way. 14 miles to Powassan and 14 miles back. I can drive from the airport in Toronto to his door in less than that now.


The ‘big’ city of North Bay, ON is 30 miles away and Toronto, ON is a staggering 200 miles to the south.


I wonder what it was like? Living in Vancouver, BC in 2003, I can only imagine.


I am lucky. I can look back to that time, in the writings of my Dad. You see, Fred kept a journal, a diary of his day-to-day life, living on that farm and growing up.


It was hand written, of course, and kept in an old cigarette tin case. Player’s brand I believe. He kept it hidden away from prying eyes as he wrote in this diary. There are references of him moving the diary to different hiding places, probably to keep his sisters from reading it. After all, a diary is a personal thing, not to be shared with others.


Sorry Dad, but I have to share some of your diary entries with others now. Don’t worry I won’t divulge everything, just a few insights that I find fascinating.


Dad’s diary covered events from March 1st, 1936 up to December 1st, 1942.


He started the diary when he was 12 years old and continued until he was 21 years old. It is just amazing to be able to read this and feel like I am inside his head as he writes. Of course they are not too detailed and there are a lot of days and events that are not written about, but still it gives us an insight into the world back then.


It also shows that Fred was an amazing young man living on that farm, so far away from the rest of the world. No electricity, telephones, radios, televisions or computers. Yet somehow he discovered the wonderful world of electricity and what will become electronics.


Along the way we also see the usual thoughts of a young man. Social gatherings like dances and going to the movies (shows) meant interaction with members of the fairer sex, Girls!


So, with that I would like to include some if the entries from my father’s diary. Not everything of course, just the entries that mean something to me.


Thank you, Jamie, for carefully prying those brittle pages from the old tin case and making a photocopy so that I can read them over and over again.


Excerpts from the Diary of Frederick F. Toeppner

March 1st, 1936 to December 1st, 1942.


March 1 1936


Well, Well I have often wanted to make a diary, but I have really made up my mind to go on this time. Uncle Tom was here today.


March 2 1936


I went to John Vanmerilo’s for butter. Daddy got his pills he sent for, for Bronchitis.


March 4, 1936


I done Schoolwork (as I call it) History and Arithmetic on lesson 27 in Gr. fourth


March 5 1936


I went for the mail and got a parcel of chocolates from A. Penn 176 Queensdale Ave Toronto Ontario. (There is more written but black ink is staining the rest, there is a mention of a she)


March 1 1937


I finished the last lesson {No. 54} in Gr. Fourth


March 2, 1937


Daddy and I cut 12 pine logs and took them to the mill. I went for the mail and on the way to the mill met Bernetta E. {at 4 PM}.


March 4, 1937


I went to Uncle Walters and was going to get him to shoot poor old Buster (his dog) bet he smelt the rat and ran home. Went for the Mail. The story on air {Hold the press with Boots and Ginger} ended today.


March 5, 1937


Got a Scotland stamp (from an envelope in the mail)


March 7, 1937


Marie, Yvonne and Betty Toeppner are here today.


March 8, 1937


Uncle Walter shot poor old Buster behind far west bay of Mud Lake.

(There is a small diagram showing the fatal spot, including the X that marks the spot)


March 11, 1937


Uncle Walter has worked here 3 days now. Started Grammar review. Daddy went to town.


March 12, 1937


Uncle Walter worked here. Find 500-hour radio battery is low. (First mention of his fascination with batteries and Direct Current-DC electricity)


October 8 1937


Georgia (his sister) is 13 today.


October 10, 1937


We got 10 fish in the gill net {this is poaching}


October 13, 1937


Get 19 fish in net today. Go outside today for first time after having bronchitis.


October 14, 1937


Daddy goes to town today.


February 3, 1938


Send for book “The Boy Electrician” Go for the mail. (Dad isn’t even 14 yet and living in rural Ontario and he has discovered his passion for electronics… this just amazes me)


February 4, 1938


Bunny (his brother) is two today. Clean alley and stable extra clean today. Get done early.


February 6, 1938


Rained today. Daddy went hunting and got a deer like he did there in the fall.



February 7, 1938


Mamma gets tonsillitis. I do the milking.


February 8, 1938


Daddy went to Powassan. Cut wood. Sandy (his brother) and I hauled it. Got squirrel.


February 9, 1938


Get the book I sent for. It is the “Star Amateur Electrician” Boy is it a dandy. Will I make things now (I can feel the thrill right along with Dad)


February 10, 1938


Make a battery that works. Start a motor the 10-cent kind.


February 11, 1938


Motor doesn’t work. (I can feel his disappointment)


February 13, 1938


Went to church. See Bernetta E. Looked lovely to me.


February 14, 1938


Valentines day. Get valentines from Penns and Marie Toeppner (I guess Penn is a she)


February 15, 1938


Get motor going a few turns.


February 16, 1938


Work at motor. (Dad is winding wire around something called a ‘core’ magnet; there are a lot of windings in a motor)


February 17, 1938


Go to Nipissing. Get valentine from Billy Ackerman. Start a crystal radio. (The start of his career with Radios?)




February 19, 1938


Skid 3 logs for dam. Get motor going good. Simeon and Abby are here. Go to bed at 3 o’clock AM.


February 21, 1938


Wind crystals for radio like this (Drawing of crystal with wires)


February 24, 1938


Start working on Electri…  (Writing goes off page, wonder what it is?)


March 3, 1938


I go to Nipissing. Send $6.00 order to the T. Eaton Company. Nick (a horse I think) falls have a hell of a time. Frank and Simeon Mechefski help get him up.  {Coldest day this winter}


March 4, 1938


Not quite so cold today. Sandy and I take out 3 trees we cut on Wednesday, Think radio (battery) is low but is alright tonight. Decide on getting cameraite camera.


March 5, 1938

Simeon helps us to get out some wood drags. Start this large diary. Georgia comes up and I get caught. A small dry tree 3 inches around but 30 feet long hits me on the head. Here is a piece of the approximate place that hit me (diagram of something)


March 6, 1938


Mamma and Daddy snow shoed out for the mail.


March 7, 1938


Make out order for cameraite camera. Go for mail.


March 8, 1938


Mail the order for camera. Go for mail. Go to Uncle Walters. Get $6.00 parcel from Eatons. Get letter from Penns at 38 Parksview Gardens Toronto Ontario.


March 12, 1938


Paul (Toeppner, dad’s cousin, son of Uncle Walter) is here. Have a chest cold. Work with my telegraph (I wonder who he was going to telegraph?)


March 13, 1938


Go out again after having bronchitis. Adam Shemleski is here to get his pay also Alex Grabowski  (My Mom’s dad- My Grandpa- he lived for 107 years) is here for same reason. Mat Mechefski and Sylvester Grabowski are here to.


March 15, 1938


Marie and Yvonne are here. Georgia and Kit go for mail. Skid wood drags. Get camera, the “Baby Camera” It is a dandy and will I take pictures now. (Another of Dad’s hobbies – photography)


March 19, 1938


Saw a robin today, saw a crow last Tuesday. Simeon goes to corner with Lucy and Browney. Georgia and Irma (sisters) and Sandy go along. Write some more in my diary. Take first picture with little camera, will develop it tonight. Daddy trys to take Nick out and he falls. Put new roof on dog hut. Am going to tie him up at nights after this. Are going to kill Nick today.


March 20, 1938


Developed first picture but it did not turn out. Made reprint from big negative that worked. Hauled old Nick (the horse) away.


March 21, 1938


Took another picture with little camera hope it works. Daddy went to town to try to buy a horse. Frank brought Browney home, went for mail.


March 22, 1938


Daddy got a new horse for $115.00. Bonny.


March 23, 1938


Made 2 more pictures used all my print paper. Went to Uncle Walters. I might start selling the Star Weekly.


Made out order for 5 films and catalogue to Jameson Smith and CO. Wrote to Star Weekly. Simeon sent for a mouth organ.



March 27, 1938


Alban (Bunny) and I went to church. Saw Bernetta E.


March 29, 1938


Run off first batch of (maple) syrup for the year.


April 1, 1938


Sent order and letter to Star Weekly. Today reminds me of the April Fools story Dad told us; One April Fools day Uncle Walter came in from the barn and said “Take Dad out the broom” to Uncle Dave. So Uncle Dave took out the broom and Grandpa though it was a trick and gave Uncle Dave a whacking.


April 2, 1938


Run off second batch of syrup. Sandy made a bottle of syrup on a little Evaporator I made hi. Also made some sugar. Took my old watch apart.


April 3, 1938


Tried to fix old watch. Found the snapshots all wet and ruined a lot of them.


April 5, 1938


Sandy made sugar out of the (maple) syrup. Am sending squirrels away. Went to Nipissing got a ride on a truck, bought 1 Lb. Nails.


April 6, 1938


Build “new 1938 truck” find out there are 70 nails in a 1-pound of 3-inch nails.


April 7, 1938


Got money for squirrels 15 cents a piece Heard from Star Weekly they…. (Black ink stains the rest)


April 8, 1938


Mamma told us about the time she chased the white gander (goose) around a stone until he died because he went in the mud and got dirty.





April 9, 1938


Went to corner. Get Jameson Smith catalogue, 5 films for camera. Stay up till eleven o’clock


April 13, 1938


Sandy finishes his syrup. It takes 30 pints sap to make one gallon of syrup.


April 14, 1938


Get answer from (a magazine or newspaper, I think) they only pay 2 cents a piece for selling them this isn’t enough.


April 15, 1938


Good Friday finish batch of sap today. Decide on getting (something about moving pictures and five feet of film)


April 16, 1938


Daddy brought Mamma another chocolate egg. Ice went off Wolfe Lake today.


April 17, 1938


Mamma and I went to church. Got a ride with Aunt Rose and Bernetta was on the buggy too. I guess this is just puppy love but I have liked her ever since her and I went to… (Black ink stains)


April 19, 1938


Made an ant village yesterday. Today I got some frog eggs, am going to keep track of them. Took another picture, turned out no good.


April 20, 1938


Build another truck road from the gate to my bridge. Here is a map of my roads. (Diagram of roads and a bridge)


April 21, 1938


Took syrup cans off today. Picked some May flowers today. Earliest I ever saw…


April 24, 1938


Went to Johns. Got weighed 106 ½ Lbs. Come home in the dark, first time I ever did.


April 25, 1938


Went to picture show in Nipissing, it was a good one “Red Rock Tavern”


April 26, 1938


Went to corner twice. Got 23 fish in net. Decide to sell $3.00 worth of gold medal goods to get movie camera. Am going to make a sewage disposal for ????


April 30, 1938


Made a screen 28” X 16”. Made a pantograph, color red. Here is a picture of it. (Drawing of his invention)


April 31, 1938


Fix gramophone (record player) today


May 11, 1938


Am sick in bed today.


May 12, 1938


Fell a little better.


May 14, 1938


Dig little lake bigger. Hide diary under books.


May 19, 1938


Sent for new pants.


May 24, 1938


Ackerman’s are going home, wanted to take Georgia along, wish they would ask me.


May 29, 1938


Went to church. Marie and Bernetta seem to be good friends now. Went to Uncle Walters.




May 30, 1938


Make a barometer. Decide to sell lemonade. Went to movie, better than last one.


June 4, 1938


Finish fence at front of house. Smoke first cigarette in the house ( in front of Mom and Dad, I guess)


June 5, 1938


Queen had one chicken. Go to church. See Bernetta. Go to Uncle Walters. Marie sure are good friends.


June 10, 1938


Start new dam.


June 14, 1938


Find 4-leaf clover. Go to dance at Uncle Walters.


June 17, 1938


My birthday is today. At noon I will be;


            15 Years

            5,844 Days

            140, 256 Hours

            8,412,360 Minutes

            504,751,600 Seconds old.


June 21, 1938

First day of summer, sure feels like it. Scuffle potatoes first time.


June 28, 1938


Was looking at giroplex (sp.) I thought of this idea in 1934. (I wonder what it was exactly).


June 29, 1938


Penn’s are coming up on Friday. Ralph Hearl and Betty Toeppner are here. Daddy and I peel 12 poles. Scuffle potatoes. Browney (the dog) runs away.


July 1, 1938


Penn’s got here at 2 o’clock this morning.


July 2, 1938


Daddy and Clyde went fishing trout. Go to Uncle Walters, here is who was there;


            Uncle Walter

            Aunt Colette



Mrs. Penn

            Mr. Penn

            Mr. Clyde

            Paul Toeppner

            Marie “


            Yvonne “

            Betty “


            Wanda “

            Greta “

Bobby “


July 6, 1938


Peel 12 pulp poles. Uncle Paul comes down. Put new boxing’s on my old truck


July 8, 1938


Daddy slapped my face today for going  * UNK *. He threatened to kill me with the axe the other day. (Teenagers, nothing but trouble)


July 10, 1938


Go to Uncle Walters. Come home after dark. Simeon is here.


July 11, 1938


Start haying. I am sick. Got Jameson Smith order, just two books.


July 21, 1938


They haul one load of hay. Am sick in bed, get up in afternoon. The gramophone spring got broken. Bell and Nick Ulrich are hear. Hear that Uncle Billy broke his leg.

July 22, 1938


Scuffle and hill potatoes. Got my new boots, they fit me. Size 7. Got my liquid transformer, cost 25 cents altogether. Am disappointed.


July 27, 1938


Sandy rakes hay. Daddy finds four leaf clover, when he backs into barn a nut falls off wheel, but wheel doesn’t fall off and break the axle. :”Luck I guess”


August 1, 1938


Fix some more at dam. Fix pen for little pigs.


August 2, 1938


Went to see Uncle Billy. He was sitting on the door step.


August 4, 1938


Go up to Uncle Dave’s. Go to show in Nipissing.


August 14, 1938


Go to Uncle Walters. Paul is not home. Marie, Yvonne and Betty and I play in the cabins.


August 18, 1938


Paul was here. HE has a bicycle. I can ride it!


August 21, 1938


All us kids go to Uncle Walters. Marie comes back with us. Play in cabins.


September 2, 1938


Uncle Walter and us play up at Wolfe Lake all day.


September 29, 1938


Went to foul supper at the church, but I did not dance, but Georgia did. Was talking to Marie Renette and Bernetta Eckensvillor.


November 2, 1938


Buzzed more wood today. Lawrence Restoule’s well caved in on Fred Bush.

November 5, 1938


Went to funeral (Fred Bush, I guess) Mister Cheany took us, saw Bernetta, she was crying.


November 6, 1938


Penn, Clyde, Potter came up to hunt.


December 1, 1938


Got a pet squirrel, always wanted one, now we got one.


December 6, 1938


Made a shipment of 26 squirrels and 2 weasels to Hudson’s Bay fur barn. Sent for two telephones - $2.00. Order a book on how to throw your voice from Jameson and Co.

(OK, here is the thing he orders telephones and there isn’t a Bell Canada phone line for maybe 10 miles of the house. These phones are to connect the barn to the house – This is another amazing example of what Dad was capable of. Remember he is 14 years old.)


December 12, 1938


Got my phones, they work.


December 14, 1938


Got book an how to throw your voice (and impress girls?)


December 15, 1938


Got cheque for $2.50


February 2, 1939


Ground-hogs day. He saw his shadow. 40 more days winter.


February 2, 1939


Tell Orphan Annie I solved code for three years now. (Hmmm, what does that mean?)


April 17, 1939


The first crowned King and Queen of this country ever to set foot on Canadian soil landed at Montreal at 10 o’clock today. Of course we can keep in touch with them by wireless (radio).

April 22, 1939


The creek opened today.


April 24, 1939


Put my water mill in creek today “Has it got power”


April 25, 1939


Fix grindstone to rotor on water mill today, it turns good.


April 26, 1939


Simeon was here; he said I should have a generator on the water mill.

(Dad always wanted to generate electricity)


April 29, 1939


I was just thinking today that five years ago we didn’t have a bit of Electricity or a battery of any kind around the place.


Now we have;


            “The Radio Batteries”

            2 – 45 Volt – tapped for 27 ½ V

            1 – 4 ½ - 3 1 ½ Volt

            1 – 2 Volt – 1,000 hour wet for filaments

            1 – 6 Volt Hot Shot for starting Ford Esquire.

All Evereadies. They are my favorite brand. I also have 6 Volt Hot Shot above my bed for light


Wireless (radio) sure is a great thing. We have a set and it keeps us in touch with the world. We get everything around from the big cities. Canada and the States.


May 1, 1939


Ice went off Mud Lake.


May 2, 1939.


Ice went off Wolfe Lake. Started to pile 570 cords of wood Trudell’s and Peacey cut.


May 3, 1939


Found first May flower. Still a little snow.

May 4, 1939


Got a new horse, “Ned” $115.00


May 5, 1939


The King and Queen were at the closest place to here, “Sudbury


May 7, 1939


Pile wood. Get Eaton’s Sale, see bicycle I would like.

















Chapter Three.

Logging On



My first connection to another computer system by using something called a modem, was sometime in early 1981.


110 Baud, then 300 Baud, 1200 Baud, 2400 Baud, 9600, Baud, 14,400 Baud, 28,800 Baud, 56,000 Baud. Then high speed Internet access after that, all the way up to 10 Megabits per Second fiber optic, there is no going back to 110 Baud.


CompuServe was king.


There was no IBM PC yet. It was being developed in secret by IBM. VisiCalc, a spreadsheet program, was the killer application of the moment, running on Apple computers.




I was working in Red Deer, AB for a wholesale parts distributor, Westward Parts Services Ltd. (


Programming the Datapoint systems that they used for Order Entry, Inventory Control and Accounts Receivable by day and working after hours part-time for a local computer store that sold Apple computers.


Somehow I found out about CompuServe (, some kind of an on-line computer system. Probably from a BYTE Magazine (


Who would want to connect to another computer somewhere other than where you were located? It didn’t make sense. Oh wait, what is this CB simulator? I have no idea really, but I want to try it.


How can I connect? I need a modem, short for modulator/demodulator. Well, it so happens that I can get my hands on one. They are rare at the best of times in 1981, but AGT (Alberta Government Telephones) had left an old 110 baud modem behind when they upgraded the leased-lines to the Regina office to the newer 300 baud modems.


It was no BELL 212A modem, but it would do. No wonder we have Broadband internet access today. If we all had to connect this way, no one would ever get online, not to mention all the twisted pair copper wires we would all need.





Bell 212A, ITU V.22

Originate Handshake Sequence

March 1998


1. Go off hook

2. Bring out of power down mode (CR0 bits D5-D2)

3. Set DTMF tone (Tone bits D4-D0)

4. Turn on transmitter (Set CR0 bit D1)

5. Wait DTMF on time

6. Turn off transmitter (Clear CR0 bit D1)

7. Wait DTMF off time

8. Repeat 3-7 for all digits


1. Start S7 (Wait for carrier) timeout

2. Set to Bell 103 originate mode

(Set CR0 bits D5-D0 to 110001)

3. Wait for carrier detect bit (DR bit D3) to come on

4. Start sliding window counter (Wait through

possible 2100 Hz answer tone period)

5. Qualify RXD mark* for 150 ms (DR bit D5) to

detect answer modem (Carrier detect bit must

also be on)

6. Raise DSR


1. Wait 100-200 ms

2. Raise DCD, start 755-774 ms timer; wait 426-446 ms, send FSK marks

(Set CR1 bits D7 and D6 to 10, set CR0 bit D1)

3. At end of 755-774 ms timer period (started in #2 above); raise CTS, unclamp

RXD and TXD from marking (clear TONE bit D7; clear CR1 bits D7 and D6)


1. Wait 456 (V.22) or 508-626 ms (212A), switch to DPSK

2. Send scrambled marks (Set CR1 bits D7 and D6 to 10)

3. Qualify scrambled marks from answer modem for 150 ms

4. Wait for 231-302 ms of scrambled marks, raise DCD

5. Enable RXD (Tone bit D7)

6. Wait 774 ms, raise CTS, enable TXD (Clear CR1 bits D7 and D6)

*This may be either answer tone from a Bell modem or unscrambled marks from a V.22 modem.

(RXD is in tri-state mode, TONE bit D7=1)



Now all I needed was a terminal of some kind.  No problem, the Datapoint 3600 terminal will connect to this modem. All I need is a cable. I dig out the manual for the terminal and start to learn about something called RS-232C.




Wow, 25 pins to deal with. It seems to me that a Datapoint service guy left a hand drawn diagram of the wires that are necessary to connect. Looks like only 8 or 9 wires are needed. SND, RCV, CTS, RTS, DCE, DTE, RI and GND. Great!  2->3, 4->5, 6->20 Oh, and don’t forget pin 8, something about that too.


After a couple of tries I manage to solder a cable together, with enough wires and pins connected together that satisfy this RS-232C thing.


Did I mention the modem commands? I can’t remember if Hayes had defined their famous AT commands yet. But I think that this modem could dial a telephone number if given the correct command.




Ok, we have a modem, a (hopefully) suitable cable and a terminal. Now we need a telephone line to connect to. No problem. I’ll just connect it to the fax line. No, wait, there is no fax line. We don’t have a fax machine. That comes later on this decade.


Wow, am I that old?




Ok there is a phone line available. Let me see now. I just need to somehow connect to that CompuServe computer. Their telephone number is somewhere in the USA.


343-7200 is the number of the DATAPAC Public Port in the city of Red Deer. Alberta. I didn’t remember that I used Google (,  to look it up, but someone has provided me with a jog to the memory. I must have had that modem dial that number hundreds of times.






Computer Bulletin Board Systems (BBS’s) started some time after. First Fido BBS – Written by: Tom Jennings - 1984

FidoNet became the largest network of its kind - 1985.






My first connection to the Internet was sometime in 1994