IBM SCAMP – Joe George Notebook


PART 1 (1972 – 1973)

The PDF formatted files of the original full-page notebooks are here.

Joseph George was an electronics/hardware engineer that worked directly on the development of SCAMP. His role was on the integration of the internal components of the system and the associated power requirements. But he was not involved in the external look or design of the case, that was the work of an Industrial Design and Mechanical engineering team.

Joe’s journal begins in July 1972, with an initial task of integrating some kind of keyboard with PALM (processor) and a printer. It appears that Joe doesn’t yet know the full extent of what he is working on (that of a portable computer) and the word SCAMP does not yet appear for a while. Bahia is mentioned, which may have been the codename for a bi-directional printer that IBM was working on (possibly the IBM 5256). For that, Joe’s challenge is related to finding a more suitable power supply that be integrated to support the printer.

The following is from Paul Friedl’s notes (January 8, 1973) but gives context of what the Bahia printer concept is about. This may be a kind of “busy work” while Friedl is finalizing funding support for his true goals, which (based on other archived letters) he achieves that funding and corporate support. From that, the product then changes significantly over the next months.

NOTE: Joe George is a very technical engineer and produces many hand-drawn schematics and diagrams. The summary below is highlights of non-schematic related portions of his notebook. A separate dedicated summary of the schematics and diagrams is TBD.

08/03/72 “KEYBOARD FOR PALM/BAHIA” – interesting because this early mock-up of the keyboard includes a numeric keypad. This was removed later because of tight spacing due to including the tape recorder (same issue that happened on the initial Commodore PET release i 1977, where an unusually small keyboard was needed to accommodate space for the integrated tape unit). The ENTER key does use a symbol instead of a word like ENTER. And a RESET and REQUEST key are present. Also interesting is a note as to which keys are to be BLUE (interesting because there is an “argument” elsewhere on why the final design deviated from using blue keys).

08/30/72 “Going to use printer module for KBD” – after working on a keyboard interface for a week, it seems Joe changes directions and declares using some kind of printer module instead. I don’t know if this is indeed what ended up in the prototype or final product, but it is still an interesting declaration.

09/08/72 “Calico KBD” – early reference to the term Calico as the type of keyboard being used.

10/03/72 “John Fox … agreed to modify 66 Key board to provide all the functions we have requested… We are to send old gater KBD to John” – sounds like the final SCAMP keyboard arrangement is now prepared. “gater” may refer to a more “gate-switch” oriented design. In later notes, they refer to a “HEX KBD” prior to the final Calico one.

11/03/72 “Finally able to transfer more than one block of data to palm” – but reports various hardware issues related to memory stability above certain address, software issues in the assembler, and solder melting on the power supply.

01/05/73 This page mentions many interesting terms…
“TT2 is a trade secret program ~ Limited distribution of documents” (unsure if TT2 is refering to SCAMP itself)
VTL (think VTL is a type of PCB)
“DIDO to SYS 7” (unclear if DIDO is a type of cable or interface to the S/7)
“Raleigh has 1130 and OS assembler – higher level language than BOCA assembler.”
“EMT will IPL from TP link”
“main reason for selecting palm is parity checking capability of storage and channel”
“UC.5 is parity checked on channel & output of memory” (UC.5 appears elsewhere in the context of being some earlier alternative to PALM)
“no data checking on UC.5”
“Tape cassette like SY 3 SY 7 tape”
“possibly light pen” (the idea and use of light pens did appear in the 1960s, but interesting that anyone would consider this to be needed on a portable system)

01/13/73 Reference to PALM power usage and “FSU memory.” The early memory modules are called “Snoopy” while the later production units use “FSU.”

01/16/73 References to “hand held printer” and “Handy printer”. Top comment also refers to “Message print out – at work station, factory, warehouse.” That is, the idea of using the system to submit small printed messages to stations within a large building.

01/24/73 Joe meets Pat Smith, one of the premier programmers experienced with PALM.

01/30/73 In several places of the notebook, someone has placed yellow sticky notes (probably Joe himself). This note is “Could this be the beginning?” I believe this is first page where the term “SCAMP 1” appears, and Joe has a boxed in diagram of all the desired components: Calico keyboard, Bahia printer, acoustic coupler (communications), 65K w/ PALM processor, cassette and an RF-based “TV” display. Note that “65K” is probably 64K + parity bits. Then brief notes on the staffing involved and 3-4 months of work, and a note at the top reminding of the general aim to be ready by 1Q74 (Quarter 1 of 1974). Then, right away, there is an immediate note that a “shift instruction” is needed. The next page mentions the “Snoopy card” that is used for memory in the early development.

NOTE: In other letters by Paul Friedl, he declares “SCAMP began March 1973.” But internally, it appears January 30th, 1973 was when the initial team was in place and development discussions began.

01/30/73 An interesting desktop design is presented, with a fold-up and latchable keyboard (and carrying handle). Noted as an obsolete design; the intent is that the keyboard folds over to the side of the table.

01/31/73 An expensive commercial tape is mentioned (25″/sec speed and 600KB capacity at a cost of $2500). Boca is working on a lower cost tape unit. GSD/REA apparently working on a “megabyte” capacity cassette (“Halworth Back room project” – a Dr. George Hellworth is mentioned later in relation to the S3/S7 tape unit). Also mentioned is the concept of “IPL from TP” (which is Initial Program Load from, basically, a Telephone) – equivalent to an early version of PXE booting! The “shift instruction” issue is mentioned again (a lacking feature of early PALM).

01/31/73 Note regarding 65K Snoopy (memory) needing 60W (and notes on reducing it to 48W). The new FSU version is estimated to need half the power. And the “SY 7 JR” needing 4W for its use of Snoopy (i.e. the System/7 also used Snoopy). Presumably, SY 7 JR is a “Junior” version of the System/7?

01/31/73 Also it appears on this date, Joe George meets Paul Friedl here in his official role as “System Architect.”. In a conversation with Pat Smith the following day, there is a reminder to have the first customer shipment by January 1974, with a desired purchase price under $10k (but up to $12k is ok).

02/01/73 FSU/PALM compatibility – this page introduces a term “dutchess modules.” Also a note that the FSU module at the time “will only go to 32K” (that is soon resolved) The FSU modules appear to be referred to as “Fishkill.” More specifically, I think Fishkill is the callsign of a contact used to procure the FSU modules (correction: more likely refers to East Fishkill, NY – location of an IBM affiliated facility that perhaps produced the FSU modules).

Regarding “dutchess” – that is a term that appears in various context, so it remains unclear to me on exactly what it is referring to in all cases. One specific use in a “diamond shape” pin configuration used within the IBM 5100 (this diagram appears later).

02/01/73 Norelco Model 150 stated as “out of production.” Other notes (elsewhere) indicate the S/7 used a Norelco Model 1420. In either case, there is agreement this is a “justified one year throw away” part of the design.

02/06/73 First notes about the SCAMP front panel controls appear here. Note also the status lights are also described here. There is a follow up to this on 02/09.

02/05/73 Interesting note of Jack Bazley (planner) “would like to add a hand scanner to SCAMP I”. There is also (on this page) a mention that “Ed” suggest SCAMP needs a way to operate at “reduced amount of RAM” (less than full 65K), which is addressed in later on in the design.

NOTE: Funny note that sometimes “SCAMPI” is used as a miswriting of “SCAMP 1” (a handwritten addendum to a typed letter admits to this mistake).

NOTE: A hand scanner is presumably a security device, like a finger-print scanner that became popular on laptops around 2010. However, it could also simply refer to a scanner (like a barcode scanner) that fits within ones hand.

On this date is also a reference to “360” (IBM System/360) and IBM 1130 PALM assembler and emulators. It would be magnificent to one day find this code on some 360 and 1130 media.

02/06/73 Summary of SCAMP I parts. Second mention of a “Hand scanner” (item 9).

02/06/73 Pat Smith proposes a hardware solution to the shift-instruction issue. But curiously, he finds typematic keys of “questionable use.” Also is the mention of a faster SCAMP II, with (hopefully) enough performance to run BASIC and Cobol.

NOTE: Typematic keys is the idea of “auto-repeat” keys. Unlike today, not all keys were repeatable (that is, repeated themselves when holding down the key). The system designers had to choose which keys had this feature (and build necessary circuits to support it), typically keys like cursor movement and spacebar.

02/11/73 Two page discussion on the shift instruction. It appears to work but requires many instructions (45 for right, 21 for left). There are later notes where this is reduced/optimized. But note this appears to be a full 16-bit shift, not just a byte. Also discussed on date 02/18.

On this date, it seems the CLOCK CRYSTAL (oscillator) is also described as shown below, using the ~15 MHz that was see in the IBM 5100 PALM processor.

02/14/73 Notes on hardware connection of the Handy printer.

02/27/73 Reference to a COMPAK keyboard (unsure how it differs from Calico). Also notes from a BILL DILLON regarding “self clocking code” and “Sending cassette design and disclosure he did in 1967 for FSD.”

02/28/73 First list of Device Addresses. I’m not sure what “C.A.” refers to (A.C. would be acoustic coupler, but CA is reverse). Note how the SHIFT INSTRUCTION is listed as a Device 3.

04/06/73 Reference to LOCATS, CCU – seems to be related to a plotter. On this page is again mentioned “DIDO” (appears in various places but unclear what that means).

04/24/73 Several pages starting here are an interesting perspective on the in-house equipment cost of SCAMP. A later estimate on 08/15 indicates a price of “$2386 – APL base machine.” Paul Friedl has an earlier estimate (from 01/08 of this same year) of an average cost of $3700. This should be in-house parts cost, not including later product aspects like documentation, warranty, and software library development.

05/01/73 Lengthy page on the next steps involved in preparing for an actual product (manuals, patents, rights, product test, pricing, “blue letter,” machine type number). Also declares a term MFI “machine feature index.”

05/02/73 Mention of 5″ CRT. Reference to Sony TV 500U as “modified and used successfully.” And reference on this page to “azimuth tape” (unsure if that is a type of tape material or a tape unit).

05/17/73 Mention of two names: Dick (Richard) Wantshouse (believe to be an IBM employee) and Fishkill (possibly an IBM department or location thereof). These names appear elsewhere several times. (I initially thought they were callsigns)

05/26/73 A very early reference of PALM and GEM listed together.

06/13/73 Dennis Roberson first mentioned (he later becomes lead engineer of the IBM 5100).

06/14/73 Summary of main components of the various SCAMP parts (in particular, Dutchess modules). Not sure what TPA is. “Emerald” is mentioned in context of the Display (Emerald ROS had been mentioned elsewhere).

06/20/73 “Suggest to Roy possibility of distributed power concept for scamp” (probably Roy Harper). Also on this page appears to be the first reference to a folding board concept.

06/21/73 Reference to a fiber glass mold, wood model, masonite. On next page, also notes on “lower case” and “upper case” scan code groupings (scan codes are keyboard key codes, where for early systems like this there must be coordination between what the keyboard scan codes are and what symbols in the character-generator are used). So, it is curious that “lower case” is mentioned here, but the IBM 5100 was upper-case only.

08/01/73 “asked for info from Raytheon on low level amp.” Not sure what amps or Raytheon in particular are doing here. Perhaps this is for an unrelated project.

08/03/73 More notes related to the display. But this page is the first mention of “Time life program” who have a strong desire to have BASIC. Time-Life was a huge “direct marketer conglomerate” of the 1970s (involved in books, magazines, films, and “entertainment experiences” such as cruise ships), with remnants still existing today. They had an enormous accounting responsibility, which likely involved their own staff of programmers.

Also, initial contact information about 3M tape drive unit. There is a follow up in 08/08, with an on-site demonstration by Jim of DPC-202 device and the 3M tape unit option. Following this, Jim provides a unit quantity price on 08/14.

August 1973 – the exact date of the page copy is unknown, but it is from about this month of August 1973. Unsure what is “PME” (assume some Product Estimate). Lower notes on the page state 60% printers, 25% acoustic coupler, 30% tape cassette (as estimates of customers who would be ordering those peripherals). Unsure what is “T/S N” vs “T/S O” (perhaps intentionally obscured to avoid public disclosure). If this is a product count plan, then it is curious that 435 are planned for 1974 (combined also with other notes related to ordering 500 keyboards in 1974). The 34,555 grand total matches close to how many we estimate were made (across the lifetime of the system, though these estimates appear to exclude the 5120 that started selling in 1980).

08/10/73 First draft drawing of the A1 board.

08/13/73 Time-Life abandoned, “They wanted 16-bit machine. powerful ALU number cruncher”, “no decision on BASIC – expect to exceed 65K.” The team did solve the BASIC integration challenge eventually, but it wasn’t a sure thing at this time. The apparent loss of the Time-Life contract probably motivated them on the urgency of including BASIC support (amongst other factors). At this time the system didn’t appear to be quite powerful enough to handle BASIC or COBOL.

08/14/73 Interesting insight on internal IBM reluctance to allow users ability to modify software. In a call from Karl Cockerall, Joe is given a suggestion that “customer not be given ability to change his software package. Make CE tape available with supervisor capability to CE only – i.e. ability to modify program 0.” My view is that this is “old IBM” thinking that Friedl’s initiative is trying to change the corporate culture of.

08/16/73 Reference to “Check Audio Visual components – Advent Corp., Mass.” Unfamiliar with their work, but do recall there was a desire for SCAMP to have some audio capability.

08/21/73 Note about the “ADD Special” instruction. It appears to have an overflow indication during ADD operations.

08/24/73 “building a mockup of next scamp for Sept. 4th” (preparation for New York demo). Also a conversation on enhancing the System/3 BASIC and emulating that code within PALM (and another reference to GEM).

08/24/73 PALM A1 layout. Follow up to the A1 board design that was mentioned on 08/10.

08/30/73 Alternative display resolutions of 6×40; reference to a report of a 240×480 gas discharge display panel (but not available until end of 1974).


08/31/73 Timing notes on PALM instructions (from Bill Tutt). On this date is also notes on travel planning for the upcoming demos coming up in September (specific times and flight numbers) and names of expected persons (VP’s) to present to.

There are several pages of planning (shipping the SCAMP) and who is meeting on what day. Also appears to be discussion on last minute ideas about incorporating a disk (i.e. some technical answers to provide when asked about it at the demo, such as ideas being considered and “wc” {worst-case} access times).

09/13/73 Joe provides a summary of the famous IBM demo week. He notes on Monday going “SF -> NY”, “SYS – UP immediately – no problems”. Tuesday the system is shown to about a dozen directors (names listed) and “various personnel.” It is unclear to me what happens on Wednesday, on how the system got from New York to Atlanta. There are names listed for Wednesday “at Atlanta” so it was apparently presented, but did it travel by bus, train, or another back-to-back flight the next day? Or was a second SCAMP built and ready for demo? In any case, SCAMP was presented Thursday for the famous IBM Senior VP John Opel (described in the 2016 video by Paul Friedl here).

There are additional demos and lots of positive enthusiasm about the system for the remainder of the month. Things don’t settle down again until about September 26th

09/26/73: 8″ disk OEM “out of boulder”, under $1000.
09/28/73: “Bo very interested and will propose funding”. Note also a curious comment of “would like stand alone & portable unit.”

10/03/73: Joe emphasizes “BASIC = COST”. Indeed, lots of integration issues to work out. Also on this date Joe mentions the HP9830 briefly. I’m not able to find Electronic News (page 31) and not sure what “2.4,4.8” refers to.

10/22/1973 Management has made it clear that a disk solution is desired (based on other prior letters). Technical discussion about disks. Reference to 6″ disks, “aries cores”, “humidity – mylar grows 3mii in 24″ disks”, “random orientation of tape grain”.

11/06/1973 Team is back to heavy work, with lots of planning. One specific line item that stands out: “NEW NAME” (no elaboration, but at least identified as an item to be addressed). Some other terms: “INTERDYNE” (a possible tape unit alternative), “IGAR” (not sure what this is), and whether worth having a REPAIR AGREEMENT on the tape unit. Also discussed is other display options: MIRATELL, IKIGAMA, and a “GAS PANEL FOR AIRLINES.” There is also a curious reference of “YES FOR 2/74 MACHINES” (that implies systems for February 1974 being built).

11/07/1973 Additional planning. I think “ID” may refer to “Internal Documentation.” Curious Jerry comment of not liking a detachable keyboard (SCAMP had several keyboard iterations). Not sure what “touch sensitive kbd” means. John submits an old SCAMP requirement: “must sustain 36 inch drop.”

11/08/1973 Notes on this date suggest a “2nd machine” and a suggestion from Ed…
So, were there two SCAMP prototypes?

11/10/73 Paul Friedl describes some missing aspects of the (apparent) 1130 APL. Also reference to a 4hr Saturday discussion on the “build history from Rood Task force of 1972 on APL to present.” Discuss disk drive ideas – “Texan size disks”, “Merlin Ricklegs IGAR”, “PEARL technology.” Joe then describes other ideas that he feels the audience just doesn’t understand (SIK-KEE ?).

11/19/73 An upcoming presentation to “WTC” (World Trade Center) personnel is schedule for January, with a strong desire for “faster tape unit” to be part of that demo. Paul suggests using a student programmer for the work. The WTC is a series of office buildings that had just recently opened April 1973 in New York City. A later note (12/03) by Paul Friedl mention he’d rather the WTC visitors go to Atlanta rather than west coast.

11/26/73 A discussion with Kitty Price. Recall that in another letter, it is known that Kitty is soon to go on maternity leave in December. It looks like Joe is also trying to learn more about the 1130 APL internals, as the discussion here includes M-Space, F-Space, and shadow memory concepts.

11/27/73 Reference to a February build. The original goal was an early 1974 release, which it seems they are very committed to accomplishing. Still not sure what “2nd interdyne” refers to.

11/29/73 Discussion from a caller who wants the system for “telephone directory” and a telephone answering service (using a “color display”).

December 1973 Early December has multiple demos mentioned along with concerns about the “tape situation” and deciding which “file” (storage) solution to go with. A “task force” is gathered that still seems mostly focused on a fixed disk solution.

12/13/73 Additional demos and contacts mentioned. Then there is an important internal meeting with Paul Friedl, Roy (Harper), Dennis (Roberson)…
“Their intent is word processing.”
“Laser printer?”
“Multiple scamp to centrally located printer”
“Acoustic coupler are illegal in most WT countries” (assume WT = world trade)
a “cluster” of KBD and CRT connected to scamp
“character font change”
(next page)
“word processing – very large market base”
“competition – LEXITRON, MCST, MTST” (not Wang?)
“text editing – government”

(PART11 TBD, goes to 1974)

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