Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts tagged Brasil

Marco Andrei at Macnarama just published a short interview with me (in Portuguese) about the Mac Intel story. Thanks, Marco!

For your information, this column’s name refers to the apocryphal chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. The idea is that for people who were extremely conservative, living in so-called interesting times would be terrible. For the curious, here’s a site about the origins of this saying.

But I myself simply love living in these interesting times. For instance, when I started out in this business, I worked with an IBM1401 with the huge amount of 4000 memory positions… and I say huge, because every bit (a ferrite core) was visible to the naked eye! Today, only 34 years later, my laptop has exactly 268435.5 times as much memory, takes up a much smaller space, for about 1/1000 the cost… and besides, it’s just mine. I won’t even mention speed! But of course, I’d like it to be even smaller… and faster… and cheaper… who knows, even an implant? 🙄

A decade after my dinosaur wrangler days, the first microcomputers appeared – my first, in 1977, was an Apple II – together with Byte Magazine, where the latest industy news were published. Soon after, the first Brazilian manufacturers came on the scene, and I promptly went to work for one of them – probably the first outside São Paulo (Brazil’s largest city and industrial hub), a company called Quartzil Informática. The queer name came from the company’s beginnings as a quartz oscillator manufacturer, in Montes Claros (MG), inside an area subsidized by the government.

The company’s first product was the QI-800, an 8-bit computer based on the Zilog Z80A (which still is the world’s best-selling microprocessor), running Digital Research’s CP/M-80 operating system, the standard of that time. It came on the market around the end of 1982, if I recall correctly.

To the right of the screen it had an 8-inch (eight!) Shugart SA800 diskette drive, and in the second cabinet, up to three more drives could be mounted. Every diskette could hold an amazing 243K, and the drive’s spindle motor was powered by 110 VAC! Internally, the system used the IMSAI‘s S-100 Bus, which later became the IEEE-696 Standard. As this bus used expensive 100-pin connectors, they used the kludge of buying two 44-pin connectors and cutting out, from the boards, the 12 central pins (which happily were not vitally important). The boards were large but specialized; one held the CPU, another one the video controller, another one the RAM, and so forth… there were 6 or 7 boards altogether.

The remaining specs were not impressive. The QI-800 had 64K of RAM and an 8K EPROM. There were dozens of other companies building almost exactly the same equipment. One advantage would have been the recently-launched hard drive (or Winchester, as they were called at the time); a Brazilian factory was beginning to assemble 5 and 10 MB (yes, megabytes!) hard drives, but so far as I remember, none was ever sold with this system. The price was astronomical, something like US$4,000.

Sales of the QI-800 were not very satisfactory, and they decided to develop a splashy and revolutionary (but at the same time economical and flexible) system. This new system, the QI-900, will be discussed in the next installment; it was the first Brazilian computer with movable windows, menus, preemptive multitasking, and operating system in EPROM.

(clique aqui para ler este artigo em português)


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Yesterday I received an e-mail from someone asking a question about Nudge. I replied on the same day, as I always try to do. My e-mail bounced with the following helpful message:

Hi. This is the qmail-send program at

I’m afraid I wasn’t able to deliver your message to the following addresses.

This is a permanent error; I’ve given up. Sorry it didn’t work out.


Connected to but sender was rejected.

Remote host said: 550 5.7.1 mail from spam friendly countries with admins who overwhelmingly ignore or bounce complaints not welcome here

In the past, I’ve seen various concise wordings of the “550 5.7.1” message; usually something to the effect that my address was on some blacklist or another. A polite request to the provider’s postmaster address usually worked.

But from this one I gather that they’re now unconditionally rejecting all e-mails from Brazil. Isn’t that rather excessive…? Should I sue about restraint of trade, or whatever?

So if you’re a user of one of my products, and I don’t answer your e-mail, you may want to switch providers – or post here on the support boards. Sorry about that.

Samba rules!

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Just heard from my friend Tony de Marco, recently returned from TypeCon2004 in San Francisco, where he was a featured speaker. Tony is also co-owner and designer of Macmania magazine, to which I contribute now and then.

Tony and his brother Caio received their prize in the Linotype International Type Design Contest 2003, where they placed 3rd in the display category with the Samba Font, inspired by the work of early 20th-century Brazilian illustrator J. Carlos. Here’s a sample:


The Presurfer (hey, no permalinks!) steered me to Robert Delaney’s Cross-cultural comparisons, by way of Mark Rosenfelder‘s American Culture page. There are links to dozens of other culture descriptions. Here’s a sample from the description for Brazil:

  • You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights if someone is around; otherwise you slow down. If you’re a pedestrian and cars are anywhere around, you better watch out carefully before crossing the street.
  • You think of Argentina as a pleasant country with two cities: charming, cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, and beautiful Bariloche (where the Brazilian ski championship takes place). You think Argentinians as a people are arrogant and conceited, but you often like individual Argentinians.
  • When you were younger, you considered the Volkswagen Beetle a dream car.
  • The police are armed, sometimes with submachine guns. You are afraid all police are violent and crooked, but at the same time you would rather have them around.

If you’re interested in cultural differences, this is fascinating reading. If I find the time, I may write some comments for the Brazil page.

On Jan.24th 2004, the Macintosh celebrates its 20th anniversary. Added to the usual write-ups in the foreign press, Macmania magazine published a special anniversary issue (including several references to Yours Truly) and has an extensive timeline. They also have a write-up of the famous Brazilian Mac clone – the Unitron Mac512 – where I had a small participation. I plan to write more about this in a future Interesting Times column.

There’s also a similar article at the MacPress site, as well as a long interview with the aforementioned Y.T., whom they call “A Brazilian Mac Legend“. I swear it wasn’t my idea… 😳

My mother’s tickled pink about all this, of course…

Re: Off we go…

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Tomorrow morning the vacation’s over. Whew. It’s been marvelous: no interruptions, good food, beach runs after sundown, lots of coconuts and peace to work on my software; and terrible: heat, unrelenting sun, mosquitoes, constant Axé music thumpa-thumping along somewhere in the background, spotty Internet access and the general discomfort of being away from home.

The good news is that, as seems to become traditional over the Christmas holidays, I found time to do a new version of Zingg!, with lots of new goodies. Expect it in a couple of days; I just need to do some more testing and of course, constant Internet access to do all the publishing, notifications and hands-on support for early adopters.

Re: Off we go…

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From early morning to late afternoon temperatures currently vary between 25 and 35 degrees celsius; it’s so-called “good weather”, meaning no clouds are seen during daytime, and so I stay indoors most of the time. The best time to visit the beach, for my skin type at least, is after 5PM.

Yesterday afternoon we took a bus into the city and of course, with all that heat, coconut water is the preferred drink. Here’s where that comes from:

this bunch is almost ripe for drinking. Here’s a typical beach street scene:

notice the coconut payphone icon_smile.gif. Turning to the right, here’s a bunch of them lined up on the counter (we usually ask for a frozen coconut, though):

The proprietor demonstrates the proper technique for opening a coconut:

after which it looks like this:

notice that it’s full to the brim; in fact, the water is usually under pressure, so you have to be careful. At this stage it’s nearly transparent, and it’s drunk with a straw. After drinking one can ask to have it opened, and eat the flesh with a knife or spoon:

this one was halfway ripe. Unripe coconuts have only a thin, jelly-like layer inside, while ripe coconuts – the kind one usually sees in the US – have about double that thickness of flesh.

After my post on young coconuts some months ago I’ve always wanted to show you folks how this is done here in Brazil. Ah yes, and each coconut costs R$1,00 (about US$0.30) on the street; at a market it would cost about half of that.

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