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back to article MEGAGRAPH: 1983's UK home computer chart toppers

How popular - relatively speaking - was your early 1980s home computer? Thanks to some old chart data, we can tell you. Back in the day - 1983, to be precise - VNU Business Publications’ launched Personal Computer News, a glossy magazine pitched against the weekly incumbent, Sunshine’s newsprint Popular Computing Weekly. A …

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Anonymous Coward

I was 5 years old in 1983, yet I've owned and used 5 of those pieces of history.

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I feel lucky to have been around at the dawn of home computing and watching how rapidly it has grown and changed our world.

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Boffin

Funny...

I had been programming for 5 years by then.

I started with an Ohio Scientific C3A, and a PDP 1134 in school. RSTS not Vaxen in a public high school.

In the fall of '83, I was working in a small computer store where I had access to Grid, Kaypro, Osbourne, and other desktop PCs that were great for running Visicalc. and Word Processing software. I would have been one of the first kids to hand in school reports typewritten on a dot matrix printer, except that I had a Daisywheel printer.

Ah yes, those were the days when the 64 in a computer name meant 64K of Ram, not the size of the word. ;-)

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How has it changed the world? I'm not sure that pretty graphs can be done any better today than they were done back then.

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Facepalm

@-tim

I hope I am missing the sarcasm here.

Computing does more than just charts, I really, really hope I am missing the sarcasm.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @-tim

You are missing something: in essence the world has not changed: Still nasty little civil wars all over the place, still crime, still yoof thinking it knows it all and age thinking as it always thought. Still greedy financiers and corruption; still we all thinking how much more modern and clever we are.

Well, some things change in degree: financial crises and comms. foul ups seem to happen faster and be deeper; a lot more species are extinct and a lot more of Europe, especially Britain, overbuilt. The "designer drugs" seem to be nastier and the educational level lower.

So, just what do you think computers have really changed? Perhaps you entertain yourself a little more on your own, with just a computer game and a mobile 'phone to pretend you know people. Have they changed the local football or rugby or cricket game at the local, truly amateur level? They've made it a bit easier to tell someone you're late and on your way, or not, replaced a few stuntment. Perhaps online news sources are taking up some of the readership from newspapers. But then we said the same about television, radio, teletext. They've created a lot of mainly boring, semi-skilled jobs masquerading as highly technical, interesting work (just read some of the pseudo-technical babble on this website to see how low skilled most of the people are). I grant that in Health they have provided some excellent and powerful new tools. But as there are increasingly too many people and too few resources, this is a dubious benefit.

Cars still kill in the hands of drunks. Aeroplanes still crash. People are born, eat, die much as before. Fundamentally, what has really, really changed, underneath all the puffery? If it has, is it for the better for the majority or has it condemned a lot of people to a new kind of drudgery and stress?

It COULD do wonderful things. In a few fields it has. In most, it has rather taken the fun out of life and made it even easier to be unpleasantly, socially incompetent, creating more excuses for idleness and stupidity - "Well, it's in the computer...".

Really, mankind (sorry, humandkind) has not changed, just the Western self perception.

I write this as one who carries the latest mobile 'phone, works on computers, has one at home, takes a running watch to measure his speed, monitor his heartbeat ..., does some online shopping. But in the end, nothing has changed, apart from a bag full of electronic accessories and chargers dragging me down whenever I travel and a lot more furious frustration.

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With a bit of luck this article and graph can be flung at some of the writers here at El Reg who seem intent to rewrite history with Apple being in any way relevant at this time. Sure, the IIe was a little more popular in the US but why attempt to use the US figures when talking about Global, European and in particular UK markets at the time?

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Coat

Re Re: @-tim

Couldn't agree more. Things have changed but not always for the better. I used to do PCB designs with a lightbox, scalpel and tapes/transfers. Took a few weeks to do a double sided board, my letters were written by typists and we all went home at 5pm. Now customers expect the same sort of board in 24-48 hours. More productive? perhaps, but now I'm the typist too. Computers promised so much more leisure time, and for some it has, as unemployed folk LOL. My lardy ass now sits in front of a screen for 8 hours, and I have to make time for exercise. Must be getting old, but I preferred the slower pace of life, civility and time to think.

I'll get me coat and piss off to the past....

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Re: Funny...

"Ah yes, those were the days when the 64 in a computer name meant 64K of Ram, not the size of the word. ;-)"

Except it didn't. It meant the size of the memory, including both RAM and ROM. So the 48K Spectrum had 41K of RAM and the Commodore 64 had 30 something. A fact Commodore owners never liked to hear.

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Unhappy

Re: @-tim

Depressingly sad comment... and sadly also depressingly true.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go and play online poker with all my friends.... they really are my friends... honestly.... they care a lot about me and I about them....... what are the names of their wives and children..... I really never thought to ask.

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Re: Funny...

Wrong. The Commodore 64 did have 64k of RAM. If you knew what you were doing you could access all of it somehow, but as many processor functions were mapped into RAM you had to be careful.

What it did have though, was two 8k ROMs mapped into a couple of high segments of this memory, the memory in these was usable if you didn't want to use the functions available in the BASIC ROM or the SYSTEM ROM as you could switch either of both of these ROMs out and access the RAM "underneath". The 38911 (from memory, so probably wrong) bytes free message when the system initially starts is the amount of free, contiguous, bytes available to Commodore (Microsoft) Basic when storing programs and basic data. Due to where the ROM images were mapped in memory space and the default display memory mapping the largest available contiguous RAM block for Basic to use was much smaller than it could have been. The non-contiguous memory was still usable by Basic, just not directly. For example it was often used to store data, graphics or to store assembly / machine code.

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Pint

Re: @-tim

Well, did you expect humanity to change? The human brain (the first and still most powerful computer) is hardwired the same as it has always been. Some of us may have less flaky firmware and a better database than others, but human emotions and motivations are unchanged.

Computers have, however improved life in myriad ways. You mentioned entertainment, but here are some things you totally missed:

Up until about 1995, if you needed to research something, you'd be poring through out-of-date encyclopedias in a library, and maybe finding one or two sources for probably incomplete information. With the internet, there are a lot of sources, and certainly some inaccuracies, but the sum of knowledge has never been more accessible to all than now. What about locating your long lost family member/adopted brother/first girlfriend in 1970? Hire a private eye? Research the dusty stacks at the library?

What about staying in touch with friends and family that live far away? An expensive long-distance phone call in 1935-1995, a heartfelt letter written and received infrequently prior to that.

How about transportation? Cars prior to about 1985 used carburetors. Remember starting a cold car with a malfunctioning carburetor? If I'm behind a carbureted car, I can smell the difference--surely it's better that we're driving more fuel-efficient, less polluting vehicles, to say nothing of the added power and safety.

Engineering? Being able to design, test, and rapid-prototype anything as opposed to the laborious design processes of yesteryear.

Medicine? We've mapped the human genome. We understand how proteins interact. We've created 'smart drugs', we have CT and MRI scanners.

I could go on, but hopefully I've made my point.

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Re: Funny...

The Commodore 64 used a 6502 processor, which along with many other processors of that era were 8 bit (Z80, 808x, 6502, 680x) and had a 64KB address space, so to have to 64KB of RAM meant some form of bank switching had to be employed. The ROM had to fit into the same 64KB space.

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Happy

You did that on a computer? What kind of computer?

What he needs is the power to succeed.

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WTF?

Oh come on, the Apple II still had a major presence at this time, and was massively influential on all of the machines in the chart. Macintosh is just around the corner, and would redefine the PC for the next 25 years

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Re: Funny...

38911 BASIC Bytes free.

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A technical question

What drugs did you take application did you use to make that graph?

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Devil

Re: A technical question

Funny, but it looked more like a wired bread board for designing test kit from the '80's.

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Re: A technical question

I was about to post the same. I'd suggest the author should probably forget any aspirations he may have of a career in infographics.

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Joke

Whatever program it was, it didn't run on a Spectrum.

There's no attribute clash.

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Re: Whatever program it was, it didn't run on a Spectrum.

... and if it was on a BBC micro, half the lines would be flashing!

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Holmes

Re: What application did you use to make that graph?

Obviously, it's Apple Pages (by default it makes this type of chart with annoying "o" data points). I needed to make chart yesterday, and spent 2 minutes finding how to turn these data "points" off.

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Apple Pages

And BTW I didn't find how to change colours (or use non-solid lines etc) there. I must admit it's 2nd time in my life that I use Apple Pages, but apart from non-cluttered UI (die, MS Word!), it's $20 wasted IMO.

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Re: A technical question

Not that I'd say that Gnuplot is the right tool for the job, but it does choose different colours and point styles by default.

Other than that, I'm not sure how that data would be displayed properly. I would have gone for stacked graphs each one representing the sales number. You wouldn't have gotten the "ranking", but you would have gotten the relative amounts. Seriously few people care if the one being sold 132 or 134 times is the highest ranking one, they both sold pretty well.

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Re: A technical question

This has got to be the worst graph I have seen for a while, will add to my collection of 'how not to present information'. The raw table with the sales figures would have been vastly better, and whenever raw data is easier to interpret than a given visualization, the visualization is a total waste of time.

"Crunched the figures" -- yes, virtually to oblivion. Publish the figures, and a dozen commentards will provide you with better graphs.

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WTF?

Worst. Graph. Ever.

Colour palette broken?

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FAIL

Re: Worst. Graph. Ever.

Most of those lines look the same colour to me. It could do with being a bit more interactive to help us poor sods that are colour blind!

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Re: Worst. Graph. Ever.

Not being colour blind I found that graph very hard to follow.

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Re: Worst. Graph. Ever.

I can't even figure out what the numbers mean on either of the axes.

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Facepalm

Re: Worst. Graph. Ever.

This is a joke, right?

Left axis is chart position (1 to 20)

Lower axis is date from July to December.

(Quick explanation IN CASE you weren't joking!)

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Re: Worst. Graph. Ever.

Date confusion? Doesn't help that the first two date codes on the horizontal axis seem to overlay (9-23/7 and 7-21/7) - should the first be 9-23/6 ? )

Although it doesn't help with the late entries, read the table at the bottom line by line from left to right for initial positions, so the Spectrum starts at 1, Dragon 32 at 2, Atari 400 at 7, Commodore 64 at 13, etc.

As these are from sales charts, I'm quite surprised to see that anyone was still selling Atoms (22 in the chart) in the second half of 2003, 18 months or so after the BBC had appeared - got my Atom in the autumn of 1980.

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Facepalm

Re: Worst. Graph. Ever.

Oops... well spotted - 1983 of course!

Need to do more thumbs-up whoring so I can get that badge that lets me correct my posts!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Worst. Graph. Ever. @Conrad Longmore

>Most of those lines look the same colour to me

You mean the graph has different colours? They're all green on my Commodore PET

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Paris Hilton

Re: Worst. Graph. Ever.

I like the mock-up of what a fully integrated and hugely expanded London Underground network will eventually look like!

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Re: Worst. Graph. Ever.

Either that, or someone's been trying to lay out a 20 layer PCB!

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wow

Worst graph I've ever seen. It would have been too much trouble to put the names next to their starting position on the left and then you can trace them through. Rather than having to guess which exact shade?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: wow

The starting position on the left corresponds to the position in the list so, for example, the third red one down (at 16) is the Sharp MZ-80A.

Still a crap graph although it can't be easy to represent 27 different things on the same graph.

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Re: wow

It is easy to represent that many items on one graph, you just have to start using non-solid lines.

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Happy

Re: wow

Tried using non solid lines on a graph. The liquid ones ran down to the bottom and the gaseous ones blew away...

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Facepalm

Re: wow

"Worst graph I've ever seen. It would have been too much trouble to put the names next to their starting position on the left and then you can trace them through."

If you click on the graph, you'll see - true to the caption underneath that says "Click for a larger, easier to read version" - that's exactly what you'll get.

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Anonymous Coward

What happened on the 2nd to last value?

Looks like a joint 4th place, but instead of having no 5th place, there's no 6th instead.

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FAIL

Re: What happened on the 2nd to last value?

Similar problem for the 2nd value. No 5th place and two sharing 6th place.

Must be using Integer Basic.

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Arrgh

My eyes! My eyes!

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Interesting

Graph readability notwithstanding, a very interesting piece....makes me feel quite nostaligic

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ACx

Isn't the point of the graph to show how mental the computer market was at that time?

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Happy

Somebody needs to look at F1 charts to see how to do these kind of graphs properly.

I remember PCN, and I really wanted a MX-80A back then, but way out of my pocket money range!

Happy memories. Now, back to that graph...

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Happy

Still have my Dragon32

I Still have my Dragon32 and a DASM cartridge in a cupboard somewhere. I liked the 6809 stuff back then in my teens. I bet it still works though finding a working tape deck will be more problematic. You could speed up the CPU but loose the video with a simple asm write or poke.

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Re: Still have my Dragon32

poke 65495,1

Wish it worked on my laptop

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FAIL

It seems to be missing the commodore +4 and it's baby brother the commodore 16

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