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back to article The early days of PCs as seen through DEAD TREES

Thirty years ago, Time Magazine broke its 86-year tradition of naming a Man of the Year, and instead anointed its first Machine of the Year: The Computer. Time didn't deliver this news via www.time.com nor an HTML-encrusted email blast, but rather by macerated wood pulp pressed into sheets and coated with ink, cut into …

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WTF?

Testing article

I love how this article is based on test template. As it says in the header.

"test_template/"

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Anonymous Coward

Orchard, BYTE, Happy Days with an SMC monitor and dual disk drives

For an Apple ][ owner.

Then came macintosh - with better hardware - scsi bus etc.

Now apple is all about the pretty because the hardware is so fast it no longer matters much.

What happened that we could get visicalc into so little memory and now we have gigabyte monsters for the sake of cut & paste and some pretty formatting.

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In the mid-late 90s (between Windows becoming popular and mass home internet access, which the article seems to skip), PC Plus, PCW and so on were all 500 pages, the mighty Shopper pushed 1000. Still remember 30+ page adverts for Software Warehouse which continued into the days of Jungle.com (so c.2000).

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Anonymous Coward

In parallel..

.. in a small setup in London (not sure if they were at Harcourt Street in those already), a small company started to work on the first usable PDA, already proving then that it's worth waiting for the second try. The Psion Organiser I was, well, almost usable, but the Organiser II was the start of the era of the PDA and it had one feature I really, really miss on any modern smartphone: an easy, simple to use programming language, on the device itself, complete with database functionality.

Maybe I missed it because I started skimming, but late in this PC vs Apple race, a computer appears that knocked seven spots off the abilities of either in the graphics department. I remember watching a chequered bouncing ball onscreen and being in awe you could do that on a computer. I think that was the Amiga. Shame that didn't quite get through - I personally think that the current Intel/AMD only world divided between Apple and PC platforms is too limited a platform for innovation..

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Silver badge

Re: In parallel..

It's depressing how little innovation there has been in software, and especially in OS design.

The beginnings of Office, the Mac, the PC, UNIX, Windows, the early Internet - all there by the mid-80s, all still around today.

Meanwhile it took maybe ten years for Apple and Microsoft to catch up with what the Amiga was doing in 1988.

Hardware is a thousand times faster and/or small enough to be packed into a phone. But - with the possible exception of the torrent networks - there have been no game-changing developments in (say) distributed processing or shared storage, or even in clever UI design.

Physical computing is progress, but the model is still a box you poke your fingers at with information inside it, not something more open and unrestricted.

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@TheOtherHobbes (was: Re: In parallel..)

You can say the same thing about transportation :-)

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Anonymous Coward

A spin on Kurt Vonnegut....

"An avocation is an activity that one engages in as a hobby outside one's main occupation."

A Reality Check:

"Wherever possible, he had taken the cosmic view, had taken into consideration, for instance, such things as the shortness of life and the longness of eternity. He reported his avocation as: “Being alive.”

He reported his principal occupation as: “Being dead.”

So:

120 years of life ÷ 14000000000 (14 billion years estimated age of universe) = 0.000000009 × 100 = 0.000000857% = Ones whole life will have counted to being 0.000000857 % of the estimated known age of the universe.

However, if you take a more pragmatic approach that there were infinite years before we ever existed and there will be infinite years after we have existed, then your ever having lived at all - is effectively a zero sum game.

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Stop

Re: A spin on Kurt Vonnegut....

No, a "zero sum game" is something else entirely.

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No mention of the C64/Amiga

A bit ridiculous really. The C64 knocked the socks off the Apple crap, and as for the Amiga... Well it was the most mind blowing computer ever but unfortunately we all know how that ended up. But as they say, it's always the victors that write the history.. :/

Also... define 'PC' in the 80s please. I mean we're not necessarily talking IBM clones here.

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Joe Pillow

@ J.R.Hartley

Indeed. Not a single mention of Joe Pillow or how his arrival @ CES convinced Apple execs their days in the computer industry were (severely) numbered.

Mags I bought regulary (EVERY month)

1: Amiga Format but moved to Amiga Shopper when released

2: Amiga User International

3: CU Amiga

4: MicroMart

5: Computer Shopper <--- Once in a blue moon

None: But peruse online Linux stuff

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Holmes

Re: Joe Pillow

I vividly remember the review of the Sun SPARCStations in BYTE.

Man, the PCBs of these machines looked GOOD and COMPACT. I fell in love.

Unfortunately, the price was high for my student tastes.

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Re: Joe Pillow

Haha yea Joe Pillow, what a guy ;)

Really does annoy me to see the Amiga airbrushed from history though.

Can I take this oppertunity to recommended Brian Bagnall's book Commodore - On the edge. It gives you a valuable insight into the finer points of mismanagement, and explains how Commodore really did snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Btw, CU Amiga Magazine was my personal favourite, then switched to Amiga Format when CU closed down. It was never the same though.

Good times.

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Big Brother

@ J. R. Hartley

"Really does annoy me to see the Amiga airbrushed from history though."

It infuriates me personally. I'd rate this article as almost Orwellian revisionist bullshit because of it. I also recently watched a "documentary" (I use the term very loosely) about how Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were the gods and founders of home computing. No mention of Jack Tramiel or Jay Miner or any of the other real founding fathers of home computing, of course. And that so-called "doco" made my gorge rise in exactly the same way this article did, and for the same reason.

Maybe Apple and IBM might have been big in the USA, and in business, but everywhere outside the USA they most definitely were not the machines that brought computing into the home. They were out of most peoples' price range, for starters, and they were primarily business-oriented than family-oriented.

The Commodore 64, more than any other computer was the machine that brought home computing into the mainstream. I grant that in the UK, the ZX Spectrum was also a major player which deserves its credit too, but the C64 was truly global in its reach. Back in the early 80s, IBM PCs and Apples were way too expensive for the average home user - I clearly remember disk drives selling for around 3 grand and complete systems in the 5-digit price range (bear in mind this is Australia, where everything is three times the price charged elsewhere.)

The C64 retailed at $500 when it first came out, and had dropped to $300 within a year. These were prices that your average family could afford, and the huge range of software available for it meant it was usable by the whole family. And perhaps its most important advantage over PCs and Apples of the day was that it could be plugged into the family TV set, obviating the need to buy an expensive (and usually monochrome) monitor and enabling colour computing on the cheap.

The Amiga was itself revolutionary, being far ahead of its time, and with its rival the Atari ST had a profound impact on home computing in the late 80s and early 90s. It was instrumental in bringing the home user up from the 8-bit into the modern 16- and 32- bit world, which was the norm right up until only a few years ago with the advent of 64-bit computing. Yet even the Amiga and Atari were successors, which would not have gained the penetration they did but for the home ground broken by the Commodore 64 - the little computer that could.

But now we have techno-snobs rewriting history, the same arrogant techno-snobbery that dismissed the Amiga and the C64 back in the day simply because they could play games, glorifying Apple and IBM, and not even granting a fucking footnote to the venerable C64. I tend to treat such articles with the same disdain and horror that Winston Smith reserved for stories about the war with Eurasia Eastasia. Show me an article that tells it how it really happened, and I'll give it a lot more credence.

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Pirate

Re: @ J. R. Hartley

One of the reasons the C64 was a hit was because it ignored the FCC shielding regulations, which made it cheaper than the wonderful Atari 8-bits: the 800 in particular was built like a tank. By the time the regulations were changed, and the 800XL came out, it was too late. (Apple had just said that the rules were different for them - nothing much changes - as they claimed the Apple ][ was a business machine and not for the home, oh no.)

The Amiga was revolutionary and wonderful, but it was designed as the successor to the Atari 8-bits by former Atari staff with an investment from Atari. Jay Miner et al then sold it to Commodore and used some of the money to pay back Atari. Atari never saw the profits their money had enabled. They did end up with Jack Tramiel though, and no-one thinks they got the best side of the exchange.

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I've just been through a set of old boxes

and amongst the crap that I threw out were the byte issues with J.Hendrix Small C compiler and tool suite.

I typed that in for fucks sake!

The joy of being able to code for any cpu/system I could get hands one.

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Fond Memories

RE Amiga Format, issue one, New Zealand Story demo on the cover disk. It was exciting to see it split from Amiga/ST Format into a mag of its own and it built up to become a wonderful publication for years to come.

Shame my dad threw out my entire and complete collection of Amiga Format magazines several years ago when I was away at uni.

Thanks Dad.

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Of course you missed _the_ computer magazine

"Computer programmiert zur Unterhaltung" (Computers programmed for entertainment)

http://eleph.antville.org/stories/1994014/

Two people from the early 1980 in bed with their C-64!

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Alien

Cleveland Ohio?

The interesting thing...

Techmar was founded outside of Cleveland, OH. (Solon)

Ohio Scientific (Aroura, OH)

And Cleveland is the only city to be insulted in one of the comments in the UNIX source code...

Sorry just thinking back to the good ol days

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Byte Mags

I learned so much from.

Now? Have boxes full, What to do with?

In rememberence re read, or recycle.

Roger

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@rogerk (was: Re: Byte Mags)

Simple answer: ebay.

I sold my complete set of PC Mag & Byte. The shipping costs alone were astronomical ... I'm not sure who was the biggest twit: Me for keeping 'em for so long, or the dude who bought nearly a ton of obsolete, almost unrecycleable clay-coated paper, and had it shipped from Palo Alto to Philly on a couple pallets ...

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Windows User magazine

Anyone remember Windows User magazine?

Was a cross between a Windows review mag and a Microsoft PR wire.

The cover floppy installed to a directory (as folders were called then) C:\WUSS .

I remember they had a whole article about uses for the 'Applets' which was what they called the Win 3.1 accessories - Write to embed other programs into a document using Object Packager, Cardfile as a database - that type of thing. It was used as a snipe against Mac owners who had to fork out for the likes of Clarisworks.

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Happy

My moment of nostalgia...

...was the tiny print at the bottom of the ads:

"Circle 283 on inquiry card"

I remember circling those numbers and sending them in - little did the advertisers realise that they were gathering the contact data of a prepubescent nerd whose spending power rarely extended to the price of a Texan bar, but it was kind of cool to get those little packs of adverts in the post a couple of weeks later...

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Re: My moment of nostalgia...

I used to beg my dad for the unused stickers out of the response sections of engineering magazines. I'm sure he was utterly mystified.

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Paris Hilton

"It won't make you any smarter"

You know what I like best about those times? Patronizing adverts. Really, it seems companies never missed a chance to paint their customers retarded.

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