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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  1. Chemist

    The one I remember

    is from Byte or PCW I *think*

    when the IBM PC first came out.

    Dark clouds filling the sky with a giant hand & arm piercing them with an IBM PC like a little toy in it's palm

    with the caption "The jolly grey giant delivers the goods" or some such.

    1. Lewis Mettler
      Stop

      the one I used from 1972 on

      Each time I see a history of the personal computer I find that almost no one knows how it really began.

      In 1972 both HP and Wang developed and sold a PC fully capable of programming in Basic and operating fully on the desktop. The HP unit even offered a letter quality printer (converted Facit typewriter), a high speed thermal printer (250 lpm and silent) plus an IO bus capable of addressing up to 15 IO devices including plotters, card readers and more. Even a modem.

      It also offered a hard disc using a controller that would support two hard disc drives and four desktop units.

      All from HP. Fully supported by HP.

      Now you can get picky and claim it was not a microprocessor. And it was not. But, if you could program in Basic you could have it do just about anything you needed on the desktop. I did. Financial analysis. Word processing. You name it. It was a personal computer to the full extent of the meaning.

      Yet, history is lost. Actually not quiet. See the HP museum web site. Look for the HP 9830A unit. Never even had a floppy disc because the technology was not yet developed and reliable enough. But, it did have a hard disc available.

      I programmed one and had it fully operational in a law office by 1974.

      Sorry for going all the way back. But, it was fun and commercial.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Lewis Mettler (was: Re: the one I used from 1972 on)

        I have a nearly-restored IBM 1401, dated 1963. It's technically a "small business system", not a personal computer, but it only had a single user/operator, so if you squint it could be considered a PC ...

      2. Nuke
        Holmes

        @Lewis Mettler - Re: the one I used from 1972 on

        Wrote :- "In 1972 both HP and Wang developed and sold a PC fully capable of programming in Basic and operating fully on the desktop."

        My company had one of those HP 9830As and I still have some print-outs of programs I wrote. Its built-in printer printed like a till roll, and I cut them into lengths and pasted them onto A4 sheets.

        Don't know why someone downvoted you - do they think you were lying? Perhaps they didn't like you calling it a PC. They were a personal computer - if not a Personal Computer with capitals which was the term for IBM compatibles. I don't know about it not having a microprocessor - effectively it was one even if built from discrete components.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old rags

    Interesting, but it would have been good to cover the British mags instead... I don't remember any of these hitting our shores!

    I was quite an avid fan of mags like Amstrad Action, Amiga Format and PC rags like Computer Shopper...

    1. ed2020
      Thumb Up

      Re: Old rags

      Have an up vote for the Amiga Format reminder. It was an absolutely superb publication. Still got mine in the list somewhere... along with the Amiga.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Old rags

        Amiga Power was my fave, it was so entertaining you could read it even if you only had a passing interest in computer games and still laugh out loud. Fond memories of the competition prize the 'sack of cack' :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old rags

      "I don't remember any of these hitting our shores!". ? Like many of us in the UK, I subscribed to Byte for a number of years. In fact I still have the Nov 83 edition "Inside the IBM PC" on a bookshelf somewhere. Sad...

    3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Old rags

      I think "Your Computer" circa 1983-4 held the record for page count in the UK - must have had around 300 pages (80% adverts, to be sure) including such exotic material as type-in listings for TI-99/4As and Sharp MZ-80Ks.

      1. DJV Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        @Uncle Slacky

        Not quite! Goes upstairs, pulls out 20th Anniversary May 1998 edition of PCW (RIP). Page count (including covers) = 750 - and all for £1.99 (special price, normally £2.95). I've also got a copy of the first edition from 1978, slightly smaller at 68 pages and cost 50p. Those were the days!

    4. Wade Burchette

      Re: Old rags

      I used to get Computer Shopper quite often. I can still remember the issue about the Pentium. The turning point for me was when I found anandtech.com. Then I found other enthusiasts websites. Soon enough, I never read Computer Shopper again. Why pay for last month's reviews? Plus I finally got tired of looking at all the stuff in Computer Shopper I could never afford.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Old rags

        I read Computer Shopper until the late 90s.

        Used to be useful with the free applications on CDs, good long reviews, different systems covered (I remember the mid 90s era when the Mac section was often amusingly meandering, waiting for Apple to shuffle off as another 'has been' 80s computer maker....), it was the width of a phone book with mail order listings.

        I still have their 'Linux - the future of computing?' cover CD somewhere.

        Stopped picking it up when I became a poor student and weighed the cost of a magazine vs 2 pints.

        Flicked through it recently, looks like it's been on a diet, the cover CD is replaced by URLs, mostly PC news.

  3. Conrad Longmore
    Unhappy

    BYTE

    It was a bad day when BYTE hit the dust, that tending to me a more in depth and computer science-y magazine than almost everything else. The American PC World wasn't bad either. I was sad to see Personal Computer World just stop publishing though - they should have gone out with a great retro finale edition, but they just stopped :(

    I still have a big pile of 1980s and 1990s BYTEs and PCWs stuffed in a box upstairs. Especially in the early 1980s, they came with really beautiful cover artwork, especially BYTE.

    1. W.O.Frobozz
      Pint

      Re: BYTE

      Three words: "IS UNIX DEAD?!??!" (extra punctuation added by me)

      Because in 1993, Windows NT was going to slaughter UNIX with it's spiffy Windows 3.1 interface and single-user experience. Yeap.

      Byte was great once upon a time but around 1992 pretty much all of the computer magazines became mouthpieces for Microsoft.

      1. MOV r0,r0
        Headmaster

        Re: BYTE

        I took Byte's editorial position to be that hardware cost had dropped to a point where mass consumption was required to drive it down further, that Unix was in the way of that happening and that Windows would be the key driver. They never said Windows was any good. 19 years on and I think you're still misunderstanding the article.

        Thanks to Windows we have cheap hardware and thanks to Linus we have free Unix so we should all be systems programmers, right? Enjoy Dr. Pournelle's somewhat optimistic response to someone whining, like you I suspect, that their sysadmin superpower no longer lets them rule over all humanity:

        www.jerrypournelle.com/debates/secondrev.html

      2. pixl97

        Re: BYTE

        >Three words: "IS UNIX DEAD?!??!" (extra punctuation added by me)

        Linux was still a newborn at that time, and The BSDs had just overcome a huge legal battle. The commercial UNIXes were all proprietary and considerably expensive. It wasn't out of the question at the time that MS was going to kill UNIX as it was (and it did). BYTE at the time followed MS since that's where the money was. Even back then they realized that IBM/OS2 wasn't going to dominate the market. Between 86 and 97 Apple management turned gold in to poo.

        In hindsight Microsoft did kill UNIX at the time, with lower hardware costs, cheaper licensing, and letting a large amount of piracy occur. They didn't win by making more reliable software, that's for sure. It wasn't Linux became popular that Microsoft considered any of the Unixlike operating systems a serious threat.

        1. jake Silver badge

          @pixl97 (was: Re: BYTE)

          "The commercial UNIXes were all proprietary and considerably expensive."

          Proprietary, but not expensive. At home, I was running Coherent, by Mark Williams Company, in that time frame. Cost was US$99, and it came with a "Lexicon" that is still the best "how to use un*x" learning tool I've ever seen. It was a near perfect clone of AT&T Unix[tm], hand coded in assembler. Was super-fast on an 8Meg 386. There was no networking, but it came with Taylor UUCP. I switched to Slackware when MWC closed it's doors ... I still run Slack. But I still use the Coherent Lexicon to teach command-line administration out of, augmented with O'Reilly's "UNIX Power Tools" and the current man-pages.

          1. Ian 55
            Thumb Up

            Re: @pixl97 (was: BYTE)

            So good a clone that one Unix book claimed it was stolen code. Sadly, MWC never sued, because they had the word of Dennis Ritchie that it wasn't.

            I agree about the manual.

            1. jake Silver badge

              @Ian 55 (was: Re: @pixl97 (was: BYTE))

              I've got a copy of the final MWC Coherent source[1]. I also have a copy of Bell Labs/AT&T UNIX[tm] source, and a couple versions of BSD source, right from the era that MWC closed their doors. All are legal, and no I'm not allowed to share ... dmr was/is quite correct.

              UNIX was coded in C. Coherent was coded in assembler. BSD (at the time) had AT&T code in it. About the time MWC closed down, BSD, both NET & Free, were obviously AT&T free ... Remember "silver" & "raven" for Coherent stuff? And I think that demon.co.uk had a Coherent ftp site for quite awhile, too :-)

              It wasn't a "manual", it was a "Lexicon". I collect them ... and pass 'em along to kids that I tutor who I think might actually have the ability to develop the skill-set to maintain my own Internet connection in my dotage.

              1. jake Silver badge

                I missed a footnote, on purpose (was: Re: @Ian 55 (was: @pixl97 (was: BYTE)))

                "[1] The mythical "edit button" does work ... cool! :-)"

                Either it's still b0rken, or I missed the window by >< that much ;-)

                (Apparently, I did miss the window ... Not certain how useful 5 minutes is.)

  4. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Dead trees?

    Myst-all-chucking-frighty.

    I remember the arm-ache from carrying a folder of hundreds of fanfold sheets the 3 miles home for the microcode of a spectrum analyser that I was working on - make corrections, then in the morning, walk back with those "dead trees".

    Guess why I coud've KO'd Tyson with my right arm, but my left looked like a weeping willow.

    Then, someone invented the 8" Floppy...

    1. jake Silver badge
      Pint

      @Andus (was: Re: Dead trees?)

      Ever drop a card deck? At the very end of the load? How about a hand-truck full of boxes of cards, after jarring your elbow at the top of the five steps into the glass room[1]. I still have nightmares ...

      Something about "kids these days have no idea" is appropriate about here.

      Have a homebrew, compadre :-)

      [1] Back before data centers were built as data centers, they were raised off the existing concrete slab to facilitate cable runs between equipment.

      1. Nuke
        Holmes

        @Jake - Re: @Andus (was: Dead trees?)

        Wrote "Ever drop a card deck?"

        In about 1975 I was doing a job (using their computers) at Imperial College, London. Walking outside into one of their squares, surrounded by the high buildings, a guy came round the corner with a 4-wheel barrow loaded with cards in the trough-like metal boxes they were carried in.

        A gust of wind lifted the lot. They soared up to the full height (8 stories?) of the buildings and over, fluttering down over the entire area in their 1000's like giant confetti.

        1. jake Silver badge

          @Nuke (was: Re: @Jake - @Andus (was: Dead trees?))

          In 1974ish, I witnessed a student programmer dump the complete overnight first-build of BSD 1.0 over the observation deck of Berkeley's Campanile. Looked like snow. (Today, I'd call it "Beta build 0.96", and the kiddies would look at me like suddenly re-sprouted my late-70s blue & orange mohawk).

          He didn't know we had the output of the run split to both cards & tape (was "tee" available back then? Or did we use more complex scripting? I can't remember, to much water under the old bridge ... and I can't be arsed to look). ANYwho ... we didn't actually lose anything from the rather spendy overnight run.

          Reason for his protest? He didn't like the changes BSD 1.0 made in the UTSS 5/6 code, as he was working on what would become UTSS 7 ... Long & short, he was expelled from the school. But Berkeley being Berkeley, he wasn't expelled for attempting to fuck up several other Grad student's projects. Rather, he was expelled for littering.

          There is a reason Arlo wrote the song, you know. And we'll all sing it, when it comes around again on the guitar. But I didn't come here to talk about that ... I grew up in a very funny time in (mostly) the Bay Area. And I think I'm a better man for it ;-)

  5. Martin 37

    Journalist desperation

    I watched the evolution of the computer magazine over that period, through Byte and PC World.

    At the beginning .. there were genuinely interesting computers - Sirius, Apricot, anyone? Then along came the IBM Pc and all its clones.

    I remember a review which wasn't called "Another 20 indistinguishable beige boxes" but should have been, and could hear the desperation in the writer's mind as he struggled to find something, anything to say about these boxes. Even the internal wiring came in for comment, and tiny percentage difference in the specification and performance made into column inches.

    Since by then everything ran Windows, there was nothing else to distinguish one clone from another.

    And yes, in those days you bought the magazines for the adverts, to compare specs and price up a new system.

    While reminiscing - PCW used to run competitions that actually required thought and mathematical ability, usually involving 10 digit number so you couldn't use 16-bit ints or floating point. (Of course the BBC Micro had 32-bit ints which made it ideal for these puzzles!)

    My favourite was the following:

    Using the digits from 0 to 9, generate all possible permutations, and list the billionth. How long will it take take you to work this out either with pencil and paper or a 68000-class processor?

    1. Jemma Silver badge

      Re: Journalist desperation

      Competition part the second...

      "calculate using non-linear math how long it will take the school bully to kick your head in when the fact you won said competition is hailed at school..."

      it wasnt all sweetness and light, it still isnt, with kids hiding their talents for fear the walking mouthbreathing rump-grunt de la jour will pound them for it. The female bullies are worlds worse, the genetically endicked just hurt physically... We'd get a whole lot more done on this planet if schools stopped burping out 'computer' courses and started chucking out bullies. I wonder if we'd be in a eutopian society with warp drive and equality already if it wasnt for the god botherers weebling every time one of their kids beat on someone 'different' or that had a higher IQ than them, and that doesnt even mention the teachers (look up the story of Tempest Smith if you want to see how bad it gets today).

    2. mhoulden
      Boffin

      Re: Journalist desperation

      I remember trying to make sense of Mike Mudge's Numbers Count in the mid 90s when I was doing A levels and just getting into computer science. It was usually way beyond me but it was interesting to see how maths could be used away from the classroom. A quick Google suggests he retired in 1999 and hopefully he's still having a happy retirement.

      Another name sadly missed is Tony Tyler, aka Macbiter. He died of cancer in 2006. Imagine what he'd make of rounded rectangles, iDevices and endless litigation....

  6. Mike VandeVelde
    Pint

    had to take a look through my fire hazard stacks...

    Compute!'s Gazette, Ahoy!, Run, Info, Power Play, The Transactor, TPUG, Amiga World, Commodore Magazine. Compute!, Home Computing, Family Computing, onComputing. Sigh. Yes it was a Commodore household!

  7. Chris Miller
    Happy

    Ah the Exploratorium

    I took the missus there on our honeymoon in 1981. I was always an incurable romantic (and she's still by my side).

  8. Bad Beaver
    Childcatcher

    I'm in TEARS

    You brought back a time when I was only halfway through my single digits, yet I do remember my father proudly showing off his "state of the art" CAD system to me. It came with this newfangled thing called "a mouse" and everyone in the office had a hard time getting used to it.

  9. Sparc
    Happy

    Fashion Victim

    Rik,

    Your picture reminded me of Starsky and Hutch.

  10. Eddie Edwards
    Coat

    7.8336MHz?

    Being a complete nerd I stopped reading the article halfway through and tried to work out where 7.8336Mhz came from. After 30 minutes of work on Google & Wolfram Alpha, culminating in a C++ program to run the possibilities, I came up with the likely explanation that this is half the video clock frequency, and that it comes from one of the following possible video signal configurations:

    (512+32)x(342+18)x80

    (512+64)x(342+58)x68

    (512+88)x(342+42)x68

    (512+88)x(342+66)x64

    Anyone know which one is right? :)

    Hey, wait, everyone's gone to the pub. I should get my coat.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: 7.8336MHz?

      Per Inside Macintosh Volume 3, Page 18 (ie, Apple's official documentation):

      "The pixel clock rate ... is 15.6672 MHz, or about .0642 microseconds (µsec) per pixel. For each scan line 512 pixels are drawn on the screen, requiring 32.68 µsec. The horizontal blanking interval takes the time of an additional 192 pixels, or 12.25 µsec. Thus, each full scan line takes 44.93 µsec, which means the horizontal scan rate is 22.25 kilohertz.

      A full screen display consists of 342 horizontal scan lines, occupying 15367.65 µsec, or about 15.37 millisecond (msec). The vertical blanking interval takes the time of an additional 28 scan lines — 1258.17 µsec, or about 1.26 msec."

      1. Eddie Edwards
        Thumb Up

        Re: 7.8336MHz?

        Thanks, I thought someone would know :) So, not an integer frame rate then (I make that 60.147Hz). So the precise clock rate still makes little sense, unless for some reason 15.6672MHz oscillators were commonplace and 15.6288MHz (for 60.000Hz) oscillators were hard to find!

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Fashion Victim

      Many of us looked like that in that era. Not all, probably not even most, and definitely not me ("disco" inspired everything still sucks) ... but many. The show reflected society, not vice-versa.

  11. Fink-Nottle

    Computer Recreations

    In the 80's, my gateway drug was A.K. Dewdney's column in Scientific American which led to the infinitely more addictive DDJ.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Computer Recreations

      Yeah I remember the "Computer Recreations". My dad also had subscriptions to CACM and IEEE Computer ... these were drier but not any less interesting (no scantily clad ladies hawkin' wares!). I still have a few scans of "powerful add-on board" addys from back then.

  12. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Speaking of smut,

    I may have missed, did you get adverts for modems and hard disks and PC expansion cards being held out to us by cheerful Asian ladies in swimsuits, or was that a British and European phenomenon? For that matter I have an idea that the glamorous side of computing, in the "ladies in swimsuits" sense of glamour, was just across the English Channel. And, after all, computers' bits are made of silicon, which you find as sand on the beach, so perhaps swimwear was just the thing. Blokes tended to have suits on though.

  13. Captain DaFt

    You missed my favorite

    Micro Cornicopia magazine, published through the eighties, it remained one of the last true old school computer hacker magazines until its demise.

  14. Sloppy Crapmonster
    Trollface

    PCs are worse

    Hitler only destroyed the lives of six million.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: PCs are worse

      So PCs are like the Lenin/Stalin combo?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    .EXE magazine

    I used to have a subscription to .EXE mag which featured the (now) infamous Robert Schifreen and the Reg's very own Verity Stob. It was a proper mag for programmers with hardly any ads.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: .EXE magazine

      I also remember Stob from Dr. Dobb's Journal. It's the only complete dead-tree magazine set that I still have, all 33 years of it. As a side note, discovering that Stob was writing for ElReg is what got me here in the first place. Not certain if that's a good thing or a bad thing ;-)

    2. Ian 55

      Re: .EXE magazine

      Hardly any ads.. but most of them were for dongles. I agree it was a good read though.

      Has anyone scanned in the CP/M User Group UK's journal?

  16. Petrea Mitchell
    Happy

    Exploratorium, wow!

    Well, being associated with the Exploratorium makes up for any amount of fashion failings in my book! The computers I was around in the '80s were mainly a couple TRS-80s, an Amiga, and my cousin's Commodore, so the articles don't bring back much for me, but the Exploratorium sure does!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From http://regmedia.co.uk/2012/11/15/85_pcworld_okidata_large.jpg --

    "...Advanced, Multifunction Printing For Under $700"

    In 2012 dollars, that's about $1440.00.

    Today at Walmart, I saw a huge pallet of HP printers. They were $19. Oh, and they were also full-page scanners.

    19 freakin' dollars. From $1400 for crude-as-hell b/w dot matrix to $19 for full bleed glossy color.

    (Out of curiosity, I checked the price for an ink cartridge to match the one that shipped with the printer. It was $34. I've joked before about ink costing more than printers, but I didn't think I'd see it happen *literally*.)

  18. jake Silver badge
    Pint

    A couple minor bugs to report.

    "With the internet still years in the future, in 1987 soft-core smut was still delivered at the application level."

    I was connecting to what we now call "the internet" ten years before 1987. From home. Even TCP/IP came online in 1983. That, and if you wanted porn (hard or soft-core), you connected to a local BBS in 1987, if you didn't have access to a Usenet feed.

    Also, it wasn't a one-two punch. It was a four-part thing. Email, FTP, IRC and telnet. The Web is a johnnie-come-lately.

    Good reminisce otherwise, though, thanks for taking the time ... Have a homebrew :-)

    Out of curiosity, does anyone but me remember populating memory cards with RAM while standing naked in a bath-tub full of water? Sounds like over-kill to avoid static, but try to remember that my first 32K of RAM set me back around US$2,000 in 1978 (I *think* that was the price ... might have a trifle more), and the early chips were dreadfully sensitive to static. Yes, 32 kilobytes.

    1. gizmo23

      Re: A couple minor bugs to report.

      I think you're slightly ahead of me jake, I never had to resort to bathtubs because the 8K in my Acorn Atom was already fitted when I bought it.

      What I do remember is taking the case off IBM PCs and pressing the RAM chips back into their sockets (with that slightly distressing crunching sound) to get the machine to boot. Thermal cycling used to make them creep up out of the sockets until one leg would lose contact and then the memory check would fail, so no boot. I think that mem check is still in some BIOSes today. Wonder if it checks beyond 256K these days?

      1. jake Silver badge

        @gizmo23 (was: Re: A couple minor bugs to report.)

        My boards didn't come populated back then. I couldn't afford pre-assembled stuff. Take a sheet of fiber-glass, coated on both sides with a thin layer of copper. Lay out the traces, then using a Dremel drill out the holes for the leads. Carefully patch any traces wrecked by drilling (if needed). Boil board on stove to remove excess copper. Get yelled at by Mum for messing up the kitchen (I don't know why she got mad, I always cleaned up after myself). Start soldering in components ...

  19. unitron
    Mushroom

    At least those glasses...

    ...are big enough to see through, and, important to those of us who are near-sighted, can gather in a lot more light.

    Now I can't frames for decent size lenses anywhere.

    Who knew ugly was going to make such a huge comeback.

  20. jonfr
    WTF?

    Testing article

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

    "test_template/"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  22. Really Anonymous Coward

    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).

  23. Anonymous Coward
    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..

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      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.

      1. jake Silver badge

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

        You can say the same thing about transportation :-)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: A spin on Kurt Vonnegut....

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

  25. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    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.

  26. Outcast

    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

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      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.

    2. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      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.

      1. Steven Roper
        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.

        1. Ian 55
          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.

  27. Tom 7 Silver badge

    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.

  28. Corborg

    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.

  29. Christian Berger Silver badge

    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!

  30. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    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

  31. rogerk

    Byte Mags

    I learned so much from.

    Now? Have boxes full, What to do with?

    In rememberence re read, or recycle.

    Roger

    1. jake Silver badge

      @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 ...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

  33. BorkedAgain
    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...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

  34. xperroni
    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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