Popular Computer Archeology

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Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Wed Mar 26, 2008 9:16 pm

So I'm cleaning out some old boxes and I found a bunch of computer magazines dating back to the early 80s -- Byte and Creative Computing mostly. All sorts of interesting stuff: the little-remembered AT&T Unix PC ("AT&T integrates computer and telephone and civilizes UNIX for under $6000" -- including a GUI, in 1985), first reviews of the Macintosh, comparisons of the new Mac and Amiga ("it's not even close" -- and it's not in Apple's favor), editorials about Apple's lawsuit against Digital Research over GEM, reviews of the first Windows SDK, and lots of other things including home-brewed graphics boards, program listings you can type in, and do-it-yourself operating systems. Oh, and endless double-page ads for Borland products (all of them featuring Philippe Kahn's less-than-pretty face).

It was a very different world.

There's a price list for the Apple ][+ my father bought:
$1325 for a 16KB machine; each additional 16KB cost $125. The (140KB) 5.25" floppy drive was $595, and the controller (good for two drives) was $100.

Of course by 1986 you could get a hard drive -- the Sider (get it?), a 10MB(!) external drive with controller card for just $595 (that's what, $60K/GB?). It weighed 11 pounds, came with a 53-page installation manual, and the review noted that the performance was good (the 140KB from a full floppy copied in just 48 seconds) though the reviewer complained "I often find myself turning it off so I can hear myself think. Without some special noise insulation, it would be distracting in an office setting."

I think I may scan in some of the better bits and add them here.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Wed Mar 26, 2008 9:26 pm

I remember scanning some old stuff from Byte and posting it here a few years back... the files are still on my web server. Here's a couple of good ones:

Image
Microsoft RAM card for the Apple II

Image
From back in the day when Western Digital made more than hard drives

I'll have to dig some more stuff like this up. I think I've got a fairly complete set of Byte magazine going back to 1978 or thereabouts stashed in the crawlspace somewhere.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Wed Mar 26, 2008 9:31 pm

I have some magazines hanging around from the 90's, but that doesn't hold a candle to what you guys have. I'd love to see whatever scans you can make!
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Wed Mar 26, 2008 9:37 pm

That's just gold. I love reading old computer magazines. I'm too young to remember computers in the 80's (first real computer experience with a C64 in '90) but I remember drooling over multi thousand dollar 486 PCs in Computer Shopper :P. The first computer I personally had was an IBM XT clone with 64KB of ram IIRC, dual floppy drives and a monochrome display of course. I spent many an hour copying in program listings so I had games to play :D.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2008 6:46 am

I also love these old ads! They take you back to a different era for sure.
I had a friend with one of the Amstrad PC clones that ran GEM - How strange it seemed at the time to me.
I didn't get my very own PC until 1994 or so. But before that I had a Tandy Color Computer 2 and then a Commodore 128.
I used to read Rainbow and CoCo magazines as a young kid, typing in the programs (then leaving the CoCo on so you wouldn't loose all that typing, until I got that sweet casette tape backup, LOL). Here at work we have a "nostalgia shelf" that holds such things at various 8" floppies, a Corvus Systems 10MB external HD from around 1983, and some huge round magnetic tape holders from who knows when. Also, I vividly remember the first time I saw an Amiga 1000 at my buddies house. THAT was an amazing machine for it's time for sure.

Thanks for the scans and I would love to see more, thanks 8)
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:07 am

i (well my dad) have an IBM PCjr. i still remember the day he brought it home, i almost wet myself. we still have everything for it, incuding Dictionary Dog cartridge, Kings Quest on floppy and it still works, the last time i plugged it in. that was almost 2 years ago now that i think about it, but not bad at all. In the box my dad still has an ad for it i think. if i can find ill scan and post so we can all remember the good old days. hahaha
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2008 8:02 am

It's just nice to see some ads from the days before the marketing department found the letter "X" on their keyboards.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2008 8:12 am

MrJP wrote:It's just nice to see some ads from the days before the marketing department found the letter "X" on their keyboards.

Back in those days, the marketing department was probably still run by engineers! :lol:
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Thu Mar 27, 2008 9:28 am

I like how the Microsoft logo looks like Iron Maiden's.

Thanks for the old scans, JBI. I remember you pulling out one of those magazines at Dave & Busters a few years ago. It was just as cool back then.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 12:34 pm

StrangeDay wrote:I like how the Microsoft logo looks like Iron Maiden's.
Yeah, that was the really old one. I still have a binder (back when documentation came in binders) with that logo around here somewhere. In between that logo and the current one they used this:
Image
The weird "O" in the center was called the "blibbet" for some reason. When MS switched to their current logo it had nothing distinctive whatsoever, and when they went to trademark it the lawyers said "You can't trademark something that's just italicized text" so they took a little "pac-man mouth" divot out of the "O" in homage to the blibbet. Apparently when they sent the first batch of materials out to a company to get printed the guy called them up and said "it looks ilke the O in your company name got damaged, do you want me to fix that?"
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:02 pm

OK, I don't want to post-whore but as I get around to scanning these in and posting them I'm going to put them into multiple posts. For one thing, it makes it easier for the thread to break onto multiple pages, which should be better for people with the slower connections.

Anyway, here's part of a pretty standard ad for PC hardware ad-ons, circa 1986.
Image
Note:
- those monochrome monitors were pretty hi-res for the day. Well worth the price.
- the hard drives are 10MB and 20MB. (When your main memory was 64KB-128KB, that was plenty.)
- there's nothing special about that keyboard. That's just how much a "business" keyboard cost.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:49 pm

Oooh, I remember when HardCards were all the rage.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 2:19 pm

Captain Ned wrote:Oooh, I remember when HardCards were all the rage.
Like this?
Image

Image

Image

Or do you mean those HDs that were actually mounted on an expansion card, sitting in a slot? At one point before CD-ROMS took off as a distribution medium, some companies were seriously looking at using those to ship software, rather than using 30+ floppies (which was the direction they were headed -- several MS products had pushed past a dozen).
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 2:31 pm

HardCard means a HD on a card sitting on an ISA slot. My old PC/XT had the 384K memory expander card like in your pics.

EDIT: 2 MB of RAM for $2500. Glad those days are gone.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 3:03 pm

I remember the days of $1,000 for 64KB... at the time, it didn't seem bad at all!
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 3:05 pm

It's not nearly as old as much of the stuff already posted, but I found this to be pretty funny.

I didn't get into computers until a few years ago, so to me most of this seems like it should be in a museum or something (I imagine some of it probably is). The oldest computer I remember using was some sort of Apple. I don't remember much about it except that it had an integrated green and black monochrome monitor and used 5.25" floppy disks. After that I remember my parents having a PC that ran MSDOS. The only thing I ever knew how to do on it was fire up King's Quest II which, according to Wikipedia, means the computer was probably about as old as I was (I think I was 7-8 years old at the time).
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:24 pm

Sweet, good old memory expansion cards for EMS. IBM thought that 640KB was enough for any desktop users. ;)

I remember when 1x CD-ROM readers were like $300-500! It took a while for my older brother to figure out how to load the drivers under DOS.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:48 pm

Krogoth wrote:Sweet, good old memory expansion cards for EMS. IBM thought that 640KB was enough for any desktop users. ;)
Well, technically Intel thought 1MB was enough (it was actually more than enough for a 16bit chip -- oh, ugly ugly segments) and IBM thought 512KB was enough (since that's all the first 5150 motherboards would support). It was Tim Patterson who decided spliting that 1MB into 384KB for the system and 640KB for the user was enough. And Bill Gates, famously, agreed with him.

Given that 1MB of memory cost more than $1500, the whole question was pretty academic for "desktop" users.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 6:05 pm

UberGerbil wrote:Well, technically Intel thought 1MB was enough (it was actually more than enough for a 16bit chip -- oh, ugly ugly segments) and IBM thought 512KB was enough (since that's all the first 5150 motherboards would support). It was Tim Patterson who decided spliting that 1MB into 384KB for the system and 640KB for the user was enough. And Bill Gates, famously, agreed with him.

It's kind of funny how things never really change. Not enough physical address space... reserved addresses for video cards and other peripherals getting in the way... hokey address bank swapping schemes to extend the life of the platform. We went through it in the 16-bit MS-DOS days with the 1MB barrier, and before that in the 8-bit days with the 64K barrier. Now we're doing it all over again with the 4GB barrier.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Sun Mar 30, 2008 6:12 pm

My family's main computer was a 1981 IBM PC until 1992 or so. My dad was a CS professor at the time; it used to drive his students nuts. :D

My first computer was a Mac Performa (680?). It had a 250MB hard drive -- ie, less storage than my video card has now. :lol:
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:45 am

My first computer. I think we acquired it around '91, but it looks like it was almost ten years old by then :o
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:41 am

just brew it! wrote:It's kind of funny how things never really change. Not enough physical address space... reserved addresses for video cards and other peripherals getting in the way... hokey address bank swapping schemes to extend the life of the platform. We went through it in the 16-bit MS-DOS days with the 1MB barrier, and before that in the 8-bit days with the 64K barrier. Now we're doing it all over again with the 4GB barrier.
Yes, the appetite for memory will always be unbounded. Fortunately, despite the present transitional hiccups, the (current) 48bit virtual address space and (easily-extended) 40bit physical address space will last us for a long time. The IPv6 transition is the real new frontier.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:00 pm

UberGerbil wrote:Yes, the appetite for memory will always be unbounded. Fortunately, despite the present transitional hiccups, the (current) 48bit virtual address space and (easily-extended) 40bit physical address space will last us for a long time. The IPv6 transition is the real new frontier.

Not to take this too far off topic, but I thought the current limit was actually 64-bit (as in all the pointers and registers are 64 bits wide), and the 48-bit virtual and 40-bit physical address space was just the limit on the current implementations in x86-64 chips?
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:01 pm

So the blog post of that Toshiba "laptop", in a sort of co-recursion, inspired me to post this
ImageImage

That's the NEC version of the Tandy 100, the first really portable (as opposed to "luggable") x86 machine. The clam-shell style machines soon followed, including the Tandy 200 the following year:

Image

Hey, it's the Eee PC. Small screen. No hard drive. And it's just $999!
Check out that keyboard. I'm willing to bet the action on that is better than any notebook sold today, including the vaunted Thinkpads.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:07 pm

SuperSpy wrote:Not to take this too far off topic, but I thought the current limit was actually 64-bit (as in all the pointers and registers are 64 bits wide), and the 48-bit virtual and 40-bit physical address space was just the limit on the current implementations in x86-64 chips?
It is. That's why I wrote "(current)" and "(easily-extended)". In fact the 40bit physical address limit isn't even common to all past and present 64bit implementations.
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Tue Apr 01, 2008 8:31 am

My first PC was an Apple II + with one of those 16k ram boards (I paid extra for that!) and a 5-1/4 floppy drive. I used an RGB adapter to use a TV for the display. I remember having to fiddle with the drive speed continuously to get it to read disks, there was a little rheostat inside the case to make the adjustments and I ended up drilling a hole in the case so I didn't have to take the cover off to make adjustments. :D What a trip! Ahhhhh, the good old days of the text only adventures. :lol:
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Tue Apr 01, 2008 1:15 pm

jeffry55 wrote: What a trip! Ahhhhh, the good old days of the text only adventures. :lol:


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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Tue Apr 01, 2008 1:29 pm

jeffry55 wrote:What a trip! Ahhhhh, the good old days of the text only adventures. :lol:
And there's nothing like playing said text-based adventure game and having it work bug free after typing many thousands of lines of code programming it. That was before I even knew how to properly type mind you :P .
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Wed May 22, 2013 4:55 pm

Ran across this pic today and remembered this thread. Coincidentally I finally dug out that box of magazines again so maybe I'll scan a few more ads and reviews

Image
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Re: Popular Computer Archeology

Postposted on Wed May 22, 2013 5:33 pm

I presume the motherboard memory bus in that era was the same 8bit width as these ISA RAMcards.
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