Sunday, January 28, 2018

Personal Computer Invasion!

I had the great pleasure of being a part of the personal computer invasion.  When I started in software, options for businesses were mainframes and mini-computers.  But there were people with a vision of computing for the masses, and they were prepared to make their vision a reality.

When I was still a teenager, my older brother saved up his money from his job and bought a Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 computer. Below is a short clip of someone using one.

My brother's computer had not hard or floppy drives. You had to use a cassette tape drive to save programs, and to load programs you wanted to run.  I can't recall if his had a built-in screen, but I do recall that he connected it to the TV.  There was a game where you had to shoot alien ships and recharge at your space station.  The one time I played it I destroyed all but one alien ship, found my station, recharged, then destroyed my space station. It gave me a message about probably getting court martialed. Then I destroyed the last alien ship.  I was the only ship left in the universe!

One of the first to really make waves was Apple.  My wife was working for Canarim Investments, in downtown Vancouver, and the bottom of her building had a store where Apple Computers was showcasing their personal computer.  It was exciting times, although the productivity gains simply weren't there in the first versions.

Here's a funny clip of some digital natives trying to figure out an old Apple computer.  It held the promise of good things, but fell a bit short on delivery:

Shortly after this, IBM came out with their IBM PC. There were several versions before the XT came out. Here's another video with someone looking at an old XT - it's a pretty long one, and the hard drive doesn't work in the end (not uncommon - the drives were always the first thing to go):

My first PC was an IBM PC XT - I'll talk about that in another post.

Soon there were lots of options! Most, like the TRS-80 were focused on games and consumers, and they were very expensive!

I remember going to computer shows, and at one of them, I ran into the Timex User Group of Vancouver (TUG).  This was the same company that made watches, but they'd delved into computers. This was the heath-kit of computers.  You got to assemble it yourself and program it.  The TUG folks struck me as being like a bunch of former WW-I biplane pilots playing with their toys. They had voice synthesis and other cool things that they did, none of which were commercial grade.  But then, these were called "personal" computers.

It was exciting to be involved in the early days of a new technology that held so much promise, and I got to watch it go from promise to reality!

No comments:

Post a Comment