Feeds

The early days of PCs as seen through DEAD TREES

The golden days of computer mags, replete with ancient adverts

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Feature 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 rectangles and stapled together, then arduously trucked, hauled, or flown to subscribers and newsstands.

Magazines, that is: one of 1983's prime communications vehicles.

Time's January 3, 1983 issue actually bestowed its annual honor not broadly on The Computer per se, but rather on the personal computer, the device we all now use as part of our workaday world, but back then was the mysterious "television typewriter" that was only beginning to come into its own.

As the premier US weekly news magazine's awardee, the personal computer was in exalted company: Time had previously awarded its annual honor to figures as diverse as Adolf Hitler and Lech Wałęsa, raising onto its editorial pedestal not necessarily the most admirable personage of the previous year, but the one who had most changed history.

In hindsight, it's easy to argue that although the PC has clearly not been as horrifically history-changing as Herr Hitler, it has however done far more to influence world affairs than Pan Wałęsa – and I write that as a proud descendant of the Polish working class that Wałęsa served so admirably.

It may be hard – or impossible if you're under 50 – to remember the days when PCs were just barely breaking into the mainstream. You may find it even harder to remember the influence that magazines had in that pre-internet, pre–"Let a Squillion Online Publications Bloom" era.

Time mattered. Its editorial decisions mattered. And mattering – along with, frankly, nattering – wasn't limited to mass-market news rags such as Time. When Time declared the PC to be Machine of the Year, computer magazines also mattered, nattered, and flourished, hauling in advertising hand over fist, ordaining winning products, and damning losers into the discount bins of the swap meets of yesteryear.

January 3, 1983 issue of Time magazine – cover

Time's 1983 gatefold cover: sculptor George Segal didn't present the cheeriest vision of a personal-computer future

It was a heady time. In the years following Time's award, the PC's fortunes waxed and computer magazines' fortunes waned. Some of you Reg readers may remember those days; most won't. But I wager that all of you might enjoy a wee bit of a jaunt back in time to revisit how magazines covered the PC's early days – and, sadly, how most of those rags either died out or faded into shadows of their former selves.

And so, hoping to both amuse and instruct, I ensconced myself in the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, requested a stack of volumes to be pulled out of lonely storage, thumbed through them while decades of dust fouled my respiratory system, scanned and heavily Photoshopped selected pages, and slapped together the following.

Enjoy. And don't forget to click on the thumbnail images on the left of each page. Many have some great reading or admirable images – and marvelous hairstyles – that will either remind you of where you've been or explain the era during which those IT dinos around you cut their teeth.

Next Page: The Computer Moves In

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
You didn't get the MeMO? Asus Pad 7 Android tab is ... not bad
Really, er, stands out among cheapie 7-inchers
Apple winks at parents: C'mon, get your kid a tweaked Macbook Pro
Cheapest models given new processors, more RAM
4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles
Have your say with Ofcom now, before Freeview becomes Feeview
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
YES, iPhones ARE getting slower with each new release of iOS
Old hardware doesn't get any faster with new software
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.