Time; January 3, 1983: The opening art
of Time's multi-story special report,
which tried to answer the question,
'What are these television-typewriter
things, anyway?' (click to enlarge)
Time; January 3, 1983: Can you grok this
cuspy frobnitz for gweeps?
(click to enlarge)
Time; January 3, 1983: Four personal-
computing pioneers. Hmm ... can you
guess which one is the coder?
(click to enlarge)
Time; January 3, 1983: This ad proves
that some traditions still endure. Oh, and
know that 1983's swimsuit sex bomb,
Kim Alexis, is now 52 years old
(click to enlarge)
The Computer Moves In
The personal computer, as any true geek knows, wasn't born in 1982, the year of which Time speaks when it refers to The Machine of the Year.
It's impossible to pinpoint exactly which device first moved computers from the enterprise mainframe's glass cage to the average desktop, but there's a consensus agreement that the personal computer movement kicked off when the MITS Altair 8800 was featured on the cover of Popular Electronics in January 1975. Your
mileage opinion may vary.
In any case, the Altair's appearance was a full eight years before the personal computer moved from its hobbyist ham-radio-operator-turned-chiphead infancy into the budding society-changer that Time celebrated in its January 3, 1983, issue – although their editors didn't seem wholly convinced:
Time; January 3, 1983 editorial by John Meyers: Says Senior Writer Frederic Golden, "Computers were once regarded as distant, ominous abstractions, like Big Brother. In 1982 they truly became personalized, brought down to scale, so that people could hold, prod and play with them."
For all that computers have achieved, they can still prove frustrating. In April, Golden's machine inexplicably swallowed the cover story he had written on the Computer Generation.
Meanwhile, Senior Writer Otto Friedrich resolutely tapped out his Machine of the Year story on his favorite machine of all: a 15-year-old Royal 440.
Clearly, not all Time editors had not yet embraced the future. The magazine's main coverage, however, was more optimistic – although they did point out that there were still more than a few holdouts. Ah, those damnable buggy-whip manufacturers...
Time; January 3, 1983 "The Computer Moves In: By the millions, it's beeping its way into offices, schools and homes" by Jay Cocks: ... the enduring American love affairs with the automobile and the television are now being transformed into a giddy passion for the personal computer.
A new poll ... indicates that nearly 80 per cent of Americans expect that in the fairly near future, home computers will be as commonplace as television sets or dishwashers.
Estimates for the number of personal computers in use by the end of the century run as high as 80 million.
... about 10 per cent of the typewriters in the 500 largest industrial corporations have so far been replaced.
Some senior officials resist using a keyboard on the ground that such work is demeaning. Two executives in a large firm reportedly refuse to read any computer print-out until their secretaries have retyped it into the form of a standard memo.
In the race among machines priced between $1,000 and $5,000, Apple still commands 26 per cent, followed by IBM (17 per cent) and Tandy/Radio Shack (10 per cent). But IBM, which has dominated the mainframe computer markets for decades, is coming on strong.
In addition to theorizing about the future of personal computing, Time's writers also took a moment to report on the current state of the personal-computing market. After talking about the low end – Commodore, Sinclair, Osborne, and the like - they discussed $5,000-and-up "personal work stations".
Time; January 3, 1983 "The Hottest-Selling Hardware" by Phillip Fatlick: Apple is joining the [professional work stations] crowd with its long-awaited Apple IV (code-named Lisa), due to be unveiled in mid-January. Lisa's probable price range: somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000. The Apple V (code-named Mackintosh [sic]), on the other hand, due out in mid-1983 and priced around $2,000, could be a true mass-market machine.
To step out of the computer world for a moment, and to prove the old adage of plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, here's a letter to the editor from Time's "The Computer Moves In" issue:
Time; January 3, 1983 letter to the editor from Flinn Hudson: Gay families should receive the same rights as those allowed to traditional families. Since gays are among the taxpayers and consumers who pay for such benefit, they should have a share in them.
To paraphrase an ad campaign popular during those years, we haven't come all that long a way, have we, baby?
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...
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.
>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.
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.
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.