PCWorld, January 1985: Once promising,
soon gone. Farewell, non-volatile
bubble memory, we hardly knew ye
(click to enlarge)
PCWorld, January 1985: Yes, you could
run COBOL on your IBM PC and 'sort
four thousand 128-byte records in less
than 30 seconds' – but it'd cost you:
$750, or $1,750 in today's dollars
(click to enlarge)
PCWorld, January 1985: Okidata 9-pin
dot-matrix printers made a different-
pitched sound depending upon which
character it printed. I once wrote
a text file that played The Star
Spangled Banner. Sort of...
(click to enlarge)
PCWorld, January 1985: It may now seem
clunky, but the Data General/One was
a fine machine. Why? It was 'The only
portable with a full-size 80 column
by 25-line screen' (click to enlarge)
MacUser, January 1986: MacUser was
snarkier than Macworld; think The Reg,
not Cnet. In 1986, Macworld would
never begin an Arabic-software blurb
with 'Look Abdul!' (click to enlarge)
We magazine folk are here to help
As personal computing became increasingly mainstream, computer magazines continued to morph from places where the cognoscenti could converse amongst themselves about code snippets and big-picture industry trends into places where experts provided newbies with advice and recommendations.
Reviews became less technical, advice became more entry-level, and editors bestowed awards upon hardware and software – not necessarily to congratulate companies, but to provide buying advice to non-technical readers.
Newcomer MacUser, for example, used its January 1986 issue to inaugurate its "First Annual Software Awards", which in coming years expanded to include hardware and industry luminaries, as well.
MacUser January 1986 "The Envelope, Please..." by the MacUser editors: Best Overall Program of 1985: Excel from Microsoft for many, many reasons. Its spreadsheet routines are superb and totally outclass any spreadsheet running on any system. Couple the eye-widening graphics and charting capabilities to that spreadsheet and if your proposal doesn't carry the day at the board meeting you have no one to blame but yourself.
Best Desktop Publisher: PageMaker from Aldus can make you into a futuristic Gütenberg of even a William Blake.
Best Peripheral Device: ThunderScan from Thunderware is an astonishing device that transfers images to the Mac by scanning them using a snap-in device that replaces the ImageWriter ribbon.
Two MacUser columnists were equally effusive about one Apple hardware release and another Microsoft application (this was years before the term "app" was commonplace).
MacUser January 1986 "West Coast Report" by Michael Wesley: This is a momentous occasion, an announcement of incredible proportions. The hard disk is nice, but the price is phenomenal!
I love Apple products but I've always hated Apple prices. Now, suddenly, Apple has brought out an important new product at a sensational price. Thank you, Apple. Really. A great big joyous thank you.
MacUser January 1986 "A Man and His Macintosh" by Doug Clapp: Word is my life. I love Word. I understand it; it understands me. Friends may come and go; Word just gets better and better.
In 1987, PC Magazine was less purely enthusiastic than was MacUser, mixing adulation with brickbats.
PC Magazine January 1987 "The Best of 1986 (And Some of the Worst)", introduction by Bill Howard: In dramatic lore they were known as Famine, Pestilence, War, and Death. In 1986 their real names were the RT PC, the PC Convertible, the CMI hard disk, and the PC-XT Model 286. IBM continued to hold the biggest market share in 1986, but it was a shrinking share as others bested Big Blue on price, innovation, and bang for the buck. It didn't help that many of IBM's new entries were clunkers.
Nineteen eighty-six brought more and faster PCs and ATs: Compaq's Deskro 386, which leads PCs into the 32-bit era; IBM's belated boost from 6 to 8 MHz on the AT; and a can't-tell-the-players-without-a-scorecard flood of PC and AT compatibles from just about every Japanese company that ever built a TV, VCR, stereo, printer, radar detector, or LCD wristwatch.
PC Magazine was quite enamoured with page after page of other products, including:
Compaq Deskro 386: The numbers are straightforward: 20 per cent more money and 100 per cent more processing speed than IBM's best AT. And that's with today's DOS and applications programs. When the operating systems and software catch up, speed gains may be tenfold.
Lotus Development HAL: [This] "natural language interface" to 1-2-3 translates brief, conversational phrases into commands to enter formulas, move or copy data, build graphs, sort databases, and write macros. Sounds a bit like artificial intelligence? It is.
Zenith Data Systems Z-181 Portable PC: If you like reading in the dark and typing on marshmallows, the other squinty, murky boxes might do. But if you need a road PC you can really use, don't even consider anything other than the Zenith Z-181.
Despite PC Magazine editor-in-chief Bill Howard's trashing of IBM in his awards-article intro, the bulldog psyche of that magazine just couldn't let go of Big Blue's pant leg.
PC Magazine January 1987 "Brickbats" by editors of PC Magazine: IBM Corp., for introducing the PC Convertible in April with a modem that didn't follow the Hayes command set – and then not delivering that modem till September. For a laptop PC, a fast, compatible modem is about as important as a good, legible screen, which, come to think of it, isn't so hot on the Convertible, either. R.I.P.
Next Page: Geek roots not forgotten
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.