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Babbage Difference Engine No. 1

A history of personal computing in 20 objects part 1

Archaeologic Personal computing. Personal. Computing. We take both aspects so completely for granted these days, it's almost impossible to think of a time when computing wasn't personal - or when there was no electronic or mechanical computing. To get from there to here, we've gone from a time when 'computers' were people able to do perform …
Tony Smith, 1 Nov 2012
Ada Lovelace, credit 2D Goggles

Quite contrary Somerville: Behind the Ada Lovelace legend

Lovelace Day Ada Lovelace is a compellingly romantic figure, irresistible in today’s age of equal geeky opportunities. The daughter of "mad, bad and dangerous to know" Lord Byron, her mathematics-loving mother Annabella Milibanke purportedly beat the poet out of her with relentless studies in science, maths and logic. A beauty enthralled by …
Dave Wilby, 16 Oct 2012
IBM ThinkPad 700C

Happy 20th Birthday, IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad

The ThinkPad is 20 today. Sort of. Launched by IBM and now made by Lenovo, the familiar black-clad, red-nippled laptop family quickly established itself as an icon, in many ways re-establishing Big Blue's reputation as a PC maker after years in the shadow of the clone manufacturers. The first three clamshell-styled ThinkPads, …
Tony Smith, 5 Oct 2012
Optical Disc

Happy birthday, Compact Disc

The Compact Disc is 30 years old - at least if you work back to when the platform first went on sale to punters. The first commercially release disc and player - respectively, Billy Joel's 52nd Street and Sony's CDP-101 - were introduced in Japan on 1 October 1982. The disc was released by Sony's recorded music subsidiary, CBS …
Tony Smith, 1 Oct 2012
Dragon 32. Source: Wikimedia

The Dragon 32 is 30

Archaeologic The Dragon 32, arguably the best-known and most-successful of the UK's early 1980s home computer also-rans, was introduced 30 years ago this month. The micro's story goes back more than a year before its launch. Tony Clarke, a senior manager at Swansea-based toy company Mettoy - best known for its Corgi die-cast metal car brand …
Tony Smith, 1 Aug 2012
Newbury Labs/Grundy NewBrain

The Grundy NewBrain is 30

Archaeologic The NewBrain was launched 30 years ago this month, but its arrival, in July 1982, was a long time coming. The genesis of the computer that might have been the BBC Micro - that might, even, have been Sinclair's first home computer - goes back more than four years to 1978. The company that became known as Sinclair Radionics was …
Tony Smith, 2 Jul 2012
Broken CD with wrench

Atari turns 40: Pong, Pac-Man and a $500 gamble

Forty years ago today, one of the most iconic names in computing was born: Atari. With just $500 between them, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari on June 26, 1972. Atari quickly became a successful computer games company: titles for Atari broke the one million units sold barrier and 10 years later Atari was making $2bn …
Gavin Clarke, 27 Jun 2012
Acorn promotes Archimedes 300 series

Strong ARM: The Acorn Archimedes is 25

Archaeologic The Acorn Archimedes is 25 years old this month. The first machines based on the company's ARM (Acorn Risc Machine) processor were announced in June 1987, the year after the 32-bit chip itself was launched. Four versions of the Archimedes were released in 1987: the A305, A310, A410 and A440. The first two had 512KB and 1MB of …
Tony Smith, 1 Jun 2012
ARM

ARM creators Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber

Unsung Heroes of Tech Back in the late 1970s you wouldn't have guessed that this shy young Cambridge maths student named Wilson would be the seed for what has now become the hottest-selling microprocessor in the world. Ninety-five per cent of today's smartphones are built around an ARM processor. The ARM began with Wilson. Sophie Wilson. Sourc: …
Chris Bidmead, 2 May 2012
ZX81 Basic Programming manual

Basic instinct: how we used to code

Retro Week Reg Hardware Retro Week Logo I’ve recently caught myself, like some horrific solo re-write of the Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch, waxing lyrical to my two iPod-wielding young ‘uns about the good old days; when men were men, computers were effectively clockwork, and computer games… well, come to think about it, they …
Richard Dyce, 27 Apr 2012
Dragon 32

Twelve... classic 1980s 8-bit micros

Retro Week Roundup Reg Hardware Retro Week Logo Those were the days, my friend. And, indeed, we thought they'd never end, as we hopped, skipped and blooped our way through Jet Set Willy's mansion, traded between distant worlds in Elite and yet still found time to hack up our own arcade clones in any of a dozen variations of the Basic …
Tony Smith, 26 Apr 2012
Vector Graphic System N

Look back in Ascii: Computing in the 1980s

Retro Week Reg Hardware Retro Week Logo When I landed the job of Doctor Who Script Editor in 1981, I knew I needed a computer. Actually it was something I'd known since the age of 12, but back then you couldn't get started for less than half a million dollars. Now you could pick up a Sinclair ZX81 for a shade under fifty quid in kit …
Chris Bidmead, 24 Apr 2012
Commodore 64 home computer

The Commodore 64 is 30

Archaeologic Commodore took the wraps off the Commodore 64, one of two immediate follow-ups to its popular Vic-20 home computer, 30 years ago this week. The 64 made its public debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), though it wouldn't go into production until later in the year before going on sale in the US market in August. It didn't …
Tony Smith, 2 Jan 2012
Apple Quicktime 75

Happy birthday, Apple QuickTime

Apple's multimedia foundation, QuickTime, was released to the public 20 years ago today. Initially provided as an Extension for the classic Mac OS – folk were running System 6 back then – QuickTime's ability to show tiny windows of video was premiered in May 1991 at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference. QuickTime 1.0 …
Tony Smith, 2 Dec 2011
BBC Micro

The BBC Micro turns 30

Archaeologic The BBC Micro – the machine which, along with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, epitomised the British home computer boom of the early 1980s – was launched 30 years ago tomorrow. Unveiled on 1 December 1981 as the Model A and Model B, the BBC Micro would go on to sell over 1.5 million units before the last of the line was discontinued …
Tony Smith, 30 Nov 2011
The Register breaking news

Huge PDP-11 in a lorry: How I drove computers into schools

This Old Box Computers in classrooms are so common today, we may forget this was once inconceivably difficult. Computers were very expensive and so large they needed a huge truck to transport them. Nearly 35 years ago, I worked on an ambitious but ill-fated project to bring a minicomputer to rural Iowa schools, a classroom on wheels. This …
Charles Eicher, 23 Nov 2011
Jim Westwood

Jim Westwood, home micro revolutionary

Unsung Heroes of Tech We all know Sir Clive Sinclair, the sometimes eccentric British boffin whose early simple, cheap and often kit-assembled devices helped usher in the UK's home computer revolution. You may also have seen the irreverent 2009 BBC drama Micro Men, which chronicled Sir Clive's failed battle with his own ex-employee and Acorn co- …
Chris Bidmead, 15 Nov 2011

Happy 40th birthday, Intel 4004!

On November 15, 1971, 40 years ago this Tuesday, an advertisment appeared in Electronic News for a new kind of chip – one that could perform different operations by obeying instructions given to it. That first microprocessor was the Intel 4004, a 4-bit chip developed in 1970 by Intel engineers Federico Faggin, Ted Hoff, and …
Rik Myslewski, 15 Nov 2011
Apple iPod first generation

Apple's iPod: ten years old

Apple's iconic iPod digital music player will be ten years old on Sunday. The first model, which contained a 4200rpm, 1.8in Toshiba 5GB hard drive for storage, was announced on Tuesday, 23 October 2001, though didn't find its way into buyers' hands for another couple of weeks or so, on 10 November. Apple iPod first generation …
Tony Smith, 21 Oct 2011
IBM PC

The IBM PC is 30

IBM announced its new machine, the 5150, on 12 August 1981. It was no ordinary launch: the 5150 wasn't the 'big iron' typical of Big Blue - it was a personal computer. Here's the original 1981 announcement (PDF). IBM PC IBM's Personal Computer: the 5150 Source: IBM IBM came late to the party. Through the 1960s and 1970s, it …
Tony Smith, 12 Aug 2011
MS-DOS 6

Microsoft's MS-DOS is 30 today

MS-DOS is 30 years old today. Well, kind of. On 27 July 1981, Microsoft gave the name MS-DOS to the disk operating system it acquired on that day from Seattle Computer Products (SCP), a hardware company owned and run by a fellow called Rod Brock. SCP developed what it at various times called QDOS and 86-DOS to run on a CPU card …
Tony Smith, 27 Jul 2011
Apple G4 Cube

The Cube: Apple's daftest, strangest romance

This Old Box Ten years ago on Sunday, Apple called it quits on one of its oddest products ever, the G4 Cube. The Cube was a strange and wonderful machine that continues to fascinate today - but it was widely perceived to have failed. Some people thoroughly enjoyed the failure, thinking it served Apple right. Dull people will always cheer a …
Andrew Orlowski, 30 Jun 2011
The Register breaking news

Bletchley Park completes epic Tunny machine

A new exhibit opens today at Bletchley Park that illustrates the entire World War II codebreaking process from signal intercept to final decrypt by Tunny machines. The original Tunny, a British project to re-engineer the then-unseen German Lorenz S42 cipher machine, was developed in 1942. After tens of thousands of man-hours and …
John Leyden, 26 May 2011

Five amazing computers for under £100

Many men are facing a dilemma in the coming days. Thanks to the Royals, a great, great, yawning maw of consecutive weekly Bank Holidays looms large. With enforced downtime, this means a stark choice: either face the family, or retreat to the Garden Shed. To help you make this choice, here are some suggestions. My desk at Vulture …
Andrew Orlowski, 26 Apr 2011
Sinclair Research ZX81

Sinclair ZX81: 30 years old

Tomorrow, 5 March 2011, marks the 30th anniversary of the arrival of the machine that did more to awaken ordinary Britons to the possibilities offered by home computing: the Sinclair ZX81. While its successor, the Sinclair Spectrum, got the nation playing computer games, the ZX81 was the tipping point that turned the home …
Tony Smith, 4 Mar 2011
DEc co-founder Ken Olsen

DEC: The best of systems, the worst of systems

Opinion Which were the greatest DEC computers and why? Which were the worst - and why? Everyone has their own definition of greatest and worst, and exemplars of each, but I'm looking at the machines that had the most or the least influence. Since DEC under Olsen got a lot of things right, it's quicker and easier starting from the bottom …
The Register breaking news

The Mac that saved Apple (and Steve Jobs)

This Old Box On May 6, 1998, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iMac at the Flint Center Theater in Apple's home town of Cupertino, California — the same venue where he had unveiled the original Macintosh back in 1984. "We think iMac is going to be a really big deal," he told the crowd. He was right. The iMac shipped at the stroke of …
Rik Myslewski, 29 Nov 2010

Apple I goes for twice the price of an Enigma

An Apple I sold yesterday for £133,250 while a three-rotor Enigma box went for £67,250. steve wozniak Woz: "Apple I was an important step but I didn't realise it at the time." The Apple I, number 82, came in its original box and was "in remarkably fresh condition". It was bought by an Italian fanboi to add to his collection …
John Oates, 24 Nov 2010
The Register breaking news

'Superb' Apple 1 on the block for £100k-£150K

Forgotten Tech An original Apple 1 made by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Jobs parent's garage goes on the auction block in London this month. The Apple 1 was designed by Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. Just 200 were made, according to the website Old Computers, and up to 50 are thought to survive. At the time they cost $666.66, but Lot 65 …
Drew Cullen, 12 Nov 2010
The Register breaking news

PARC turns 40: mice, money, and the new interwebs

Mention "Xerox" and "PARC," and you'll likely be greeted by a rolling of the eyes or an off-hand comment like: "Didn't they invent the mouse and let Microsoft make all the money?" That happened to me more than once when I mentioned I was heading to the Palo Alto Research Center to interview a few folks for the iconic institution …
Gavin Clarke, 20 Sep 2010
The Register breaking news

Twitter on a ZX Spectrum

Photo Diary Britain's first Vintage Computing Festival took place over the weekend at Bletchley Park, which was the perfect excuse to visit the National Museum of Computing, a recent addition to the Park site. All three are a tribute to the passion of volunteers – the state has only very recently saw fit to give any money to the historic …
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Jun 2010
globalisation

Son of Transputer powers new Amiga box

There was only one place to be for Amiga enthusiasts this weekend: a tent at Bletchley Park. Saturday saw the unveiling of the first dedicated Amiga box for some time, in the shape an unusual and technically advanced system that maintains the Amiga's bleeding edge reputation. The AmigaOne X1000 is a custom dual core PowerPC …
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Jun 2010
The Register breaking news

Vintage Computer Festival recruits OMD for synthpop loveliness

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: remember them? We do and so will many geek nostalgia buffs of a certain age who can see the synth-pop duo talk and play - they're called OMD now - at the UK's first Vintage Computer Festival. VCF runs on June 19 and 20 at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes. …
Drew Cullen, 27 Apr 2010
globalisation

Bletchley Park to restore 112-byte* '50s Brit nuke computer

In a project described as "the computing equivalent of the raising of the Mary Rose", engineers at Bletchley Park intend to restore a 1950s-era computer - featuring a magnificent 112.5 bytes of memory* - to working order. The machine in question was built at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire. It …
Lewis Page, 3 Sep 2009
The Register breaking news

RIP Personal Computer World

Comment - Updated If you could find the subscription list of Personal Computer World Magazine (PCW) in its startup year, 1978, you’d have a Who’s Who of the UK tech business today. The mag has died – killed by the banking recession, and Private Equity leveraging – but the industry it kick-started will always remember it. I was a founder …
Guy Kewney, 11 Jun 2009
The Register breaking news

Remembering the true* first portable computer

A lot of folks tend to honor the Osborne 1 as the world's first mass-produced portable computer. The machine was admittedly an early pioneer in totable systems in 1981, but another, much-earlier computer perhaps really deserves the credit. This old box logo Some 20 years before the Osborne's release, the American government …
Austin Modine, 5 Jun 2009
The Register breaking news

Love on the buses: The S-100 and me

This Old Box Although the IBM PC had been released in August of 1981, the system of choice for true geeks in those days was a home-brewed computer based on the S-100 bus architecture. I may have not been a bull geek in those days, but I was working on it - so I built one in 1982. It served as our family's computing workhorse for a few years …
Rik Myslewski, 1 May 2009

25 years of Mac - the good, the bad, and the cheese grater

Opinion On Saturday, January 24th, the Apple Macintosh turns 25. Over the short history of personal computing, no machine has inspired so much love and so much loathing, so many fanatical fans and so many frothing detractors. And so many opinions. So very many opinions. No doubt, you have your own. And I have mine. Here, I give you the …
Rik Myslewski, 24 Jan 2009
The Register breaking news

Before Pong, there was Computer Space

This Old Box The holiday spirit is still strong with This Old Box — or rather, the nog we're drinking this evening has some pretty strong spirits in it. Just semantics really. This old box logo But as the shopping days until C-day dwindle, there's computer games on many-a-reader's mind. And with Atari's latest resurrection in swing, we …
Austin Modine, 13 Dec 2008
The Register breaking news

Honeywell's Kitchen Computer remembered

This Old Box, Holiday Edition The holiday season has returned to Silicon Valley! Bright and golden California summers have given way to a vivid fall landscape also bright and golden - but with a chance of rain. It's Thanksgiving in the state, and tots are already awaiting the arrival of Saint Nick, who's annual roll-out could mean a shiny iPhone if they've …
Austin Modine, 27 Nov 2008

25 years of Macintosh - the Apple Computer report card

Part One In two short months, Apple's Macintosh will turn 25 years old. My, how tempus doth fugit. To mark the awesome inevitability of January 24, 2009 following January 24, 1984 after exactly one quarter-century, tech pundits will bloviate, Apple-bashers will execrate, and Jobsian fanboyz will venerate the munificence that flows …
The Register breaking news

Vintage IBM tape drive in Apollo moon dust rescue

An Australian scientist hopes to restore a vintage, refrigerator-sized IBM tape drive stored in a museum to recover Apollo moon mission data the space agency misplaced nearly 40f years ago. NASA's only means of measuring moon dust during its Apollo missions has gone largely unappreciated until recently, reports Australia's ABC …
Austin Modine, 11 Nov 2008