When I read a book like Fire in the Valley it’s a trip to my very early teen years. I had zero money with which to buy a personal computer but I was completely obsessed with them. I don’t recall for sure whether I actually had my first computer yet at the time that the December 1980 issue of Byte Magazine came out, but it was probably pretty close to around that time. It was an unusual issue for them because it focused on computer games (specifically Adventure games of the type that Scott Adams sold but there was plenty more in the issue than that). I know that I must have checked out that one issue half a dozen times from the periodicals room at the Fort Worth Public Library downtown so I could read through it.
If I didn’t have it yet, I did get a computer within a year or so because I would split the price of a TI 99/4 with my best friend Stephen Watkins.
Just recently the Internet Archive made available the entire run of Byte Magazine so you can download anything you want to see about what computing was like from 1975 to 1998 but I naturally gravitated to the December 1980 issue just to see what it was I was looking at 33 years ago.
- Everything that’s easy today is difficult then. Buying software, storing your files, communicating with other people, displaying color graphics, and printing are all very difficult. You need to buy special hardware or software and hook up a crap-ton of stuff yourself or hire somebody by the hour to figure it out for you. OK, you’re right, printing still sucks 33 years later; but it used to be worse.
- They’re all out of business. This issue is 400+ pages of gravestones with Apple and Radio Shack being some of the only survivors (and I’m not sure about Radio Shack lasting another 33 years). Microsoft, Sony, Seiko, and HP all make appearances in other people’s ads but basically every hardware manufacturer, computer store, and software maker here is gone gone gone.
- It may not have much more RAM but the $9 Arduino I just bought is basically a super fast Apple II on a card.
- My thought that you couldn’t do much with 32K should clearly be re-calibrated, we did everything with just that much room once upon a time.
- Is that really a wiring diagram for building your own video board in a national computer magazine?!?
- We just devoted several pages to a Basic language game listing that doubtless would have only worked for one model of computer. Everything about that is archaic.
So go download your particular tidbit of nostalgia and try to imagine what a computer magazine of today would look like to you in 2046.