January 14th, 2013 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Apple, MacCharlie, Macintosh, IBM PC, IBM, Dayna Communications, Mac accessories, system adapter, advertisement, Byte, 1985
I'd like to have heard Steve Jobs' reaction when he first saw this.
Long before Boot Camp and Parallels, if you wanted to run IBM PC compatible software on your Mac, you had to strap on this unholy contraption — the Dayna Communications MacCharlie.
If I recall correctly, the MacCharlie was essentially an IBM PC clone in a beige box that hooked to the Mac's serial port. As a result, the Mac merely served as a serial terminal for the MacCharlie via custom terminal software running on the Mac. That's not a particularly efficient setup, but the lack of expansion ports on the original Macintosh meant that there was no other reasonable point of entry.
Since it worked through the serial port, the MacCharlie could only run text-based MS-DOS applications. Conveniently, the MacCharlie shipped with a keyboard extender that added the IBM PC's special function keys and a numeric keypad to the Macintosh keyboard.
[ From Byte Magazine, April 1985, p.71-73 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a hardware system adapter (something that lets you use software from one platform on another through hardware, not software emulation) for any computer system?
December 31st, 2012 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Altos Computer Systems, Sun-Series, ACS8000-6, Z80, S-100, woman, 8-inch floppies, advertisement, Byte, 1979
"The first business computer system that will not instantly crush your secretary."
Happy New Year from Vintage Computing and Gaming!
[ From BYTE, November 1979, p.21 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Quick! Name your favorite computer, calculator, or console with a Z80 CPU.
November 19th, 2012 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Radio Shack, TRS-80, modem, DC-2212, 1200 baud, BYTE, 1985
FINALLY, I mean, COME ON.
You too could be the proud owner of this Radio Shack TRS-80 DC-2212 1200 baud modem for the low, low price of $399.95 (about $859.81 in 2012 dollars).
…If you traveled back in time with the proper currency, that is. But I wouldn't recommend it.
I recently bought a cable modem that is the equivalent of a 150,000,000 baud modem. It cost $70 in 2012 dollars. Not bad for progress.
[ From BYTE, September 1985, rear cover ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What speed was you first modem?
November 5th, 2012 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Semidisk, SSD, IBM PC, S-100, Byte, 1985
This IS your daddy's SSD.
Back in January, I traced the evolution of the Solid State Drive from its 1978 origins to the present in a PC World slideshow. From that experience, I learned that SSDs, as a product class, were far older than most people realize.
Case in point: Seen here is an advertisement for a 1985-era SSD called the SemiDisk. The company behind this early SSD, SemiDisk Systems, sold a wide range of "disk emulators" (as they were called back then) for platforms like S-100 bus systems, the TRS-80 Model 2, and the IBM PC. All of them used solid-state RAM chips to achieve read and write speeds far beyond those of rotating platter drives at the time.
The 2 megabyte SemiDisk for the IBM PC retailed for $1,795 in 1985. That's about $3,860 today when adjusted for inflation. Amusingly, at that vintage price rate — about $1,930 per megabyte — a 256 GB SemiDisk SSD would cost over $494 million today. Yep, that's a 494 followed by six zeroes.
Of course, you can buy a 256GB flash-based SSD right now for under $180. Not bad.
[ From BYTE, September 1985, p.329 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you buy your first solid state PC drive? How big was it?
June 25th, 2012 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, Osborne, Osborne 1, portable computers, Microsoft Surface, BYTE, 1982
Two out of three doctors recommend Osborne 1 for muscle fatigue.
We've come a long way from what many consider to be the first commercial portable PC, the Osborne 1 (seen here), and the recently announced Microsoft Surface tablet.
Here's a brain twister for you. If you packed a case the size of the Osborne 1 (think small suitcase) with Surface-sized portable tech, how powerful would the machine be?
[ From BYTE Magazine, February 1982, p.31 ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: What was your first portable computer? When did you get it?
June 8th, 2012 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Apple, Macintosh, Macintosh II, Michael Dhuey, Apple II, Steve Jobs, Byte Magazine, Anniversaries, Macworld, freelance work, 1987
25 years ago this March (1987), Apple released the Macintosh II, the first open architecture Macintosh. Naturally, I've written a short feature about this pioneering machine over at Macworld.
While speaking with Michael Dhuey, the Apple engineer that conceived the Mac II, I learned that Apple patterned the Mac II after the 1977 Apple II, which sported the same sort of flexibility and expandability as the Mac II. That self-referential influence amazed me — especially coming from a company that recently institutionalized the practice of ignoring its own history.
But only two years after Steve Jobs resigned from Apple, the company had no problem making the un-Jobs move of both looking backward and opening up the Macintosh. The result changed the course of Macintosh history.
[ Continue reading Macintosh II 25th Anniversary » ]
February 9th, 2009 by Benj Edwards
Tags: Retro Scan, BYTE, art, piracy, copyright, software piracy, magazine cover, 1981
It's the software Vikings!
Heh. And you thought digital piracy was a new problem. It's actually as old as the PC software business itself. Some of the earliest evidence of this comes from a famous February 1976 open letter to the Homebrew Computer Club in which Bill Gates (then "General Partner" of a small company called Micro-Soft) protested the rampant "theft" of his company's popular Altair BASIC.
Reflect on that date for a moment: February 1976 — less than a year after the Altair 8800 launched the personal computer revolution, people were already illegally copying Microsoft products with great abandon. (Some things never change.) Of course, selling pre-programmed software for personal computers was a new concept back then. And heck, personal computers were a new concept back then.
But as time passed and PCs grew in influence, the piracy problem didn't go away. In fact, it continued as a hot-button topic throughout most of the 1980s. BYTE magazine devoted its May 1981 issue to the subject, commissioning its regular cover artist, Robert Tinney, to provide a visual hook for the monthly theme. Meditating on "software piracy," Tinney concocted a potent and iconographic image of a fierce viking ship cutting through rough seas, its massive floppy disk sail standing at full mast. To this day, the image (seen above) remains Tinney's most famous illustration from the BYTE years.
If his prints of this image hadn't sold out long ago, I'd buy one in a heartbeat.
[ From BYTE, May 1981 ]
Discussion topic of the week: Do you pirate commercial software? Why or why not?
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