[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Axiom Printer Card

February 23rd, 2015 by Benj Edwards

AXIOM EX-801 EX-820 printer card TRS-80, Commodore PET, Apple II advertisement - BYTE November 1979* Feathered hair not included

Ah, the good ole days when you had to pay $535 (that's $1,744 in today's dollars) for the privilege of merely being able to hook a printer to your home computer. What can I say — it was a useful feature.

My first computer, an Apple II+, came equipped with a Grappler+ printer card (from the previous owner), although I can't recall ever using it. Instead, I printed school reports by that time from whichever family MS-DOS machines we had at the time, each of which included a built-in parallel port for printer use.

What a great day it was when I switched from a noisy dot matrix printer to the that awesome Canon Bubblejet we had. Silent printing! And the day we got our first full-color photo capable HP inkjet printer around 1996. It was pretty low resolution, but still amazing.

Today, I don't print much. I have a color laser copier in service to reproduce scanned documents (in lieu of a copy machine) in case I need a hard copy of something — usually a form or contract — to mail.

[ From BYTE Magazine - November 1979, p.162 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you regularly print anything from your computer these days? What do you print?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] TRS-80 Model 4

February 9th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 4 advertisement - BYTE October 1984Philodendron not included.

[ From BYTE - October 1984, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you use a TRS-80 or Tandy computer of any kind back in the day? Tell us about it.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Computer Shopper Debut

September 22nd, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Computer Shopper Magazine debut advertisement - 1979"The most divisive magazine in the USA."

Veterans of the computer scene will no doubt recall Computer Shopper, a massively large (11″ x 14″, later 10″ x 13″) and thick (usually around 1.25″) monthly publication that mostly ran classifieds and paid advertisements for PC vendors. The magazine ended its print run in 2009, 30 years after it launched.

I only know when it launched because of this advertisement for the launch of Computer Shopper that appeared in the November 1979 issue of Byte. It's interesting to see a legend at its birth.

I was never a huge fan of Computer Shopper, since it was essentially a month's worth of computer junk mail stuffed into an awkward and almost unreadibly-large magazine format. But I did respect it as a mainstay of the computer industry — as familiar as a phone book and as timely as a newspaper. May she rest in peace.

[ From Byte Magazine - November 1979, p.189]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever read (or more accurately, peruse) Computer Shopper? What are your memories of the publication?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Apple Gets Biblical

July 28th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Apple Adam Genesis Forbidden Fruit Apple II Advertisement - 1979Where's Eve? Oh wait.

This ad is actually for an Apple II-themed creative writing contest, but you'd never know it. That's because the gobs of tiny, hard-to-read text are completely overshadowed by the nude man in a jungle holding an Apple II over his crotch.

And that man happens to be Adam from Genesis.

Oh boy.

So there you have it, folks. The Apple II was responsible for the fall of man. You know — that time Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, casting all of humanity into sin. Here's a tasty quote from Wikipedia:

For many Christian denominations the doctrine of the fall is closely related to that of original sin. They believe that the fall brought sin into the world, corrupting the entire natural world, including human nature, causing all humans to be born into original sin, a state from which they cannot attain eternal life without the grace of God.

You probably won't see me discussing theology on this blog ever again, but I find this ad quite funny because, despite its tongue-in-cheek cuteness, the biblical interpretations stemming from it are myriad and potentially wildly unexpected, making this a complete failure of marketing. But that failure was likely overlooked. This was 1979 — early in the life of Apple — and it was also before the Great Masses of the Offended had a strong enough voice (i.e. The Internet) with which to share and froth over everything that displeased them.

[ From BYTE - November 1979, p.33]

Discussion Topic of the Week: How do you think people would react if Apple published an ad like this today?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] MacCharlie's FrankenMac

January 14th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Dayna Communications MacCharlie IBM PC accessory for Macintosh ad - 1985I'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?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Altos Computer Systems

December 31st, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Altos Computer Systems ACS8000-6 and Sun-Series ad - 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.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Finally…a 1200 Baud Modem

November 19th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Radio Shack TRS-80 DC-2212 Modem 1200 Baud - 1985FINALLY, 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?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] A 1985 Solid State Drive

November 5th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

SemiDisk Solid State Disk SSD Disk Drive Emulator Ad - 1985This 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?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Osborne 1

June 25th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Osborne 1 Portable Computer ad -  1982Two 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?

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Macintosh II 25th Anniversary

June 8th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Macintosh II 25th Anniversary at Macworld

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 » ]

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