By Harry McCracken
The first few years of PC history were its stone ageâ€“the era when any signs of life whatsoever were history-making. The period from 1985 to the present, as amazing as itâ€™s been, has been one of consistency and compatibility. Which is why I think of 1980-1985 as the most interesting half-decade in PC history. Almost every new system (including some that debuted in 1979) was still an experimentâ€“and even flops could be fascinating. Herewith a gallery of notable examples, illustrated with evocative drawings from Google Patents.
Data Processing System With Programmable Graphics Generator
Filed January 8th, 1979
With their advanced graphics and sound, I always thought of Atariâ€™s 800 and 400 as the first third-generation personal computersâ€“with the MITS Altair and its kin representing the first generation and the Apple II, Commodore PET, and Radio Shack TRS-80 the second. This 800 setup is uncommonly well-equipped, with two floppy drives, a tape deck, and what might have been considered a flat-screen TV in the early 1980s. Only two of the four joystick ports are occupied, though.
Filed November 1st, 1979
If thereâ€™s a heaven for old PCs, Radio Shackâ€™s TRS-80 Model II probably shares a bunk bed there with the Apple III. Both were follow-ups to hugely popular computers. Both were aimed at business users. Neither was compatible with its predecessor. And both were flops. I only saw one Model II in the wildâ€“my friend Charlesâ€™s father had one in his office.
[This post is excerpted with Harry’s permission from his Technologizer blog.]