Last week the space shuttle program ended after 30 years. In the comments section of one of the articles I was reading, they had been talking about the computer problems the shuttle had on the mission and moved on to how far “behind the times” the computers on the shuttle were to more modern computers.
While there are many reasons for the shuttle still uses that older tech, it got me to thinking about what PCs were like back then. I remember the first shuttle launch but I can’t say that I remember too much about the computers from that era. So what were computers like 30 years ago?
Thirty years ago a computer program was released that led to a rather young at the time company becoming one of the most know software companies today. The program was MS-DOS for the then six year old Microsoft.
Thirty years ago was also the introduction of the first “portable” computer. The Osborne 1 had 64k of memory and ran at 4 MHz. For a bit of perspective, the current PC configuration we order has over 65,000 times the memory and 4 processors each running 665 times faster. The Osborne 1 also had a 5 inch screen and two 5.25 inch floppy disk drive a keyboard that folded up into a rugged case. And it weighed in at 24 pounds. Remind me not to complain about lugging my laptop again.
More on the home side of things, by that time the Apple II had been out for a few years already and so had the Atari VCS, which would be re-branded the Atari 2600 the next year. The Commodore VIC-20 was released in 1981 and became the first computer to sell more than one million machines. Space Invaders and Pac-Man were already out, but ‘81 saw the introduction of the first Donkey Kong game. Now I feel old and have that "Pac-Man Fever" song running through my head.