My first real PC was a "Portable" with a flip open LCD that had a contrast ratio of about 1.5 to 1. My second was A DAK special 386 that had a bum printer port (skipped the odd character - probably why DAK got them :-) But I had fun with all of them and learned a lot.
Early netbooks were niche products. That niche is ultra-portability at low cost. For traveling, they are fabulous. The trouble started when people bought them thinking that they were just cheaper laptops. It got worse when manufacturers tried to turn them into cheap laptops. They got bigger, heavier, and more expensive. In the end, they were bad laptops that no longer served the original niche.
I wouldn't have the VIC20 on that list as it would have been the enrty point into the world of computing for so many. Certainly I first 'discovered' computers in my secondard school's computer lab which was full of them. The C16 would be a more worthy inclusion from the Commodore stable, or perhaps the SX-64.
Amen! I learned to program on a Commodore PET so the VIC20 was limited in comparison but I could afford it as a student and it was MINE.
By the way, thanks to Windows 7, there's nothing unusual anymore about a computer that turns on in the middle of the night.
I actually had that emachines unit. It did its job, but eventually the power supply did burn up on me. At the time, no standard PC power supply would fit inside the case, so I just lashed one to the case frame with hose clamps. The outside cover wouldn't fit anymore, so I just ran it open. I still have the case... it is mini-ATX compatible, and it houses my current home PC.
How could the VIC-20 be a bad machine if it was the 1st make/model to sell over one million units?! The article is mostly frivolous and tries to find faults with mostly older machines which were still fairly new given the amount of integration and technology for the time. Not fare! By the way, when my father bought me the VIC-20 from Germany (I was in Egypt at the time), it was a German version called VC-20 (for Volks Computer)!
Also, as far as I know, the 1st commercial computer in space was actually the GRiD Compass laptop, used on the space shuttle starting somewhere between 1982-1985.
Nah, there was stuff before that; like the PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) and the IMSAI 8080. Maybe the IMSAI waas the first but I think the PET came after the first Apple. That gets you thinking back to the minicomputer era of the 70s. Glad I missed that.
The IMSAI was a clone of the original S-100 bus machine, the Altair 8800, as seen in Popular Electronics at the time. Most displays were variations on the TV Typewriter in those days with 40 characters orless on screen.
Too bad you missed the minicomputer and microcomputer era. You would have learned to apppreciate memory and peripherals! A lot of stuff could be done in 64K, and even 16K. You had to work with overlays and tight code, but there were high-level compiled languages and even interpreted BASIC.
Shucks, the first computer I ever used, and IBM 360 Model 25 in college, had 32K and my sophomore year they upgraded it to a full-blown 48K, the most it could handle! It was on the small size, but it was a mainframe.
I think IBM used it to test out programmable microcode, because it had some mag core called Control Storage. If you got a CSL (Control Storage Load) Check light during IPL, you had to reach for the deck in the bottom of the card cabinet, turn a dial, and read it in to remind the computer that it was a 360. The IBM 370 series used all volatile semiconductor memory and had to load its microcode from this neat new device, a 8" Floppy Disk.
I think the PET was marketed as a small business machine. I saw one in our agency's warehouse that had come back from a Medicare contractor.
The worst computer I ever used was the Sinclair ZX-80. It had a whopping 1K of RAM, which you could easily exhaust writing the most elementary of programs. It couldn't even display text while executing code. It was so bad I hesitate to even call it a computer.
Ahh, fond memories! Here in the states it was called the Timex Sinclair (yes, Timex the watch company).
You should've gotten the 16K ram expansion and an aftermarket housing that gave you a real keyboard to replace the membrane keyboard.
Program & data load and store via audio cassette was slow and painful, but for the price, a Sinclair couldn't be beat!
I learned BASIC and Zilog assembly language on that little machine, and also thoroughly impressed my E-M professor when I chose to implement an assigned computer simulation project on my little "toy" computer :)
I was hoping someone would bring that one up. Also remember that Sinclair came out with e very small calculator in about 73 or 74 that was smaller than a pack of cigarettes. The catch, you had to know scientific notation because that was how the numbers were done.
The thing about the ZX-80 design was how much was accomplished by so little hardware. It was a hobbiest machine. The CPU was involved in generating the video which is why it blanked out. See the Wikipedia article on the Sinclair ZX-80. A friend of mine loved hardware hacking with his.
Wegematic 1000 was similar to Alwac III-E and was manufactured by Bo Nyman AB in Bollmora, Sweden. The Wegematic 1000 processing unit comprised of a an operating unit and some six meters of racks holding a vertically oriented magnetic drum memory (3 600 rev/min) with 261 channels (tracks), about 10 000 diodes and about 500 electron tubes on laminate circuit boards, se picture below. Wegematic 1000 module (Part of the Helsinki Wegematic at display in Jyväskylä at a computer show in 1995) The energy consumption was about 15 kW.
The most infuriating products are the 'almost-nearlys', I had an Amstrad 8086 Portable with full size keyboard, 3:2 contrast flipout LCD and twin floppies. Very innovative in so many neat ways.
It was so nearly right - light and self-contained, it ran GEM just fine, but ultimately let down by that LCD, no hard drive option route and if you bumped it, the batteries lost contact and it lost its NV settings.
But it went on the road with me for 18mo and with its serial and parallel ports successfully installed many embedded systems (which did work perfectly for decades afterwards!).
Thanks for reminding me!
The Sinclair ZX81 was pretty bad, especially compared with contemporaries. The keyboard was almost unusable. The tape drive was pretty useless. And I also hated the Vic-20. I think it was 6502-based, like the Apple-II, but so much inferior. The Apple-II was pretty great. Even though all the Trash-80s were disparaged, I liked the TRS-80 Model III. Especially the space-age styling. I mostly used it to write BASIC programs. The screen was OK, though just B&W. I sort of remember the PET being really bad. I had a computer with Windows ME which was terrible. It had a sleep mode but it never woke up from sleep mode a single time the entire time I owned it. I had some friends that owned Amigas and swore by them and others that loved the Tandy CoCo. Every Dell laptop I owned was mechanically a piece of junk. The keyboards always failed, the power connectors, and the hinges. After a year the batteries were only good for 30 seconds (no exaggeration).
The one that comes to mind was an IBM PC running windows 3.1 on a 286. It would hang quite regularly and if I had not saved my work, I would lose it all. The only way to get it back was to do a power reset. The infuriating thing was that when it rebooted, windows gave you the scolding about not turning the computer off properly!
To this day I save my work every few minutes.
I gave up on the retail machines pretty early on when I couldn't find a seller who used premium components, all of the others still charged more for their machines with inferior parts than it cost me to build one using the highest quality parts available. I have been building my own machines for the last 20 years and it's still the best route available for me.
Me too. Prices of brand name desktops have dropped, so I don't think I'm actually saving that much anymore by building my own. These days it's more about getting exactly what I want, down to every little hardware detail, rather than saving money.
Where's this revisionism coming from? Even some former NASA employees are now crediting the Mac Portable as the first computer in space--it flew on STS-43 in 1991. But the GRiD compass was flying as early as 1989 (a slightly modified GRiD Compass 1101 may have been the first to fly, then a GRiD 1530 flew on STS-29 in March 1989, according to Wikipedia). GRiDs were laptops in the modern sense, with nice folding flat screens and weighing only about 10 lbs. And that doesn't count the programmable TI calculators that went up on earlier missions.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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