Ian (lovingboth) wrote,

Speaking of travelling in time

It turns out, while looking for something else, that several people have scanned early copies of Byte magazine. For youngsters :) this was an early US microcomputer magazine - issue four's main article was on how to build your Altair, one of the very first microcomputer kits.

One of its two big strengths in its heyday was the breadth of coverage. There was typically a theme for the issue - such a particular computer language - but always a mix of DIY software or hardware pieces along with reviews and news. So every issue had something of interest to almost anyone interested in the field.

The good stuff is available to ftp from here - some are in the 'other' directories, because they were scanned by someone else. They're all 'entire issue' PDFs rather than split up. On one hand, it's a bit inconvenient to have to download an entire issue in order to get the one article you are interested in, but on the other it's the ads that are the real time-travel experience and were its other big strength.

Everything of any significance at the time got advertised in Byte. The issue I've just been looking at, for example, has an ad from the small firm Seattle Computer Products for their Intel 8086-based computer board. Oh, yes, they've done an operating system for it, 86-DOS. That was their (very probably copyright infringing) clone of the dominant disk operating system for 8-bit micros, CP/M. A slightly larger firm, recently moved nearby, bought the rights (for such a ludicrously small amount that even they paid more later), made a couple of tweaks, then sold it to IBM as PC-DOS and to the rest of the world as MS-DOS. Some years later (and several years after they said they'd have it ready) they added a graphical shell to it, also based on work by someone else, which they called Windows.

After IBM PC clones running MS-DOS and Windows took over most of the world, Byte became a lot less interesting and was killed off in the mid-90s.

But have a look at the early ones and see just how far we've come, especially in value for money. In 1980, a computer with less processing power than some watches with a ten megabyte hard drive: $7,500 - a bargain, given 64k of RAM for it cost almost $600. A word processor, not much more powerful than Notepad: $350. A Pascal compiler: $395. Intel was taking out double page colour ads to say bubble memory was the next big thing: currently only $995 for one megabit (i.e. 128k) if you bought a hundred (it promised that they'd be $595 in a year's time, if you bought five thousand). You could spend a thousand dollars on a 300 baud modem (i.e. 30 characters a second - slow enough to read) etc etc...

This entry was originally posted at http://lovingboth.dreamwidth.org/458504.html, because despite having a permanent account, I have had enough of LJ's current owners trying to be evil. Please comment there using OpenID - comment count unavailable have and if you have an LJ account, you can use it for your OpenID account. Or just join Dreamwidth! It only took a couple of minutes to copy all my entries here to there.

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