Since questions occasionally come up, and I remember well what it was like owning a Commodore in the 1980s in the United States, I’ll share my recollections of it.
It was very different from computing today. It was still interesting, but it was different.
Continue reading What it was like owning a Commodore in the mid 1980s
Growing up in Missouri, a lot of my Christmas gifts when I was young came from a catalog showroom called Dolgin’s. One of my earliest memories is going to Dolgin’s with my mom and aunt, who showed me some Tonka trucks and asked me which ones I liked best.
I know a lot of people remember going through Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, but I remember Dolgin’s catalogs the best. Continue reading Remembering Dolgin’s
Dan Bowman kindly pointed out to me that former Commodore engineer Bil Herd wrapped up his discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday this week. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus/4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Plus/4 was one of those TED machines.
What went wrong with that machine? Commodore miscalculated what the market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Continue reading The curious case of the Commodore TED machines
In a shocking turn of events, PCs are now outselling tablets. Last year it was the opposite. What’s going on?
Priorities, that’s all. It’s the cycle of events in electronics. It’s happened before and it’s going to happen again as the market matures. Continue reading PCs are dead! Tablets are hot! Tablets are dead! PCs are hot!
A rather hastily written and sloppily edited piece showed up on Slashdot yesterday morning that caught my attention, because it was about the Amiga 2000. The Amiga 2000 is a dear machine to me; in 1991, our family upgraded to one from a Commodore 128. I still have both machines, and there isn’t much that I know today that I didn’t first experience on one of those two machines.
Although I think the piece was little more than a used computer store’s effort to unload some hard-to-move inventory, I do agree with the premise. For a machine that had a tremendous impact on the world as we know it today, the A2000 is criminally unknown. Continue reading The forgotten computer that changed the world
The Tampa Post’s technology Q&A columnist received a letter this weekend (toward the bottom of the link) about Windows tech support scammers. From the article:
The people performing the hoax sound remarkably professional and officious.
Depending on what you say to them, results vary a lot. When they call me, they’re anything but professional. Especially lately. They seem to be OK when they don’t think they’re talking to a computer professional. Mention that you do this for a living, that you have an advanced certification, or that you wrote a book, and they turn vicious fast. Continue reading The Tampa Post on “Windows Service Center” scams
Every so often, some people start raging on the train forums, or even in the pages of the magazines, about modern electronics in modern O gauge trains. The modern electronics make the model trains sound just like real trains, but eventually heat and power surges take their toll, the board goes poof, and now that $2,000 toy train doesn’t work anymore and needs a $300 replacement circuit board.
And by the time that happens, that $300 replacement circuit board might be out of production, and no longer available at any price.
Which has led to countless calls for some enterprising hobbyist to become a multimillionaire by inventing a $50 replacement board that works on every train.
There are several reasons for the situation. Continue reading Why you can’t get a $50 replacement sound/control board for your modern Lionel train
The famous story of Atari burying millions of dollars of unsold videogames, including the infamous E.T. cartridge, is no longer just a legend–it’s been confirmed.
How they got there was mostly a misunderstanding of the nascent business. Continue reading How thousands of Atari cartridges ended up in the desert
I was excited yesterday to see Amiga in the news again: A team of digital archaeologists recovered a series of images off floppy disks from Andy Warhol’s estate, including a number of experimental images created by Warhol himself. Judging from the comments in the various places that covered the discovery, the Internet is unimpressed.
Yes, these images appear to be the result of Warhol messing around. In many ways, they’re not all that different from what anyone might produce today messing around with a digital camera and a simple paint program with a fill pattern.
I’m not sure how many of the critics realize this stuff was created in 1985 or perhaps even late 1984, using preproduction, not-yet-released hardware and software that was likely buggy, and, as much as I like the Amiga, nowhere near today’s standards. The stuff he had to work with was nowhere near 1989 standards–the Amiga in its early days was notoriously finicky. Continue reading The Warhol Amiga discovery in context
I’m reading a book called Trade-Off, by former USA Today technology columnist Kevin Maney. It’s primarily a marketing book.
Maney argues that all products are a balance of fidelity and convenience, and highly favor one or the other. He additionally argues that failed products fail because they attempted to achieve both, or failed to focus on either one.
An example of a convenient product is an economy car. They’re inexpensive to buy and inexpensive to keep fueled up, but don’t have much glitz and you probably won’t fall in love with it. A high-end sports car or luxury car is a lot less practical, but you’re a lot more likely to fall in love with it, and gain prestige by driving around town in it. Continue reading The trade off of fidelity and convenience in marketing, and how it doomed my favorite company