Computers in 1985: It was a very good year

Computers in 1985: It was a very good year

In some ways, 1985 was a really pivotal year for computing. The industry was changing fast, but in 1985, many relics from the past were still present even as we had an eye for the future. Here’s a look back at computers in 1985 and what made that year so interesting.

I think 1985 was interesting in and of itself, but it also made the succeeding years a lot more interesting. A surprising amount of the technology that first appeared in 1985 still has an impact today.

Read more

Radio Shack computers

Radio Shack computers

Radio Shack released one of the first home computers, the TRS-80 Model I, in 1977. Between 1977 and 1979, it sold 100,000 units. Radio Shack sold them just as quickly as Tandy could make them. You can count Radio Shack and its parent company Tandy among computer companies that failed, but they enjoyed a good run. For a time, Radio Shack computers, later marketed as Tandy computers, were very popular.

Radio Shack and Tandy computers included the TRS-80 Model I from the inaugural class of 1977, the pioneering Model 100 portable, and the Tandy 1000 series, which helped bring PC clones into homes.

There were several reasons why Radio Shack computers were hard to compete with in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

Read more

How DDoS attacks work

Yesterday, half the Internet was broken. I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t get into Salesforce to check on a support ticket for my biggest customer. Another member of my team sent us a warning that a big DDoS attack was happening, and not to count on being able to issue very many quotes today. So what, exactly, is a DDoS attack and how do DDoS attacks work?

I suppose there’s another question to ask too: What can you do to avoid being part of the problem? We’ll save that for the end.

Read more

Gary Kildall’s death investigation

I was selling computers at retail when I heard of Gary Kildall’s death. We had a few copies of Wordstar for Windows and someone asked about it. I said it was easier to remember the keyboard shortcuts in Wordstar than Wordperfect.

“You sound like a CP/M guy,” said someone who overheard me. “Did you hear that Gary Kildall died last month?”

I hadn’t, and he wasn’t surprised. I was curious, so I went to the library and found a whole lot of nothing. A month or two later, I found a mention in a computer magazine column that Kildall had died in a barroom fight but it gave no specifics.

Read more

How the Amiga could have lived to age 30 and beyond

It was 30 years ago this week that Commodore released its landmark, long-time-coming Amiga 1000 computer–the first 1990s computer in a field full of 1970s retreads.

Yes, it was a 1990s computer in 1985. It had color and sound built in, not as expensive, clunky, hard-to-configure add-ons. It could address up to 8 megabytes of memory, though it ran admirably on a mere 512 kilobytes. Most importantly, it had fully pre-emptive multitasking, something that previously only existed in commercial workstations that cost five figures.

It was so revolutionary that even NBC is acknowledging the anniversary.

Being a decade or so ahead of its time was only the beginning of its problems, unfortunately.

Read more

Larry Page’s exile and rebirth

A lot of people really dislike Google the way I’ve been known for disliking Apple and Microsoft. It never really occurred to me that all three are related, until I read this piece on Google cofounder Larry Page. Much of what I disliked about Apple and Microsoft were their founders. I found the Bill Gates of the 1980s and 1990s childish (even when I was still a child myself) and a jerk. I didn’t know much about Steve Jobs in the 1980s–back then, people talked about Steve Wozniak more than they talked about Jobs–but as he resurfaced from his exile, I didn’t especially like what I was seeing then, either. Jobs, you see, didn’t come back to Apple as a demigod. He was still a little rough around the edges and, from my outsider perspective, for those first few years at Apple when he was trying to turn Apple around, he was still turning himself around to a degree as well.

I always saw Larry Page as different. He and his classmate, Sergey Brin, developed this great search engine that actually presented the results you were looking for on the front page, and it was fast. And he had this motto that said, “Don’t be evil.” It sounded good to me. And I guess it doesn’t hurt that Page isn’t much older than me. I found him easier to relate to than Gates or Jobs, who literally were getting their start in computers a year or two before I was born. Read more

Why AMD’s turnaround is working when so many turnarounds fail

As this editorial notes, a year ago chipmaker AMD was on the ropes. Today AMD still won’t be unseating Intel any time soon, but they’re profitable again.

The problem, it argues, is that changing CEOs isn’t enough. A CEO has to have lieutenants that tell the CEO what the CEO needs to hear. Steve Ballmer failed, the author argues, because he inherited Bill Gates’ team, and Gates’ team wouldn’t tell Ballmer what he needed to hear.

It’s a very interesting perspective, and timely, as AMD released a compelling product line today.

Getting past your own biases

I read Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive last week. I always figured it was an autobiography or memoir, not a business book. But it’s a business book.  A very good one.

I avoided it because I didn’t like Andy Grove. I’ve never been a fan of Intel’s business practices during the 1990s and 2000s, including using payola to keep competitors’ chips out of large computer systems, but after reading this book, I’m more disappointed than anything. Whichever company had Andy Grove wins, period. No need to cheat. Read more

Ctrl-Alt-Del history: non revisionist edition

When it comes to Ctrl-Alt-Del history, there’s a lot of selective memory going on.

Bill Gates said last week that he regrets the use of Ctrl-Alt-Del as a logon sequence, while David Bradley, the IBM PC engineer who built that feature into the first IBM PC, says he doesn’t know why Microsoft chose to use that sequence for logon anyway.

Both of them, for whatever reason, are forgetting a few things.

Read more

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux