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.
Digital Equipment Corporation was perhaps the second most important computer company in history, behind IBM. Its minicomputers challenged IBM, and, indeed, Unix first ran on a DEC PDP-7. DEC’s Alpha CPU was one of the few chips to make Intel nervous for its x86 line. It created the first really good Internet search engine. In a just and perfect world, DEC would still be dominating. Instead, it faded away in the 1990s. What happened to Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC?
Over the course of its 12 years on the market, Commodore released a number of Commodore 64 models. The computer’s capability changed very little over time, but the technology did. The world changed a lot between 1982 and 1994, and that gave Commodore some opportunities to lower costs, chase other market segments, or both.
Here’s an overview of the various Commodore 64 models that hit the market over the machine’s long life.
The Atari 2600 CPU was a nondescript MOS 6507 chip. Neither Intel nor Motorola had a CPU chip in the early 1970s that could meet Atari’s price point. MOS Technology didn’t have one either, but they asked Atari what they could afford. Then they made one.
The 6507 is so nondescript, some of them don’t even have the number “6507” anywhere on them.
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.
The Epyx Fast Load cartridge, released in 1984, was the first commercially successful Commodore 64 fast load product. Commodore’s 1541 disk drive was much slower than competing disk drives, so fast load cartridges became popular. While the Epyx product was first, and sold very well, it didn’t have the market to itself for long. Its developer, Scott Nelson, went on to produce other fast loader products as well.
Epyx Fast Load was a plug-in cartridge that replaced the Commodore 64’s stock ROM disk loading routine with a more efficient routine that was about five times as fast. The result was that software that normally took three minutes to load often took closer to 30 seconds with the cartridge.
I hear a lot of questions about the Commodore 64 over and over again. Many of them don’t warrant a single blog post. So here’s a list of Commodore 64 common questions and their answers.
If you want to know when the Commodore 64 came out, how many Commodore 64s sold, who made the Commodore 64, where the Commodore 64 was made, is the Commodore 64 worth anything, are Commodore 64 games worth anything, or if you can still buy a Commodore 64, read on.
The dark beige/tan Commodore 1541 disk drive is rather well known. The lighter beige, almost white 1541c is more of a curiosity. The drives are closely related, but the difference is more than just the color. Let’s take a look at the 1541 vs 1541c.
Retro computing fans, especially Commodore and Atari enthusiasts, all know the story. Jack Tramiel left Commodore, the company he founded, in early 1984 at the height of its success. Then, within a few months, he gained control of Commodore rival Atari.
Looking at the Commodore 64 vs Amiga seems a little odd, at least to me. After all, the machines were never intended to be rivals. The Amiga was supposed to succeed the 64. Commodore bought Amiga because they couldn’t make a 64 successor on their own, so they intended for the Amiga to replace it. It didn’t fully succeed, and maybe that’s why the comparison is still interesting.
Looking back, the machines may seem similar today. But in 1985 they sure didn’t.