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.

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What happened to Digital Equipment Corporation?

What happened to Digital Equipment Corporation?

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?

There’s a short answer and a long answer.

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The Atari 2600 CPU: The MOS 6507

The Atari 2600 CPU: The MOS 6507

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.

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IBM PS/2 series

IBM PS/2 series

The IBM PS/2 line, released in April 1987, was IBM’s attempt to reinvigorate its aging personal computer line and fight off cloning. Although the line sold fairly well, it failed to hold off cloning and IBM never regained the market dominance it enjoyed in the first half of the decade.

Let’s take a look back at the history, trials and tribulations of the IBM PS/2.

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Steve Jobs and the Amiga

Steve Jobs was aware of the Amiga. He didn’t think much of it. Even still, Steve Jobs and the Amiga did have some connections.

Jobs’ opinion of the Commodore PET made bigger headlines after he died, but Jobs had an opinion about the Amiga, too. Both pre- and post-Commodore Amiga.

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C64 vs. Apple II

C64 vs. Apple II

The C64 vs. Apple II was perhaps the most epic battle of the 8-bit era. Both companies sold millions of machines, yet both nearly went out of business in the process.

Comparing the two machines with the largest software libraries of the 8-bit era is a bit difficult, but that’s what makes it fun. The two machines are similar enough that some people ask if the Commodore 64 was an Apple product. The answer is no.

As a weird aside, it was possible, with a Mimic Systems Spartan, to turn a C-64 into an Apple II. Not many did, but the reason why is another story.

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Spot phishing e-mails with Outlook

I got e-mail the other day from Turbotax saying someone had filed my taxes for me. Obviously a cause for concern, right? Here’s how I determined the message was fake in about three minutes. You can spot phishing e-mails with Outlook the same way.

Some people will tell you not to even open a message like this, but if you’re a computer professional, at some point someone is going to want you to prove the message was fake. I think this is something every e-mail administrator, desktop support professional, security professional, and frankly, every helpdesk professional ought to be able to do.

So here’s how you can get the proof. And generally speaking, Outlook 2010’s default configuration is paranoid enough that this procedure will be safe to do. If you want an extra layer of protection, make sure you have EMET installed and protecting Outlook.

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Another reason to block fonts at the proxy

Last week Apple released a bunch of patches up and down its product line. One of the vulnerabilities it fixed in OS X was a vulnerability in its font parser.

In the past you could mitigate vulnerabilities like this by only installing fonts from trusted sources, but since it’s now possible for web pages to transmit fonts along with other content, there’s a limitless number of untrusted fonts out there in the world.

Since it may take a while for all of the major operating systems to shake out all of the problems in their font subsystems, that’s the reason I’ve recommended filtering fonts at the proxy.

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Building DOS gaming PCs

Building DOS gaming PCs

The ultimate DOS gaming PC is a topic that I’ve seen come up in forums frequently, and that I’ve been asked directly a number of times. I guess since I published advice on running DOS games on Windows PCs on two continents, people figured I knew something about that. I guess I fooled them!

The trouble is that no single PC can really be the “ultimate” DOS game machine. Well, not if your goal is to be able to optimally run everything from early 1980s titles designed for the original IBM PC up to the last DOS version of Quake. I learned that the hard way in 1995 or 1996, even before Quake existed. 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.

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