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.

The IBM PS/2 did offer numerous enhancements over the PC line it replaced, but IBM’s customers came to resent the high price and the perception that IBM was trying to lock out third party peripherals. IBM’s decline was slow, but the PS/2 was the beginning of the end for IBM’s personal computer business.

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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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The forgotten computer that changed the world

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.

This is an Amiga 2000 that looks fairly pristine. Inside there was lots of room for hard drives, memory, CPU upgrades, and video devices.
This is an Amiga 2000 that looks fairly pristine. Inside there was lots of room for hard drives, memory, CPU upgrades, and video devices.

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. Read more

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