Vintage PC Collection! - HotHardware

Vintage PC Collection!

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The HotHardware Vintage PC Collection!
A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane...

By, Marco Chiappetta
April 2, 2003

We spend quite a bit of time working with cutting edge technology here on HotHardware.Com.  We've recently had our hands on 3.06GHz Pentium 4s, Radeon 9800 Pros, a slew of low-latency memory, the latest motherboards and even some of the fastest hard drives currently available.  We're definitely passionate about this stuff, and it's great to experience high-end PC hardware first hand...but it is still fun to stop for a moment and look back at some of the older products that helped bring us to where we are today.  Most of the H.H. crew have been around, or have worked with, computers in one way shape or form for quite a few years, and we're not the type of people who forget our roots!

Over the past few months I have managed to put together a small collection of vintage hardware.  I was first introduced to computers back in fourth grade, when my elementary school put together a lab of Commodore PETs and began teaching us to program in BASIC.  Soon thereafter the Commodore 64 was released to the general public.  Anyone who has been around since those "early days" knows the success Commodore enjoyed.  Millions of C64s were sold throughout the world. Well, one of those early C64s found its way into my home, and the rest, as they say, is history!  After my C64 I jumped on the PC bandwagon and bought an 8MHz HP Vectra, but there were a ton of older systems I wanted back then.  Now, thanks to eBay, I have them!  Take a look...

RADIOSHACK TRS-80 64k COLOR COMPUTER 2:

         

The RadioShack TRS-80, or "Trash-80" as is it more affectionately known, was one of the original 8-Bit, consumer class machines. The TRS-80 was very popular back in the early '80s.  It ran programs from cartridges or cassette tapes, and had a slew of accessories available (like the Speech-Sound Pack pictured above).  This particular model was equipped with 64k of RAM and an MC6809E CPU running at a whopping .89MHz!


TEXAS INSTRUMENTS TI99/4A:

         

The Texas Instruments Ti-99/4A was one of the more aesthetically pleasing early systems, but it never seemed to catch on.  It was more expensive and had a smaller following when compared to competing products from RadioShack and Commodore.  Like most of these systems, software for the Ti-99/4A was run from cartridges, which Ti dubbed "Command Modules",  that slid into the large socket to the right of the keyboard.  The Ti-99/4A used a relatively powerful (for the time!) 16-Bit TMS 9918 central processor clocked at 3.3MHz.  The RAM could be expanded up to 52k.


APPLE IIGS "WOZ" EDITION:
APPLE MACINTOSH LC II:

         

Although it pains me to say this now, I was a fan of some early Apple systems.  The two machines pictured above are an Apple IIGS and a Macintosh LC II.  The Apple IIGS was / is considered to be the "King" of the Apple II product line.  The IIGS was by far the most powerful Apple II.  Most software was run using 3.5" or 5.25" floppy disks, but hard drives and other SCSI devices could also be used.  Mine is a very early limited "Woz" edition, named after Steve Wozniak, one of the two "Steves" who founded Apple computer.  If you're not familiar with "Woz" and his achievements, I strongly suggest taking some time to read up on his work...his is a genius.  The IIGS was equipped with a 16-Bit Western Digital 65C816 CPU that could be run between 1Mhz and 2.8MHz.  The lower speeds were needed to maintain compatibility with older software.  The graphics and sound capabilities of the IIGS far surpassed anything available from Apple at the time, and were rivaled only by Commodore's Amiga.  Early IIGS systems shipped with 256K of RAM, and through the use of RAM cards could be expanded all the way up to 8MB.  If anyone expresses interest in the system when they stop by my lab, I like to turn it on and run the "Sword of Sodan" demo.  The subtle sound effects and cool graphics are still fun to see today.

To the right of the IIGS is a Macintosh LC II.  The LC II ran a 16MHz Motorola 68030 CPU and could access up to 10MB of RAM, but most shipped with only 4MB.  The LC II worked with Mac OS system 6.0.7 to 7.5.5.  The Macintosh has steadily evolved over the years and is still a viable platform today.  After using Macintosh systems almost every day for the past three years I have grown to dislike them, but I'm not about to start a flame war!  OS X and Jaguar have swayed my opinion somewhat, however, and if Apple finally releases some killer hardware to backup their new OS I may pick one up for the sake of "exploration"...


COMMODORE 64:

         

The Commodore 64 is a very nostalgic piece of equipment for me.  I spent years banging away on this keyboard learning how to program in BASIC, typing papers for school and playing games.  TONS of games.  A few of my buddies and I would swap games constantly!  I can't even begin to fathom the amount of time I spent playing "Pogo Joe", "The Last Ninja", "Impossible Mission" and "Summer Games"! (SYS 49152 and SYS 64738 will forever be burned in my memory)  The Commodore 64 was the original "home computer".  The C64 ran software from 5.25" floppies, cassettes or cartridges.  It had 64k of RAM, a 1MHz 6510 CPU.  The graphics and sound capabilities were more powerful than the other systems of its time.


ATARI 1040ST:

         

I never had much exposure to the Atari ST line.  These systems weren't very successful here in the states, but were fairly popular in Europe.  The Atari ST was developed to rival Commodore's flagship Amiga products.  The 1040ST pictured above was released in 1987.  The system was powered by a Motorola 68000 CPU clocked at 8MHz, shipped with 1MB of RAM and an internal 3.5" floppy drive.  For the most part software was run from 3.5" floppies, but game cartridges were also available, as were hard drives and other accessories.  These systems had very capable graphics and sound processors, and were often used by professionals in the music industry.  The left side of the case even has MIDI In / Out connectors.


COMMODORE AMIGA 500:

         

If you ask almost any long term "computer buff" about the Commodore Amiga, you will most likely hear the term "ahead of its time".  The Amiga was arguably the most powerful machine available when it was released in 1985.  The Amiga 500 pictured above, released in 1987, was the first Amiga to gain wide acceptance. These machines were available everywhere, even in department stores like Sears!  I actually spent some time in high school working at Software ETC., and sold quite a few of these puppies myself.

The Amiga was equipped with multiple processors, each designed for a specific task.  It had multiple graphics and audio processors, which gave the Amiga  video and sound capabilities that were far superior to other systems available at the time.  The Amiga was capable of displaying 4096 colors on-screen in certain modes, with full stereo sound.  All of the game software available at the time was showcased on Amiga hardware.  Cinemaware's line of games especially exploited the graphics and sound capabilities of the Amiga.  The Amiga 500 was powered by a Motorola 68000 CPU clocked at 7.14MHz and shipped with 512k or RAM.  Most software was run from 3.5" floppies or from an external hard drive.  The hardware wasn't the Amiga's only impressive aspect, however.  The Amiga OS (Kick Start / Workbench) was very small (it ran from floppies), yet very powerful.  The Amiga OS had arguably the best pre-emptive multitasking support of any desktop OS, and it was released years before anything from Apple, Microsoft or IBM.

This concludes our journey down memory lane, we hope you enjoyed the trip!  Obviously, we didn't cover every aspect of these vintage machines, but that was not our intent.  We just wanted to give those of you not familiar with these machines a bit of background information, and give "seasoned" veterans something to reminisce over.  If you have any fun stories or memories of these, or other classic machines you'd like to share, drop by this thread and chime in.  We've got to get going...it's time to power these babies up and get in some quality gaming!

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