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...
TRS-80 64k COLOR COMPUTER 2:
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
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.
IIGS "WOZ" EDITION:
APPLE MACINTOSH LC II:
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"...
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.
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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