[vcf-midatlantic] Happy Birthday IBM-PC

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at gmail.com
Fri Aug 13 18:24:44 UTC 2021


On Fri, Aug 13, 2021 at 9:34 AM Alexander Pierson via vcf-midatlantic
<vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:
> February '81, eh? Did anyone else have a VIC-20 when it was relatively new? What was your experience like?

I got one in late 1982 or early 1983 when the price dropped a little
bit (I think I paid under $100).  I got it from the department store
that my high school girlfriend was working at the time.  It was
definitely an early 9VAC unit, not the later one with the DIN power
connector.

I already had a PET (2001N-32) and a C-64 and 1541 so I was able to
immediately use the 1541 with it.  I typed in a few games from
magazines/books and I wrote some programs to play with the sound and
color a bit (exploring the differences between the VIC-I and VIC-II
chips).

I also did a little hardware hacking because the expansion connector
was standard 22-pin edge connector and, of course, the User Port
connector had a lot of overlap with the pinouts of the PET and C-64.
The most elaborate thing I made was a DEC FlipChip module tester by
wiring a 6821 to the expansion bus and to a single DEC backplane
connector.  I did some small software exploration of that device but
never worked out the massive wad of vector tables one would need to
make it really useful.

> Contrasting that, is there anyone here who actually got their hands on an IBM 5150 within that first year?

I got my first job in March, 1982, at Bruce and James/Software Labs
(two companies, same owners, one public-facing, one a captive
development resource for the public-facing company).  Their flagship
product was "WordVision", a word processor for "PC-DOS 1.0 or higher,
256K required, at least 1 floppy drive required".  My job was writing
the demo for the never-produced C-64 "home version" of WordVision.  We
had 2-3 5150s at work that Spring/Summer.  I didn't do a lot on them,
but I did use them occasionally.  I didn't form a very favorable
opinion of them from my experience.  All of the flaws and limitations
stood out to me, and there wasn't much software at the time that
really leveraged any of the positives (like way more RAM than a
typical home computer of the day).  My opinion was if you were going
to spend that much, just get a loaded Apple II.

One thing stuck with me from that job was when the boss kept saying
"wait until the 'Peanut' (PCjr) comes out.  It's going to change the
world!"  At the time, the 5150 was so expensive that it wasn't
expected to make many inroads into the home market (which is why we
were planning a C-64 version of the product), so IBM's home offering
was going to clear the decks at that tier while maintaining dominance
in the office.  But then the clones happened...

-ethan


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