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Computers Back in the Old Days


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Were they really like this? And people paid over $1,000.00 for one of them?

I love the reactions of these kids.

I just replayed the video. When the computer comes up it reads Apple ][ but the narrator says the floppy disk has DOS. That disk wouldn't load squat on an Apple II. It must be a games disk for the original Apple II.

The first computer I ever used was in my dad's Gateway 2000. He tells me it had a Pentium 166 processor, a 19" color monitor, an HP DeskJet printer, Windows 98, Microsoft Office 97, and the Mozilla and Internet Explorer browsers. It had a 1200 baud modem connected to a dedicated phone line. DSL wasn't available where we lived or he would have installed that. Our cable company (Cablevision) didn't offer internet, just TV. This was way back in 1997 when I was 7 years old. When he bought a more powerful HP PC a couple years later he gave me the Gateway 2000. I upgraded Windows and used it until he bought a more powerful E-Machines PC a couple years after that and I inherited his HP. My sister Elizabeth inherited the Gateway 2000 (after I cleaned the hard drive of anything embarrassing or personal). That sort of "pass the PC" went on until I started my sophomore year and built my own desktop, then got a laptop for Christmas.

The best thing the Gateway 2000 had was Visual Basic. My dad had a book Visual Basic 5 for Dummies. I learned how to program using this book. I learned Microsoft FrontPage from the help file and created my first website. My dad let me host it on his company's web server. It had four pages: Home, About Me, My Friends, and My School. There were pictures of me, my folks, my two-year-old sister Elizabeth, our house, my room, my computer, my friends, and my school. My dad had an Olympus D-600L digital camera he bought when it came out, and he let me use it to take the pictures. He even let me take it to school to take pictures there. Pretty gutsy of him to let the eight-year-old me use it, I think. He said that camera cost him $600.00! My dad gave it to me when he bought his first Canon digital SLR camera. I still have it:

Canon-D-600L-My-first-digital-camera.jpg

This camera has a 1 megapixel sensor (that's correct, one megapixel), max 1280x1024 resolution, a 36-110 zoom lens, through-the-lens viewfinder, 1/4 sec to 1/10000 sec shutter, fixed aperture, fixed focus, and a pop-up flash. It uses a 32MB SmartMedia card (sort of the floppy disk of digital cameras). It takes four AA batteries. I tested it and it still takes pictures. The only thing is that now I don't have a way of reading the SmartMedia card. I wondered, is there any way to transfer the pictures that are on it? There's a panel on the side with three jacks. One is for an external power adapter (my dad didn't buy it). There's a jack for attaching a printer that requires a special cable (my dad didn't buy it). There's also a jack with a symbol that might mean it can be connected to a computer. It looks sort of like this: C-> but not as crude. My dad doesn't know what that is, and if it takes a special cable he didn't buy it. It's not USB because that hadn't come out until at least a year after he bought the camera. The connector looks like an mini audio jack but it's smaller. I could look it up in the instruction book, but I can't find it. It's probably packed in one of the boxes I didn't open when we moved to the house in Berkeley. Anyway, I'm not interested enough to spend the time it would take to either search for the manual, or see if I could look it up online.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Oh dear, this makes me really feel my age.

My first computer I built myself - it had 1Kb of RAM and no storage - you connected it to a cassette tape recorder. My next was a BBC Micro - 1979, 32Kb RAM and a rather better design than the IBM PC that was launched the following year as I remember. It had a very good structured BASIC. Sadly it didn't have the IBM juggernaut behind it and didn't survive. It was, however, the distant ancestor of the ARM processor family that are everywhere now.

My first pair of floppy drives (5.25" and genuinely floppy) cost £400. My first hard drive held 20Mb - I also picked up an older model the size of a shoe box that held 5Mb.

There are so many stories about the development of the personal computer - many of them relate to extraordinary blunders made by major players (IBM, Microsoft, for instance). Things could have been so different.

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Interesting to ponder: the original IBM PC was launched with 64Kb of RAM, a monochrome text-only screen (low-res colour graphics was an optional extra) no networking of any kind and floppy drives but no hard drive - the MS-DOS operating system couldn't handle hard drives until version 3 I think. The rationale behind the 64Kb RAM was that most machines on the market at the time shipped with 32Kb so IBM leap-frogged them with double the RAM. The operating system was designed to be capable of addressing ten times that much - who would ever want or need more than that? Unfortunately it was very badly written, so that it was not possible to make it see more than 640Kb of RAM. Almost immediately programs like Lotus 1-2-3, the first successful spreadsheet for MS-DOS, needed access to more RAM and a driver was written to bypass the operating system and give the program direct access to memory above the 640K ceiling, but only a small window at a time. The third generation PC was the PC-AT with an 80286 processor and it was shipped with 1Mb RAM - but the OS could still only see 640Kb of it!

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In the late 1970's IBM was already a massive corporation making beautifully engineered golfball typewriters - and computers, but their computers were the size of fridges. The big change was the invention of the microprocessor, which made it possible for the first time to fit a whole computer in a box that would fit on a desk. IBM and the other big players of the time didn't initially take it seriously, so the first to market with machines were startup companies like Apple, Commodore, Radio Shack, Atari and others. Initially they were all incompatible with each other until Gary Kildall of Digital Research produced an Operating System CP/M which could present a standardised interface to software, making it device independent. So Visicalc, the first ever spreadsheet, could run on any computer that was running CP/M irrespective of what its processor was, or what screen resolution it had. So businesses began buying these machines because they saw Visicalc as a valuable tool.

IBM saw this growing market and wanted a slice of it, but they assigned a junior design team to produce their first desktop computer, the PC, Personal Computer. They chose to use the hobbled version of the Intel microprocessor, the 8088 which was internally a 16bit processor but only addressed the outside world 8bits at a time - the 8086 was better but required more expensive 16bit peripheral components.

IBM didn't seem to understand the concept of the CP/M operating system. Their previous computers tended to be sold as bespoke systems of hardware and software. The operating system, programming language and application software were all part of the package designed for the client. The programming language was seen as part of the operating system and vice-versa. Nevertheless they sent a delegation to Digital Research to get Gary Kildall to write a version of CP/M for their new machine so that on launch it would be able to run Visicalc and Wordstar and people would buy it.

The story goes that Gary Kildall went for a flying lesson when he should have been meeting with the IBM suits. His wife held the fort but wouldn't sign the non disclosure agreement they proffered so they went away with no contract, and deeply insulted. They never returned and Gary Kildall lost a lucrative deal (!) but IBM made a massive blunder. Without CP/M their machine wouldn't run the software that was driving the uptake of desktop computers by businesses.

IBM instead went to Bill Gates of Microsoft, who had no experience writing an operating system but he had written a pretty good programming language, MS-Basic. Maybe they thought, like in the mainframe world, that a programming language and an operating system were much the same. Bill Gates took the job and went to Seattle Computer Systems who were developing their own machine using the same chip as IBM and had written their own operating system for in-house development purposes. They called it Q-DOS, quick and dirty operating system, and Bill bought a licence to use it and renamed it MS-DOS, Microsoft Disk Operating System. He had trouble altering it to make it run on the IBM machine so he went back to Seattle and poached their best software engineers and put them to work on the task. With the deadline fast approaching and work still to do to get it to work he bought the whole company - his bank manager presumably didn't have any qualms about lending him money once he revealed who his client was. Even so he failed to meet the deadline and IBM launched their computer with no operating system. MS-DOS version 1 eventually surfaced but was so bad as to be unusable and was quickly replaced with version 2 - which was good enough to use. But you still couldn't run Visicalc. Wordstar was re-written to run under MS-DOS but Visicalc was slower off the mark and Lotus 1-2-3 took the crown as MS-DOS spreadsheet supremo. The rest, as they say, is history.

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I was on of the first hackers! Had to actually go on site - long before home connections etc. Would be about 1976 I think when I was still at school.

Skipped a bit but had a BBC Model B, put a disc drive on it. 5.25 floppy. My first home PC was a 486 that I put a CD drive on - at a time when it was a cutting edge thing to do to a computer. I think the computer I had at work was a 386. Pretty much from then on, the home PC was better than the work one.

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Were they really like this? And people paid over $1,000.00 for one of them?

Yes, they were like this. I had an Apple II in 1980 -- I was the third person I knew who owned a computer -- and I believe that first system with a whopping two floppy disk drives and a monochrome monitor was over $2000. I can remember adding the second floppy drive, which was a very big deal at the time, and just the drive (160K!) was $350.

My partner bought the original 8088 IBM PC, and I waited a little while and got the improved 286 machine a couple of years later, and that was also well over $2000; in fact, I think it was about $3500. I have more power in my iPhone than 100 of these computers today.

For a good chunk of the 1970s/1980s story, read Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer, which is a fascinating book. It helps to know where we've been in order to look ahead at the future and predict where we're going to go.

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Um, the college where I was working in the 70's purchased some of the early desktop computers made by Wang. Glorified word processors that didn't do well. After a disappointing venture into the wonderful world of computing I went back to my IBM Selectric typewriter for several years.

Had a neighbor in the early 70's who worked for IBM. From him I learned that his company was thinking about developing a small handheld computer that a person could buy and carry their whole lives, recording everything they accomplished in school and business. They met about this idea for several months and then abandoned it as too complicated for the average user to understand. Talk about being wrong!

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I just replayed the video. When the computer comes up it reads Apple ][ but the narrator says the floppy disk has DOS. That disk wouldn't load squat on an Apple II. It must be a games disk for the original Apple II.

I had a couple friends with some version or other of the Apple ][ back in the day. In my then-computer-total-ignorance, I had no idea what they were talking about when they mentioned "DOS." It was this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_DOS

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Somewhere in the mid 1970s I had a Sharp scientific programmable calculator which I used to calculate the dimensions for a 16Hz corner horn for my 18" Fane Crescendo Colossus loudspeaker. The final horn and loudspeaker was very efficient and rattled the walls with great realism of an earthquake.

My first computer in 1994, was a 486 which I built from scratch and it was running Windows for Workgroups 3.11. Some of the programs to enhance the GUI were never bettered, in my opinion, but then I approach senility with a memory that needs constant reconfiguration for this new age of hand held thingamajigs that do everything but signal the mothership to rescue me.

When I was younger I often wondered how my grandparents and their parents coped with the modern technologies of the 1960s.

It is not easy being savvy to yesterday's technology whilst being confronted with those old science fiction predictions which have suddenly become realities.

It seems like even our escapes are provided by tortured technologies with fabricated sounds and images, nostalgic for an old Earth.

Will our descendants even recognise the concept of cognitive tranquillity, let alone tranquil cognition?

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I know you can buy a USB plug-in for the 2 1/2 (?) inch drives. You may also be able to buy one for the old 5+ inch true, floppy floppies.

Some of you may remember the MPM systems, which were a concoction of 3 CPM processors in a single machine. It was good for a lot of things then, but the compatibility problems with other CPM and MPM systems made any saved disks virtually unusable elsewhere. As I recall, it could run WordStar and VisiCalc, but that might have been after 1980 on PCs.

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Had an atari 800 with two disk drives, a cassette player, an acoustic coupler modem, 48k of RAM and a color monitor. We had an epson dot-matrix printer that we reburned the eprom on to get it to print wider than an 80 column display could (and I do mean reburn - pulled the printer apart, pulled a chip out of a socket, put the chip in an eprom burner, and wiped/reloaded it). I was 15 at the time, I think.


There were magazines, like Compute! and Byte, that would print out the code for cool games, and I would laboriously retype them into my Atari. If I got the things to compile at all I was lucky - it was a pretty silly way to learn to program. And of course if you didn't save your work - which wasn't possible until it could compile - the only thing you could do was reset the machine and start over. Not a good workflow. One of the more fun parts of the atari was it's graphics handling - different than an Apple, and in some ways far superior. But intricate.


I think my dad sunk a good five grand into that computer by the time we moved and it got packed away. I later took it to Alaska with me - in a huge wooden box - where I sold it for pennies to buy my first Mac (a 512K version, it was HOT).


My dad's first PC was an original IBM 8086, it had two monitors- one green, and one amber. The amber monitor was used to see how the system was running, and the green one for actual work. It had a 20 megabyte hard drive that was mounted on an ISA card. ISA is the predecessor to PCI, which is the predecessor to PCI-E.


I still want that old IBM keyboard back. Louder than hell and it felt like you were typing on little metal sticks, but you were typing, not faffing about with these mamby pamby plastic things.


Cool things I remember:


- Early floppy disks had a notch on one side. They could only read one side of the disk. Using a hole punch to put another notch on the other side made it double sided.


- There were times when you wanted to copy protect a disk so that it could only be read by your computer (or your friends - heh). You did that by opening the floppy drive and using a screwdriver to slow the disk down a little bit, then recording your program on it, and then putting the speed back to normal. In order to read the disk again, you needed to know exactly how much you slowed it down. We had codes for this. Also, ASCII porn sucks.


- You'd use the acoustic modem by picking up the phone, dialing into the network, and listening for the answering tones. When you heard them, you had to tell the computer to look at the modem for a signal (by pressing a key - you couldn't do it early because the computer froze while it looked), then smush the phone handset into the cups and then the network would basically take over, if the dial tone was good and solid. We had a party line, so I could only use this late at night. I dialed into a mainframe somewhere in GM's headquarters in Detroit (long distance even!) and would play Adventure for hours

"It is dark. You are in a clearing. There is a path to the west".

"Go West"

"It is dark. You are on a path that goes east and west. There is a lamp here."

"Light Lamp".

"You are not holding the lamp."

"Pick up the lamp". "You are holding a lamp. It is dark. There is a path..."...etc.


Fun times.

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...and: You can now get emulators for these systems. They run on a PC or Mac, and can run anything the old machines can. I wanted to transfer some Atari programs to an emulator, and spent an inordinate amount of time finding a diagram for a cable that would allow an Atari disk drive to be connected to a PC's parallel port. It worked fine, and I saved some stuff that, due to the age of the floppy disks (getting on about 30 years now) was going to be lost forever.

So Colin: take a picture of that camera connector and let's see what it looks like. Your goal of using it with a PC may not be that tough to reach.

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My first computer in 1994, was a 486 which I built from scratch and it was running Windows for Workgroups 3.11. Some of the programs to enhance the GUI were never bettered, in my opinion, but then I approach senility with a memory that needs constant reconfiguration for this new age of hand held thingamajigs that do everything but signal the mothership to rescue me.

Des, I assure you that Satan in Hell is running his entire empire on Windows 3.1.

"It is dark. You are in a clearing. There is a path to the west".

"Go West"
"It is dark. You are on a path that goes east and west. There is a lamp here."
"Light Lamp".
Fun times.

Zork!

Screenshot_of_Zork_running_on_Frotz_thro

Only the real die hard Superfans remember a 35-year-old game like that. I don't think I was ever able to finish it, but I got pretty far into it on occasion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zork

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Man, I learn something every day. It must be fascinating to have part of the beginnings of personal computers back in the 1970s and to still be involved today. That's my granddad. I got this in an email from him a couple years ago; there's a lot more in his email but I excerpted this:

I worked for International Paper Company as a scheduler. IP sent me to IBM school in Newark, New Jersey when they placed the largest single commercial computer order to date for IBM 360 mainframes to be installed throughout the company. IP wanted people who knew the paper business to become programmers instead of hiring programmers and trying to teach them our business. I worked for the Container Division which manufactured corrugated boxes. We didn't get our 360 as scheduled because IBM couldn't make them fast enough. Instead we got an IBM 1440, a much smaller mainframe that was very different than the 360. I became a systems engineer (a fancy title for a programmer) and used assembly language, Cobol, Fortran, and PL/1 (Programming Language / One).

I experienced the microcomputer boom, buying a Northstar Horizon CP/M (Control Program / Monitor) computer with two 5-1/4" floppy disk drives. As soon as it was available I got a 5MB external hard disk drive that used NSDOS (Northstar Disk Operating System) that supported the hard drive. I lived in the Bay Area and met the people at Northstar and was able to get manufacturing prototypes of new hardware to test along with new versions of CP/M and NSDOS. The Northstar Horizon had a wood case made out of (I think) mahogany.

I met Gary Kildall, the programmer who wrote CP/M. His company was Digital Research and their office was in Monterey, California. They were approached by IBM who wanted to buy an unlimited license for CP/M and have Digital Research modify it for the Intel 8086 processor in their new PC desktop computers. Kildall said no because he was working with Zilog to support a new version of their Z80 microprocessor. So IBM ended up talking to Bill Gates and Paul Allen who promised to deliver MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). Gates and Allen bought the rights to 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products and rewrote it for the 8086 (the rumor is they did the coding in less than a week). Microsoft became what they are and Digital Research faded into oblivion.

My granddad is 75 years old and still works with computers, but as a PC, smartphone, and tablet user — plus what he calls "24-hour tech support specialist" for some of our relatives who live near him in Lakewood near L.A.

Colin :icon_geek:

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My first computer, in the early 1980s, was a Leading Edge Model D with 512 RAM and two floppy disk drives. It cost more than my new iMac. Although I lack the technical language (and know-how) to accurately describe this machine, I remember it supported its own word processing program, called Leading Edge Word Processor, or LEWP, which was very popular but lacked file compatibility with WordPerfect, the word processing program of choice for academics and writers in those days. (As I recall Microsoft Word was available but it wasn't very widely used because it was mouse-dependent and most of the writing community stuck with key-based operations since we were only a few years beyond typewriters.) With the horrendously expensive ($500) WordPerfect 4.1 in one slot, and a floppy in the other for all saved files, I was in business. Forget living in a garret and writing on scraps of used grocery bags. You had to have a bankroll to be a writer.

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Zork!

Screenshot_of_Zork_running_on_Frotz_thro

Only the real die hard Superfans remember a 35-year-old game like that. I don't think I was ever able to finish it, but I got pretty far into it on occasion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zork

Ha! Zork. You can download it here, if you like. You are likely to be eaten by a Grue, however.

Zork is a rewrite of the original Adventure game, written by MIT in 1976. You can play Adventure here: http://www.web-adventures.org/cgi-bin/webfrotz?s=Adventure

I just played it on the site for a quick minute, and got a dose of the snarky humor found in the game:

> quit

IN FOREST SCORE: 36 MOVES: 17

Are you sure you want to quit?

> yes

IN FOREST SCORE: 36 MOVES: 18

That was a rhetorical question.

(The "In Forest" bit is telling you where you are, and telling you how many moves you've made).

I've played Zork 1 and 2, and never finished 3 (something about needing to finish high school). I drew the maps (and was pretty accurate) and played it with friends (back when "multiplayer" meant you remembered to hand the keyboard to your buddy, who was yelling "GIMME THE KEYBOARD DAMMIT"

Ok, gonna play a little Zork now.

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Man, I learn something every day. It must be fascinating to have part of the beginnings of personal computers back in the 1970s and to still be involved today. That's my granddad. I got this in an email from him a couple years ago; there's a lot more in his email but I excerpted this:

I worked for International Paper Company as a scheduler. IP sent me to IBM school in Newark, New Jersey when they placed the largest single commercial computer order to date for IBM 360 mainframes to be installed throughout the company. IP wanted people who knew the paper business to become programmers instead of hiring programmers and trying to teach them our business. I worked for the Container Division which manufactured corrugated boxes. We didn't get our 360 as scheduled because IBM couldn't make them fast enough. Instead we got an IBM 1440, a much smaller mainframe that was very different than the 360. I became a systems engineer (a fancy title for a programmer) and used assembly language, Cobol, Fortran, and PL/1 (Programming Language / One).

I experienced the microcomputer boom, buying a Northstar Horizon CP/M (Control Program / Monitor) computer with two 5-1/4" floppy disk drives. As soon as it was available I got a 5MB external hard disk drive that used NSDOS (Northstar Disk Operating System) that supported the hard drive. I lived in the Bay Area and met the people at Northstar and was able to get manufacturing prototypes of new hardware to test along with new versions of CP/M and NSDOS. The Northstar Horizon had a wood case made out of (I think) mahogany.

I met Gary Kildall, the programmer who wrote CP/M. His company was Digital Research and their office was in Monterey, California. They were approached by IBM who wanted to buy an unlimited license for CP/M and have Digital Research modify it for the Intel 8086 processor in their new PC desktop computers. Kildall said no because he was working with Zilog to support a new version of their Z80 microprocessor. So IBM ended up talking to Bill Gates and Paul Allen who promised to deliver MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). Gates and Allen bought the rights to 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products and rewrote it for the 8086 (the rumor is they did the coding in less than a week). Microsoft became what they are and Digital Research faded into oblivion.

My granddad is 75 years old and still works with computers, but as a PC, smartphone, and tablet user — plus what he calls "24-hour tech support specialist" for some of our relatives who live near him in Lakewood near L.A.

Colin :icon_geek:

THAT is a cool story, and your granddad sounds like a good guy to know. Here's a bit of trivia for you:

The attempt by Digital Research to get into the PC market is the subject of a book by Tracy Kidder, called "The Soul of a New Machine". I've read it a few times. It's a very well told story, and it hinges around the guy that headed up the project, Tom West.

It's a great read, and your grandfather may know of it or may be interested in reading it. Then again, you might be too.

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So IBM ended up talking to Bill Gates and Paul Allen who promised to deliver MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). Gates and Allen bought the rights to 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products and rewrote it for the 8086 (the rumor is they did the coding in less than a week). Microsoft became what they are and Digital Research faded into oblivion.

The sadder story than that is that Gary Kildall spent the rest of his life angry about losing the billions that Gates had gotten from IBM. Kildall became a hopeless alcoholic and died after falling down in a bar in 1994. All of this stuff is in the Fire in the Valley book I mentioned above. I believe HBO also did a version of the book as a TV movie, essentially pitching it as a story of Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs, which was fairly entertaining (but not 100% accurate).

My first computer, in the early 1980s, was a Leading Edge Model D with 512 RAM and two floppy disk drives. It cost more than my new iMac. Although I lack the technical language (and know-how) to accurately describe this machine, I remember it supported its own word processing program, called Leading Edge Word Processor, or LEWP, which was very popular but lacked file compatibility with WordPerfect, the word processing program of choice for academics and writers in those days.

Bah! Real men used Wordstar. Incredibly, George R.R. Martin still writes on Wordstar!

Wordstar_Screenshot.png

That's no frills, baby!

The Leading Edge computer was a really good one for its time. I knew people who had Kaypros, IBMs, cheap clones, all kinds of stuff. For some reason, I only bought IBM until I switched to Mac in 1987. But in the 25+ years since, I always, always owned a PC as well, because (as any hardcore computer person knows) there are things that are best done in a different operating system. I had no problem with DOS for years and years and years; hated the first few versions of Windows, but grew to accept Windows 95 when that came out... almost 20 years ago!

I think the best 1980s computer story was the one about the Osbourne, which was a very cool "portable" computer for its time. It used a proprietary operating system, but was much beloved by its users. CEO Adam Osborne made the mistake of announcing in 1983 that they would come out with an MS-DOS compatible computer about a year later... which immediately resulted in people not buying his computer, since they wanted to wait for the new one. The company went bankrupt before that could ever happen. This became an important business lesson, christened "The Osborne Effect," where you must never announce a new product too early.

Apple takes this to an extreme, being extremely secretive and never saying anything about future products until maybe a week before they come out.

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I remember the problem with Wordstar was that it was far from intiuitive - the command to save your work and close the file was Ctrl+K,D which, along with all the other commands, you just had to learn. WordPerfect (I still have a set of the manuals for WordPerfect, they take up six inches of shelf space!) was way better than Wordstar, still a bit arcane but basic formatting showed on screen so it was easier to see what your final document would look like.

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I remember the problem with Wordstar was that it was far from intiuitive - the command to save your work and close the file was Ctrl+K,D which, along with all the other commands, you just had to learn. WordPerfect (I still have a set of the manuals for WordPerfect, they take up six inches of shelf space!) was way better than Wordstar, still a bit arcane but basic formatting showed on screen so it was easier to see what your final document would look like.

Come on, Bruin! Ctrl+K,D seem remarkably intuitive. It undoubtedly stood for Keep Document. The other perhaps even more intuitive options had probably been used up for more arcane commands. I'm not familiar with WordStar so I went to the GGG (Great God Google) and found this fan site: www.wordstar.org/.

If you have a copy of a real, MSDOS-based version 6 of WordStar, the instructions for running it under Windows 7 are at www.wwwriters.com/ws6-win7.pdf. I'm going to try using the DOSBox program referenced in this article to see if I can run some old DOS games my dad threw away when I was a kid and that I was able to liberate from the trash before the Allied Waste truck arrived to take them away. Of course, now I have to actually find those games; no small task!

Colin :icon_geek:

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I guess I shouldn't carp too much at Wordstar's non-intuitive user interface - after all there are some real doozies around right now - How about shutting down a computer running Windows 8:

1/ Hover your mouse over the top right corner of the screen (there's nothing visual up there, you just have to know that's what you do) until a menu of icons appears down the right edge of the screen. Run your mouse down the icons (careful - it's all too easy to wander and the icons all disappear) to the bottom one - a help text comes up naming it 'Utilities' or somesuch.

2/ Click Utilities and the column of icons disappear, replaced with a rectangle of six more icons. One of them is called Power Options.

3/ Click Power Options and a menu appears including the 'Shut Down' option.

4/ Click shut down before you lose the will to live.

Okay, so Microsoft don't want us to shut our computers down, they apparently expect us just to close the laptop lid and allow the system to go to sleep. But am I the only one around here who misses the days when machines had on/off switches?

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In Windows 8.1, the non-power-options feature was removed so that it appears on the Metro screen on the top right or down the right hand side to the Settings button.

I use Start8, which replicates Windows 7 and has the Shut Down tab on the menu.

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I just open the search box and type "shutdown.exe" (without the quotes). Note that you'll get a 30 second warning before the machine shuts off.

Laptops DO have on/off buttons. WHat happens when you press yours? On my laptop, I have it set so that when I close the lid, the laptop sleeps, thereby saving my work. Pressing the power button orders a shutdown, which closes all apps (asking to save where necessary) and then powers the machine off.

Also, a bit of defense for Microsoft: They do a lot of user studies. One big issue that has been persistent in Windows on a laptop from day one is the ability for a computer to sleep, and sleep well. It's been a huge issue - either the laptop gets shut and the power goes out: the user loses their work, or the laptop gets shut and the laptop stays on: the machine overheats, the battery runs down, and the user loses their work. Bad outcomes. Windows XP was terrible at handling sleep states. So was Vista. Both got better with service packs (i.e. MS learned about user behavior over time), but there were very annoying differences between "suspend", "hibernate" and "sleep" for a while there (for the record: "suspend" means freeze. Stop processing anything and kill the video, then wait for user input, but don't power anything off. "Hibernate" means write anything in RAM to a temporary file and power way down, including spinning down the hard drive and the video. "Sleep" means power down the hard drive and video and anything else that's not needed, but leave everything in RAM (some electricity is still used to keep RAM alive). Suspend is awful. Hibernate means the laptop is slow to wake up.. Sleep lets the laptop come up fast but preserves user states and is a good mix between suspend and hibernate).

Windows 7 handled this well: Close the lid, the laptop hibernates, saving the user's work and restoring the session when the lid opens up again. But it took a long time for laptop makers, user studies, and Microsoft to come up with that, even though it should be common sense. After Windows 7 got it right, MS saw the user behavior change: Nobody shut the machines off anymore, they just closed the things. So they just made it a default behavior. But it is behavior that can be changed.

Go into power settings in the control panel. Look for advanced options. Somewhere in there, and not far away, are options for what to do when the power button is pressed, along with options for what to do when the lid closes. Choose your preferences and feel good about pressing the button to power off.

Happy to help find the right settings if you need any help.

And Start8 ROCKS. It's the first thing I install after setting up a Windows 8 box.

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