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Golden Oldies: Computers of Yesteryear
By Thiravudh Khoman

Back in the 1980's, I collected all the computer brochures I could get my hands on - for reference purposes and yes, for fun. I would either mail away for these or pick them up by the armloads at computer shows. It's year 2000 now and I've long since thrown the paper originals away, but I've kept a few favourites in scanned format for sentimental reasons. For better or worse, here they are.

How many of these do you recognize? Indeed, how many of these have you used? And tell us the truth, which ones did you lust after back then? My favourite was the Otrona, by the way.

If you wish to continue your walk down memory lane, there's a fair amount of information on these and other oldies on the good old WWW. My objective was actually spring cleaning and NOT to compete with these sites.

Oops Department: It's very possible that I've remembered a few things incorrectly (not a surprising condition for me these days). Please email me (vide the contact address at the bottom of the first page) with any corrections if you remember differently. Also, if you'd like to post pictures of some of YOUR golden oldies for posterity's sake, you can email me those as well if you have them lying around. A short, write-up would also be nice.

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Apple II, /// and Compatibles

  • Apple II+ - 17kb
    Actually, this may be the Apple II rather than the II+, but close enough. This was my first micro (as we used to call it back then), and I equipped mine to the max with 64kb RAM, 2 140kb floppy drives, and a 300 bps modem. Wow!

  • Apple /// - 11kb
  • Apple /// (with ProFile hard disk) - 13kb
    The Apple /// was intended as a business version of the Apple II, which is what the hard disk was all about. It never caught on though, and had power supply problems which all but killed it. Its higher price tag didn't exactly help either.

  • Franklin Ace 100 - 17kb
    A lower cost alternative to the Apple II. Besides the Franklin, there was also this way cool micro from Germany called the Basis 100 which ran in both Apple II and CP/M modes. I don't have a picture of one, though.

Apple Lisa and Macintosh

  • Apple Lisa (original model) - 20kb
    This was the original model, the one that came with the so-called "stringy" floppy disk (hmm, or was that the DEC Pro 300?). Way too expensive and a mite weird. The Lisa was supposedly named after Steve Jobs' daughter or girlfriend.

  • Apple Lisa (model 2/10) - 27kb
    This was a later model of the Lisa, which was equipped with 3.5" drives. It quickly became redundant once the Macintosh came out, all attempts to position it as a high-end Mac failed.

  • Apple Macintosh - 14kb
    The original, closed-box model came with 128kb RAM. The follow-up model had 512kb. Not easy to tell them apart (I believe the picture is of the original 128kb model). I really wonder how many Mac's simple MacPaint sold in those earliest days.


  • Commodore Super-Pet - 23kb
    No comments. Never saw one in person and never used one.

  • Commodore Vic-20 - 15kb
  • Commodore Vic-64 - 17kb
    These were ultra low-end offerings and had more in common with the Radio Shack Color Computer than they did the Pet. Mercifully, these didn't last long. Many years later, Commodore got it right with the Amiga.

CP/M-80, CP/M-86 Computers

  • Epson QX-20 (with HASCI keyboard) - 17kb
    Epson making computers? Don't bother. This was an ergnomically designed computer, but it never caught on. (By the way, HASCI stands for "Human Applications Standard Computer Interface - thanks to Chris Rutkowski for the nudge in the old brain cells.) Jeez, buyers are hard to please.

  • Kaypro II - 24kb
    For brawny CP/M users on the go. Why bother with a wimpy Osborne in a plastic case when you can lug a metal-encased Kaypro! This was the udpated model.

  • Morrow MD (MD-2, MD-5, MD-11?) - 13kb
    George Morrow was a key industry person back in the CP/M era. The company bearing his name made solid, dependable computers - albeit far from sexy ones - and died a quick death (the company, not George) once the PC age began.

  • Northstar Advantage - 16kb
    No comments. (Free space for anyone wishing to put something here.)

  • Osborne (model 2) - 21kb
    The Osborne was the FIRST portable computer. With a form factor that cried "sewing machine!", this, the model 2, supported a scrollable 52 column screen. An 80-column screen didn't appear until the Osborne Executive, but by that time the game was up.

  • Seattle Gazelle - 12kb
    The FIRST 8088 computer. Seattle Computer wrote an operating system for it called Seattle DOS which "borrowed" liberally from CP/M-86 (including some "bait" text strings). Microsoft eventually purchased Seattle DOS and tweaked it into Microsoft DOS 1.0 for the IBM PC. Now you know.

  • Superbrain II - 15kb
    No comments. (Free space for anyone wishing to put something here.)

  • Xerox 820 - 19kb
    Folks, this is NOT the Xerox Star, the machine that wow'ed Steve Jobs into creating the Lisa/Mac. Another futile attempt by Xerox to sell business computers.


  • IBM PC (8088) - 20kb
    Did you know that the original IBM PC came with 16kb RAM and a tape cassette for mass storage? (Hey, if the Apple II could use a tape cassette, so could we!) What a joke. The first decent IBM PC (the "PC2" I think it was called) was equipped with 64kb RAM and one floppy.

  • IBM PC-XT (8088) - 18kb
    The IBM PC gets a 10mb hard disk and DOS 2.0, which borrowed a lot of Unix features. Although the hard disk offered vastly improved storage, its quasi-8/16 bit processing and paltry 4.77Mhz processor hardly distinguished it from 4 and 6Mhz CP/M machines. Over-clocking may have gotten its start here (and continued with the AT).

  • IBM PC-AT (80286) - 16kb
    The IBM PC/AT was truly a milestone computer. Much faster processor; much, much faster hard disk; greater memory address space. But lest we forget, the AT was infamous for a hard disk that died left and right, a failure that IBM has always steadfastly denied.

  • IBM PCjr (8088) - 11kb
    Derided for its wireless "chiclet" keyboard, the PCjr proved an incredible embarassment to IBM. Oh well, when you're big, you can blow it big as well.

  • IBM PC Portable - 25kb
    Sorry attempt by IBM to build a "luggable" computer. IBM finally redeemed itself with its ThinkPad series of notebook computers, almost 2 decades later.

PC Compatibles

  • Compaq Portable - 27kb
    Compaq proves that good PC's weren't only made by IBM. And you can take it with you (strong forearm required)!

  • Compaq Deskpro - 21kb
    So not all Compaqs are compact. The very first in Compaq's long running Deskpro series. Of course, it ran a bit faster than the stock IBM PC.

  • Gavilan SC - 11kb
    I forget now if this was the FIRST laptop computer or the Data General DG/One was the first. But in any case, this was ONE of the EARLIEST laptops. Ignore the narrow screen, it came with a built-in printer!

  • Hyperion - 16kb
    A really neat little portable from a Canadian company. But it hardly made a ripple. My #2 favourite, but I was never serious with it and we never went "all the way".

  • Otrona Attache - 27kb
    This was the love of my life. Unfortunately, I married someone else. The Otrona ran both CP/M and IBM software. Neat trick.

Radio Shack

  • Radio Shack Color Computer - 32kb
    Toy computer for tiny tots. A way to play Space Invaders without buying an Atari.

  • Radio Shack TRS-80 - 20kb
  • Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 16 - 24kb
    These were popularly known as "Trash-80", although I understand the Model 16 was actually a pretty good business computer. Otherwise, I have little experience with these.

Dumb Terminals

  • DEC VT102 - 17kb
    If you've ever dealt with terminal-based software, you've probably come across the so-called "VT100" standard. Well, this is what the VT102 looked like.

  • Televideo 802 - 11kb
  • Televideo 910 - 11kb
    Two offerings from Televideo, one of the major dumb terminal manufacturers way back when. With the terminal market drying out, Televideo tried to make full-fledged computers modeled after their terminals, but "tanked".


  • Fortune 32:16 - 16kb
    I believe this was the first 32-bit computer, but it ran Unix instead of DOS.

IBM Minicomputers

  • IBM Series-1 - 12kb
    I don't know a lot about this one, but I understand that it is used often as a "front-end" as opposed to a standalone processor.

  • IBM System/38 - 26kb
    Back in the old days, there were two RPG-based IBM mini's to choose from: the System/34 and the System/38. The System/38 looks more impressive (read: needs a larger "office"). What I found particularly intriguing was the backup system: a cartridge plugged full of 8" diskettes.

  • IBM System/36 - 29kb
    The System/36 actually came out AFTER the System/38, the numbering notwithstanding. And before the System/38 there was the System/34. Somebody has a strange way of counting at IBM. Of course, after these Systems/3x's came the AS/400. Go figure.

Copyright © 2000, Thiravudh Khoman