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Home Computers Circa 1981

In the year 2007, it is easy to forget what the field of personal computers looked like back in the early days of home computing (assuming that you were even alive and a computer user then). My first PC (circa 1983) was a Sinclair ZX-80 model that had a membrane keypad, used a cassette tape deck for storage, and connected to a television display via a video converter.

My first program beyond the obligatory "Hello World!" variety was one that plotted a sine wave and cosine wave on the screen. From there, I moved on to a VIC-20, and finally to my first "real" PC, an ATT 6300 (in 1987, while at the University of Vermont, working on my BSEE). The ATT6300 came with two, 5-1/4" floppy disk drives and no hard drive. It was a real step up when I installed a whopping 10 MByte internal HDD, and then even added an 8087 math processor to assist the 8086 processor. Its green monochrome monitor had a really weird resolution that almost NO software was designed for, so it could cause display problems. UVM required all engineering students to buy one from them, at around $3,000, as well as an HP dot  matrix printer that cost around $450. It was common up until about 1990 for colleges to mandate computer models because of the large incompatibility between designs. We love to hate Windows, but Win 95 sure did fix a lot of the incompatibility problems.

While working as an electronics technician at Westinghouse, in Annapolis MD, I did some HP Basic programming on an HP machine whose model number I cannot recall. With it, I wrote programs to control an impedance meter via the HPIB, and that really psyched me up for programming. The rest, as they say, is history.

The table below was made from information that appeared in a 1981 edition of Mechanix Illustrated. You can find information and photos of most of them simply by doing a Google search.

Computer
Name
Base
Price
CPUKeyboardVideo
Display
Basic
Language
RAM
min/max
ROM
min/max
Storage
Imagination Machine$3996800TypewriterTV-8 colorsYes9k/17k14kBuilt-in
Apple
Apple II Plus
$1,3806502TypewriterTV-16 colorsApplesoft16k/64k16kNot incl.
Astrovision
Arcade
$898Z80TypewriterTV-256 colorsYes32k/64k24kNot incl.
Atari
400
$5406502Plastic touch TypewriterTV-16 colorsAtari BASIC8k/16k10kNot incl./Opt.
Atari
800
$1,080650Plastic touch TypewriterTV-16 colorsAtari BASIC8k/48k10kIncl./Opt.
Casio
FX-9000P
$1,195Z80CalculatorBuilt-in B&WYes4k/32k12kNot incl.
Commodore
VIC-20
$2996502TypewriterTV-16 colorsPETBASIC4k/32k27kNot incl.
Exidy Systems
Sorcerer II
$2500Z80TypewriterB&W monitorMicrosoft BASIC32k/48k16k/48kNot incl.
Heathkit
H-8
$3508080ASwitchesTV-B&WHBASIC8k/32k8kNot incl.
Heathkit
H-89
$1,6952/Z80TypewriterB&W monitorHBASIC8k/64/i8kNot avail.
Intelligent Systems
Intecolor 3651
$29958080ATypewriterColor monitorMicrosoft BASIC16k/32k16k/24kNot avail.
Mattel
Intellivision
$1,00016-bitTypewriterTV-colorTo come16k16kBuilt-in
Mego International
Video Voice
$219n/aCalculatorTV-colorTo come4k/32k4k/16kNot incl.
Challenger C1P
Series 2
$5296502TypewriterTV-B&WMicrosoft BASIC8k/32k10kNot incl.
Osborne
Osborne 1
$1,795Z80ATypewriterBuilt-in B&WCBASIC, Microsoft BASIC, CP/M64k16kNot avail.
Pers. Micro Comp.
PMC-80
$645Z80TypewriterTV-B&WTRS-80 BASIC16k/48k12kNot incl.
Radio Shack
TRS-80
$3996809ECalculatorTV-9 colorsTRS-80 BASIC4k/16k8k/16kNot incl.
Radio Shack
Model III
$699Z80CalculatorTV-9 colorsTRS-80 BASIC4k/48k8kNot incl.
Rockwell
AIM-65
$6106502TypewriterLED displayYes1k/48k16kNot incl.
Sinclair
ZX-80
$199ZX80Plastic touchTV-B&WYes1k/16k4k/16kNot incl.
Texas Instruments
TI-99/4
$6499900CalculatorTV-16 colorsTI and Extended BASICs16k/32k26k/56kNot incl.
CyberVision 2001$3291802Plastic touchTV-8 colorsNo2k/32k1kBuilt-in
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Copyright: 1996 - 2024
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    Kirt Blattenberger,
    BSEE - KB3UON

RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The Internet was still largely an unknown entity at the time and not much was available in the form of WYSIWYG ...

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