Micro And Personal Computing

The 1980s was a fertile decade for micro or personal computing (PC). Preexisting homebrew cultures in the US had created the foundation for an emerging PC market. Even publicly funded entities like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) were Making the Most of the Micro. 

BBC Micro

The BBC Micro was, in fact, hardware and software that had been licensed from Acorn Computers Ltd. It was born out of the Cambridge computing scene in the UK, as well as Chris Curry’s link to Sir Clive Sinclair. Ironically, the face of the ZX Spectrum helped create the main competitor to Sinclair Research Ltd.

The BBC Micro. Acorn Technologies were the leading brand of computers in most British Schools in the 1980's.

The BBC Micro and other Acorn systems were in most British educational institutes in the 1980s.

The boom and bust of the British PC revolution was dramatised in the BBC Four film Micro Men.

Micro Men aired on BBC Television in 2009. Alexander Armstrong played the role of Sir Clive Sinclair. Martin Freeman portrayed his former employee and rival, Chris Curry.

Micro Men aired on BBC Television in 2009. Alexander Armstrong played the role of Sir Clive Sinclair. Martin Freeman portrayed his former employee and Acorn rival, Chris Curry.

Transatlantic Ethos

Proof of concept for the first PC came out of the US. The Altair 8800 was designed and built between 1974-75. It was sold in kit form and assembled by the user.

The Altair BASIC prgramming language was created by Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

The Altair BASIC programming language was created by Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

Traces of this do it yourself (DIY) ethos still applied to PC’s like the Amiga, which had its first system launch in 1985. In fact, DIY computing was still popular at a more general consumer level into the 1990s.

The freedom to modify and expand a system like the Amiga kept its hardware alive long after the demise of Commodore in 1994. For example, Amiga computers were still being used by NASA as a solution for processing telemetry data in 1999.

Open and Closed Developments

The home computing market was solidified in the 1980s. It was driven by open and closed business models for system development. Apple, Commodore, IBM and Microsoft are companies still remembered from that time. In the case of Commodore, this is long after bankruptcy was declared.

A timeline of personal computing that shows open and closed ways to develop software and hardware.

A day is a long time in a technology driven market.

Ultimately, it was the more open distribution model employed by IBM and Microsoft that consolidated the PC market. It allowed for “PC clones” to be created from off the shelf components. Even Apple moved away from its own custom PowerPC based architecture in favour of Intel chips in 2006.

The marketed characteristics of a PC and MAC user in 1996.

The marketed characteristics of a PC and MAC user in 1996.

Mobile Computing

The future of personal computing is seen to exist through powerful mobile devices. RJ Mical – Director of Intuition for the original Amiga 1000 – put this into context at a Google developer conference. Smartphones used in 2014 were as, if not more, powerful than a PlayStation 2 videogame console.

 

 

 

 

    Posted in Blog, Computing.

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