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Classic Games (Games) The Internet Hardware

Celebrating '21 Things We Miss About Old Computers' (denofgeek.com) 467

"Today, we look back at the classic era of home computing that existed alongside the dreariness of business computing and the heart-pounding noise and colour of the arcades," writes the site Den of Geek. An anonymous reader reports: The article remembers the days of dial-up modems, obscure computer magazines, and the forgotten phenomenon of computer clubs. ("There was a time when if you wanted to ask a question about something computer related, or see something in action, you'd have to venture outside and into another building to go and see it.") Gamers grappled with old school controllers, games distributed on cassette tapes, low-resolution graphics and the "playground piracy" of warez boards -- when they weren't playing the original side-scrolling platformers like Mario Bros and Donkey Kong at video arcades.

In a world where people published fanzines on 16-bit computers, shared demo programs, and even played text adventures, primitive hardware may have inspired future coders, since "Old computers typically presented you with a command prompt as soon as you switched them on, meaning that they were practically begging to be programmed on." Home computers "mesmerised us, educated us, and in many cases, bankrupted us," the article remembers -- until they were replaced by more powerful hardware. "You move on, but you never fully get over your first love," it concludes -- while also adding that "what came next was pretty amazing."

Does this bring back any memories for anybody -- or provoke any wistful nostalgic for a bygone era? Either way, I really liked the way that the article ended. "The most exciting chapter of all, my geeky friends? The future!"
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Celebrating '21 Things We Miss About Old Computers'

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  • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @07:59PM (#54203743) Homepage

    Any old 8 or 16-bit software from decades past, if we have any of that software around today, it still works. And all we'd need to run it was the appropriate hardware.

    Software you buy today, might not work in 6 months. It almost certainly, like 99.99% certain, won't work in decades. And if it even works today as you buy it, it only works when it can connect to some authorizing server. So we have no idea, literally no idea what is required for current software to run. You have the software, the hardware, an internet connection, and some mysterious something out there on the other end of the wire.

    So what do I miss? I miss software that works.

    • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:14PM (#54203795)

      Hmm, I think memory is failing you here. I clearly remember many, many programs randomly crashing and taking the entire OS with it - and losing hours of work in the process, having to fiddle with hi memory and extended memory in DOS for hours to get some half-assed program to work, installing version after version of certain buggy drivers and goofing around with interrupt jumpers to get a somewhat stable system, etc etc etc. And the worst thing was trying to figure it all out on my own, without any internet forum to help me out.

      It was fun at times, but mostly frustrating. I sure ain't missing those days...

      • by rfengr ( 910026 )
        Uh, memories. Though I remember the 1st full 32 bit program I had was Comanche helicopter simulator. No fucking with DOS or memory. Just boot off a floppy. Pretty amazing game.
        • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @09:28PM (#54204081) Homepage

          Memories, WTF, what I miss most is digital freedom. The POS state of affairs with corporations and governments spying on everyone all of the time is fucking bullshit. Can not trust hardware, can not trust software, can not trust the network, is has all become a digital steaming pile of bullshit. Digital rights is a joke foisted upon as by the pigopolists, rather than being the rights of individuals and their digital freedom, it is the right of corporations to fuck over individuals, this fucking shit has got to stop!

      • I clearly remember many, many programs randomly crashing and taking the entire OS with it

        Me too. I remember not just rebooting, but power-cycling, several times per day. Software is way more reliable today. I am typing this on a Macbook with 57 days of up-time, and the last reboot was for a software upgrade, not a bug.

        I sure ain't missing those days...

        Me either. I'll take a 2.7GHz i5 with 16GB of RAM over a 4.77 MHz 8088 with 64KB anytime.

        • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @10:11PM (#54204283)

          I sure ain't missing those days...

          Me either. I'll take a 2.7GHz i5 with 16GB of RAM over a 4.77 MHz 8088 with 64KB anytime.

          Agreed. I remember the days before the ZIF socket. You'd put in a new CPU and either bend a pin, or worse, applied just a tiny bit too much pressure, and the computer wouldn't boot because something had cracked on the motherboard.

          Or you'd install a big software package that came on a bunch of floppies; only one of the floppies would be bad and the whole thing would be useless.

          No I don't miss any of that.

        • by justthinkit ( 954982 ) <floyd@just-think-it.com> on Sunday April 09, 2017 @11:18PM (#54204521) Homepage Journal

          Progress has never been connected to one generation of hardware over another.

          I worked on an amazingly elaborate and Internet-preceding...TRS Model III BBS.

          I did all kinds of things on 8088s. And 80286/80386s. And 486s, Pentiums, K9, Core 2's & quads. etc.

          At no time did I wish I was only working with one generation of machine. Or one era of software, for that matter.

          Celebration is all about "what were you up to". I've always been up to all kinds of things, and computers of all eras simply helped me do that.

          The Internet routes around dictators and control freaks.

          Geeks route around crap hardware and/or software.

          If you want to celebrate something, celebrate computer geeks. If it wasn't for several generations of them, we all wouldn't be having this ole chat.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        ..crash the os? what os?

        what I miss is when I could buy a set of cds with linux on them and it would support all my hardware 100% - even the passive isdn card.

        and shit would just run, no need for internet either.

        what I miss is when something simple as a WORD PROCESSOR was at it's peak - all the menu options visible under dropdowns, nothing hidden - no magic gestures, except the standard single, double and triple click which were taught in school(in 4th grade I think. seriously, go ask some younging or even

      • While my Amigas had their problems, I never had anywhere near as many issues with those computers as I have today.

        For example, I've had the same installation of OS 3.0 on my Amiga 1200 for the last 25 years. It still works every time I boot it up, and never bitches about having to do maintenance service or does mysterious things in the background. I did copy the OS installation to a new hard drive without modifying anything, and the OS didn't scream at me to retype a license key or otherwise accuse me of

    • So what do I miss? I miss software that works.

      That works where? On an original Commodore Green-Screen? An Apple-II? A TRS-80? A Commodore 64? A VIC-20? An Atari? One of those Sinclairs with the hex keypad?

      I hear ya, but remember that back then it was just a given that software worked only in one environment. The ultimate walled garden. The notion that software would run on anything else beside what it was written for was all but science fiction.

      And as another person pointed out, we're talking the days when memory mapping was non-existent. I p

      • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @11:17PM (#54204515)

        So what do I miss? I miss software that works.

        That works where? On an original Commodore Green-Screen? An Apple-II? A TRS-80? A Commodore 64? A VIC-20? An Atari? One of those Sinclairs with the hex keypad?

        I hear ya, but remember that back then it was just a given that software worked only in one environment. The ultimate walled garden. The notion that software would run on anything else beside what it was written for was all but science fiction.

        I agree with you, but that model kinda worked. I've been involved in three different projects replacing legacy software that had worked for 15, 20 years, and in all three instances the bleeding-edge upgrade left the companies with less value, and two of them went through a full rewrite within 2-3 years.

        For instance, take an "obsolete" inventory management system running on HP3000 PowerHouse and replace it with a state-of-the-art J2EE marvel running on WebLogic and Oracle. A few millions later champagne was flowing during the Go Live, but users could no longer search the inventory by packing slip number or get daily list of slow moving SKUs so they could optimize the floor layout. Or take a shop floor data collection system based on COPICS and running on S/370, and replace it with a fantastic ASP web app running on IIS and Access (no shit), later replaced with a XML-powered piece of shit WebMethods implementation that was so slow that foremen could get their numbers faster by walking around and counting stuff with a handheld mechanical clicker like some fucking doormen.

        In enterprise world at least, hardware has improved a lot but software has gone downhill. I'm not saying an ember screen is sexier than an iPhone app, but ERP/MRP used to work and now they don't. Geez, for 30+ years Readers' Digest has successfully managed the most amazing CRM in history - so advanced and reliable that USPS was contracting them to double-check their postal data - on an old mainframe running a piece of software created before a man set foot on the moon; then they tried to "upgrade" to a stinking pile of garbage based on Affinium (now NetInsight) and Ab Initio, and after ten years the migration was still not completed.

        Yeah, we now have BDDs and DSLs and BPELs, we have SPARQLs and RDDs, we have ORMs and NoSQLs and microservices, but somehow we can't get enterprise software that work better than decades-old programs punch-carded by people who looked like Marty Mcfly's father. What's up with that.

    • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @11:08PM (#54204495) Homepage Journal

      Well, a barely insightful comment there, but seriously disappointed by the lack of "funny" comments on this target-rich topic. Or is my memory fooling me about how much fun and laughter we had back then?

      However, the one that was missing from the article and so far not here in the Slashdot comments is something I would call "depth of control". In the days before magic black boxes we could actually understand how our computers worked from top to bottom. One example I remember involved debugging an application program. Can't even remember if it was 8 or 16 bits (though it was running on an S-100 system that had two CPUs and could actually run both), but I remember my debugging actually went into the OS and I wound up "fixing" it by replacing one OS call in the application executable with a closely related call. I think the rise of the black boxes began with the Mac but didn't triumph until Microsoft went mousing along ca Windows 95 or 2000.

      Might be I've lost my marbles or intestinal fortitude, but I wouldn't even try it with any of the machines I'm using these days. Not even the tiny harmless-looking little smartphones.

      Black boxes to the right of them,
      Black boxes to the left of them,
      Black boxes in front of them...

      Apologies to Lord Tennyson.

    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      Any old 8 or 16-bit software from decades past, if we have any of that software around today, it still works.

      You are kind of ignoring the gap that existed back then between computer architectures. All your C64 programs wouldn't work on an Amiga. You couldn't read the data that you saved on 5.25" floppies in your 3.5" drive either. Each new computer generation essentially meant that you had to start all your computing from scratch, neither programs nor data could be carried over. The easy data transfer via USB or the Internet just didn't exist back then.

      It took decades until we had working emulation and data format

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:02PM (#54203753)

    No sonofabitch was trying to monetize my data, watch what I do on my computer or online (when there was an online to speak of), or force-feed me advertisement.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Word.

      I miss the days when every computer on the market was YOURS after you bought it.

      About now someone will chime in with "but just do this...", and that's all true, but doesn't matter to the vast majority of the public who are not techies.

      • Not quite true: software that's "licensed" to the user (as opposed to "owned" by the user) has been there for decades. It's just that if you wanted to resell it, or more likely crack it and copy it to give to your friends, nobody could do much about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I miss the days of being able to Google/Infoseek/Altavista/whatever whatever the hell I wanted, and not even REMOTELY or subconsiously worry about someone finding out about it and:

      1 - Blackmailing me

      2 - Government agents knocking on my door

      All that mattered was finding information to satisfy curiosity. Now, my freaking TELEVISION is a permanently-on microphone being used to sell everything about me (per their own ToS!) to the manufacturer, to "business partners", and "third-party affiliates" and everyone el

  • No bloatware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edx93 ( 4858619 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:05PM (#54203759)
    'nuff said.
    • Re:No bloatware (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:21PM (#54203825)

      Maybe before Windows came about. But Win 95 was absolutely chock-full of useless shit. The first thing everybody with any sense did back then was clean up the freshly-installed OS to have more disk space and speed things up.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Remember those "Windows error fixer" programs? I had Norton System Works, a supposedly reputable company with Mr. Norton's renowned technical knowledge.

        Well, run Norton System Works on a fresh install of Windows 98 and it will find hundreds of "errors". In particular it would find hundreds of "broken" registry entries that pointed to non-existent files. The best part was that if you "fixed" these "errors" it would actually make the system highly unstable, as apparently the services and apps that used them c

    • Re:No bloatware (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @03:19AM (#54205139) Homepage

      That - and I also miss being in control of my system. This is something we have lost with all those magic processes running in Windows or elusive ghost problems caused by Systemd.

  • BASIC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:09PM (#54203771)

    I miss BASIC. Seriously. I miss the days when the built-in command prompt was so easily accessible and so easily programmed that a 6 year old child could learn how to write "Hello World" within a few seconds, and could begin exploring the computer on his own after that. (That's exactly how I started, by the way.)

    • Kids today [youtube.com] don't seem to appreciate 8-bit machines quite like previous generations. I learned to program a Sinclair ZX81 in assembler because I could read BASIC faster than its interpreter. I got it to count to 65536 in less than a second which was so amazing that I was bragging to all the other kids. They thought I was lying.
    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      I don't. It was slow as hell back in the day and harder to maintain than modern C code, but assembly language was a pain to use because we still had to run some kind of development environment on the same slow 8-bit computer, with 48K and one or two floppy drives. Either way we were screwed. People who wrote arcade video games had cross-assemblers on Vaxen and such, much less annoying to develop on.
  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:13PM (#54203789)
    On my Apple ][+ there were no loading progress bars for games on 5.25" floppies but you could usually tell where you were in the loading sequence by the pattern of grunting that the hard drive was making.
  • Old computers typically presented you with a command prompt as soon as you switched them on

    Oh you lids.That's not true at all. Old computers, both commercial and hobby, looked at you stupidly and waited for you to toggle in a bootstrap loaded on the switches and lights before they would even consider giving you a prompt.

    Eventually some hobby computers did gain a prompt through built in ROM. I remember the SWTP 6800 computer that would give you an * prompt if you got everything right. If you got the ba

    • I hand coded, hand assembled a very basic printer driver for a Heathkit 6800 system for one of my classes . Had to punch in the HEX codes by hand. It had to take a piece of text over the serial port and send it to the parallel port while checking line length,CR,LF + underline and a couple of other quirks in the text file.
      Fun times....
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      looked at you stupidly and waited for you to toggle in a bootstrap loaded on the switches and lights before they would even consider giving you a prompt.

      It's not old, but one of the in-jokes in a Stargate SG-1 episode was where they had recovered from a power outage in the middle of an emergency and had something like thirty seconds to get the computer controlling the gate running or they are all going to die. Then there is a cut to a screen showing Solaris starting up.

      With so many system checks and so ma

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:17PM (#54203813)

    Didn't need no welfare state, everybody pulled his weight.

    Gee, our Apple ][ ran great.

    Those were the days.

  • These days, I know a few people like myself that are invested in 3d printing. It can be great to go out to see other people and compare notes on what they are doing with their printers.

    • by LesFerg ( 452838 )

      And in line with old-age computers, they aren't even network enabled; I have to copy a file to a SD card and physically take it to my printer and insert it! oh the humanity.

  • Th best of days (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sit1963nz ( 934837 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:30PM (#54203855)
    I started with a Dick Smith Systems-80 (A TRS-80 M1 Clone), and I still own one (as well as a bunch of others)

    It was probably the peak time for interesting hardware, hundreds of different hardware designs, processors, I/O, DOSs, etc etc etc.
    Variations of Basic (And even FORTH on the Jupiter Ace), the advent of colour and sound, joysticks, light guns.

    The Magazines were useful, they had construction articles, software articles, how-to articles, the adverts were even useful for information.
    It was like evolution on steroids, new and interesting designs were thrown out there to see what worked and what didn't

    Todays computing landscape in comparison is pretty bland in its sameness and Magazines articles are really just advertorials.

    Discussions back then were useful and people did not care what you used, it was new , it was interesting , now they degenerate into flame bait Mac/Windows/Linux sucks rants.

    So much good was lost.
  • Honestly, the ability to turn the computer off with a real on/off switch, is what I miss most. I'm so sick of holding the faux-power button for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 seconds and still never being sure if the god damned thing is off.

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:39PM (#54203895)

    I miss going to the arcade (or bowling alley) with a group of people. It wasn't just about playing the games but the social aspect of it. Lining up quarters on the SF2 cabinet as to who "had next". Now I see kids staying home, each on their own xbox/Playstation and connected via VOIP with their friends.

    Even LAN parties were better than what we have now from a social interaction standpoint.

  • Manuals! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 09, 2017 @08:40PM (#54203907)

    More specifically manuals not intended for drooling imbeciles. I'm talking computer manuals that described the hardware in detail. Long before I finished high-school I taught myself about computer architecture, assembly programming, even hardware hacking using mostly the manuals that came with my first (Microbee 32k) and subsequent computers. Those things were encyclopedic! Long descriptions of the system, why they chose design x, possible gotchas, a sprinkling of the history/evolution of the system, detailed information about ports and memory maps, circuit diagrams, even things like suggested mods to add battery backups, more memory, switchable ROM banks etc and hints for repairers. As a teenager I devoured that stuff!

    The glossy, inaccurate combo token screenshots and poorly-translated dot-points in today's manuals just makes me miss the old manuals more.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Absolutely this. Manuals that included a section on programming the computer are a gateway drug. Of course I also miss computers that came with a programming environment, even if it was as simple as ROM BASIC. The C64 manual even came with sections on how to program the sprite generator and sound chip, even though the built-in BASIC didn't include a sensible extension for doing so.

      It's kind of a shame that today's UEFI BIOSes are many megabytes and still they can't find any room for a tiny BASIC interp
      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        Absolutely this. Manuals that included a section on programming the computer are a gateway drug. Of course I also miss computers that came with a programming environment, even if it was as simple as ROM BASIC.

        Totally agree. I remember copying lines of sample BASIC code included in the TRS-80 user manual and trying to change things ever so slightly. Never achieved something as cool as those racing horses but to this day I can still remember the feeling of pressing those tiny keyboard keys and hoping for the best when I would type CLOAD.

  • Beige. Seriously, I missed the beige PC boxes. Especially the InWin beige boxes.
  • The Commodore 64 had 64K and a BASIC ROM and a 1 Mhz CPU. You flipped the power switch and BAM, it was ready to use. Now, we have 4.1GHz CPUs, M.2 SSDs and the boot is anything by instantaneous. Ain't no one got time to wait for Windows 10 to install patches and reboot. Let's go go go!

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Assuming what you wanted to use it for was to start programming some BASIC from scratch. If you wanted to load a program off of the severely braindamaged 1541 disk drive that was another 8 minute wait.
  • Early 80's, Scott Adam's Adventures for the TRS-80. A co-workers wife was as addicted to these as I was. We not only traded tips on how to solve a puzzle, we made sure we bought different games and traded them as we bought em.

    Also miss "debugging" games. I don't know how many hours I "wasted" stepping through Z-80 assembly to find out where a game stored "something that took a while to generate". Learned a lot of Z-80 assembly that way, as well as how to use a debugger. This was a good year before e
  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @09:07PM (#54203995) Homepage

    Wire wrapped, Z80 processor board. Motorola 6845 (using the design of the IBM Monochrome Adapter from the original PC) board. Single 8" drive running CP/M (I think I bought an S100 drive controller board but I can't remember where it came from - the disk drive came from IBM, where I was working at the time as a student). Surplus S100 rack ordered from "Radio Electronics". The power supply was hand made by one of my roommates that wanted to design his own switcher (it actually worked quite well). Keyboard was a surplus Ti-99 keyboard I bought at Active Surplus in Toronto. Monitor was an old portable TV I drove composite video into directly after removing the tuner.

    Good days.

    • After the CDP1802-based system, expanded on from a 1976 Popular Electronics article to include 8kB static RAM, a serial interface, and integer BASIC in ROM (2708 EPROMs no less) all running on a ASR33 TTY (I/O for the BASIC loading from paper tape, I wrote the I/O myself, it loaded from the paper tape reader), there was the POLY88 system, then the IMSAI8080, and finally the Morrow Designs system, the DSDD 8" half-height drives, the Shugart SA4000 14" HDD, the various VDTs connected to it, and CP/M 2.2. Wrot
  • I had the "Mapping the C64" book. Said every address on the computer. Now, good luck knowing 5% of what's happening on your box.

    Also, cassettes sucked. Slow, and head alignment issues meant you weren't always able to share tapes.

    • Now, good luck knowing 5% of what's happening on your box.

      It's worse that that, friend. These days, you try to 'reverse engineer' something, and they catch you, you're slapped with infringement, sued, fined, or perhaps labeled a 'cyberterrorist', because 'you're violating our IP' and you're 'hacking our DRM, which is ILLEGAL'. But you're also right. The number of registers in your typical SoC or CPU and chipset, if printed in even 8 point font, would fill volumes, and that's just the listings, not the descriptions of what they are. And, again, most of it is propri

  • Privacy, complications, buggy, bad usability and experiences, etc.

  • by williamyf ( 227051 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @09:19PM (#54204049)

    Being able to understand the computer top to bottom, that's what I miss about that era.

    Yes, it was frustrating to try and make it stable and configure it. But the HW, and the OS and the SW were so simple that, if you were so inclined, you could deeply understand the whole stack...

    Nowadays, not anymore...

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Being able to understand the computer top to bottom, that's what I miss about that era.

      Having printed manuals that explained the whole stack.

      • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

        Staring in awe at the boxes and boxes of IBM manuals that came with 'my' first AS400 in 1989.

        Systems administration, user command reference, programming reference, APIs, and more.

    • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @05:41AM (#54205455) Homepage

      Related to understanding the whole stack: You also knew exactly what your computer was doing. Why is the disk thrashing? Because you just started a program to do X. There was a very direct relationship to what you asked the computer to do, and what the computer did. Programs and activities had rhythms to them (visual and aural). If you saw/heard something unexpected, this was an immediate indication that something was wrong.

      Nowadays: Why is my disk busy? No idea. What program is sending crap across the network? No idea. WTF are those 1000 or so threads doing in the background? No idea on at least half of them...

  • I use to be able to write config.sys & autoexec.bat files on the fly...just to get a little more low DOS memory for games that had to have over 600k. Rewriting modem AT commands on the fly, for certain BBS's. Screwing with IRQ's to knock down problems, and who can forget messing with soundblaster configurations.
  • How much fun it was to blast a new Anti-Commodore demo on the Atari 800XL (Atari's were on one side of the room where the monthly computer club meetings were) all the way to the other side (where the Commodore owners were sitting).
  • Not completely computer related but I remember when I first started working full time at IBM and was in a product status meeting for the 3180 terminal (http://oldcomputer.info/terminal/ibm3180/index.htm) and how excited everybody was about the orders coming in for it.

    The reason? It had a completely flat top which secretaries could put plants on. No other terminal top had a flat surface with no cooling holes like that monitor.

    I guess this would be considered sexist now.

    Looking at my Acer flat screen monito

  • Write-protect tabs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dottrap ( 1897528 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @09:43PM (#54204143)

    I miss the hard physical write-protect tabs we had on floppy disks.

    Nowadays, if you plug in a USB stick or external hard disk, you have to trust that the OS won't write or screw up your data in any way. Ignoring bugs and and "helpful" OS's who try to reformat if they don't recognize the filesystem, with viruses and other malware, you can't trust software to enforce read-only modes.

  • My list? (Score:4, Informative)

    by lord_mike ( 567148 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @09:50PM (#54204165)

    1. Instant on. Turn on the switch ad the computer's booted. On some machines, you might have to wait for your DOS to load, but it was typically quick. No more waiting minutes (or sometimes hours in the case of Windows XP) to boot up.

    2. As noted upthread, BASIC. Yeah, it was a crappy programming language. The microcomputer versions were pretty bad--line numbers, single letter variables, no structured programming constructs, lack of hexadecimal notation for POKEs, and slow speed. Debugging was nearly impossible as the language was prone to spaghetti code and it was hardly self documenting (who is going to waste precious memory on a REM statement?). Regardless, it was very straightforward to use and allowed novices to create something that worked. It forced people to learn how to code, as even the most basic of commands, like "LOAD "*",8,1 was a BASIC statement. If you wanted to do anything with the machine, you had to do something in BASIC. It was good for people to learn.

    3. Games. The games were fun and didn't require investing a part of your soul and all of your spare time to play them. I still play some of them in emulation when I have some time to kill. they were unique, and there is nothing like them today.

    4. Modems. Yeah, they were slow, but you had to love that handshake/connect sound!! It's amazing how much juice they managed to get out of them near the end. There is something very primal about connecting a computer via phone line. I miss it. I read recently that modems don't really work on VOIP lines, which is what most remaining land lines consist of. That's a big bummer...

    5. The Atari Joystick Standard. I have a very hard time playing with a modern game controller with it's millions of buttons. Give me a one (I'll be generous, two) button joystick any day over these modern monstrosities.

    6. Babbages. Yes, that came later, but a store devoted to computer gaming? Heaven! I had a friend who was a manager there. They were allowed to take home and "test drive" the software. I was so mad when he quit that job!!!

    7. The simplicity and closeness to hardware. You can't manipulate hardware nowadays like you used to. Everything was easy to get to via software. The software itself was simple and straightforward. You don't get that today.

    The things I don't miss:

    1. Tape loading... who would be crazy to name that as a good thing? That was awful. There's a reason why everyone switched to floppies if they could.

    2. Lack of access to information about your computer. The books and magazines were great, but getting the right book or back issues of the right magazine were often difficult to find... There was no access to code libraries or helpful info if you ran into a problem programming or using your machine.

    3. Getting software. It could be tough finding retail outlets that sold your stuff, and very few things came at a discount. That was another good reason to learn how to program.

    4. Single tasking. We are spoiled nowadays with our ability to run multiple programs at the same time. Back then, on some computers, just loading up a DOS file directory would cause you to lose all your work. Thanks to multitasking, we can emulate our beloved old computers at the same time we can do something else.. so overall, we certainly are better off today than before... but I still miss the old times.

  • I miss demoscene entries that actually ran on the bare hardware and exploited its quirks... Nowadays it's mostly watching videos because you're lucky if you can actually get a release to run properly without barfing out to the desktop for some missing library or it just doesn't agree with your GPU

  • I built my first computer by populating an S100 board with an 8080 and discrete logic and wirewrapping it myself. Had a pair of 8-inch floppies for storage, and a kit-built Heathkit H19 for a terminal. Ran CP/M on it. I don't miss that thing one bit. I love what I'm able to build these days with much more integrated components, and I love the enormous functionality I can buy off-the-shelf for, effectively, peanuts if I don't feel like building it. Particularly via AliExpress (just got a sweet component tes
  • AT the back of the IBM PC manual was the ROM code and circuit diagram. Several times I used those to figure exactly what a specific command was doing. In the hardware.

    With so many layers of API, IDE, 4g languages, who the hell knows what is happening underneath?

    Stop holding my hand so hard, let me figure things out myself.

  • My old Amiga (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @10:17PM (#54204309)
    While I started out like so many people, on a Commodore 64, My computing life really took off when I bought one of the Commodore Amiga 500's.

    Keeping in mind the time, this thing had it all over the typical IBM PC of the day. Those little disks, actual multitasking, nice built in graphics. I had a nice little side business doing weddings after I bought an Amiga 2000, and the necessary camera and editing equipment. Eventually I talked my main work into a 3000 and frame buffer, and showing them what I could do in making 3-D animations in Imagine, and their use in science. I did all this with my A3000, which was my favorite Amiga of all. My last Amiga was the 4000, with a video Toaster and Lightwave. The old Deluxe Paint 2, 3, and 4 were in constant use. The machines were just plain fun to use. I was making 3-D animations and videos with frame buffers and VTR control software, while my Microsoft based colleagues were all excited when they got the right escape codes to print landscape.

    But Commodore was a badly run company, and the promise that the A4000 had went away when they went belly up. Fortunately, this was around the time when non-linear editing and computer and video speed were catching up to the Amiga, and My next system was a Mac Pro. I continued to use Lightwave, in part because the 3-D learning curve is steep as hell, and fortunately NewTek makes it for Mac.

    Those were some pretty heady and fun days, to grow up with the computing revolution. I still enjoy it, but no where near as much as with the old Amigas.

    • What was that joke again? If Commodore tried to sell fried chicken, they would advertise it as dead warm bird.

  • I greatly prefer the mechanical disc eject mechanisms

    The os has no need to decide for me when it's safe to remove the disc.

    I don't care if it is burning a disc it's been stuck at 100% for the last half hour.

  • I miss rotary dials on phones. And polio.

  • but my favorite OS was Windows Server 2003. The Windows 2k interface on top of NT. It wasn't easy finding hardware with drivers for it, but it never ever crashed.

    My favorite monitor was an SGI 1600SW monitor. I swear, that pixel density was like looking at a piece of paper.

  • by ka9dgx ( 72702 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @11:14PM (#54204511) Homepage Journal

    In the MS-DOS / floppy disk days, you had far more security. Your entire operating system was write-protected, and you could make a copy of it, and test that copy, all in less than 10 minutes.

    These days, you can't even clone your hard drive and have reasonable assurance that all your apps will work without being re-authorized.

  • seriously am i the only person who remembers listening to the handshake noises that your modem used to make? it was the confirmation that you were connected to the world outside your own! i specifically miss the ker-shploink noise of the V.42 modems, which occupy a spot in my heart right next to zmodem
  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Sunday April 09, 2017 @11:44PM (#54204619)

    Hardware has improved, but software bloat just eats that up anyway.

    The Windows 2000 interface was better than anything MS has come up with so far.

    MS-Office is not much better.

    Ubuntu has been going downhill since 10.4.

    I suppose there has been some progress, but not much.

  • by Scarletdown ( 886459 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @12:09AM (#54204689) Journal

    From TFA...

    "It was at this point that the entire industry moved over to 3D rendering. Sega failed to anticipate this, with its Saturn console, while the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64 excelled in this area. Subsequently, Sega never made a console again."

    BZZZZZT! How can he not remember the actual final console Sega made? The Dreamcast, not the Saturn, was their last; and it did do 3D.

    "Mario Bros, an arcade game that was later ported to the home platforms. This first Mario game has most of the elements that we now think of as intrinsic to platform games as it’s a scrolling game world made up levels to be traversed to completion."

    Again, BZZZZZZZTTTTT!!! Mario Brothers was not a side scroller. It was a nonscrolling platformer (and I believe the first to introduce Luigi). The game the author is describing is Super Mario Brothers. I would bet he thinks Mario didn't get named until then either (I think in Donkey Kong Jr., he got renamed from his original Jumpman moniker from DK, to Mario, where he was the "villain."

    Those two errors do a lot to destroy any credibility this guy has as a writer on classic video game and computer history.

    "Game over. Press Redo or Back." (Always thought the gal who did the female voice for TI-99/4a Speech Synthesizer games sounded hot.)

  • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @12:36AM (#54204769)

    1. The Amiga 1000 would have shipped with a 68010 from day one. It only cost a few dollars more than a 68000, and would have ensured that 98% of all the good games that came out for the next 5 years wouldn't crash, burn, and die a horrible death on anything with a 68020+ due to the copy protection using MOVE SR, <ea>.

    2. I would have BEGGED Jay Miner for a "semi-chunky" 4-bit graphics mode that used a byte per pixel, but read either the high or low nybble (set by a register bit). So you could write the low nybbles, display them, update the high nybbles, switch to them, update the low nybbles, switch to them, etc. And had a graceful update path for ECS to make it a true 8-bit mode.

    3. I would have tied up the CEO of Gravis and beat him with a rubber hose until he agreed to let the engineers add a SB-compatible FM and DAC to it (for perfect compatibility with SB-only software, instead of endless fucking misery with SBOS that never really worked right). Or at least, could take a daughterboard with SB-compatible chips (so they could keep the lower price point without permanently gimping it). Or even just had a fucking 1/8" stereo jack for input from a second soundcard that got mixed 50/50 with the GUS's native audio (enabled with a jumper), so you could have both a GUS and a SBpro without having to switch cables or spend a hundred bucks on an external mixer.

    4. I would have leaked the whole story of HP's CD-R design debacle to the media before they had a chance to ship (ie, HP's engineers *knew* beyond doubt that shipping a CD writer without a dedicated RAM buffer was GUARANTEED to turn at least 1 in 4 discs into a coaster, but HP's management ignored their protests).

    5. I would have made an equally made a big stink in the media about PC-CHIPS's fake "WRITE-BACK cache" circa 1993 (literally, bars of plastic with metal pins soldered to the motherboard, and a BIOS that flat-out LIED about it).

  • by kevmeister ( 979231 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @02:23AM (#54205019) Homepage
    I miss front panel debugging. Having a row of about 20 switches that allow you to modify memory and read out the program counter in lights as well as halt, step, examine, and continue the computer and step it through the program. I programmed vector graphics that way on a paper tape OS. You put lots of NO-OPs in so you could add instructions as you debugged. You really learned how the computer and the graphics worked.

    I also liked core memory. You halted the system and turned it off. An hour or a week later, you turned it on and pressed "Continue" and you were right where you left off.

  • by ei4anb ( 625481 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @03:55AM (#54205203)
    Those are not what I would call very old :-)
    The first computer I learned to program was originally built in 1966 and later donated to our university in the mid '70s http://2eo.blogspot.ie/2007/12... [blogspot.ie]
  • by Ashtead ( 654610 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @04:54AM (#54205321) Journal

    Maybe I mostly remember the slings and arrows -- these so-called BASIC program listings that were about eight lines of actual readable (and thus re-writeable) BASIC code and the rest of the page or pages being DATA statements with numbers. Then the PCs came, and we could, if sufficiently masochistic, type in similar listings to use with DEBUG.EXE. Later, as software grew larger, there soon came the need of faffing about with config.sys and autoexec.bat so that available memory was maximized. In the late 1980s onwards, there were the expanded memory nonsense too and more and more options and things in config.sys. There there would be jumper settings so DMA channels, port-addresses and interrupt lines on the various plug-in cards in the PCs. This continued well into the 1990s, then that got replaced by something called Plug-and-play which maybe, maybe not, did work, thus everyone called it "Plug-and-pray". And all on the original 640K plus whatever High memory had been put into place. I do not miss any of all this. TFS mentions the dreariness of business computing. they are absolutely right!

    But I might not be typical -- I started with learning FORTRAN, then after that BASIC seemed primitive (no functions? and thus no data hiding? i have to make sure I don't re-use any of the variable-names anywhere else? and only one letter? at least FORTRAN allowed me to use six! bah) but the PC-compatible had Turbo Pascal, and there was also the assembler and later, Turbo C, so that became a nice set-up, with direct control of the pins on the parallell and serial ports, and even some DIY card with A-D converters! Yay!

    Then there were the wonderful Unix systems, HP-UX and AIX back around the mid-1980s, where you could actually do more than one thing at a time without the machine crashing. And even if your program decided to hang, or accessed some memory out of bounds, it would say "bus error" or "segmentation fault" and stop, but the rest of the system, including other programs, would continue happily along as if nothing had happened. These even had networking so we could have programs on one machine talk with programs on another machine.

    Of course this didn't last. Those Unix systems were way too expensive. Instead, Windows NT happened, and a form of multitasking and even eventually a useful networking system (TCP/IP is useful, all the other weird and wonderful variants turned out not to be so) and the access to the parallell port vanished, while the support for the serial ports became increasingly wobbly. ISA, EISA, Micro Channel, and MS-DOS became dinosaurs soon after; parallell and serial ports followed on as being branded "legacy". And like the dinosaurs, some of their descendants are still around now: RS-232 serial ports never really went away completely. USB came, but turned out to not be as hacker-friendly as those serial ports -- there is a reason everyone today runs (RS-232 style) serial via USB using a pl2303 or FTDI or similar chip to talk and listen to the UART in their SBC or microcontroller board.

    There was a sort of dark age, of PCs running klunky MS-DOS or slightly less klunky Windows, until the late half of the 1990s, when Linux distros became easily available, and so good that they actually worked right on some reasonable random PC hardware that would be available, and all the good old Unix ways of doing things finally became economically feasible, intially on PCs, many of them second-hand. Around the middle of the 2000s the first single-board computers started showing up, and some of these are now becoming as understandable and documented as those old 8088 PCs with their MS-DOS once were.

    To some extent we are in a golden age right now.

  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @05:39AM (#54205449) Homepage Journal
    It presents you with a command prompt, ready to be programmed on. You can do things like shell one-liners to automate pieces of your work as you go on, without entering any special programming modes. And when you need to do more serious programming, there are no artificial barriers. In short, it doesn't enforce any unnecessary separation between users and developers [iki.fi].
  • Simplicity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @05:58AM (#54205493)

    I used to have (under Linux) a thing that did something and another thing that did something else.
    Now I have a PC with a bios that tries to do everything, starting a bootloader that tries to do everything, running a desktop manager that tries to do everything to launch a browser that tries to do everything, to visit a site that tries to do everything.

    And when _I_ try to do anything, it breaks and when I ask for help, they all point to others because their software is perfect.
    And do not even try to change settings in a human readable file, because if you are lucky, it will be overwritten by who knows what and that would be the best outcome.

    And asking questions on how to do that, the RTFM is not available and the FAQ is something not even the writer or the developer can understand and all other documentation just says : you need X, Y and Z and the versuon you run is not the correct one and if you install the correct one, 7 other programs will break and will never work again.

    So all you can hope for is to install something, hope it works and never do any upgrades, because that will break the system.

    So what will I really miss? Being the boss over my own PC with tools that are usable by a human of average intelligence, not just by some Linux Guru who is only interested in his small little world, just so I can use it how I like it.

    This fredom has been taken away by removing simplicity.

  • by TomGreenhaw ( 929233 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @11:11AM (#54206859)
    I miss the days when computer viruses and hackers were not a threat. Back in the late 70's and early 80's the systems were so primitive the was no way for external users to get into your systems.

    Maybe this is part of the attraction I have for the Arduino.
  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @12:20PM (#54207461) Journal

    I miss the one Apple IIe in the back of every classroom that no one else knew how to use. "Computers are the future, and so we need them in the classroom!" and our school system bought one Apple IIe for each classroom, that sat there, unused.

    In the 4th grade we had to do some project about the different types of biomes (tundra, desert, deciduous forest, rain forest, etc). So most people made a diorama or something. I wrote a quiz game in BASIC called "Name That Biome!" I included 20 questions from the textbook about the different biomes, and the program would pick 10 at random, ask them to the user, the user would enter their multiple choice answer, and then it would tell if you got it right or not, and then give you your score at the end. This was wizardy to the teacher, so I got a 100. And after that every year up through high school there was some project or another in one of my classes where I could just swap out the questions and the game became "Name That State!" "Name That Napoleonic Wars Battle!" Took only a few minutes and got an A every time. Good times.

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