Byte April 1985


2007/09/07

We had a closet shelf collapse from overloading and that mess sent me scurrying around looking at other shelves. On one I found a small pile of early Byte Magazines. I moved them to a safer location, but pulled one off to look through. It happened to be April, 1985, Vlume 10, Number 4.

Boy, its been a long time since computer magazines were this thick. Not counting the covers and the Reader Service Card, it was 496 pages. The inside front cover and page one were an Apple ad for The Macintosh Office. That ad said that IBM PC's could use their new (just a few months old) LaserWriter printer and promised that "Later this year we'll be introducing the AppleTalk card that fits into an IBM PC, allowng it to trade information with Macintosh and access file servers."

They weren't the only ones interested in IBM PC's. A 3 page ad spread starting on on page 75 told us about Dayna Communications MacCharlie - "The Best of Both Worlds", which was something you slid your Macintosh into - it had a keyboard that the Mac keyboard slipped into, and the Mac itself went into a box that added an 8088 processor, one or two 5-1/4 inch drives - starting at $1,195.00.

Microsoft wasn't ignoring the Mac either: they had a full page ad highlighting their "SoftCard II", a "high performance CP/M® board that really juices the Apple II, IIe and II+".

Unix was alive and well. A full page Cromemco ad ("Designed to make Unix System V even better") offered 16MB ram and a 50MB hard drive - but expandable to 1200 MB using "standard SMD drives. It had "access to the broad range of UNIX application programs that is growing dramatically every day". Pinnacle Systems, Inc.c. had "The fastest Micro in the Worl, a " 12 Mhz 68000 with 8MB ram, 110MB hd - under $4,000 and of course it was "ideal for disk intensive operating systems like Unix and Pick."

Unisource sold The Connector for Venix, "the first licensed AT&T Unix operating system for the IBM PC's".. this apparently was a DOS emulator.

Back then, WordPerfect was SSI software. Gifford Computer Systems adverstised "Multiuser Concurrent DOS with ARCNET - The net that works!". Princeton Graphics and Sigma designs had an "incredible 640 x 400" color display; Hercules offered 720 x 348, but that was monochrome.

Modems were at 1200 baud. You could "Send or Receive 50 pages of text without tying up your computer" with the Prometheus Promodem 1200, which had its own memory buffer for just $495.

By the way: my rates at that time were $35.00 and hour and some customers thought that was a bit high. A modem like that cost me fourteen hours of work.

Some other ads:

  • Microsoft C - $395.00 (I bought it - another 11 hours gone).
  • Zenith introduces "less than $3000 portable with a LCD display"
  • Proteon 8Mbs network "available for Unibus and Multibus systems for about $8000 per node"
  • Maynard electronics offered "Hard Drives you can forget about" from 10 to 30 MB
  • A 10MB drive from Linde Technology would set you back $945.00
  • You could get semicondoctor disk emulators (ram disks) from SemiDisk Systems: 1MB for $1,795.00, 2MB $2,495.00
  • Borland's Sidekick ran a 2 page ad - you had to have that if you ran DOS.
  • Even OCR was available - Obeon OMNI-READER was a rs232 scanner and software - under $500.00
  • A 1/4 page ad warned "Tax Reform Act of 1984" made it difficult to deduct computer equipment unless you could prove how much you used it for business - and offered to sell time logging software.
  • Do you remember the Brown box Dysan 5.25 inch diskettes? They had a full page ad asking if you really could afford to buy a less expensive brand
  • Several full page ads pushed oscilloscopes


The Editorial content was mostly quite technical: articles on programming, hardware reviews that really got into the nuts and blots. Steve Ciarca's Circuit Cellar was a regular feature; this month he introduced a "Home Run Control System".

Jerry Pournell (a science fiction writer and early computer user) did the popular and long running "Chaos Manor" column. This month he wrote about CompuPro changing their name to Viasyn - today compupro.com says it was established in 1986, and Viasyn is an an energy trading company - who knows what happened to that company?

Jerry also opined "The world is ready for another operating system". He thought that might have been MSI's S1 and further declaimed "I don't really care to be tied to the future of Unix". A reader's letter said that he wanted an S-100 processor board and Unix but lamented that he couldn't afford the packaged business systems, and Microsoft wouldn't sell him Xenix (sold only to hardware manufacturers and vendors then apparently - what OS would you bet that reader is running now?).

No wonder he couldn't afford it: Opus sold a Unix coproceesor system starting at $3,140 for a single user license - but even that was for OEM quantities!

The regular Hardware Review section looked over the ITT Extra, an IBM clone with a list price of $4,995 - I bought one of those around then, but only paid around $3,000.00 if I remember correctly - but that was still a pile of earned income.

The inside back cover was NEC's "Pinwriter" dot matrix printer. The actual back page ad was for Tandy 1000 with Deskmate: $1,199.00 According to a quote from Popular Computing in that ad, Deskmate "takes the place of literally hundreds of dollars of separately purchased software". Actually, it was pretty good for its time.

Ahhh, a lot of memories. But back on the (reinforced) shelf it goes.



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