Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Enter 1984

No, I'm not heralding the arrival of some Orwellian society, it's just a computer magazine from 1984, specifically November.  Here's why 1984 wasn't like 1984.

I think you'll agree, 1984 wouldn't have been 1984 without David Hasselhoff.

I never got the IBM Charlie Chaplin campaign.  Seemed like a stretch that people could relate, even in 1984. People who remembered Charlie Chaplin were hardly their market audience. From
IBM's new spokesman emerged in August 1981 as the Charlie Chaplin "little tramp" character in an effort to personify the qualities of a new computer that was uncomplicated and fun. "A tool for modern times"—alluding to Mr. Chaplin's 1936 film "Modern Times"—was the tagline. The campaign was such a success that IBM PCs practically flew out of dealer stores. In the first year of the IBM PC, it went from a zero market share to 28% and grew from there.
I'm not sure I'd credit the ad campaign for the sales. It was probably due more to the IBM PC being the standard for businesses and business and science programs at universities and colleges (sorry Apple).

"A lot of people don't need a computer. Businessmen need computers for record keeping, and writers use them for word processing. But what else is a personal computer good for? Games!"  While true for 1984, I find that kind of shortsighted for a computer magazine.

"Enter" was published by CTW (Children's Television Workshop), so it's not surprising to see a subscription card for "3-2-1 Contact" inside.  I can still hear the theme music.

I was about to give credit to CTW for naming their corporate address "E=MC Square", but then realized it was a P.O. Box.

If you breakdance on your computer, at least you won't break your neck, like Alfonso Ribeiro.

SIGGRAPH '84 featured "The Adventures of Andr√© and Wally B.",  John Lasseter's first computer animated short. At the time, he worked for The Graphics Group, a division of Lucasfilm which was later spun off as Pixar.

"One Disk Drive". Again, a great address, but it's just a P.O. Box.

"V" started out great, but didn't hold up as a series.

It's a little hard to read with the rolled spine, but Amy Demars (shown in the picture) started a TI 99/4A computer group after the computer had already been discontinued by Texas Instruments. I could have belonged to that club. I bought mine after it was discontinued as well.  It was my first computer and served me well for learning BASIC programming.  By the way, this has to be her. I wonder if she still has her TI99. I still have mine.

The closest we came to the cars shown in this article was the 1989 Ford Probe.

I'm not sure what the winning caption was.  How about some in the comments?

I remember typing programs from magazines into my TI99, but they were much longer than these. In particular, I recall spending hours one day typing in the code for a Centipede-style game and then another few hours debugging my typos.  I think I played it a few times until I had to shut off my computer because we were leaving the house.  This was before I had any way of backing up the programs.

There are emulators available for all of these computers. If I had more energy, I'd download one and try these programs out.

Did your parents ever tell you you were becoming a pumpkin or cabbage head from too much computer use? Mine neither.

If you enjoyed this trip to the early days of home computers, let me know.  I recently bought a number of these issues at a sale and will scan more if they entertain.


  1. aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh by brain hurts this is so amazing! I was looking at those add's and thinking man Epyx put out a ton of cool games and then I thought man I need to fire up my 64 and play Break dancing again. I played the heck out of that game. Then I want to fire it up just so I can write that code once more and play those simple yet so satisfying games. Man what a great trip back to my 14 year old self! Wait was I suppose to read the story about Knight Rider?

    1. Sorry for the brain pain, Bob. And you don't have the read the Knight Rider story, I would never subject your brain to that.

  2. i love the old computer ads -- and the old game ads. i actually have a still-in-box copy of the Zork trilogy that i picked up in a thrift, complete with the map and all the other things that came with it. of course, i have no way of reading 4.25" floppies any more, but it's still cool. i also remember that Elephant Memory disks were NOT that good. they lost data alllllll the time.

    it's also sort of weird to see a computer magazine diving into politics, but 1984 was a pivotal time, and it's supposed to be fun from a programming angle, so i guess it works. REAGAN/MONDALE, haha -- those were the days!

  3. >i also remember that Elephant Memory disks were NOT that good. they lost
    >data alllllll the time.
    I vaguely remember that about the Elephant disks. I remember the horror of the clicking disk drive.

  4. Those early computer days were the best of times. So much exciting technology and things to learn about it, trying to squeeze every byte and CPU cycle out of them. I don't find it nearly as exciting anymore (of course I am not an early teen kid so that may be part of it).

    At that time I wanted a Trans Am so bad because of KITT, even though I had years to go until I could drive.

    1. Computers certainly were more hands on, which added to the excitement. I remember having to set manual dip switches to allow my printer card to communicate with my printer and issuing commands to my 1200 baud modem to open the telephone line and make a call to a local BBS. You felt like a elite group. Now, every kid (and adult) carries a computer with them.


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