16 January 2010

Computers In 1980 - The Acorn Atom, The ZX80, The World's First PET Show And Prestel News At View Data '80...

June 1980: word has arrived from Personal Computer World's distributor that he would like to increase the number of copies printed by 70% - immediately. A move almost unprecedented in the annals of specialist magazine publishing, writes the editorial team, very chuffed about it indeed.

Here, PCW is proclaiming itself as being EUROPE'S LEADING MICRO MAGAZINE on its front cover. At some point between June 1980 and November 1982, it would be demoting itself to BRITAIN'S LARGEST SELLING MICRO MAGAZINE (see here) as interest in computers began to increase, creating an upsurge in computer-related magazines.

Computing 1980 style... (yawn)... sorry, but before the World Wide Web I couldn't see the point. OK, in 1980 something called "Usenet" was established in the States, but it was the invention of the Web in 1989 and its implementation in the early 1990s which led to me joining the computer brigade - and millions of others. In 1980, I never dreamt I'd ever use a computer.

It is worth noting that World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee took the first steps towards his wondrous 1989 invention in June to December 1980 - he wrote ENQUIRE, his first computer program for storing information. At this time he was working a six month stint as a consultant software engineer at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.

He left CERN for a spell, returning in 1984, and in March 1989 invented the World Wide Web.
Read more about 1989 and the World Wide Web here.

Back to 1980, when most people didn't even have a VCR, let alone a computer, and I must say those Verbatim minidisks in the photograph above don't look very "mini" to me!

A brand new arrival in 1980 - the Acorn Atom:

New! - The Acorn Atom - £120

An outstanding personal computer kit

Also available ready-built for £150 plus VAT and p&p

The ATOM - a definitive personal computer. Simple-to-build, simple-to operate, But a really powerful full-facility computer. And designed on an expandable basis. You can buy a superb expanded package now - tailored to your needs. Or you can buy just the standard Atom kit, and, as you grow in confidence and knowledge, add more chips. No need to replace your equipment. No need to worry that your investment will be overtaken by new technology. As you need more power, more facilities, you can add them!

The standard ATOM kit includes:

*Full sized QWERTY keyboard

*Rugged polystyrene case

*Fibreglass PCB



*23 integrated circuits

*Full assembly instructions including tests for fault-finding (once built, connect it to any domestic TV and power source)...

MSI 6800: At the root of every good system...




(plus V.A.T) Delivery 30-60 DAYS

*Built-in 1/2 Megabyte 8'' Floppy Disc

*32 or 64k Random Access Memory

*12" High Resolution Video Monitor

*24 Lines of 80 or 40 (wide) characters

*Upper/Lower Case

*Two RS-232c Serial Interface Ports

*"Power-Up" Self Testing

*One Centronics Parallel Interface Port

*Two Programmable Special Function Keys

*Direct Memory Access

*Vector Driven Interrupts

*Full 4 Megahertz operating speed

*Provisions for plug-in Expansion Boards


Tandy are opening specialist TRS-80 microcomputer centers the length and breadth of Britain - many are already open and new ones will be appearing all the time. So you'll be able to drop in and experiment with the TRS-80 range, discuss your needs with a TRS-80 expert and buy one over the counter. Each store will be backed by a service engineer to iron out any problems you may encounter when commissioning your system.

1980 saw saw the world's very first Commodore PET show...

There are over 18,000 Commodore PET Microcomputers in regular operation throughout the UK.

The list of PET applications is endless - ledger, payroll, word processing, stock-control, business information, activity planning, time recording, incomplete record accounting, graphics, voltage stabilisation and so on.

One user uses his PET to compose poetry, another even composes musical scores. All on the PET Microcomputer.

Commodore felt that it was high time approved PET Products, PET User Clubs, Special Interest Groups and potential and present PET users were brought together.

So they have asked Baroness International to organise the World's First PET Show, in the Empire Napoleon Suite at Cafe Royal.

Over 50 stands will be demonstrating a range of approved PET Products...


One of the highlights of the recent Viewdata '80 exhibition was the announcement of three major enhancements to Prestel - "Picture Prestel", "Telesoftware" and "Dynamically Redefinable Character Sets" (hereinafter referred to as DRCS). The publicity for these developments seems to have been particularly ill-timed considering the fact that, just as Prestel seems to be getting off the ground, along come some new features which demand the use of radically different Prestel receivers. Nevertheless the facilities announced are quite interesting and well worth a closer look.

Click on the image for more details!

Cromenco Micro Systems Ltd, Edinburgh - a lovely display of computers. The thrill of the new in 1980, so quaint today.

The dear old floppy disk... somewhat larger in the 1980s film and TV footage I have seen than the dinky little things prevalant when I first purchased a PC in 2004...

And last, but by no means least, this brand new 1980 arrival needs no introduction - Clive Sinclair's ZX80 - Britain's first complete computer kit - £79.95:

You've seen the reviews... you've heard the excitement... now make the kit!

This is the ZX80. 'Personal Computer World' gave it 5 stars for excellent value. Benchmark tests say it's faster than all previous computers. And the response from kit enthusiasts has been tremendous...

'Excellent value' indeed!

For just £79.95 (INCLUDING VAT and p&p) you get everything you need to build a personal computer at home... PCB with IC sockets for all ICs; case; leads for direct connection to a cassette recorder and television (black and white or colour), EVERYTHING!

Yet the ZX80 really is a complete, powerful, full-facility computer, matching or surpassing other personal computers at several times the price.

The ZX80 is programmed in BASIC, and you can use it to do quite literally anything from playing chess to managing a business.

The ZX80 is pleasantly straightforward to assemble, using a fine-tipped soldering iron. It immediately proves what a good job you've done: connect it to your TV... link it to an appropriate power source... and you're ready to go...

Fascinating - I don't fancy the bit with the soldering iron, though!

Compare computers in 1980 with computers in 1982 here.

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