Retro Tech – Personal Computers In the 1980s

Personal Computers In the 1980s atari 800
From the 1980 J.C. Penney Christmas Catalog. Featured here is the Atari 800. With a whole whopping 16k of RAM. Holy mackerel, it’s monstrously huge! Looks like it was built into an IBM Selectric chassis.


Reposted from June 2011. This is a brand new selection of vintage personal computers in the 1980s from Department Store catalogs. As usual, I dug through the magnificent selection at Wishbookweb.com. Go there. Wait, finish looking at this post. THEN, go there.

As per usual, click the image to view the entire catalog page and a lot more cool imagery of Ye Olde Computers. More after the fold.

Personal Computers In the 1980s atari 800 xl

From the 1983 Sears Christmas catalog, the Atari 800XL! Includes 50% more ram than the original Atari 800. And get this… it comes with a “Help Key”. This computer would help you with anything. Taking out the trash. Putting away dishes. Naming your latest GURPS character. All you had to do was press HELP.

Personal Computers In the 1980s timex sinclair

1980, Sears. The Timex/Sinclair 2068. Now that is one classy keyboard. I don’t know. I think Timex should have stuck with digital watches. Especially as the image on the screen just looks like the pedometer icon on a digital watch.

Personal Computers In the 1980s texas instruments ti 99/4a

1983, Sears. Texas Instruments TI 99/4A. Are you seeing this? This kid was priming for ultimate WOW pwnage in 1983! Who knew? And what the hell is that chess board thing on his left? The Milton Bradley MBX Expansion System, 64 position action input keypad. I want one. I don’t know what it is, but I want it.

Personal Computers In the 1980s koalapad touch tablet

1984, Wards. Koalapad Touch Tablet for the Commodore 64. Seemingly high-tech for ’84. I never knew anyone that early with a touch-pad. Though I have the vaguest memory of seeing them used (to lackluster effect) at EPCOT.

Personal Computers In the 1980s commodore 64

1984, Wards. Commodore 64. This was the full monty. What all the kids who knew their shit wanted in 1984. The breadbox may not have been the greatest computer ever made up to that point, but it was certainly the one with the selling power.

Oh, and I still have fond memories of those big old 5 1/2 floppy disk containers. We had a bunch of them to store the cheesy Basic games I programmed on my IBM PCjr. We still had a couple of them laying around my folks’ house not to many years back. Can’t imagine why it took us so long to chuck ’em. It isn’t like we could have opened those disks up if we wanted to. Still, nostalgia…

Personal Computers In the 1980s coleco adam

1984, Wards. We follow up with the Coleco ADAM. Huh. Not quite as exciting as the C64. Really kinda boring actually. But hey, every ADAM computer came with a free scholarship worth $500, so there’s something, right? You also gotta hand it to them for including the standard Colecovision game controller. Too bad the kid who got this one for Christmas didn’t get a monitor to go with it. Instead, he had to play games using the printer as a graphic interface. Hey, you look at the framing of this photo and tell me that’s not the implication.

Personal Computers In the 1980s atari 800 xl

1984, Wards. Another view of the Atari 800XL. I’ve got to say, I’m really liking the design of this computer. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the black trim and the solid wedge shape of the keyboard unit. Too bad the crispity-crunchity Zenith monitor in the background has to ruin the overall look. I think I hate that monitor so much because we had one just like in my junior high math classroom. Bad memories swirl around my reminisces of those times…

Oh, and in case you’d forgotten, let me remind you… built in HELP KEY.

Personal Computers In the 1980s commodore plus/4

1984, Wards. Ugh, more of that horrid Eloi inspired Zenith. The Commodore Plus/4 was kind of a cool design. It’s like if a Casio keyboard and the Batmobile had a baby. Except… WORST ARROW KEYS EVER. And don’t give me any of that, “But Jason, arrow keys were cutting edge for the time” bullshit. They’re an ergonomic atrocity. I bet if you didn’t hit them dead center, they’d snag on the edges going down.

Personal Computers In the 1980s commodore c128

1985, Sears. The Commodore C128. A bit of a step up from the C64 and the Plus/4, but straying into the business machine doldrums. Out was the bottle-nose dolphin look of the C64. Out was the Cylon Raider look of the Plus/4. In was the snooze inducing Telex Machine look of the C128.

Personal Computers In the 1980s sears laser

1988, Sears. Send in the Clones. This is a Laser brand IBM XT clone. The chassis is certainly XT inspired. I have to say, I’ve got a lot of fond memories of our first XT. It was way more capable that my PCjr. That 20mb hard drive was something special.

Personal Computers In the 1980s sears laser clone

1988, Sears. Oh, wow. Another Laser IBM XT clone, this one modeled after an Apple IIc chassis. That’s not something you see every day. I was never an Apple guy… at least not until I owned an iPhone. But I do remember using a IIc in school. I learned to code in Logo. My first computer based graphics work… a far cry from Photoshop. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a keyboard click aficionado. I will always remember the IIc as having one of the most spectacular keyboard clicks of all time. It had the perfect blend of squish and tick. Just a little squishy and a lot of ticky.

Personal Computers In the 1980s commodore 64c

1988, Sears. The Commodore 64c. Oh, you guys lost me. To even suggest a common lineage with the C64, is insulting. It’s like if the Oscar Mayer man sold the Wiener Mobile and started selling franks out of a Ford Aerostar. I think we’ll end it here.

Author: jetpackjason

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