VOGONS


Golden age of computing for personal computers

Topic actions

First post, by jasa1063

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

What do you consider the Golden Age of computing for personal computers? For me it starts in 1977 with the release of the Apple II, Commodore Pet, and TRS-80 Model I and runs through 1999 ending in the Windows 9x era. Computers and the Operating Systems that followed put more and more software layers between the end user and the hardware. This for me took a lot the "Personal" out of the Personal Computer.

Reply 1 of 123, by shamino

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

There are definitely different eras, but I don't know what to call them all.

The mid to late 1970s were unique in that there were so many random forgotten companies trying to sell personal computers (even Heathkit was selling them), and they required a lot of careful construction on the part of the user to make them functional. Many of them you had to learn to program before they'd do anything at all. You could also totally roll your own design if you wanted to get that deep. It was a wild market and you needed to want to write your own programs for whatever you built.
It seems the primary motivation to build a personal computer back then was as an expensive hobby (for electronically minded adults) rather than for practical use, but people were in love with finding ways to use them.

I've been looking in some old Byte magazines lately and it looks like that era died with the rise of the Apple II which made a lot of noise about being prebuilt and ready to use. Of course other major competitors started doing the same thing. That made computers easier to get into, but maybe less of an interesting challenge at the same time.
I was surprised to see in one of their 1977 ads though that you could in fact order the Apple II as a bare board without a chassis and build it yourself from parts if you wanted. Surely it was still a lot simpler than building something like an Altair or an Imsai but they were tossing a bone to people who still had the DIY mindset.

By the 1980s DIY computers were totally dead and it was all about prebuilts that were basically plug and play. Did *personal* computers have any more practical value in the 80s? I'm not sure they really did. But they were a lot cheaper and, by enticing them with video games, taught a generation of kids who would later be working in the industry by the time computers definitely *were* practical, booming, and important.

Reply 2 of 123, by Namrok

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

For me, it really peaks around 1997. PC's gained the capability to be legitimately rich media machines. The internet wasn't seamlessly integrated into all software yet, and it still felt like you owned the hardware and software in full, despite whatever the EULA might say. Plus the games were incredibly engaging, and felt like they were making few if any compromises with the limitations of the hardware with respect to gameplay. All the genres we still have today were basically invented, and capable of running (graphics aside), on a late 90's PC. With the possible exception of a lot of the computationally intensive open world/survival games. But it's always hard to tell if those games are naturally CPU intensive, or just really terribly optimized. I mean, the most famous one runs in JAVA of all things!

That said, as a developer, I've been doing a lot of retrocoding lately, and 6502 Assembly on the C64 is one of the most pleasurable coding experiences I've had. The directness of it, with such minimal interference from the OS/Kernel is a dream come true. Especially given my day job wrangling with frameworks and runtime libraries and virtual machines.

I keep meaning to try some DOS retrocoding, possibly in Borland C or something on my 1997 retro pc. See how that measures up in terms of wrangling disparate software packages.

Reply 4 of 123, by Almoststew1990

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie

In some ways, it's now, for a typical user.

PCs are so simple for the user that my gran can use Windows 10 for emails, youtube, all that stuff. Windows 10 updates itself, it protects itself, I didn't need to install any drivers etc. being "the computer nerd" in my family, it makes my life easier that it just works for her, and my Dad, and my fiancé, and my colleagues...

Also think about how crap cheap laptops and PCs used to be. Now a cheap laptop is entirely adequate. I have a two year old £200 12.1" netbook that is quite happy browsing, youtube, films, office stuff etc. I play old games on it too. Desktop CPUs are (/were, pre-COVID) cheap, RAM is cheap, storage is cheap. GPUs are stupid at the moment (even pre-COVID for the RTX2000 series) but a typical user does not need a GPU. You can buy a lot of PC for not much money (well, in 2019 early 2020) that will last a typical user many years.

A typical user has moved away from unreliable and physically large storage (DVDs, floppies and the drives themselves) and now downloads everything. Your harddrive is just a stick that sits on the motherboard. You can have a PC that is quite usable that is the size of a stick of chewing gum.

And let's not forget your typical user does most of their Personal Computing on a smart phone. If in 1997 you told me I could do gaming, emails, music, films, find information on literally anything I wanted, on a device that had (I dunno) 40x the processing power of my PC back then, that fits in my pocket, doesn't run out of battery a day and a half, is silent, cool, has a screen maybe 5x higher res than my PC monitor I would be amazed!

Gaming and advanced users on the other hand, that's a different story...

I would say Windows XP Core 2 Duo, 8800GT era was the best. Fast, cheap CPUs that are quite capable of running the net (which itself is expanding rapidly but before the scourge of social media) and games. They can be overclocked to give nearly a decade of future proofing. Late XP is a slim, reliable OS that advanced users can navigate with ease. There are exciting developments in graphics cards whilst not featuring the current 🤣 pricing. Games themselves are evolving in a good direction - Bioshock, Crysis, Far Cry (retaining depth whilst the graphics and sound have improved rapidly), whilst pre-dating predatory DLC practices and Live Service bullcrap.

Ryzen 3700X | 16GB 3600MHz RAM | AMD 6800XT | 2Tb NVME SSD | Windows 10
AMD DX2-80 | 16MB RAM | STB LIghtspeed 128 | AWE32 CT3910
I have a vacancy for a main Windows 98 PC

Reply 5 of 123, by imi

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
Almoststew1990 wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:28:

In some ways, it's now, for a typical user.

nope nope nope nope.
I definitely agree with jasa1063 on this one, todays computing platform take so much control away from you that there is really barely anything "personal" about it anymore, you are merely a number, an ID to be milked from ADs.
it might be ideal for people who really don't care about computing and just use it as a tool to hook up with the latest social media trends.

but for serious work it is often a headache, and from an enthusiasts standpoint it's at best annoying.

the golden age for me definitely the 90s because... well I wasn't alive for much before ^^
every new upgrade was exciting, every new game brought something new to the table, technological advances were groundbreaking... and most important of all, your computer would still do what you told it to.

Reply 6 of 123, by Caluser2000

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
imi wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:35:
nope nope nope nope. I definitely agree with jasa1063 on this one, todays computing platform take so much control away from you […]
Show full quote
Almoststew1990 wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:28:

In some ways, it's now, for a typical user.

nope nope nope nope.
I definitely agree with jasa1063 on this one, todays computing platform take so much control away from you that there is really barely anything "personal" about it anymore, you are merely a number, an ID to be milked from ADs.
it might be ideal for people who really don't care about computing and just use it as a tool to hook up with the latest social media trends.

but for serious work it is often a headache, and from an enthusiasts standpoint it's at best annoying.

the golden age for me definitely the 90s because... well I wasn't alive for much before ^^
every new upgrade was exciting, every new game brought something new to the table, technological advances were groundbreaking... and most important of all, your computer would still do what you told it to.

Computers can still do that if you don't run Windows 10.

There's a glitch in the matrix.

Reply 8 of 123, by 386SX

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

Imho the acceleration that defined (one of) the golden era of computers has been with the release of the Pentium cpus and later 'Socket 7' along with many things evolving together at that same time.. hardware accelerations both video cards and multimedia, internet browsing, 3D games, cheap fast printers, audio systems, so the second-half of the 90's I suppose has been the golden moment up to the early 2000's years. But mostly as already said above the consumer had the feeling to really own its hardware and software and the computer itself like a "closed-box" investment and the modern concept of "services" would have been imho criticized while nowdays it seems like awesome to anyone because any daily digital services "seems" free while not.
You decided to buy a computer like buying a car in the same years. Nowdays anything seems like existing to be online-ads-centric where the usage of the product is the main target and not selling the product that might even be sold for free at the stores theorically.

Reply 9 of 123, by Almoststew1990

User metadata
Rank Oldbie
Rank
Oldbie
imi wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:35:

nope nope nope nope.
I definitely agree with jasa1063 on this one, todays computing platform take so much control away from you that there is really barely anything "personal" about it anymore, you are merely a number, an ID to be milked from ADs.
it might be ideal for people who really don't care about computing and just use it as a tool to hook up with the latest social media trends.

The typical user simply doesn't care. The typical user doesn't want control, or mind about ads (whilst talking to their Alexa and Ciri and telling their car where they are going at what time); they want the PC to do as much for them as possible with as little input from the user as possible - has this not been what technology and PCs in particular have gravitated towards for 50 years? You and I are not the typical user. It's like cars that now nearly drive themselves and tell you when you're straying out of lane. I like driving, I like cars, I have an old manual box 6cyl BMW that but I have to accept that I am in a minority any most typical users want auto-everything. But at the same time my TV is set to auto everything, as a typical user, whilst the tele/audio-philes on the forum would gasp in horror at the oversaturated colours and warm image or whatever.

imi wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:35:

but for serious work it is often a headache, and from an enthusiasts standpoint it's at best annoying.

yes, Windows 10 is annoying. Why does the advanced user have to fight two groups of settings - Windows Settings and traditional Control Panel settings? Why does the advanced user have to jump hoops to sign in without a password and PIN? I'm sure there has been many threads on this and we can all agree some parts of Windows 10 are a pain in the bum!

Ryzen 3700X | 16GB 3600MHz RAM | AMD 6800XT | 2Tb NVME SSD | Windows 10
AMD DX2-80 | 16MB RAM | STB LIghtspeed 128 | AWE32 CT3910
I have a vacancy for a main Windows 98 PC

Reply 10 of 123, by RandomStranger

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

I think there is no one golden age. The 70s and early 80s were interesting and exciting times, but PCs weren't particularly user friendly and virtually nothing was compatible with each other. Sometimes not even with themselves.

sreq.png

Reply 11 of 123, by The Serpent Rider

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

Objectively? 1982 to mid-90s. Good time to be alive with variety of interesting personal computers. It all went downhill with x86 dominance.

Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Open up your hate, and let it flow into me

Reply 12 of 123, by vetz

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
LewisRaz wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:57:

1995-2001

The best years for me 😀

I'd actually agree to that one as well, but not from a personal reason. As 386sx also mentioned, the end of the 90's was the age when really every household started to get a computer, it just wasn't a niche or someone with special business needs any longer. The web was the final dealbreaker for many to invest in a computer and prices were falling rapidly along with giant leaps in terms of hardware performance. Windows 95 made the computer much more accessible than for instance DOS. All of this came together to making the barrier for entry record low for the general population.

3D Accelerated Games List (Proprietary APIs - No 3DFX/Direct3D)
3D Acceleration Comparison Episodes

Reply 13 of 123, by 386SX

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
vetz wrote on 2021-04-02, 18:37:
LewisRaz wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:57:

1995-2001

The best years for me 😀

I'd actually agree to that one as well, but not from a personal reason. As 386sx also mentioned, the end of the 90's was the age when really every household started to get a computer, it just wasn't a niche or someone with special business needs any longer. The web was the final dealbreaker for many to invest in a computer and prices were falling rapidly along with giant leaps in terms of hardware performance. Windows 95 made the computer much more accessible than for instance DOS. All of this came together to making the barrier for entry record low for the general population.

Exactly. Imho it was a moment where many things technologically found themself living the same time and helped defining the computer as something both flexible in everything needed and much more user friendly than ever with Plug&Play logic that helped a lot but at the same time needed the user to install and feel they were building their config not just buying the whole computer, also cheap but functional builds were sold in stores and assembled by themself without big brands closing the hardware with proprietary parts. I think in those years, upgrading computer became more common than ever even if possible also in previous generations of mainboards of course but W9x helped a lot into this with a much smarter GUI and installation setup.
Also the multimedia part helped beside the web itself that sure was one of the most futuristic reason for the pc to enter in every houses when instead before not everyone really needed it at least of the people I knew few had 386 or 486 builds. DVD drives, CD-R burner, digital audio cards, also photo camera devices becoming digital and cheap themself. Everything was going to need a computer in the late 90's and helped it at the same time to evolve at much higher speed than before.

Last edited by 386SX on 2021-04-02, 19:46. Edited 2 times in total.

Reply 14 of 123, by jasa1063

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

The point for me personally in starting this thread was from the perspective of a retro computer enthusiast who enjoys the technical aspect of it. I started in Junior High School in 1978 on an Apple II and from there to IBM PCs in Tech School in 1983. I've had the bug ever since and have enjoyed every minute of it!

Reply 15 of 123, by SteveC

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

I understand saying the 8 bit era but for me being born in 1980 I was too young to experience much of it (although first computer was an Atari 800XL). The 8 bit era didn't seem to leap enough forward in a price bracket that people could afford - there were similarly capable 8 bit machines for like 10 years with just the price getting cheaper until the Amigas/STs came along, but I was always a PC guy!

So it's 1990's for me too. The leaps and bounds every year with new processor speeds and architectures and then the leaps in graphics cards and hard drive/RAM capacity that the man on the street could afford were amazing. Going from Windows 3.1 on a 20MHz 386 to Windows 98SE with a DVD drive, CD writer, modem, 3D capable graphics card on a 400MHz K6/P2 (or a 300Mhz Celeron at 450Mhz 😉 ) in the space of a decade seems like a bigger jump to me.

I also think that as the Internet wasn't really a necessity, PC magazines were often beautiful books that I carefully read every single page and advert. I miss these.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnG0NzvdJSb4_LibUPp0DwQ
Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevec00ps

Reply 16 of 123, by Bancho

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member
Almoststew1990 wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:28:
In some ways, it's now, for a typical user. […]
Show full quote

In some ways, it's now, for a typical user.

PCs are so simple for the user that my gran can use Windows 10 for emails, youtube, all that stuff. Windows 10 updates itself, it protects itself, I didn't need to install any drivers etc. being "the computer nerd" in my family, it makes my life easier that it just works for her, and my Dad, and my fiancé, and my colleagues...

Also think about how crap cheap laptops and PCs used to be. Now a cheap laptop is entirely adequate. I have a two year old £200 12.1" netbook that is quite happy browsing, youtube, films, office stuff etc. I play old games on it too. Desktop CPUs are (/were, pre-COVID) cheap, RAM is cheap, storage is cheap. GPUs are stupid at the moment (even pre-COVID for the RTX2000 series) but a typical user does not need a GPU. You can buy a lot of PC for not much money (well, in 2019 early 2020) that will last a typical user many years.

A typical user has moved away from unreliable and physically large storage (DVDs, floppies and the drives themselves) and now downloads everything. Your harddrive is just a stick that sits on the motherboard. You can have a PC that is quite usable that is the size of a stick of chewing gum.

And let's not forget your typical user does most of their Personal Computing on a smart phone. If in 1997 you told me I could do gaming, emails, music, films, find information on literally anything I wanted, on a device that had (I dunno) 40x the processing power of my PC back then, that fits in my pocket, doesn't run out of battery a day and a half, is silent, cool, has a screen maybe 5x higher res than my PC monitor I would be amazed!

Gaming and advanced users on the other hand, that's a different story...

I would say Windows XP Core 2 Duo, 8800GT era was the best. Fast, cheap CPUs that are quite capable of running the net (which itself is expanding rapidly but before the scourge of social media) and games. They can be overclocked to give nearly a decade of future proofing. Late XP is a slim, reliable OS that advanced users can navigate with ease. There are exciting developments in graphics cards whilst not featuring the current 🤣 pricing. Games themselves are evolving in a good direction - Bioshock, Crysis, Far Cry (retaining depth whilst the graphics and sound have improved rapidly), whilst pre-dating predatory DLC practices and Live Service bullcrap.

Got to agree with this. This is the age where anyone can access a computer and the resource and material to learn about all the different technologies at play and even specialise in them. (It's not just about the nerd and geeks now). Hardware is simple and just works.. (and is incredibly powerful) most of the time! Don't get me wrong its nice to mess about with the old retro gear, because it reminds me of my youth, but no way in hell would I want to wish that on people with how systems work today.

Even gaming today. The choice is crazy and the platforms like steam and xbox game pass is mind blowing. Imaging seeing game pass even 15 years ago you would be like..woah.

Reply 17 of 123, by Intel486dx33

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t

Maybe most of the era of “Computer Chronicles” ( 1983 - 1999 )
But the internet bust of 2000 really killed Silicon Valley and it never recovered like before.

Reply 18 of 123, by imi

User metadata
Rank l33t
Rank
l33t
Bancho wrote on 2021-04-02, 21:27:
Almoststew1990 wrote on 2021-04-02, 15:28:
In some ways, it's now, for a typical user. […]
Show full quote

In some ways, it's now, for a typical user.

PCs are so simple for the user that my gran can use Windows 10 for emails, youtube, all that stuff. Windows 10 updates itself, it protects itself, I didn't need to install any drivers etc. being "the computer nerd" in my family, it makes my life easier that it just works for her, and my Dad, and my fiancé, and my colleagues...

Also think about how crap cheap laptops and PCs used to be. Now a cheap laptop is entirely adequate. I have a two year old £200 12.1" netbook that is quite happy browsing, youtube, films, office stuff etc. I play old games on it too. Desktop CPUs are (/were, pre-COVID) cheap, RAM is cheap, storage is cheap. GPUs are stupid at the moment (even pre-COVID for the RTX2000 series) but a typical user does not need a GPU. You can buy a lot of PC for not much money (well, in 2019 early 2020) that will last a typical user many years.

A typical user has moved away from unreliable and physically large storage (DVDs, floppies and the drives themselves) and now downloads everything. Your harddrive is just a stick that sits on the motherboard. You can have a PC that is quite usable that is the size of a stick of chewing gum.

And let's not forget your typical user does most of their Personal Computing on a smart phone. If in 1997 you told me I could do gaming, emails, music, films, find information on literally anything I wanted, on a device that had (I dunno) 40x the processing power of my PC back then, that fits in my pocket, doesn't run out of battery a day and a half, is silent, cool, has a screen maybe 5x higher res than my PC monitor I would be amazed!

Gaming and advanced users on the other hand, that's a different story...

I would say Windows XP Core 2 Duo, 8800GT era was the best. Fast, cheap CPUs that are quite capable of running the net (which itself is expanding rapidly but before the scourge of social media) and games. They can be overclocked to give nearly a decade of future proofing. Late XP is a slim, reliable OS that advanced users can navigate with ease. There are exciting developments in graphics cards whilst not featuring the current 🤣 pricing. Games themselves are evolving in a good direction - Bioshock, Crysis, Far Cry (retaining depth whilst the graphics and sound have improved rapidly), whilst pre-dating predatory DLC practices and Live Service bullcrap.

Got to agree with this. This is the age where anyone can access a computer and the resource and material to learn about all the different technologies at play and even specialise in them. (It's not just about the nerd and geeks now). Hardware is simple and just works.. (and is incredibly powerful) most of the time! Don't get me wrong its nice to mess about with the old retro gear, because it reminds me of my youth, but no way in hell would I want to wish that on people with how systems work today.

Even gaming today. The choice is crazy and the platforms like steam and xbox game pass is mind blowing. Imaging seeing game pass even 15 years ago you would be like..woah.

this is not the age of computing though, it is an age of digital creation, digital work, and digital consumption, and computers are merely a tool.
barely anyone today understands what is behind the technology they are using, what is required to provide them the tools that they are using, how the games produce graphics that they see or what makes the software they use every day function... this is not "computing", this is just digital life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computing

Reply 19 of 123, by bakemono

User metadata
Rank Member
Rank
Member

1985-2005: Rapid advancement, falling prices, many choices, and the customer was actually the customer rather than the product.

new retro game on itch: https://90soft90.itch.io/glamorous-zombie-flakes