Totally Rad Technology

Gardening With the Alien, Week #15 is below Being a science and tech blogger makes celebrating the 80's a fun idea.  So much technology to look at and see how far we've come since the early days.  I am going to review the two pieces of technology that I mentioned in previous Trivial Tuesdays and a few others that debuted in this decade.

Of course we have the mobile phone, in this case the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, which was actually invented in the 1970's by Dr. Martin Cooper of Motorola, but wouldn't be available to the "general consumer" until the early to mid 80's.  This phone was nicknamed, "The Brick."  It was large and heavy and the reception, which was amazing back in the 80's would be considered laughable today.  It came out at the affordable price of $3995.00.  At this price, not too many people could afford it and the cellular technology was so scarce that it could only be used in major metropolitan areas.  Also, if there were too many people on their cell phones (which, back in 1983-84 wasn't a lot at all) making a phone call was impossible.  This also applies today, but because of more cell towers, better technology and more carriers, it is a lot rarer.  The DynaTAC, being the orignal cell phone, was the precursor for many of today's cell phones, including the Razr, the Pre and the iPhone.  Of course cell phones are so cheap that most of them are given away free with two-year contracts.

The first question I asked regarding retro technology was the price of the Tandy 500 MC Pro Microcomputer. The price was nearly $8500 and was less powerful than most cell phones today.  The price didn't include the mouse or monitor either.  There was no hard drive, it used 5 1/4" floppy disks and could probablybe expanded for a cassette drive.  I never had an old computer from these days, but I do remember a friend of mine who had an old TI (it was cutting edge in those days) with a cassette player drive.  This computer is the precursor of what we have today, but today we have terabyte hard drives, solid state drives, DVD-ROM and USB flash memory for storing critical data.  Also, monitors, mice and printers also come standard with new computers.

One of the biggest evolutionary steps for computers started with a music technology, the Compact Disc Player.  Released by Sony in 1982, the CDP-101 was the orignal CD player.  The discs are very much the same as they are today except for overall storage capacity thanks to improved laser technology.  Orignally, music was the only purpose for the technology, but they would find their way into computers as a way to install software.  Later on, the CD-R and RW would allow the CD to become a storage device for the average consumer.  This technology was the precursor to the DVD. DVD-R/RW and Blu-Ray.  Of course, now I get into two technologies that I have actually had my hands on in my life.

I worked on the Apple ][e  (yes, I tried to duplicate the logo with the brackets) way back in grade school and into high school.  I learned the BASIC language on this computer.  It was released in January 1983 and was an "enhanced" version of the Apple ][ and ][c computers.  The display was not sold with the computer, but it able to be hooked up to the living room TV.  Steve Wozniak is responsible for much of the Apple technology, including the floppy disk I/O.  You might remember The Woz from "Dancing with the Stars."  Apple used to be his day job.  I loved using this computer and programming on it.  I do have an Apple ][GS upstairs and I may pull it out one day just to see if I could get it to work.  Unfortunately, I don't think I can get my hands on the floppy disks anymore.  Of course, there are emulators available for the PC to reminisce.

Finally on our tour of retro technology is the Zenith SupersPort 286 Laptop computer.  It was a monochrome computer with an Intel 286 processor and a 3 1/2" floppy drive.  I used this powerhouse of a computer back in 1999.  What?  Yes, I'm serious, 1999.  The computer was released in 1989 and had either a 6 MHz or 12 MHz processor and mine did have 512MB of hard drive space.  Why was I using this computer in 1999?  Primarily because it was the most dependable computer to communicate with our equipment.  It has a very strong and relatively fast RS-232 port which was hard to come by on new computers (many run very slow for some reason).  This laptop was quite tough for the time I used it, but before the office closed it ended up dying, so I gave it a proper end by smashing it with a sledgehammer.  Don't get me wrong, I did like this computer very much.  It also had a blackjack game that was easy to manipulate because it ran on a pattern.

So there you have it, my look at the technology of the 1980's.  I realize that I missed many technological marvels of the decade, but then I didn't use a C64 or VIC-20.  Some of the other technology will be coming later in the week when I cover the entertaining tech of the 80's.  Tomorrow I will take you back to a movie from 1983 and ask you some trivia about it.  Make sure you stop by for it.  I would call this an excellent kickoff to 80's week.  Have a rad day, dudes.