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What kind of record are you guys trying to set?

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It's been 13 hours since the last post!  What kind of record are you guys trying to set?  Some people will get withdrawal symptoms! 😁

Have some compassion!!

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7 hours ago, --- Ω --- said:

Let's try to make it a little bit more interesting... some TI History, as seen from the past...

 

TI History (At The Time).pdf 582.72 kB · 6 downloads

If memory serves - and as we all know, memory doesn't serve, it double-faults - that article appeared in the first edition of Home Computer Magazine, the reboot of the 99'er Magazine helpfully expanded to include coverage of home computers conveniently not discontinued (at least, at that time) by their manufacturers.  I seem to recall quite a few months passed between receiving the last edition of 99'er and the first edition of HCM.  And I recall reading that article many times over.  

 

With the benefit of hindsight, the ironic thing about that article is that it describes TI's exit from the home computer business in almost funeral-like terms.  It missed even the slightest hint of what would eventually happen, of what would turn out to be a vibrant homebrew and small-commercial-firm story that has not just preserved but advanced the core product, a story arc that has lasted 36+ years.  

 

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You have to remember that retrocomputing was not yet a thing back then since the entire industry was barely a few years old. So the thought of still using a grossly outdated computer many decades later was probably considered ludicrous, likely akin to someone still trying to use one of the early portable ginormous cell phones in this day and age. The primary drive towards retrocomputing in my view has to do with the relative blandness of the current computer market, where all the machines are pretty much the same with only the OS differing, so there is really little excitement when purchasing a new PC, thus making us look back longingly at the early glory days where computers from different manufacturers were as different from each other as can be and when the process of purchasing and using a new computer was a mix of angst, excitement and expectation totally lacking today.

These were fun times and I feel lucky to have experienced them first hand... 🙃

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"Our" generation of home computers was the first one where the ratio of cumbersome to fun was right for a retro revival.  It's a lot easier to grab a TI, a Vic 20 or an Apple II from Ebay and get back into the game than it would be, say, to relive the days of kit computers or punch cards.  

 

Also, I'd argue that TI's exit and the Christmas 1983 "fire sale" season is part of the reason we're all still here.  How many of our families finally pulled the trigger on a home computer when Sears and Kmart were dumping consoles for $29?  Think of all the clearanced-out carts and hardware that got bought, forgotten and stuck in an attic, still resurfacing to this day via Ebay and thrift stores.  That surplus largely kept Tenex, Triton and Tex-Comp in business and limped us along until the online world was mainstream enough to bring us together.

 

The closest thing I see to younger generations feeling attached to aging hardware is in console gaming, but I'd put our Commodore/TI/Apple rivalries from back in the day up against them any time.  :D

 

 

 

 

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Yeah, I feel like the perfect formula for this sort of nostalgic community is a combination of recreational and aesthetic enjoyment on the one hand, and creative engagement with the technology on the other.  Early hobby computers can serve as a really cool platform for technological creativity, but they don't offer the average user much in terms of nostalgic recreational and aesthetic appeal.  Later on, the game consoles offer a tonne of aesthetic substance for users to relate to and engage with recreationally, but the average user doesn't really relate to it as a platform for creatively engaging with technology.

 

So to me, the special thing about the first affordable home computers which were really marketed as home computers is that they're equal parts platforms for technological creativity (most enthusiasts are kind of expected to be at least a bit a programmer) on the one hand, and environments for recreation and aesthetic enjoyment, on the other. 

 

A community's just not much fun if everyone's a consumer and nobody's a creator (on the one hand), or everybody's a creator but nobody's a consumer on the other.  A community where everybody's at least a little bit both creator and consumer is a wonderful thing.  And I feel like the 1979-1983 home computers hit the sweet spot, as far as that goes. 

 

 

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Perfectly said.  It seems like with the indie games platforms present-day, with Steam, Newgrounds, itch.io and the like, that some of that "you can do it too" magic is back, from my very brief and limited dabbling in that scene.  

 

My other big interest is music, and I love the parallels between the rise of punk rock and the early software industry - so many similarities and so many chances for one person to change the whole scene.  Even the same tools (Xeroxed covers, cassette tapes) were being used to disseminate the work.  That DIY mindset was really a special moment in time.

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@Vorticon - all good points. Completely agree it was a unique time: home computer tech was powerful (it was not just a game console as @pixelpedant points out), affordable (as @InfernalKeith points out), and accessible.

 

IMHO, accessibility was the key (which @InfernalKeith also touches on):  it didn't take a lot to push the boundaries of the base machine, which fueled interest, which led to learning more fundamental things, which led to more pushing, which led to so many creative things from so many people. And the cycle repeated. Given what I do for a living, not too many days go by that I'm not grateful for having lived through that period of time.  The accessibility factor is why I wanted my daughter to learn 9900 assembly.  It doesn't get more real than that.

 

The wildcard in the wake of TI's exit (and the others) was the community factor.  People have formed communities around a craft or a technology for centuries, both professional (guilds) and non-professional (interest groups).  While there might not have been communities that formed around computer technology prior to that time, community is a basic human need.  A sociologist might have spotted this.

 

My point (admittedly, poorly made) was simply this. Commercial logic might have dictated that the absence of a deep-pocketed investor hoping to develop a market made it irrational for individuals to continue a commitment to a technology sponsored in a proprietary manner by that investor.  Sociological logic would perhaps have drawn a vastly different conclusion, even at that time.  Perhaps. 

 

I'm not trying to be overly critical of the author of the original article.  Or any of us in our teenage or later years reading that article when it first appeared.  I'm not a sociologist by intuition or training.  I missed it as well.

 

But we are all of us in this community beneficiaries of the fact that it turned out differently than the commercial logic would have suggested it should have.  And for that I am grateful.

 

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I don't think anyone, even the people living through it, expected it to happen or understood the forces that were bringing them together.  There was hope for a good while after Black Friday that TI was going to somehow magically re-enter the market and we would be a "real" community again, with the 99/8 as our path upward.  And I think a lot of the excitement about the Geneve when it was painfully being birthed into the world was that having a current, in-production computer to rally around made the community legit somehow.

 

We didn't actually need that, but even we didn't know that.

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