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An interesting photo collection of retro personal computer ads from the 1980s


This photo collection of vintage commercials gives a glimpse into how the computer industry developed in the early 1980s.

These types of ads in magazines emphasized certain selling points such as new computer technology being educational, helping you with your homework, bringing the whole family together in happiness and harmony, and helping children succeed. .

During this time the technology developed to a point where manufacturers could place millions of transistors on a single circuit chip.

This was called Monolithic Integrated Circuit Technology. It also heralded the invention of the Intel 4004 chip, the first microprocessor to become commercially available in 1971.

This invention started the personal computer industry. By the mid-70s, personal computers such as the Altair 8800 became available to the public as kits and required assemblies.


The magazine stated that "a desirable contemporary personal computer has 64 K of memory, approximately 500 K bytes of online mass storage, any older competently designed computer architecture, upper and lowercase video terminals, printers, and high-level languages".

The author explained that when he needed to buy such a computer quickly, he did so at a local store for $6000 in cash, and called it "what is the state of the art at present... as an example of a product". ,

By the beginning of that year, Radio Shack, Commodore, and Apple had built the vast majority of the one and a half million microcomputers that existed.

As component prices continued to fall, many companies entered the computer business. This led to an explosion of low-cost machines known as home computers, which sold millions of units before being mired in a price war in the early 1980s.


In early 1981, Adam Osborne introduced the first portable computer. The Osborne 1 was about the size of a suitcase, ran CP/M, included a pair of 5.25″ floppies, and had a small 5″ display.

The innovative machine was bundled with approximately $1,500-2,000 worth of software, and the complete package sold for $1,899.

The first laptop computer also arrived in 1981, the Epson HX-20 (a.k.a. Geneva). The HX-20 was about 8.5″ by 11″ and probably 1.5-2″ thick and used a microcassette to store the data. It displays 4 lines of 20 characters on an LCD screen above the keyboard.

Arguably, the most significant event of 1981 for the personal computing industry was the introduction of the IBM PC on August 12th.

The computer ran a 16-bit CPU on an 8-bit bus (Intel 8088), had five expansion slots, included at least 16 KB of RAM, and had two full-height 5.25″ drive bays.


The second most significant event of 1981 relied on the first: Microsoft convinced IBM that PC-DOS would not be an IBM exclusive. This paved the way for the clone industry, which eventually marginalized the influence of Big Blue.

Time magazine called 1982 the "Year of the Computer" as the industry grew. By 1983, the industry estimated that 10 million personal computers were in use in the United States alone.

Ever since IBM entered the market, the term PC has taken on a different meaning. Although it retained the original meaning of "personal computer", the IBM architecture has dominated the industry so much that it soon came to mean IBM-compatible computers to the exclusion of other machines.

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