Old Computer Ads

Feb 5th 2001

Largely, this will be 1980-1983 stuff, since I no longer have all my old PCWs - at one stage I had PCW from 1980 through to 1990 complete, but while I was at college, my folks thought it'd be a good thing to clear from the loft, so I only have a few now. Also gone is the Christmas 1984 Your Computer, which had loads of good stuff in it - everyone and their dog was making a 48k colour home computer - the Sord M5, Camputers Lynx, Oric Atmos, Memotech MTX and many others.

Still in my in-pile to put up:

I have full-resolution scans of these, but they're a bit impractical to put on the web. Hopefully I'll find a nice way (suggestions welcome) so you can read these properly.

I'll be adding more when I get a chance, and as I find them. Other things include the PCW reviews for the IBM PC and Memotech MTX, another UK magazine's Spectrum review, and some Z88 stuff.

My wishlist for these ads would include:

Any donations are welcome, and of course I'll give you a mention in the right place.
Anyway, on to the main show...

The BIG links below get you a 800x600 100k-ish JPEG. The BIGGER links get you a 1600x1200 400k-ish JPEG, which usually is enough to read all but the finest print.


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Sinclair ZX81 - July 1981 - The successor to the 99.95 ZX80 was the catchily titled ZX81. With the same processor, lower price and even an upgrade path (sort of), the ZX81 was a winner. I still have one and half of these computers (one full one and a PCBs for the unit and 16k RAM pack), and it's the computer that taught me BASIC. Somewhere I also have a (original box!) ZX Printer too, although I'm not sure if it works.

Not the version of the ad that claims you could control a nuclear powerstation, unfortunately.


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Texas Instruments TI 99/4a - August 1982 - A pretty high-tech system for it's time that never really made it in the UK, although it did well in the USA. Interesting points included: a wierd TI-sourced processor (also called the TI-99, if I recall), a speech synthesizer addon (these were the Speak & Spell people after all), and a funky cartridge game called Dino Wars in which two dinosaurs attack each other under your control (hey, it stuck with me).


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Sinclair Spectrum - February 1983 - The Spectrum was actually launched around April 1982. This ad has a couple of interesting bits - apart from the 'full size moving key keyboard' claim - including the part about the ZX Expansion module, networking and microdrives, all due in 'early 1983'. This eventually became the Interface 1, which finally came out much later - so late that they end up sending out waiting list vouchers, which themselves change hands among eager spectrum owners. The demand for spectrum itself far outstripped Sinclair's ability to make them the previous year (and once again with QL in 1985). The original ads had a confrontational feel, targeting the BBC Model A as primary competion in the right panel of the same layout. This ad also features the orange screen display - a colour the spectrum doesn't actually produce.

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Sinclair Spectrum - August 1982 - If Uncle Clive says so, it must be true. This earlier ad has the Microdrives slated for late 1982.

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Jupiter Ace - September 1982 - Looking like a throwback to the ZX80, (and also featuring a 'full size moving key keyboard'), the Ace was a standout for two main reasons: first, it was designed by two of the engineers who worked on the Spectrum, and second, it ran FORTH, not BASIC as it's native language. There were a few add-ons for it, including a RAM pack, but these must be very rare - I have never seen one, personally. Jupiter Cantab went into recievership in November 1983.

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Commodore VIC 20 - July 1981 - By neglecting to mention the rather childish-looking 22x24 character screen, Commodore talk up the VIC quite impressively here. This was Commodore's long-awaited entry into the home computers market, following Tandy and Atari. The case was designed by Porsche, along with those for the new-look PETs, the CBM 500 and 700 [check names].

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Commodore VIC 20 - May 1982 - 'Standard interfaces for hardware peripherals'?? 27.5K of RAM? Generally, the VIC is still looking good in May 82, although perhaps a bit expensive - the spectrum is already announced at this stage, although without a decent keyboard, and a fairly nice range of peripherals (disk drives, modem, printers etc).

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Commodore VIC 20 - August 1982 - and here's some more about those add-ons.

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Tatung Einstein - October 1984 - the Einstein was intended pretty much as a competitor to the BBC Micro - it had disks (albeit 3" ones), and a 'serious' OS in CP/M. It even had a version of BBC Basic, 'so your kids can learn on it'. From memory, Tatung also rustled up a very nice monitor for it, in the days when having a monitor at all was pretty special. They were available in Dixons, along with all the big names, but I don't remember anyone having one.

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Psion Organiser - October 1984 - The single-line, 8K, no-apps older brother of the Organiser II family (still just about available), and the Psion 5 and 7. Original heir to the Symbian EPOC OS found today in mobile phones and PDAs.

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Atari 520ST - February 1986 - The original pre-STF 520ST, with external disks, and neater case, launched in the UK in September 1985. The original target market was not the Amiga (not released in the UK until May 1986) but the low-end PC and Mac systems (the ST was dubbed the 'Jackintosh' after Jack Tramiel, Atari Computer's CEO), as this ad from Silica Shop (diehard Atari supporters) shows. This is one for those with good eyesight - too bad I can't put up the original scan. There was at one stage plans for a 260 and even 130ST with 256K and 128K respectively, but as far as I know they never made the 130ST and very few 260STs. In the tiny print, there are claims that the GEM desktop comes with GEM Paint and GEM Write like the PC GEM did, but my STE (and a friend's STFM) certainly didn't and nor did previous ones, to my knowledge.

Finally...

From a different age entirely, the 1974 brochure for the all-new Digital VT55 Graphical Terminal. This is before my time (I'm an 80's child), but the terminology and key features are like a step back in time - it's all so different.

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Copyright 1994-2005, by Howard Jones. howie@thingy.com