In The Eyes of 1998 (Part 1)

1998-1

Front cover of PC Magazine, June 1998

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

That was a quote from Bill Gates’ book, “The Road Ahead”, published in 1996.

I thought it was fitting for this post, after recently coming across a feature article from  a magazine (PC Magazine) dating back to June 1998. Describing their predictions for computing in the years 2001 and 2010, let’s see what was accurate, delayed, and just didn’t happen.

In Part 1 of the series, I’ll be covering processors, home network devices, the TV PC, and digital video.

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Developing the Web Dial-Up Style

webeditMy first experience of the internet arose from a newly formed internet cafe, down in the beach-side suburb of Glenelg in Adelaide. It was 1994 and I recall attempting to view as many web pages as possible given it was charged by the hour for the privilege. The cafe was using 486 PCs running Windows for Workgroups, with Netscape Navigator 2.0 as the web browser of choice. Although a number of people had connected to BBS since the 1980s, the internet in the form of the World Wide Web was still rather primitive at the time and largely mysterious.

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When Having 8-bit Colour Was Good

Monitors-1Since around the year 2000, LCD (liquid-crystal display) and later LED (light-emitting display) monitors gradually became the de facto standard replacing the earlier CRT (cathode ray tube) technology available. Over the years the size and resolutions of the monitors have increased significantly. These days when selecting one to buy it’s really just about choosing the desired screen size and whether it’s capable of 1080p or 4K resolution. No consideration for colour depth is required for instance.

Of course, during the 1980s and 1990s this wasn’t the case. A series of acronyms were used to give an indication of the monitor’s capabilities, and were frequently stated. Some of these acronyms were EGA and VGA. Over a number of years now low-end or built-in video adapters in motherboards, have no problem with displaying millions of colours on a 1920 x 1080 resolution screen. However, in the past it was more pertinent to ensure that the video adapter was capable enough to handle the monitor’s capabilities or vice versa.

In this post, I’ll be covering from the CGA and MDA standards of the early 1980s through to XGA in the 1990s used by IBM and compatible PCs. Before closing out, they’ll be mention of some of the other standards that became available. PCem is used for many of the screenshots due to the lack of physical hardware.

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Windows Vision

I came across an image of a CD from the internet recently titled Microsoft Windows: A Vision for the Future that dates back to 1997. Unsure who this would have been distributed to, though I suspect it was circulated around with IT professionals, partnered vendors, and so forth for the UK market. The purpose was to show Microsoft’s strategy with their Windows product line over the coming years in a nutshell.

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Being at Home with Microsoft Home

mshome-1.pngIt’s the year 1993. You have a 386 PC (or were fortunate enough to have a 486 DX), and you just spent several hundred on a multimedia kit. To make it worthwhile, you craved finding stuff that would take advantage of those new bits inside your PC even if it was just your favourite rock album to play for the novelty.

What was a multimedia kit? Back in the early 1990s, a multimedia kit consisted of an internal CD-ROM drive, a sound card, speakers, a few CD-ROM titles, and possibly other stuff like a microphone. Kits from Creative Labs were probably the most popular. These transformed your PC from only emitting “beeps” and using floppy disks, to a world of CD-ROMs, motion picture, and quality audio. Multimedia was certainly the buzzword at the time, very much like how cloud computing is today.

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Visual Basic: Early Beginnings

Before Visual Basic There Was BASIC

When Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Micro-Soft (later becoming Microsoft) back in 1975, their initial software product had been Altair BASIC. BASIC was the acronym for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code aimed at expanding the reach of computer programming. Monte Davidoff was also involved with development, in particular with floating point arithmetic. It was designed for the Altair 8800 using an Intel 8080 processor made by MITS (Micro Instrumentation & Telemetry Systems) based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

 

altair8800

MITS Altair 8800.

The original Altair BASIC was released on a punched tape and an agreement was made with MITS to distribute the interpreter after a successful demonstration. By the end of the 1970s, additional releases had been created and distributed by cassette tape for other platforms such as those that used the MOS 6502 microprocessor.

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