krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Every month, I go back to my old copies of the computer magazines 80 Micro (preserved and passed along through my family) and Macworld (which I managed to buy in online auctions for the formative years in advance of us getting a Macintosh of our own) and leaf through the issues from exactly three decades back. Moving through the summer of 1987, I've taken note of Macworld's enthusiastic promotion of the new capabilities of the Macintosh II and Macintosh SE, but 80 Micro's somehow uneasy mixture of technical programming tips for only some of the mutually incompatible computers still in the Radio Shack catalogs seems easier to just skim. Even so, in August that magazine did return to where things had started for it with a cover story marking the official announcement of the TRS-80 Model I on August 3, 1977.

 photo 80Microcomputing_0887_0000_zpsdvlqlcdi.jpg

Marking random anniversaries like this one sometimes feels "too easy" for me, especially given some of my reactions to the pop culture nostalgia others show, which can seem somehow all at once shallow, obsessive, and demanding rigid up-or-down reactions. It could be a bit different, though, to not just look back from now to "then" but to be able to take in something itself looking back. After only ten years (which now reminds me of recent comments about "smartphones" having been brand new that long ago), a computer like the Model I still might have seemed the kind of antique only a hobbyist could love, and that more just to "get working" than to "actually do 'anything' with." At the same time, though, as the issue's editorial did point out with a residue of pride, the Z80-based TRS-80 Model 4 (and the 6502-based Apple IIe and IIc, although the editorial didn't explore to what extent the Commodore 64 had descended from the Commodore PET) still maintained a link across the decade. For all the ripening and reviving suspicions of Apple II users as the decade ran to a close and the Apple IIgs didn't go especially far, though, in 1987 the Model 4 might still be in the Radio Shack catalogues but at a price that would seem suggest the Tandy corporation would really rather you buy something from their up-and-coming line of PC clones, and the magazine was conscious of that. (There, though, I can also look forward to contemplate how in about half a decade Radio Shack stores had stopped selling PCs with "Tandy" logos; I suppose it's at least possible to consider the counterfactual that had Apple Computer gone broke in the mid-1990s and withered to utter extinction, as some were insistent on forecasting, their own link with "abandoning what had made them" would have stayed a big part of whatever narratives would get talked up from that point.)

Beyond all of that, after having seen several different retrospectives of the TRS-80's first days I did take note of how far this particular look back went to imply everything had been set in motion by John Roach, who'd wound up in charge of Tandy when the article was written. Other looks back, from both before and after that point, managed to say a bit or a good deal more about the role of another executive named Don French, who indeed might not have been part of the company by 1987. It can, I suppose, get me thinking how "narratives are constructions" even as I see the risk in distrusting everything but your own unexamined gut reactions.

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