A look at how much time has changed. Or, were we expecting more?
By Gary Elinoff, contributing writer
Ah, the 1980s. The time of MTV, Rock stars with big hair,
and the final death rattles of the Soviet Union and international communism. It
was also a time of unprecedented technological progress and saw the
establishment of the computer as the fundamental tool of our daily lives. Let’s
look back at what was technologically hot back in the 80s, and how the powerful
echoes of these devices still affect us to this day.
The IBM PC
The IBM PC. Image source: computerhistory.org.
First up, the IBM Personal Computer, also known as the IBM
PC. While it wasn’t the first computer that didn’t have to be housed in a
separate room, it was the first to be built and consecrated by Big Blue itself,
legitimizing the whole concept. It was created by a team of engineers and
designers in Boca Raton, FL, in the early 1980s. The rest, as you know, is
The first killer apps
They were MS-DOS, Lotus 1-2-3, and Microsoft Word. MS-DOS
was the operating system that ran the show – and what a show it was! Lotus
1-2-3 freed those in the know from the drudgery of arithmetic, and Microsoft
Word turned every two-fingered klutz into a typist.
The Apple IIGS
The last of the venerable Apple II line, this 16-bit wonder
was the first computer with color. The “GS” stands for graphics and sound, and
it was the first Apple machine sporting a color interface, forever earning
Apple its reputation as the computer for artists. This breakthrough device
would have had an even grander past had Apple not essentially abandoned it in
favor of its groundbreaking Macintosh.
The first cellphone
The M2 Pocket Phone by Excell Communications. Image source: ssplprints.com.
The M2 Pocket Phone from Excell Communications was the first
cellphone small enough to fit in your pocket, and at £2500, or about $3,700, it
would be considered pricey today. At about 7 inches tall and 3 inches wide, it
was the wonder of its day, as the only remotely similar devices available at
the time were so much larger that they were only practical as automobile-based
The Tomy Omnibot 2000
This robot, though state-of-the art for the 1980s, didn’t
sport artificial intelligence. Rather, movement commands initiated by the
operator were recorded on a cassette tape, and played back on command. It
couldn’t run on two legs like today’s astounding robots can, but it could pour
drinks – a very important attribute, then as now.
The Airbus A320
The Airbus 320A was one of a line of aircraft
noteworthy in many respects. However, its main claim to immortality was that it
was the first commercial aircraft deploying what is now known as a fly-by wire
flight control system. Based somewhat on the development of the Dassault Mirage
2000 fighter, this trend setting plane translated the pilot’s commands into
strings of ones and zeros that were transmitted digitally and reinterpreted at
the flight control surfaces, such as the wing flaps, to control the operation
of the aircraft. The days of hydraulic controls for top-of-the line aircraft
were now over.
Time sure is flying. What tech do you remember from 30 years ago? Leave a comment