Nearly everyone has a computer history. Even those who have never used a PC or Mac, but live on iPhones or Android smartphones are using a computer. Today’s iPhones and iPads are far more powerful and capable than a Mac from barely a decade ago.
My personal computer history goes back to the last century, back to before the IBM PC, before the Mac, back to when CP/M was a popular operating system, and Apple still was not considered to be a real computer.
What turned me on to computers?
A spreadsheet. Specifically VisiCalc running on a CP/M card running inside an Apple II at Forsythe Computers in Clayton, MO (a St. Louis suburb). Back in the day I ran an advertising agency which meant each month I had to build a budget for each client– newspaper ads, radio commercials, television commercials, and even direct mail publications.
Most of that effort was confined to a yellow legal pad and a calculator and it took days to get each client’s budget completed, and even then– with so many variables– it was fraught with errors.
There had to be a better way.
I visited offices for NCR, Wang, and IBM. Each had expensive and complicated solutions, none of which matched my needs to create and manage media budgets. So, I dropped into Forsythe Computers to see what PCs could do, and that’s where I met up with Timothy O’Neil. I told him about the complexity of advertising budgets and he showed me VisiCalc running on an Apple II.
I was in love.
Not so much with the Apple II but with the spreadsheet. Eventually I picked up an Osborne I– running SuperCalc, WordStar, and dBase II– because it ran CP/M, a more popular operating system that I had used in the past.
Within a few weeks I had spreadsheets set up for each client to handle their advertising budgets. WordStar was used to create media ads for radio stations and TV stations.
Years later Apple introduced the Mac– I bought one in spring 1984 but it sat dormant until MacDraw was released the next year with the $7,000 LaserWriter printer. Yes, we started doing print media ads on a Mac back in 1985 using Aldus PageMaker, a large Radius full page display connected to the Mac, and ended up selling complete systems to local newspapers in the area.
We also had an audio and video production company which featured multi-track audio recording for radio commercials, and Sony video recorders and editors for TV commercials. And an $11,000 Toshiba plumbicon video camera to shoot video for commercials.
Today, an iPhone has better video quality– 4K video recording and editing capability– than what is typical for broadcast television or news. Add a Mac and iMovie for video editing, Garageband for audio editing, and a decent microphone for recording, and Mac and iPhone become a high quality media creation tool for the masses. Our audio and video production facility cost more than $100,000 back in the day. Today you get higher quality for less than $3,000– Mac notebook, iPhone, and microphone.
Things have changed.
What will the future bring? Higher quality? Yes. Lower prices? Probably not.