Five Things We Don't Miss About Old-School Computing

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3. Download Dilemma

Downloading in the Web era is pretty easy: You click a link, and...actually, that's pretty much it. But in the days before Mosaic hit the scene, you had your choice of download protocols, sporting names like Kermit, Sealink, Punter, XMODEM, YMODEM, and (wait for it) ZMODEM. (Some also included variants, like XMODEM-1k and ZMODEM-90.) Consequently you had to find out which protocol the system you were connected to used, and make sure that your software used the same one. In many cases, you'd have to activate the downloading process manually once the sending computer initiated the transfer. No wonder people didn't get around to trading music until much later.

4. Weightlifting

True story: Twenty years ago, when I was working at a computer store, it took three people to get an incredibly hefty NEC laser printer up the narrow stairs to the second floor. Not only is the laser printer that now sits on my desk more powerful than that old NEC, but I can carry it under my arm. Electronics in general have gotten smaller and lighter in the interim, but arguably computers and their accessories have been sticking more strictly to the Slim-Fast diet. There are exceptions, of course--the original Macintosh had a built-in handle for easy toting, and the Sinclair ZX80 weighed less than a pound--but overall, you had to eat your Wheaties if you made a regular habit of rearranging your office. Still not convinced? Consider that the "luggable" Osborne-1, the first portable, self-contained computer, weighed nearly 24 pounds...and people considered it a mobile breakthrough.

5. Bickering

Which system had better games, the Apple II or the Commodore 64? Which was better for low-cost desktop publishing, the Amiga or the Atari ST? From half-joking jibes to all-out flame wars, debates over people's computer preferences sometimes seemed inescapable. RAM, storage, graphics capabilities, expansion options--all were used as ammunition in a seemingly endless and pointless series of battles between computer users seeking to justify the money they'd spent for their particular choice. Fortunately, the sophisticated computer users of today would never waste their time and effort on this type of childish and futile argu-- Oh, wait, never mind.

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