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

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Last week, we were waxing nostalgic, thinking about all the things we miss about the early days of computing. This week, we've woken up. Let's face it: Lots of things back then sucked.

At the risk of sounding like crotchety grandfathers, we'll say it: "These kids today have it soft, dag nab it." If you were born after the first Star Wars movie, you might not be aware of just how cushy your computing life is. For proof, we offer five examples.

1. The Tower of Babel

Say what you want to about the impressive rise of Linux and the Macintosh, but Microsoft Windows and the PC architecture remain the dominant standards in today's computing world. Both alternative operating systems read FAT32 disks to maintain some sort of Windows compatibility, and the Mac's innards resemble those of a PC more and more every year.

Back when Bill Gates was still working on his first billion, though, it was like the Wild West out there: Any given household might have a computer from Commodore, Apple, Texas Instruments or Radio Shack--to name a few--that could share hardware with or read floppy disks from other makes only with the intercession of some kind of kludge or adapter (if you were lucky). Even if you were dealing with two computers from the same company, there was no guarantee that they'd be compatible.

2. Unitasking

It's 1982. You've finally finished your term paper and you're printing it out, along with the accompanying charts. Good for you. You might as well take a break--not because you've earned it, but because you have no choice. As far as the computer's concerned, any task is all-consuming: While it's busy churning out the pages, it can't do anything else. And getting output from a dot-matrix printer takes a while, with printing speeds rated in characters per second. (Pages per minute? That's crazy talk!) Also, the racket the printer makes is great if you need to drill through a brick wall into the bank vault next door, but otherwise -- not so great. The only drawback of the multitasking operating systems that came along later is that they eliminated a great excuse for goofing off.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2
Shop Tech Products at Amazon