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All the hardware at COMDEX Spring 1983

I have an interest in technology companies that can survive over the course of many decades – IBM is one company that comes to mind. To that end, I’ve been trying to research some of the technology companies that existed in, say, the late 1970s, in an attempt to figure out why so few of them have survived to the present day.

So I figured that I’d read a report on the SPRING 1983 COMDEX show. Tom R. Halfhill of COMPUTE! wrote this feature, and one thing struck me immediately – there is precious little discussion of software. Most of the buzz at that COMDEX concerned various hardware manufacturers.

So who did Halfhill feature in his report? While he mentioned the leading firms – “Commodore, Texas Instruments, Atari, and Tandy” – he spent his time uncovering some new emerging gems.

The newest British entry is the Oric-1, manufactured by Oric Products International Ltd., of Berkshire, England. Reputedly the second best-selling micro in Britain and Europe (next to the Sinclair), the Oric-1 appears to be a good computer in search of a good U.S. distributor….

Of course, the Japanese aren’t standing idly by, either. Their newest export to the U.S. is the Sord M5, a $199 computer with impressive graphics and three different plug-in BASICs.

In addition to these computers, Halfhill discussed various dot matrix printers, joysticks, and modems (300 baud!). There was a discussion of the competing microfloppy formats – 3 1/2″, 3 1/4″, and 4″ were all fighting it out.

Throughout my career I have been a software person rather than a hardware person, so I did appreciate Halfhill’s brief software discussion:

Now that more schools are acquiring computers for their students, and more parents are buying home computers for their children, the demand for good educational software is becoming almost unquenchable. Fortunately, some companies with background in other educational fields are starting to get involved in software.

Among these is Scholastic, Inc., of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Remember the Weekly Reader? Scholastic is now introducing Wizware, a line of programs for Apple, VIC-20, Atari, and Texas Instruments computers. The first samples are entertaining and colorful and make good use of each computer’s special features. Among the interesting programs at the show were Turtle Tracks, which uses turtle graphics to teach programming by creating drawings and songs; The Square Pairs, a memory game; and Your Computer, a how-to introduction to computers with a robot narrator.

Another line of educational software was displayed by Edu-Ware Services, Inc., of Agoura Hills, California. Most were for the Apple, with a few for the Atari. Ranging from preschool to college level, the programs cover basic math, algebra, spelling, reading, perception, and SAT/PSAT preparation. One of the most interesting packages was Hands On BASIC Programming, an introduction to Applesoft BASIC with additional instruction on more advanced BASICs. It includes a 185-page manual and two disks of sample programs.

It’s interesting to see who WASN’T mentioned in the COMDEX wrap-up. IBM was only mentioned in relation to its aforementioned 4″ microfloppy disk format. Apple is not mentioned as an exhibitor, although many firms offered peripherals and software for Apple computers. Hewlett-Packard is not mentioned at all, and neither is Compaq. Osborne was still around, but didn’t merit attention by Halfhill. Perhaps this was because Halfhill was trying to highlight the latest shiny new toys for his readers, and everyone already knew about Apples and Osbornes.

Oh, and as for Tom himself, you can find him at http://www.halfhill.com/. Jim Ulvog will be displeased to learn that the site claims to be “hosted by 100% wind energy.”

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