The People History Home

Computers the history of changes over 40 years

Early Computers History and Usage

Most of the computers for home use in the beginning were for the hobbyists, the very earliest home machines required you to put them together and often included the need for soldering. but as the cost of the electronics and microprocessors continued to drop so did the price of the computers and also slowly became easier to use and this in turn encouraged more to learn. One of the major driving forces in the purchase of these early computers were the games and as the computers increased in power the games improved. The number of magazines with pages and pages of basic code or machine code on the newsagents shelves increased and myself and many others spent hours and hours entering this code often to find that 1 silly typing mistake would stop the game from working.
We have listed below some of the most common home computers that were sold in large numbers prior to the introduction and standardisation on the PC or Apple platform

Personal and Home computers sold in the early stages

We have tried below to list some of the most important and well known Personal and Home computers sold in the early stages which many of us owned prior to moving to the standards we use now.
Listed below are links to some of the most well known home and hobbyist computers, I am afraid many are missing even some I owned myself including a LYNX. If you owned any not listed above and wish to share your memories of them please feel free to post.
Some Popular Early Computers
Also if you were one of those people who spent hours entering programmes from a magazine to make a game or even programmed your own game please tell us and let us post your story on our website
As one of those who bought an early IBM PC XT with 640k memory and mono screen and a 5 1/4 floppy disc which I think held 360K after formatting, it would also be interesting to hear your memories of your early PC's or Apple computers.
Some of the other early Computers without their own page
Sinclair ZX81 UK Version 1981
Timex Sinclair 1000 USA Version 1981
TS2068 from Timex in USA.
ZX Spectrum from Sinclair
Tandy TRS80
Commodore PET
Commodore 64
IBM PC 1985
Sinclair ZX81
Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Acorn Archimedes
Atari ST
Commodore Amiga
Dragon 32/64
SAM Coupé
Commodore 128
Sinclair ZX81 UK Version 1981
Timex Sinclair 1000 USA Version 1981
TS2068 from Timex in USA.
Spectrum 128K
Sinclair QL
Timex Sinclair 1500
Video Genie
Texas Instruments TI-99/4A
BBC Home Computer

Computer Gadgets and Peripherals

Computer Peripherals
Personal Computers now have many of the gadgets and peripherals built into the Computer from new that a few years ago were the upgrades and gadgets we would install some examples are listed below of early peripherals we used to add that are now included in new PC's
Better Sound Cards
Better graphics cards
Network Card
Bigger Hard Discs
TV cards
Additional Memory
So now the peripherals and gadgets we are buying may include any of the following although many of these are not directly installed in our Computers we do rely on computer to be able to use them.
USB Flash Drives
Digital Camera
Web Cam
Wireless Routers
All-In-One Printer, Copier, Scanner
GPS H/W and S/W
Mobile Phones ( using Instant Messaging )
Some users do still add better sound, video, memory and hard discs but not as much as in the early days due to the inclusion of better specs in new computers
Below is just an example of a current PC for sale from Walmart for a HP Pavilion Media Center a1253w-b

Processor: 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+ Processor
Display: HP vs17 17" LCD flat panel monitor/1280 x 1024 with speakers
Memory: 512MB
Hard Drive: 100GB
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005
Optical Device: DVD-Writer (Double-layer) - DVD+R/+RW CD-RW/16x DVD-ROM
Ethernet: 10/100BaseT network interface
Modem: Fax/Modem: 56k modem
Graphics & Audio: Integrated ATI RADEON XPRESS 200 with up
to 256MB shared video memory, Integrated audio, 6 speaker configurable
Cost is $684.00


  1. Cassette Storage and Loading prior to 1981
  2. 160K floppy Discs 1981
  3. 320 KB floppy disk drives 1982
  4. 10 MB hard disk 1983
  5. 1.2 MB 5¼" floppy disks 1984
  6. CD-Roms first appear in PC's 1986
  7. 1.44 MB 3½" floppy disks 1987
  8. 528 MB hard Disc 1988
  9. 2.1 GB hard discs 1989 increasing up to today's 100's of Gig
  10. DVD Storage and players 2001
  11. USB Flash Storage Drives 2001


Original printers home users had access to were dot matrix printers and daisy wheel printers but over the last number of years ink jet and sometimes Laser jet printers are the standard used by most home users due to low cost. Due to the increase in use of digital cameras a new generation of printers has appeared that are independent on the computer for printing photographs.

Computer Problems

In the 1970s, a game called Anti-Monopoly was produced by Professor Ralph Anspach. It was intended to refute the economic ideals promoted in the original Monopoly game.
Computer Problems
Most of us have had some type of problems while using PC's and Personal Computers, they range from PC crashing or hanging, losing our work or data. Infected by a virus or Popups every time we start, some are unlucky enough to have personal information stolen including identity theft.
As computers become a larger part of our lives and hold more of our information we become more reliant and also if the Computer does fail us for any reason causes more and bigger problems. Please tell us any problems you have experienced so we can help or warn others

Problems with computers are partly due to the use of technology that is developed so quickly that problems are not found until after the technology is in use ( a good example would be some of the original Microprocessors overheating in early computers ) , some through the very quick development of new software and the rush to bring it to market prior to fully testing a good example may be ( many updates some S/W requires after it is installed ). Other problems may occur due our lack of knowledge when using sophisticated software, but I am afraid one of the biggest problems we face today is the malicious viruses that are written by some to make a name for themselves or by those for more criminal activities.
With the growth in the Internet a new breed of business has grown that to many of us seems alien in it's nature it includes
E-Mail Spam
Viruses causing computers to stop working
Spy ware looking for passwords or personal information
Phishing for financial information
To many some of the above have caused us to spend money for additional protection including Anti Virus S/W , Anti Spam S/W, and now moving to the next level of encrypting our information to stop others from viewing it.
Are some of these problems related to moving to standards including
Standard IBM compatible PC's
Standard Operating Systems I.E Windows
Standards in connecting to the Internet i.e. TCP/IP
I do believe they are but if these standards had not been adopted we would not have travelled as far as we have and as quickly with the new technology

IBM PC 1981

The IBM PC™ (Personal Computer), was the original version and the start of the
IBM PC compatible hardware platform.
This was the start of the PC you have in your home today
Sold for base price of $1,565

The "IBM Personal Computer XT" was an improved machine designed for business use. It proved very successfull in small businesses who needed a computer but could not afford mainframe architecture it also was used widely as a terminal for mainframe emulation

Processors on Personal Computer PC's

Intel 80286
Intel 80386
Intel 80486
Intel Pentium

Currently Most new PC's are based on Pentium 4 chipset

Apple II 1977

The Apple II was one of the very first personal computers.
A number of different models were sold, and the most popular model was
manufactured, with relatively minor changes, into the 1990s.
Speed 1 MHz,
4 KB of RAM , an audio cassette used to load programs and storing data
BASIC programming language built into the ROMs.
Video: via a TV set by way of an RF modulator.
$1298 with 4KB of RAM

In 1978 Apple released a new version of Applesoft Basic which allowed the Apple to do floating point maths which in turn allowed for better business and financial programmes to be developed helping to increase the machines popularity. Over the next few years minor enhancements were made including putting Applesoft in ROM and increasing the available memory, and made the interpreter available without having to load from cassette or disc. Like all the early computers as each new model or enhancement came out the power would increase and would often be accompanied by a decrease in the Purchase Price.
Like all early home computers Apple provided some basic games on cassette or Disc when you purchased the computer including a brick breakout game.
Below is a rough guide to when each model was sold from and to
Apple-1 - Spring 1976 - Spring 1977
Apple II - Spring 1977 - Spring 1979
Apple II Plus - Summer 1979 - Winter 1982
Apple II Computers continued to be made as Apple IIe until the Spring of 1995

Tandy TRS80 1977

Tandy TRS-80 Model I was Tandy's entry into the home computer market,
meant to compete head on against the Commodore PET 2001 and the Apple II.
It was sold as a complete package including keyboard, monitor, cassette player
Sold for $599 at RadioShack stores
The TRS 80 was created by the Tandy Corporation as a home / business computer to be sold through Tandy shops in the late 70's and 80's and unlike many of the cheaper machines a monitor and cassette player was included in the price, and it was possible to buy an upgrade to a 160k disk drive.
Tandy sold more than 250,000 TRS80's before it stopped production
Like most of the early home computers there were things that users did not like and in the TRS80 the most complained about feature was the keyboard as it had a tendency to bounce causing multiple letters to be typed.

Commodore Computers History

Commodore 64 1982 - 1993 Became the best selling single computer model, the Commodore 64 remains the best
selling single computer model of all time selling some 22 million units.
It sold for US$595,

64 kilobytes of RAM
Great sound and graphics performance

The Commodore 64 or C64 was sold through department stores and toy shops and was designed to be easy for the novice user to set up and use, Its simplicity was shown by taking out of the box and plugging in directly to a TV and it worked. Due to its ease of use and the large numbers of games ( over 10,000 titles ) it quickly took over from games consoles as the computer of choice.
The popularity of the 64 was due to it's price and it's graphic capabilities against the current competitors models including IBM PC Atari and Apple 11 , Commodore also set out on a very aggressive marketing campaign extolling it's price / performance.
Many attribute the crash of the video console market to the aggressive pricing and marketing of Commodore 64
Below are some of the most popular games made for the Commodore 64
3D Tennis
Airborne Ranger
Blue Max
Boulder Dash
Bruce Lee
Bubble Bobble
California Games
Defender of the Crown
Donkey Kong Ms.
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer
Grand Prix Circuit
Great Giana Sisters
Impossible Mission
International Karate
Last Ninja 2
Leaderboard Golf
Maniac Mansion
Mayhem in Monsterland
MicroProse Soccer
Midnight Resistance
Montezuma's Revenge
Project Firestart
Rainbow Islands
Samurai Warrior
Space Taxi
Spy vs Spy
Stunt Car Racer
Summer Games
The Bard's Tale
The Last Ninja
Ultima IV
Winter Games
Wizard of Wor
World Games

Commodore PET 1978

This was the first computer that looked more like a complete system when you bought it as the keyboard,
monitor, cassette player and everything else needed to work were all included in one package

4 kB of RAM.
Video: Monochrome monitor with 40×25 character graphics.
Built-in Datassette for data storage
BASIC programming language built into the ROMs.

Commodore Vic-20 1981

Unlike the Commodore Pet which was sold through authorized dealers The VIC-20 primarily sold at retail,
especially discount and toy stores, where it could compete more directly with game consoles

MOS 6502 CPU
Video: Colour through TV RF Modulator
Built-in Datassette for data storage
BASIC programming language built into the ROMs.
After Commodore's success with the PET which was targeted at the small business user Commodore decided to target the low end home computer market with the VIC20 , the machine had a color video chip which was originally designed for games consoles to provide quality colour graphics. The PET had been sold in specialist authorised dealers the VIC20 was sold in high street retail outlets and discount stores and just in 1982 sold some 800,000 machines .
The VIC-20 had plenty of computing power, at a low enough price, to become the first home computer model to sell one million units. This was in part due to the low price. Commodore made their own chips through their MOS affiliate company.
The VIC 20 when combined with a cheap modem helped fuel the growth of BBS and there were also a good number of games and other software available both in freeware versions and full versions we have listed some of the most popular games below.
A World at War
Alien Blitz
Alphabet Zoo
Amazing Maze
Baldor's Castle
Black Hole
Cannonball Blitz
Capture the Flag
Cosmic Cruncher
Cosmic Jailbreak
Donkey Kong
Jelly Monsters
Monster Maze
Pharaoh's Curse
Pinball Spectacular
Road Race

Amstrad PCW series Personal Computer

The Amstrad PCW series Personal Computer Word processor was sold as a complete, integrated home office solution. Unlike many of the other home computers sold at the time it was designed from the start for Word Processing and other Business applications.
They came as a complete setup with a full-size word processor keyboard, high resolution monochrome CRT monitor, printers of various types, floppy disk drive(s), LocoScript word processing software, and the CP/M operating system, including the Mallard BASIC dialect of the BASIC programming language. Depending on how much you wanted to spend the spec could include disk drives or specific cheap or quality printer
The PCW8256 256K of RAM and one 3-inch single-sided floppy drive that could store 180 kilobytes on each side of the disk and a green screen monitor.
The PCW8512 512KB RAM and two 3-inch floppy drives, the second of which could store 720KB on a double-density floppy without needing the disk to be turned over.
I did own one of these in addition to my hobby computers and used it just for word processing for many years

Sinclair / Timex ZX81 Spectrum History

Sinclair ZX81 UK Version 1981 Timex Sinclair 1000 USA Version 1981
The case was black, with a membrane keyboard and Video was displayed on a TV

Z80A Processor running at 3.25 MHz.
1K Memory
Cost under 100.00 UK
Cost under $100 USD
The Sinclair ZX81 was the follow up to the ZX80 The case was black, with a membrane keyboard and output was through a Television. A US-only version was produced by Timex as the "Timex Sinclair 1000". The memory was quickly used up so most of us who owned one bought a 16K expansion pack that was the same price as the orinal computer and due to the way they were connected were prone to wobbling and losing contact and crashing the computer. Due to its price many many thousands were sold and many games were produced including a game of Chess. The keyboard was a pain at times as the distance between the keys was quite small and it was easy to press the wrong key but because of its price I still consider it a milestone home computer. Sinclair ZX Spectrum 1982 TS2068 from Timex in USA.
Based on a Zilog Z80 A CPU running at 3.50 MHz, the Spectrum came
with either 16 KB or 48 KB of RAM.

Video: Colour Through TV
Keyboard: Rubber keyboard on top of a membrane
16K memory
Input / Output Keyboard

After the success of the ZX80 and ZX81 Sinclair released the Spectrum which had the same processor but included 16k or 48k of RAM, the spectrum was so named due to its ability to display colour graphics through a TV , once again the keyboard was a membrane keyboard with a rubber cover, like all of Sinclairs home computers the price was its main selling feature at 125 for 16K RAM model and 175 for 48K RAM.
Due to it's ease of use and low cost it became the mainstream home computer in the mid 80's in the UK and many many thousands were sold , Timex in the USA released and marketed an enhanced version named the TS2068. Like the earlier Sinclair machines a rampack was available and printing was done using a thermal printer and many peripherals including joysticks were available , some of the most popular games that were sold for the spectrum are listed below
3D Deathchase
All or Nothing
Back to Skool
Batman: The Movie
Bomb Jack
Boulder Dash
Chase HQ
Chuckie Egg
Great Escape
Head Over Heels
Jet Set Willy
Knight Lore
Magicland Dizzy
Manic Miner
Match Point
Match Day
Midnight Resistance
Operation Wolf
Rainbow Islands
Skool Daze
Stop the Express
Target: Renegade
The Sentinel
Tornado Low Level
The computer market has changed in 40 years but still most of the personal computers
sold today owe their origins to the IBM PC and Apple MAC