19 Fun Pieces of PC History From the Museum of Interesting Things

About the author
Scharon Harding

Scharon Harding is Senior Editor at Tom's Hardware. She has a special affinity for monitors, laptops and virtual reality. Previously, Scharon covered business technology, including hardware, software, cyber security, cloud and other IT happenings, at Channelnomics, with bylines at CRN UK.

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  • dennphill
    Thanks for a trip down memory lane! Last time Tom’s went through a history of computers…I enjoyed that as well. NOT in the IT business, though I have been assembling my own PCs for many years now…AMDs through 2015 and Intel since. Just a simple occasional user. (I went from MS-DOS to Win95 (in the mid 95s) to WinXP to Win7, and am now still plugging along with Win8.1. A total Luddite when it comes to Win10, though I may have to cave with my next build!)
    - First computer exposure in the early 1960s was studying engineering at VPI and lugging around punch cards for the school’s IBM 360! I suspect my current Haswell–based i5-4440 with a 512GB SSD and a 2GB HDD sitting on my desk is probably at least as powerful!
    - I had a good friend, when we were pilots flying for the Pentagon at Ft. Belvoir back in the early 1980s, who came home one day and showed me an Osborne he had just bought. I remember playing with it and seeing what we could get it to do.
    Again, thanks Scharon! Good article. ?
  • bit_user
    1 said:
    From Victorian-era self-playing instruments to early IBM and Apple systems, we found several tech artifacts that contributed to the PC market in their own way.

    I came for "19 Fun Pieces of PC History". Hardly any of these had to do with PCs.

    Please fix the title. After the work you put into this, you don't want to setup your readers for disappointment. Also, some of these items might interest those wishing to remain blissfully ignorant of PC history.
  • rogue17.mm
    yes it was a trip down memory lane but some of the objects or gadgets are not the first of its kind, i mean like it said that in 1993 the apple newton pda was the first portable computer but before that there was a palmtop that was first launched in 1989 or 1990 i think
  • mortemas
    As I await the availability of nNidia's new gpus I have been thinking about how far we've come since my childhood when my first video game console was the Atari 2600 and a game like Pong was literally 2 lines (the paddles) and a dot (the ball). I remember using PovRay to make single ray traced images that took hours to complete on a home PC. Quite a few things on that list take me back to my younger years, as well as other items not mentioned. I remember our first modular handheld gaming system, Microvision, which flopped after 2 years on the market. Of course there were other electronic games before that, like football with the bubble display. I remember Epoch's portable space invaders clone with a vacuum display and loud, obnoxious sound effects that would tick off my family when I played it. My friend had a Vectrex, which was super cool at the time. Our family had an IBM Selectric. My first PC was a 10MHz 80286 (the IBM PS/2 50z), which had a 13" crt screen. My first modem was a Samsung running at 1200 baud, I think. That's 150 *bytes* of data per second! I grew up assembling Heathkit projects and I remember wanting the Hero bot so much! I still have a catalog like the one in this article, as well as the IM-2320 digital multimeter I assembled decades ago which I still use today. My PDA 18 years ago was a Handspring Visor Prizm. So, as I wait for the RTX 2080 ti I'm replaying an old game from 1981 on classicreload.com:


    Now pardon me...I have to go slay a Balron
  • mischon123
    The IBM punch cards and the Holleriths were sold by IBM and made the Holocaust possible. Little known but important fact.
  • WyomingKnott
    How depressing. I just had to throw out a bunch of stuff that would have qualified, and I'm still in mourning.
  • Olle P
    The QWERTY-system wasn't so much to slow typists down as to put a physical distance between the bars for letters that are often written next to each other.