Retro Battlestations: PC Gaming Rigs of Yesteryear
Ever since a playful physicist by the name of Willy Higinbotham invented the video game way back in 1958, humans have been captivated by PC gaming. When personal home computers achieved widespread popularity in the early 1980s, the computer began its swift evolution from a caluclating workhorse to a commodity valued as much for fun as functionality. And in 1981, the gaming world was changed forever when IBM decided to add a game port to their PCs, paving the way for generations of joystick warriors.
While arcade games had already entered the home market via dedicated consoles from Atari, Magnavox, and other companies, the addition of gaming capabilities to home computers allowed for one machine to combine work and play in an unprecedented way. And even though the first PCs were packing processors and graphics that seem downright prehistoric when they’re compared to modern standards, they were more than up to the task of helping gamers destroy asteroids, rescue damsels in distress, or even battle space invaders from the comfort of their couches. And with products like the Colecovision and Intellevision boasting add-ons designed to turn consoles into computers (with varying degrees of success), the line between “home PC” and “video game system” continued to blur.
The storied collapse of the home video game console market in 1983 paved the way for PCs like the Commodore 64 and Apple II to fill the gap in the brief lull between the fall of the Atari and the rise of the Nintendo Entertainment System (and its successors). These gaming rigs of yesteryear were the electronic proving grounds for developers like Alex Seropian, founder of Bungie and co-creator of Halo.
Consoles like the Xbox® and Playstation® have come to dominate public perception with regard to “serious” gaming news and reviews, and casual mobile gaming has grown into a very real industry in the years since the rise of the smartphone and tablet. Nevertheless, the PC remains a popular choice for millions. In fact, 63% of all gamers do at least part of their gaming on a PC.
Will modern power-packed gaming PCs be remembered with as much fondness as their pixelated predecessors are today? Only time will tell. But even in a world full of consoles, smartphones, and tablets, it seems likely that, for millions of people around the world, the PC will continue to be an essential part of the gaming experience.
Retro Battlestations: Which Was Your First Games Platform?
While you were out rocking your big hair and puffy sleeves, computer companies were busy making the personal computer a household item. Personal computers have come a long way since they became popular in the 80s, take a trip down memory lane with us and be reminded how much technology has improved.
Then and Now
Technology has improved and prices have decreased, allowing more and more people to bring computers into their homes.
Were you lucky enough to have one of these as your first computer? Take a look at how these vintage rigs compare to today’s computers.
- Apple Macintosh (1984)
- Price: $2,495
- RAM: 128K
- Screen size: 9 inches
- Display: monochrome
- OS: Macintosh GUI (Graphical User Interface)
- Buy it now: $900 – $2,500
- Apple iMac (2012)
- Price: $1,799
- DRAM: 32GB
- 27 inch screen
- OS: OS X Mountain Lion
- IBM Portable PC 515 (1984)
- Price: $4,225
- RAM: 256K – 640K
- Screen size: 9 inches
- Display: amber display
- OS: IBM PC-DOS Version 2.10 (disk)
- Weight: 30 lbs
- Buy it now: $150 – $680
- Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Touch (2013)
- Price: $1,429
- Memory: 4 GB PC3-106000, SDRAM 1333MHz,, 1 DMIMM
- Screen size: 14 inches
- OS: Windows 8 64
- Weight: 3.4lbs
- Sony MSX (1983)
- Price: $200 – $400
- RAM: 64K
- Buy it now: $75 – $900
- Sony VAIO L Series 24 (2013)
- Price: $1599.99
- RAM: 8GB
- Screen size: 24 inches
- OS: Windows 8
Other top sellers in the 80s
- Commodore 64 (1982)
- Price: $595
- RAM: 64K
- Display: 16 colors
- OS: ROM BASIC
- Buy it now: $45 – $999
- Amiga 1000 (1985)
- Price: $1,295 (w/o monitor) $1,790 (w/monitor)
- Memory: 256K stock, 8Meg max
- Screen size: 13 inch
- Display: 32 colors
- OS: AmigaDOS 1.0-1.34
- Buy it now: $31
- TI-99/4A (1981)
- Price: $525 (w/o monitor)
- Memory: 16K RAM, 26K ROM
- Display: 16 color graphics
- OS: ROM BASIC
- Buy it now: $10 – $280
- TRS 80 Model 100 (1983)
- Price: $599
- Memory: 8K
- Display: 40 x 8 character LCD display
- OS: Microsoft BASIC v1.1 in ROM
- Weight: 3.8 lbs
- Buy it now: $20 – $485
Did You Know?
- Take a look inside the case of an Apple Macintosh and a Commodore Amiga 1000 and you will find the signatures of all the developers that had a hand in creating the computer.
- The Amiga even has a dog’s paw print on it.
- In 2006 The Guinness Book of World Records recognized the Commodore 64 (1982) as the greatest selling computer model, 22 million units were sold.
- The Commodore SX-64 was a portable version of the Commodore 64, it had a 5-inch color screen and weighed 23 lbs.
- Can you imagine carrying that in your backpack to class?
- During Super Bowl XVII the famous 1984 Apple commercial aired for the first time, introducing the Apple Macintosh.
- After it aired, Apple sold 72,000 computers in just 100 days.
- In the 70s Apple cofounder, Steve Wozniak, proposed the idea for Apple I to HP, they turned him down five times!
- The price of the Apple I was $666.66 (equal to about $2,500 today). This price had many complaining that it was the “mark of the beast.”
Retro Battlestation Challenge
In September 2013 the subreddit Retro Battlestations had a BASIC Week challenge. BASIC is a programming language that was used widely on early personal computers.
The Challenge: run a special BASIC program on a retro rig and submit a photo of the computer with the finished product. The outcome: a walk down memory lane.
Here’s a breakdown of the different brands of retro computers that were submitted during BASIC Week.
Top Computer Models
These computers received the most submissions during the challenge:
- Apple //e
- Atari 800
- Commodore 64
- Atari 800XL
- Reddit RetroBattlestations Community – reddit.com
- TRS-80 model 100 – oldcomputers.net
- Texas Instruments TI-99/4A – oldcomputers.net
- What ever happened to MSX computers – dvorak.org
- Commodore Amiga 1000 – oldcomputers.net
- It’s BASIC week on RetroBattlestations, you could win GOLD! – reddit.com
- Commodore 64 – oldcomputers.net
- After 1984: The Super Bowl Ad That Almost Killed Apple – forbes.com
- How many Commodore 64 computers were really sold? – cpushack.com
- ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook – shop.lenovo.com
- IBM Portable PC 5155 – oldcomputers.net
- iMac – apple.com
- Apple Macintosh – oldcomputers.net
- Computer and Internet Use in the United States – census.gov
- 25 Random Facts About Old Computers – oldcomputers.net
- Amiga 1000 celebrates 25th birthday, gets dismantled – geek.com
Download this infographic.