Friday, May 3, 2013

Tech Time Warp of the Week: The 50-Pound Portable PC, 1977

I was in on the ground floor of marketing this "luggable" Portable Computer. My recollection was that it weighed 48 pounds, and I lugged it all over downtown Boston, up to Salem and then on to NH and even Maine! That was my sales territory. I tried to sell it as a portfolio manager in downtown Boston, to chicken farmers in Maine to optimize feed grain mixtures at the lowest cost through linear programming, to a commodities house in Boston, to engineers in Salem, MA, and on and on. We had to be very creative because there were NO "apps" as they are called today, so any prospect was faced with programming the machine on their own using BASIC or APL, the 2 languages available on the 5100. 

Our team of 5 was housed in an IBM Branch Office on Wyman Street in Waltham, MA, and I commuted daily from Hampstead, NH to Waltham, although I tried to make sales calls without having to go to the office. My recollection is that during the one year before the program began falling apart I had sold 5 machines. They ranged in price from a few thousand dollars up to maybe fifteen thousand. We sold auxiliary tape drives (it had one built in) for tape to tape operations, and a very heavy dot matrix, continuous forms printer.

I am glad to see that the product has not been completely forgotten. It was a necessary program by IBM in its first attempt to market computers at the retail level using a dedicated sales force.

I think if I search some boxes full of photo albums I could come up with a picture of our sons using it as it sat on our kitchen counter up there in NH. Our kids were clearly way ahead of their peers in those days having access to a home computer!

I found this article on I thank them for remembering, if not us, the product!

"IBM sparked a revolution in personal computing when it unveiled the IBM PC in 1981. But the IBM PC wasn’t IBM’s first personal computer.

Six years earlier, Big Blue unleashed a machine called the IBM 5100. It wasn’t just personal. It was portable — at least by the standards of the day. It weighed a mere 50 pounds.

In the video below — an IBM ad circa 1977 — you can see the 5100 in all its glory, from the VHS-like magnetic tape drive to the five-inch monochrome display. But the machine is only part of the fun. You also get late-’70s business types telling you why they need the thing. “Managing real estate investments involves many difficult decisions. Do I paint now or later? What about the landscaping? Can we afford it? What about taxes?” says one woman. “It’s really nice having a computer to help.”

The 5100 wasn’t the first personal computer. The MITS Altair beat it to market by a few months. But it was the first portable computer — arguably. Fifty pounds may seem bulky today — and, no you couldn’t use it unless you plugged it into the wall — but the 5100 arrived at a time when most machines were still the size of your desk. If not larger.

The 5100 grew out of an IBM project called SCAMP, short for “Special Computer APL Machine Portable.” Like the 5100, this prototype let you build software using the APL programming language. According to IBM, SCAMP was built in 1973, using off-shelf components, and two years later, it morphed in the 5100, which was priced between $8975 to $19,975 (sans accessories). It could also run BASIC, and it shipped with several canned application, including a calculator.

The IBM PC was billed as the successor to the 5100. It was known as the 5150. But it was a completely different machine, and because IBM eventually licensed the basic design to other manufacturers, it would remake the computing world in a way the 5100 never did.

But it wasn’t as portable… "

Article found here:

Sorry, but the audio track doesn't seem to work on this video.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Security Baseline revisited

Posted for new visitors and regulars who might need a refresher. I continue to use this suite of programs and aids and have no problems on any of our 3 systems, two running Windows 7 and one running Windows XP.

From time to time I refer to my security baseline. My security baseline is merely a list of programs I use (all free) and recommend for anyone to use to keep their systems secure. This applies to YOU if you use Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7. I do not yet have experience with Windows 8.

Remember, all of these products are FREE, but will do as good a job as any fee products you may use. I make that statement and stand by it based on 45 years of experience with computers.
1. Microsoft Security Essentials. This is a very impressive anti-virus program and can replace any you have now. DOWNLOAD HERE

2. Windows Firewall (Standard part of your operating system. Check the Security Center to be sure it is on.)

3. MVPS HOSTS File - download the current month's version and update monthly DOWNLOAD HERE

4. CCleaner - check for newer version than you may already have. Run weekly. DOWNLOAD HERE by clicking on Download Latest Version in the upper right hand corner of the page.

5. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware - run bi-weekly. DOWNLOAD HERE

6. SuperAntiSpyware Free Edition - run bi-weekly in the off week after #5. DOWNLOAD HERE

7. Spybot Search & Destroy - run monthly just before downloading new HOSTS file.  I recommend, for now, downloading Version 1.6.2 under "old versions". DOWNLOAD HERE

I will be happy to assist you with any or all of the above installations. This can be done remotely.

Questions?  Comment below or write me, pcdoc at brpcdoc dot com