I’ve been feeling old recently. I understand that’s laughable to some people who read this site and magazine, people who’ve been coding for longer than I’ve been alive. But I have to say, the reason for my age-based ennui is the fact that I’m looking around every day, and I see we live in the future.
We all have multicore computers in our pockets, the Internet is available just about everywhere, grandmothers order doilies online, and major companies are being held hostage by techno-terrorists. It’s like a Gibson novel, without all the space-based clone aristocracies and Sino-American post-war conditions.
In times such as these, it is helpful to look at where all this technology came from. You can do that in any number of ways, but my favorite is to watch episodes of Computer Chronicles. Stewart Cheifet, the show’s host, guides us through the first 20 years of home and business computing with both depth and aplomb.
Could you imagine seeing a half-hour show today on PBS that spends 20 minutes evaluating laser printers? That’s prime YouTube fodder today, and even back in the 1980s when the show was in its prime it was a geeky and niche topic.
Nowhere else had this kind of information outside of magazines, however, and Computer Chronicles danced through home computer technology like some mad fever dream. Did we really expect people to pay thousands of dollars for a 20MB hard drive? Were $50,000 black-and-white laser printers really that exciting back then? And why didn’t the Amiga get more love from the public? All of these questions can be answered by watching Computer Chronicles.
Here, then, are my favorite episodes, in no particular order:
1: Consumer Electronics Show (1997)
2: Building Your Website (1997)
3: CD-ROM (1993)