MYST XX: 1-I: The State of the Tech

In the late 1980s, the digital revolution was just taking to the streets. Most computers were to be found in offices or as shared-use terminals at universities. Personal computers were in less than ten percent of American homes.

There were several makers of home computers. Software for one was unlikely to run on software for another. Portable computers weren’t. You were lucky if one weighed less than twenty pounds. Portable or not, you were lucky if your PC cost less than five thousand dollars.

Older personal computers were capable only of displaying text; the palate of a video game artist was the ASCII character set. Of the home computers which could display graphics, most were extremely rudimentary. The majority were grayscale, and then not that much of a scale. A color monitor had a whole sixteen of them to choose from. 640×480 resolution was for hardcore enthusiasts with deep pockets. Sound cards, likewise, had just been introduced.

The primary physical storage medium was the floppy disk. They were only approaching standardization. A floppy held between a few hundred kilobytes and just over a megabyte. A text file might need to be spread over multiple diskettes. Many computers did not have hard drives; those that did had an average of ten to twenty megabytes storage space.

There was no internet. Only a small fraction of personal computers were ever linked to another computer. For two computers to communicate required the transferrence of data via a physical storage medium – floppy disks. To exchange digital information required either a trip to a software store, or an envelope and a stamp.

In conclusion, a personal computer in the late 80s was basically an etch-a-sketch strapped to a Babbage Engine. Most “retro” games now manufactured are, when closely examined, considerably more sophisticated than a contemporary computer would have been able to diplay – let alone run.


~ by davekov on 22 July 2013.

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