Memories of the early days of home computers

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1978, the early days of computers for home use, and CP/M was king but MSDOS was being developed and BBS's were the forerunners of the Internet as we know it today...

I remember a question from those days was "What are the hardest languages to master."  Our answer was Hebrew, Latin and Fortran.

During this era Tech companies were competing to design and deliver the latest in computers and software...the common question then was "Is it IBM compatible?"  Companies were also organizing their personnel departments into distinct groups, each with an important function...typical organizations had a Program Manager, Design Engineering personnel, Electronic Test Technicians and Programmers.

In an effort to sell potential customers their latest products companies would send their top personnel to a design review with potential customers.

To bring into focus how each of their departments functioned there was this story of one of them:

A Program Manager, an Engineer, a Technician and a Programmer loaded up in the company car and headed to a design review..All went well until they reached the top of a high mountain road with dangerous curves, and going down the hill the brakes failed on the car and the car gained speed and came close to wrecking in several of the sharp curves,,,the driver began to steer the car close enough to the guard rails that brushing up against the rails could slow the car down....and they finally rolled to a stop at the bottom and everyone got out shaken, but alive.

The Program manager said, "When we get back to the plant I'm gonna form a Tiger Team to investigate this incident" and the Engineer said "I already have a design change in mind"...the Technician said " I've got my pocket knife with me and I'll crawl under the car and fix the problem and we'll be on our way", and the Programmer said "We need to push the car back to the top and see if it does it again"..

And that folks, is how organizations function today..☺☺☺
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wm4bama, Champion

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Posted 5 months ago

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MEM

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I'll second that. I spent my career with a major US corporation before I retired.
I saw it go from one of the best rated corporations to one of the worst when it lost its monopoly position.
That is where I get my knowledge base to comment on the future if Viasat starts getting into financial distress.
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J&J

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MEM

We have an electric utility in California called Pacific gas & Electric Co. that kind'a fits your description.  It went from greatness to shambles and still survives but for how much longer is questionable.
 
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MEM

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If I told you how well some employees were treated during the pre-1970’s era, you would think I was exaggerating. Nevertheless, it is true.

I graduated in the 1960’s with a degree in chemical engineering before the days of calculators or computers. I used a slide rule for my mathematical calculations (most of you young ones probably do not even know what a slide rule is). Think of an abacus on a stick.

Here is how it was when working for a company in the 1960’s that had a monopoly and could charge what they wanted for their products. Our customers had no alternative if they wanted our products. Our monopoly was artificially created by the oligarchy of a few chemical giants who agreed not to compete in each other’s product lines.

The Viet Nam war was raging and a draft board was in place to supply the labor needs of the Army. You were forced to enter the Army if drafted. Without my asking, my powerful Company contacted my draft board and convinced them not to draft me. Some may call it white privilege in today’s jargon. At that time, many of my friends were sitting in rice paddies in Viet Nam being shot at and killed.

As if it is possible, it got even better. The company asked me to get graduate degrees in chemical engineering, for which they would pay and would allow me to attend classes and do the homework on company time with full pay.

I had company credit cards for airline travel, car rental and other expenses that cleared directly to corporate headquarter with little accountability. It was left up to us to decide if the meeting was for business purposes. There were many alcohol laden lunches and dinners of questionable business purposes.

The Company would pay for my wife and me to go on vacation every two years under the excuse of attending a convention.

You could not be fired and layoffs were unheard of. If you were deemed incompetent, the Company would create a non-vital position for you at full pay.

We quickly advanced to six weeks’ vacation with unlimited sick time off. We could even play golf on company time.

The above is just a sample of our benefits.

So where is the company today? It no longer exists. What happened you say? The Chinese figured out they could make chemicals and had a labor advantage. The Japanese figured out they could make chemicals and had an intellectual advantage as they developed chemical processes that were inherently more efficient. The Saudi’s figured out that could make chemicals and had a feed-stock advantage since the entire petrochemical industry is based on crude oil.

In hindsight, we were never competitive because we did not have to be competitive in an oligarchic environment. When that changed, we were a deer in headlights.

Do you Viasat forum members see an analogy? Nothing is forever. Viasat competes as an oligarchy now. We rural customers have only two choices – Viasat or Hughes. That is destined to change with technological advances. Moreover, when it does, Viasat may be relegated to the dustbin of history. They have not built up enough customer good will to preserve itself.

 

 
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Andy Schack

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That's why most folks nowdays want a government job...the legacy burdens a lot of companies are having to bear due to the generous benefits given in the past is causing them to both cut current benefits to the bone and to outsource as much as possible to subcontractors. One of our local power companies had gold-plated benefits in the past....you had to be related to a current employ to even have an inkling of a chance of getting hired. They haven't hire in years and have been outsourcing almost all their line work. 

On a side note. One of the biggest problems most companies have these days is that they took their eye off the ball and started valuing a college degree over knowledge of how the company works. UPS for example, everyone all the way up to the CEO started on the loading line....they KNEW how things worked and that kept them from coming up with procedures that simply couldn't be carried out. Now, you have people in authority, making the decisions who have NO idea how anything actually works. Hardly anyone I deal with at Dish, DTV, or Viasat has ever actually put on a coax connector let alone installed a system, yet they make rules and guidelines for those of us who are actually on the front lines. The result is nothing short of chaos. 

Andy
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MEM

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I forgot to add that in return for getting our very generous benefits from the Company, it was understood that we would give the Company complete loyalty as reflected by giving our boss complete loyalty.
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I operated my BBS, named "Potpourri, from San Jose, Ca. from 1978 until about 1989.  When BBS's started everyone was using Dial-up modems and speeds started at 300, and over the years progressed through 1200, 2400, 4800 and 9600 bps until modem speeds were increased to 14.4 kilobits per second by 1991.

I'm sure most of you remember the sounds that your modem made when it dialed and connected to the BBS modem.  But dial-up modem speeds had reached their limits over telephone wires and the transition to the internet, that we use today, was underway.  Now we measure speeds in megabits per second..
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wm4bama, Champion

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Introduced in August 1977, the TRS 80 was the first complete, pre-assembled small computer system on the market. When the TRS-80 — a personal computer from Tandy that would be sold via their RadioShack stores, hence TRS — went on sale on Aug. 3 in 1977.

http://time.com/3968790/tandy-trs-80-history/
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J&J

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Tandy had 100,000 TRS-80 computers made and thought they could sell them all in 3 years, they were gone in a month.
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We had a sysops organization that met once a month back then...most of the sysops called it the "Trash-80" because very few programs were written for it and released into the public domain for free...tons and tons of free programs were available in the public domain for CP/M systems..☺☺
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My first computer was a Commodore VIC20.  We then got the Commodore 64 a couple of years later.  Though I regret it today that I didn't do so, I really wish I would have learned more about programming and such when I had those two computers.  

The first computer that I actually purchased on my own was an eMachines 366i, though my in-laws had bought my ex and I a Pentium 166 clone a couple years before.  The eMachines was a great PC.  
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Michael McDowell

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My first computer was a Commodore 64.  I went all out and got the color monitor and 2 floppy drives!  Also had the cassette backup and a 300 baud modem and a dot matrix printer.  I'm not sure what the actual OS was but the user interface was a form of BASIC. This was in 1980 or 81. Got my first IBM compatible in 1989, a Wells-American 286 PC, AT compatible.  Still have both of them around somewhere! LOL!
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Andy Schack

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When I opened my Radio Shack back in Sept 1984, our Grand Opening special was a stack of TRS 80 Color Computers that sold for something like $199 if memory serves. Had to use a tape recorder to record any program you wrote. Years later I was forced to buy a tower computer for inventory...it had a 25 meg hard drive. I can still remember thinking how ridiculous it was to make such a HUGE hard drive. Times change. 

Andy
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