Tech of 1977: The Year of My Birth

Looking at the technology of your birth year is both fascinating and sobering. Thirty-Two years ago there were some very important technology events that occurred which helped to create the foundation of the tech we use today.  So, pull up a chair, put on your reading glasses and curl up with your monochrome computer monitor as I take you back to the year of my birth; 1977.

After the limited success of what we now call the Apple I ( a “Build It Yourself” hobby computer kit), Steve Wozniak designed a much improved version.  Not too long after Wozniak designed his computer, it would go on sale as the Apple ][ personal computer.  The innovation of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak blazed the trail for personal computers and in turn they became what we would now call “uber geeks” of the decade.

Unlike its competitors, the Commodore PET and Tandy TRS-80 the Apple ][ featured color graphics, a floppy drive and an open architecture which allowed people to upgrade their machines.  It is considered to be the first popular Desktop Computer partly due to its “Killer App” the VisiCalc spreadsheet which was developed by its soon to be rival and our next topic of discussion, Microsoft.

Microsoft created software for the Altair 8800. Founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen won a lawsuit against Altair 8800 creator H. Edward Roberts allowing them to retain the rights to their software programs when Roberts sold his company.  Microsoft grew to become the world’s largest seller of computer software, making Gates a billionaire before the age of 30.

The Commodore 64 computer was introduced by Commodore Business Machines Ltd. which up to that point had been manufacturing typewriters and calculators. The Commodore 64 was promoted with the slogan, “Computers for the masses, not the classes”.

Long before Blu-Ray or even DVD another physical video delivery medium came on the scene.  If you are anywhere over the age of 13 (at the time of this writing) you may remember VHS Videocassettes.  The VHS videocassette format was introduced in North America at a press conference before the Consumer Electronics Show started in Chicago on June 4th.  VHS and Beta battled it out into the mid 80’s when VHS won that era’s “format war”.  One of the reasons, if not the main reason that VHS won was due to it’s capacity.  You could fit a full 2 hour movie recorded at the highest quality setting on a VHS tape while you could only fit around an hour on a Beta.  Many people will tell you that the Beta format was technically superior but in the end content won out and the VHS videocassette had the capacity for more of it.

And lastly, one of the greatest pieces of tech EVER, the ATARI Video Computer System or Atari 2600 as it is known today.  Atari blazed the trail for home video game consoles. The Atari VCS allowed an unlimited number of games to be played on a single system via its cartridge based design.  In this instance content actually killed the platform.  Atari didn’t have a handle on the games being developed for it’s system.  So many bad games were created that people weren’t sure whether the game they were buying was good or not so they just quit buying.

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