This month's notes are written by Tom R. Halfhill, Editor of compute!.
—Robert Lock, Editor In Chief
Home Computing: 1985
This issue goes to press in early November, but it will be Christmastime when it hits your doorstep. In a few weeks, soon after New Year's, the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will get underway in Las Vegas. If you've been a regular reader of COMPUTE! for the past few years, you probably know that the biannual CES is a critically important trade show for the electronics industry. For the home computer industry, this year's Winter CES is particularly important.
To begin with, it's the first CES since the so-called shakeout began in earnest. More than a few companies will be missing from the show floor. Others will have smaller exhibits or will be hanging on for dear life.
More than that, this CES marks a turning point for the home computer industry. We will probably witness the first new home computers introduced for almost five years.
How's that again? Haven't there been dozens of home computers introduced at these shows? Enough to inspire a Defunct Home Computer Edition of Trivial Pursuit? Yes, but ….
For what's supposed to be an exciting, fast-moving, high-tech industry, the home computer market has been pretty boring. Sure, there have been price Wars and rumors of wars, soaring success stories, bankruptcies, ironic turnabouts, and many other wonders. But these were all marketing developments. It's been years since a really technologically new home computer was introduced. The Commodore 64, which hit the market with its multicolor sprite graphics and synthesizer chip in August 1982, was arguably the last one. Everything introduced since then has been either a step backward, a step sideways, or a very, very small step forward. And even the Commodore 64 had much in common with the Atari 800, introduced way back in 1979.
Not that we're singling out home computers. In personal computing in general, you could argue that the only real groundbreakers introduced in the past five years were the Osborne 1 (the first transportable) and the TRS-80 Model 100 (the first portable). It's still a little early to determine if the Apple Macintosh will turn out to be revolutionary or evolutionary.
Fortunately, the upcoming CES should unveil the next generation we've been waiting for: home computers that will finally reach beyond 1970s' technology. Both Commodore and Atari are rumored to be preparing incredibly powerful home computers that will even outclass many of the business-oriented personal computers now in use. Sinclair is already starting to sell a computer that offers more raw computing power for $500 than a $4,000 IBM PC-XT. For marketing and other reasons, some of these computers may fail to catch on. But they signal the future. These computers or others like them will dominate the rest of the 1980s.
Could this be the shot in the arm that the home computer industry seems to need?
Perhaps. Today's eight-bit, 64K home computers can already do more than enough for many people. But after several years of marketing revolutions, it'll be a relief to see some true technological advances for a change.
As usual, we'll be on the scene at the Winter CES to bring you a full report. We'd also like to mention some of the other coverage we have planned for you in 1985.
Some valuable software is in the works—and it's free for the typing. In this issue, among other things, you'll notice "TurboTape," a deceptively simple utility which makes Commodore 64 and VIC-20 tapes load as fast as disks (really), and "JTERM," a quality terminal program for Atari computers. But that's just the beginning.
Next month, 64 and VIC users can look forward to "Plus/Term," a topnotch terminal program written mainly in machine language. It even allows uploading and downloading and has 80-column capability. Some great games are scheduled, too, including "Acrobat" for Commodore and Atari Computers and the all-ML "Rebound!" for the IBM.
But our most exciting announcement is the upcoming SpeedScript 3.0 series. Some Commodore readers are familiar with SpeedScript, the all-ML word processor we published last year for the VIC and 64 in our sister magazine, COMPUTE!'s GAZETTE. To put it mildly, it was the most popular program ever published by COMPUTE! Publications.
Starting in early 1985, we'll debut SpeedScript 3.0, a new and improved version. SpeedScript 3.0 will be published for the Commodore 64, VIC-20, Atari, and Apple II-series computers. Each version will be written entirely in machine language with special features optimized for each computer. And each version will be yours for the price of a single issue of COMPUTE!.
For various computers, we're also working on a Tiny BASIC Compiler that will significantly speed up your BASIC programs, a utility that lets you create your own animated cartoons, and much, much more.
We hope you'll join us in 1985 for what promises to be an exciting year for home computing and COMPUTE!.