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Retro Memories: On the bleeding edge of the 80’s

Posted in Blog, and History

The 70’s and 80’s were host to some fairly massive changes in people’s everyday lives. And looking back, it’s kind of neat to have ‘been there’ for it all.

These days there seems to be less innovation and more iteration. I mean, the main difference between 1993’s Pentium and 2021’s Core i9 11900k is that the latter is smaller and faster… And thats been pretty much the hallmark of the modern era; the same, but smaller and faster.

But back in the 70’s and 80’s we saw actual innovation that changed the world.

For example, I remember when my father brought home a microwave oven in the early 70’s… He worked for Raytheon, who had the patents on microwave cooking, and the unit he parked on a side table in the kitchen was an “Amana RadaRange” – an RR2 which is the original model with the two big dials and lots of chrome.

The dials were electro-mechanical timers that ran at different speeds; the upper dial was 0-5 minutes and the lower 5-30 minutes – if I remember right; that lower dial was rarely used. At the end of a cooking cycle it actually rang a mechanical bell as well, which led to “Ding! Dinner’s Done!”… The unit was also 1600 watts compared to todays 600 to 1000 watt ovens.

For the first couple of weeks we had the thing my dad kept checking the door seals and the vent on the side where the magnetron lived with an RF field strength meter – just to make sure. 🙂

Speaking of microwaves; it was also in the late 70’s that HBO, Showtime, and The movie Channel were being delivered via the 2.3Ghz ITFS band, and anyone with the technical acumen could build an ITFS downconverter and watch movies in the evenings for free… This only lasted for a few years, but it was the start of things like cable TV that spawned the 24/7 streaming services that we all now take for granted.

Then there’s gaming… In the late 70’s and early 80’s we got to see the very first console game machines be invented. My household had a PONG machine in the mid 70’s that was replaced with an Atari 2600 in the late 70’s… And now we have the Playstation 5 (if you can find one), which is the ninth generation of what started in the 70’s.

The home computer was another thing we 70’s and 80’s kids got to experience for the first time. Prior to the late 70’s, computers were the stuff of science fiction; you saw them on TV shows as panels of blinking lights voiced in a vaguely mechanical way by an off-screen actor.

If you were more of a computer nerd you knew of a specific computer model and could even quote the number of square feet it took to house each piece of it, but then the Apple II, TRS-80, Commodore PET, TI-99/4A, and Atari 400 happened – and everything changed.

Kids like me, who were in Junior / Senior High School and were just old enough to be hugely interested in this stuff, but still young enough to be able to pick up the language quickly, set about inventing the Internet everyone uses today.

It was a wild time.

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