Silicon Cowboys

Compaq may no longer be in business but their impact is still felt in today’s PC marketplace.

Silicon Cowboys tells the tale of Compaq Computer and how three former Texas Instruments employees founded the Houston-based startup that would create an industry that we take for granted – the PC market. The lively documentary is only 77-minutes long and definitely worth putting into your Netflix queue.

Based on the book Open: How Compaq Ended IBM’s PC Domination and Helped Invent Modern Computing by Compaq founder Rod Canion, Silicon Cowbows contains a lot of historical footage and vintage computer advertisements (I had forgotten that William Shatner was a pitchman for the Commodore Vic-20, for example). Compaq bested IBM by creating the Compaq Portable, an IBM-compatible PC that weighed 28 lbs. and had a handle. Because the IBM PC was made from off-the-shelf components like Intel microprocessors, Compaq and others were able to create the PC clone market. The biggest challenge was IBM’s proprietary and copyrighted BIOS, which had to be reverse engineered.

IBM later exited the PC market, selling assets to Lenovo. And Compaq was later acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Watching Silicon Cowboys brought back memories of the Intel 286 PC clone that I used in college.

Silicon Cowboys is currently streaming on Netflix.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview is now on Netflix

Last year, former Apple employee and technology columnist Robert X. Cringely unearthed a VHS copy of a presumed lost interview with Steve Jobs that was recorded in 1995, the year before he would return to Apple through Apple’s purchase of NeXT. After a theatrical release last year and arriving on iTunes earlier this summer, it is now available on Netflix.  I’ve watched it twice and highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Radio Shack’s TRS-80 Turns 35

Do you remember your first computer?

This month marks the 35th anniversary of the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I computer, which made it’s debut on August 3, 1977 a few months after the release of the movie Star Wars.  Harry McCracken has written a fantastic piece about it for Time Magazine.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the PC many derisively called the “Trash 80”.  I taught myself to program in BASIC on a  TRS-80 while my mom shopped in our neighborhood mall.  A few years later, my elementary school purchased a single TRS-80 color computer, a shocking contrast to my daughters’ schools which are filled with Apple iMacs.

I wouldn’t have my own personal computer until my parents bought me a Commodore 64.  I was an aspiring musician, so the Commodore’s 3-voice music synthesizer chip was a big deal to me.  Our high school was proud of the two Apple IIe computers in the library, although Radio Shack continued to have a presence in the math department.

Owning a light saber or an X-Wing fighter seemed far fetched, even for a nine year old.  But a personal computer?  That was science fiction within reach.  But now its just a memory from a long time ago, in a Radio Shack far, far away.

But a good memory.

What was the first computer you remember using?