Gary Kildall

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 8 — The Hero-1 and the TeachMover

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 8 — The Hero-1 and the TeachMover

In a recent essay for the socialist journal Current Affairs, Matthew James Seidel recounted a story from 2013 where “delivery drivers came up with an unexpected way to prevent robots from taking their jobs. They beat the robots with baseball bats and stabbed them in their ‘faces.'” Seidel quipped that “[s]ome robots got off easy; they were merely abducted and shut away in basements.” The intellectual–and sometimes physical–battle over the use of robots to replace human labor was the subject of a late 1983 episode of The Computer Chronicles.
Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 7 — Donn B. Parker and the Digi-Link

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 7 — Donn B. Parker and the Digi-Link

Roger Ebert wrote in his four-star review of the 1983 film WarGames, “Computers only do what they are programmed to do, and they will follow their programs to illogical conclusions.” In the movie, Matthew Broderick played a teenage hacker who managed to remotely access the United States missile defense system and initiate a “Global Thermonuclear War” scenario that he mistakes for a computer game. Ultimately, Ebert said the film’s message was, “Sooner or later, one of these self-satisfied, sublimely confident thinking machines is going to blow us all off the face of the planet.
Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 6 — Wordvision, Word Plus, and the Writer's Workbench

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 6 — Wordvision, Word Plus, and the Writer's Workbench

Since the 1990s, word processing has largely been dominated by Microsoft Word. That’s not to say no alternatives exist. But that’s the thing–they are alternatives to Word, which has essentially been the default for most people who use word processing, particularly in a business setting. Of course, Word didn’t start out on top. It was first released in October 1983. At that time, the dominant word processing program was WordStar, which had already been on the market for several years.
Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 5 — Concurrent CP/M, MS-DOS & UNIX

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 5 — Concurrent CP/M, MS-DOS & UNIX

Some early episodes of The Computer Chronicles were apparently repackaged as The Computer Chronicles Telecourse. Today’s episode was part of that telecourse and includes a series of interstitial segments hosted by SRI International’s Herbert Lechner, whom we met in the first broadcast episode. Lechner’s segments mostly review the key concepts discussed in the regular episode and refer to an accompanying textbook for students to follow. I’ve been unable to learn much about this telecourse or what it included.
Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 4 — Singer Link and SOM

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 4 — Singer Link and SOM

Normally, The Computer Chronicles demos consumer software and hardware. Stewart Cheifet often described his role as doing the legwork on behalf of the viewer so they knew what products to buy. This particular episode, however, goes in a somewhat different direction. The subject is simulator software, but aside from the opening host segment, the episode is largely devoted to proprietary software used in non-consumer applications. Flight Simulators – Computer Game vs.
Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 3 — Music Construction Set and the Alpha Syntauri

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 3 — Music Construction Set and the Alpha Syntauri

We begin this episode of The Computer Chronicles from February 1984 with Stewart Cheifet plunking on an unspecified model of Casiotone keyboard. Cheifet remarked to Gary Kildall, “This is an example of computer music,” which was this week’s subject. Cheifet added that the Casiotone could play special ROM chips that contain “popular songs” in electronic form. Cheifet asked Kildall to explain how a computer makes music. Kildall replied that while the Casiotone was not a “general purpose computer,” contemporary personal computers like those manufactured by IBM and Commodore have “tone generation capability.
Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 2 — Visi On vs. the Apple Lisa

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 2 — Visi On vs. the Apple Lisa

There was apparently a roughly two-month gap between the taping of episodes of The Computer Chronicles in late 1983 and their initial airing in early 1984. Looking back 37 years later, this gap may not seem that significant. But in just the second broadcast episode, it may be that Chronicles unintentionally provided information that was already out-of-date to its PBS audience. Integrated Software — The Descendants of Xerox The subject of this episode was “integrated software,” i.
Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 1 — The HP-150 Touchscreen

Computer Chronicles Revisited, Part 1 — The HP-150 Touchscreen

The Computer Chronicles debuted as a national television program in the United States in the fall of 1983. The series was the brainchild of Stewart Cheifet, then the general manager at KCSM-TV, a public television station based in San Mateo, California, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Cheifet originally launched Chronicles as a live, local program in 1981, which was hosted by Jim Warren, the co-founder of the West Coast Computer Faire, an annual computer convention based in San Francisco.