This episode of Computer Chronicles introduces some minor tweaking to the format established during the initial 1983-84 season. The first is the addition of Wendy Woods as a correspondent. Woods takes over narrating the customary B-roll feature following the introduction and also conducts remote interviews with guests related to the topic of the week. The second change is Stewart Cheifet now gives a brief “cold open” before each episode introducing the theme.
This next Computer Chronicles episode focuses squarely on people rather than products. The formal subject is “computer entrepreneurs.” And the four guests are people who were all quite well known in the computer industry during the early 1980s. What’s fascinating, as we’ll see a bit later, is that two of the guests had ventures that each managed to flame out not long after this episode aired. “I Had Been Working My Whole Life to Build a Certain Type of Computer for Myself.
In Part 14 of this series, the Computer Chronicles first discussed the subject of “expert systems.” This referred to computer knowledge bases that purported to replicate a human’s expertise in a particular field. This next Chronicles episode revisits the idea of expert systems as part of a broader discussion of artificial intelligence. The Link Between the Mechanical World and Abstract Concepts Herbert Lechner is back as Stewart Cheifet’s co-host for this episode.
When Apple released the Macintosh–later known as the Macintosh 128K–in January 1984, its main selling point was the graphical user interface (GUI). Although the original Macintosh operating system’s GUI was largely based on what Apple deployed on the Lisa a year earlier, the company believed the new machine’s lower price point would make the interface more accessible to a larger audience. Of course, the Macintosh was not exactly cheap, even by 1984 personal computer standards.
This next episode of The Computer Chronicles from 1984 is about storage devices, specifically disk drives. At this point in the microcomputer revolution, the 5.25-inch floppy disk is the accepted standard. But a number of new technologies are vying to supplant it. And while Gary Kildall was bullish on at least some of these new technologies eventually gaining mainstream acceptance, one of the guests aggressively pushed back on the idea.
Even if you’re only a casual gamer, there are probably a few video game designers whose names you’re familiar with, such as Sid Meier, Todd Howard, and Shigeru Miyamoto. From the early days of computer gaming, there was a concerted effort to promote certain “superstar” designers to help personalize and sell games to the public. This next episode of The Computer Chronicles featured three such designers from the early 1980s, as well as an executive whose name would become synonymous with computer and video game production in the decades that followed.
The episode I’m covering today taped on January 18, 1984, which was four days before Super Bowl XVIII. That game would go down in computing history for the famous Apple “1984” commercial that announced the launch of the original Macintosh (later known as the Macintosh 128K). As this Chronicles episode aired the week after the Super Bowl, Stewart Cheifet devoted a good portion of the post-show “Random Access” segment to the new machine and what it might mean for Apple for the rest of 1984.
Today, we think of networking as synonymous with the Internet–a global interconnected network that encompasses not just computers but also millions of “smart” devices. But in this episode of The Computer Chronicles from late 1983, the focus was on local area networking or LANs. Stewart Cheifet and Gary Kildall talked with representatives from two companies that were at the forefront of developing the still-emerging standards for computer networking. Cheifet opened by asking Kildall to define a local area network.