Tech Time Capsule

Remember when microcomputers were the size of your face and everyone who used a computer was called a hacker? I don’t, but that might actually be what makes this 1983 holiday episode of The Computer Chronicles so entertaining. Videos like this elicit the perfect blend of nostalgia, amusement, and perspective—as far as we’ve come, a lot is still the same.

The video opens with the “ultimate high-tech Christmas present” of 1983: a floppy disk that plays animated Christmas cards with chipper holiday ditties. Other holiday tech grabs included a program that lights an animated menorah, a new “it” word processing program called XyWrite (Microsoft Word had just come out in the fall of that year), and a lightweight printer that does everything the clunkier $2,00 printers of the day cost—including scrunching up paper. Watch to the end of the video, and you’ll see some hyperactive robotic cats that rival Furbies in their off-putting outlandishness.

The video notes prices on higher-end computers had begun to drop, increasing sales as people became more tech-literate. Kids were also using computers, with the emergence of games like Reader Rabbit. A newscaster sagely notes, “A youngster is more likely to want color graphics than a spreadsheet.” Overall, though, computer sales were still low. But, the newscaster observes, “Retailers are optimistic that computers will continue to excite the public.”

Videos like this are fun to watch because today’s technology is so comparatively advanced in many cases. It’s easy to laugh, but just remember—30 years from now, people will probably scoff just as much at Fitbits and iPhones.