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Say goodbye to an old friend, the 8-bit computer

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Say goodbye to an old friend, the 8-bit computer 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1989, The Syracuse Newspapers

The sun is setting on an entire decade, and it is setting on the computers that brought that decade to life. As the 1980s yield the 90s, most of the companies that still make 8-bit computers are getting ready to shut down their assembly lines. It may take them a year or even more before they make the final decision, but when it comes, it will be all over.

It's not that these 8-bit computers aren't good enough any more. It's that they're just not selling like they used to. In one of the sadder chapters in the history of home electronics, it will be the marketplace of dollars, not the meeting place of technology, that will decide the life and death of little computers.

Many of us dread the day when Apple turns off the switch on its Apple II, when Atari ships out its last XE, when Commodore marks its C64 down as a footnote. These are the three noblemen of 8-bit computers, each of them using an odd-ball central processing unit that would have been forgotten except for an accident of fate.

Apple has so many unsold Apple IIs that it created a gimmick to give them away to schools. Atari doesn't know what it will do with its unsold XEs. Commodore wishes it had a dollar for everyone who almost bought a C64 but decided on a PC instead.

If you one of those three computers, time is running short for a reliable source of replacement parts.

But each time I turn away from my high-tech PC and my super-graphics ST computers and switch on my old 8-bit, I step back into a time that I want to last forever. Maybe it is an innocence that I am afraid of losing, and maybe it is only a yearning for a simpler life. But whatever it is, it holds me and keeps me, time after time.

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