Vintage computers and terminals from the 1980s
February 14, 2019 • article
Nowadays we kind of take computers for granted. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, computers were something new and exciting. I have recently become interested in vintage computers from that time, and in this article I want to show you what I find the most appealing terminals and computers from around 1980.
For this article I focused on computers that have a nice display, which is why I did not list, say, the Commodore 64 or the VIC-20, influential as they may be. Also, this list is alphabetical so that it is easy to find the model you are looking for.
Also, when you click on the images you will find the source for the image (if I could find it). Have fun!
The iconic terminal from 1976, sometimes called the “American Dream Machine,” is fully based on TTL logic and does not contain any microcontrollers.
Commodore PET 2001
An all-time classic from 1977 introduced by Commodore International. Looks like straight out of Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey.
The portable version of the famous Commodore 64 with a full-color screen from 1984.
Compaq Portable 1
Announced in 1982, the Compaq Portable was one of the first IBM-compatible portable computers.
Compaq Portable Plus
In 1984, Compaq introduced the Portable Plus that features a half-height floppy disk drive as well as a hard disk drive.
Video terminal made by the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1978.
Another popular video terminal made by the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1987. This one has a wonderful amber CRT.
Hewlett-Packard introduced the 80 series of scientific computers in 1980. The HP-85B can run basic and has a built-in printer.
Yet another Hewlett-Packard model, this one features a graphical screen useful for plotting functions.
The IBM 5150 from 1981 with its iconic green CRT IBM 5151. In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful monitors ever made.
IBM Portable / IBM 5155
The portable IBM 5155 was introduced in 1984 and comes with two 5 1/4" floppy drives and a beautiful amber CRT.
Intertec Intertube II
Yet another terminal, introduced by Intertec in 1979.
The Kaypro series by Non-Linear Systems was a highly successful portable computer series running the operating system CP/M. This Kaypro 2 is from 1984.
The Heinz Nixdorf Computer AG released this portable computer in 1984.
Generally considered the first portable computer, the Osborne 1 released in 1981 by the Osborne Computer Corporation had a tiny 5" CRT and ran the operating system CP/M.
The portable computer M21 from Olivetti was released in 1983 and features a neat amber CRT and can run both MS-DOS and CP/M, making it rather versatile.
This portable computer was released in 1983 and quite heavy at 15kg.
This terminal was released in 1981.
This terminal was also released in 1981. The design is just out of this world.
This terminal is probably a later model, but I am not sure when it was released.
TRS-80 Model 4
Radio Shack's TRS-80 Model 4 was released in 1983 and sold all the way until 1991. It runs CP/M and has a very iconic design. Note also the inverted cursor keys.
Another iconic machine: the Xerox Alto, introduced by the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1973, is one of the first machines ever to come with a portrait CRT. It also had a graphical user interface and was, quite in general, far ahead of its time.
The Zenith Z19 also came as a kit from Heathkit under the name H-19 and was released in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
What is your favorite computer or terminal?
What's your favorite? Let me know on social media and tell me about your favorite computer or terminal :)