Byte March 1984

General discussions on the PCjr

Byte March 1984

Postby Trixter » Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:14 pm

I try to collect every magazine that had a review of the PCjr, and I finally came across Byte March 1984. Unlike just about every other write-up, the Byte write-up is amazing: It's accurate, fair, technical, and surprisingly prescient: ""The PCjr may turn out to be "the hobbyist's IBM:' Unstymied by features left out of the design and attracted by the low (for IBM) cost, hobbyists and experimenters could soon be happily running a "poor man's clone" with wire-wrapped accessories hanging off on every side: An interface for a better keyboard, outboard memory expansion, and a DMA-based controller for a second floppy-disk drive connected by clip-leads to a Navy-surplus power supply. Stimulus for ingenuity might turn out to be the biggest feature under the Peanut's shell."

It accurately describes how much slower the PCjr was from the PC and, more importantly, why. It notes the keyboard's failings but justifies the design and doesn't mark it unfairly. They're also quite fair about compatibility, and mitigating factors.

It is really wonderful and I highly suggest PCjr fans go out and read it.
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Re: Byte March 1984

Postby geoffdaddy » Wed Nov 18, 2015 6:11 am

Sounds good. I'll have to check it out. After having used the much maligned keyboard I feel like a lot of the hatred of it is misplaced. It doesn't have terrible action and the placement of the keys is good. I think in practice what was the real problem with it is that the keycaps themselves are not labeled but rather the space above each key. This makes it more difficult to use for hunt-and-peck typists that use it on a desk... you have to be more or less positioned with your head mostly above the keyboard rather than from a more normal typing position in order to see the key legend.
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Re: Byte March 1984

Postby Trixter » Wed Nov 18, 2015 11:25 am

The action is better than the "pro" keyboard, but the smaller keys take a few hours to get used to.

The design of the keyboard for full-keyboard overlays was absolutely appropriate for a home user. IBM was very forward thinking with the PCjr (said unapologetically as a PCjr enthusiast, of course). Unfortunately, their audience wasn't as forward thinking.
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Re: Byte March 1984

Postby geoffdaddy » Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:26 am

Trixter wrote:The action is better than the "pro" keyboard, but the smaller keys take a few hours to get used to.

The design of the keyboard for full-keyboard overlays was absolutely appropriate for a home user. IBM was very forward thinking with the PCjr (said unapologetically as a PCjr enthusiast, of course). Unfortunately, their audience wasn't as forward thinking.



I think probably the least forward thinking thing on the PCjr is the unfortunate choice of berg connectors for the peripherals.
PCjr: 10MB RACore 01 hard drive expansion, Hotshot 640kB RAM expander, optical mouse, Xircom PE3, speech sidecar.
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Re: Byte March 1984

Postby Trixter » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:14 pm

True. The ability to not use standard PC peripherals was a major blunder; if they had used normal connectors, the PCjr might have been taken more seriously.

My guess with the connectors is that they wanted to save space and money; the entire connector area is one large block. A secondary concern might have been greed (ie. "if we change the connectors then they have to come to us for peripherals"), which also hurt them in the PS/2 era.
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Re: Byte March 1984

Postby geoffdaddy » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:24 pm

Trixter wrote:True. The ability to not use standard PC peripherals was a major blunder; if they had used normal connectors, the PCjr might have been taken more seriously.

My guess with the connectors is that they wanted to save space and money; the entire connector area is one large block. A secondary concern might have been greed (ie. "if we change the connectors then they have to come to us for peripherals"), which also hurt them in the PS/2 era.


Yeah, you're probably right. D-sub connectors aren't terribly space efficient and stacked connectors are pricier. I haven't looked into this, but it might have been hard to fit all the connectors on the back with all the standard connectors. Letsee, off the top of my head, there's two joystick ports, a serial port, video, TV out, light pen, keyboard, cassette and an unused one, not to mention the two non-berg connections for sound and composite video. I guess they could have done a combination of them... joysticks, serial and video would have been nice as D-sub at least.
PCjr: 10MB RACore 01 hard drive expansion, Hotshot 640kB RAM expander, optical mouse, Xircom PE3, speech sidecar.
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Re: Byte March 1984

Postby Vorticon » Sun Mar 06, 2016 5:09 am

A quick side note:
A lot of the Byte magazines can be found via this link on AtariAge: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/167235-byte-magazine/ in PDF format. Unfortunately, there are still many issues missing, including the March 84 one (hint :) ).

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Re: Byte March 1984

Postby Trixter » Sun Mar 06, 2016 8:04 am

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