Personal Computing '77
A Look Around
The weekend of August 27th and 28th saw the population of Atlantic City, New Jersey increase by about 10,000 as computer hobbyists and manufacturers from all over the country got together for the second annual PC show. For those of you who didn't have a chance to make it to one of the summer computer shows, we thought we would snap a few shots and show you what you missed. For those of you that did come to one of the shows in which PAIA appeared, we really enjoyed meeting you and hearing any and all comments you had about our products.
The two new products which should have the greatest impact on the non-technical consumer market are the Commodore PET (figures 1 and 2) and the Radio Shack TRS-80 (fig. 3) both of which are designed as low cost ($600) "home appliances" for use by housewives, children, small businesses, and so on. Software available for these machines includes Education (to teach your kids math, science, etc.), Payroll and personal Finances (to help you balance your checkbook or run a small business without hiring a full time book-keeper, Kitchen packages (to help store recipes, convert American to Metric measure, display phone numbers, appointments), and of course, hundreds of games.
For the hobbyist, or for applications where you wish to retain as much versatility as possible, the modular mainframe with plug-in peripherals is the best way to go. Figure 4 shows an Equinox system using portable cassette recorders for storage, and a Lear Siegler terminal for communication. These types of systems comprise the bulk of the market, and the software and peripherals available for them include a number of exciting possibilities. Figure 5 shows the array of memory and tone generator boards available from Solid State Music. The "Talking Computer" is no longer a joke, as there were two at this show. The Computalker board is shown in figure 6, while figure 7 shows an entranced passerby listening to the Digital Group/Votrax system which will be available this fall.
Heathkit had a very impressive display of their broad line of recently announced computers and peripherals, (figure 8) As usual, their systems are of top quality, with extensive documentation.
And, of course, you don't think we could do a review of the show without giving you a peek at the PAIA booth, do you? Fig. 9 looks upon PAIA technician Greer Holland expounding on the attributes of a 4700C package4, while figure 10 catches technician Steve Wood ready to ward off even the most intense barrage of questions concerning the PAIA/Apple synthesizer system.
Larry Fast, the synthesist behind the Synergy albums, was in our booth most of Saturday. Figure 11 shows Larry carefully programming the Paia/Apple system for an intense rhythmic pattern. Upon command, the system reproduces his pattern with extreme speed and accuracy, and Larry chuckles with excitement (figure 12). The latest Larry Fast project has been a full scale "production" album which features an amazing number of musicians in a type of space-rock opera. Larry is also currently working with Nektar on their new album. For all you hard-core Synergy fans, he said to look for the new Synergy album around the beginning of '78 or shortly thereafter.
Another special visitor was Roger Powell, synthesist with Todd Rundgren's Utopia. Roger was talking to us about the Imsai 8080 system he recently completed. He plans to interface the computer with his existing synthesis equipment as a controller element. Many of you may recognize Roger's name as a regular columnist for Contemporary Keyboard magazine. Roger's recent columns have been dealing with computer music, and he said there are several more columns upcoming on the same subject. So, be sure to keep your eyes on his column; it will probably help answer a lot of your questions. Also, be sure to watch for Utopia on tour this fall. Attendance will guarantee an excellent demonstration of Roger's considerable mastery of his instrument.
What an exhilarating experience - to think there is as much computing technology on display at one of these shows as there was in the entire world as short as 15 or 20 years ago. And it's progressing faster every day. Not just in terms of the technology, but also in applications and practical developments which make the technology accessible to a greater number of people all the time. Very literally, there is something here for everyone. Whether you are seriously studying various systems to make a purchasing decision (figure 13) or just want to "hang around" to make new friends or get in on some tech talk, you should make a strong effort to visit the nearest computer convention. There is another batch of shows to be held later this fall, and the "circuit" will start all over next spring. So watch for your chance to get in on one of these exciting displays of state-of-the-art technology.
Show Report by Marvin Jones
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