What Do You Miss About The Old Days Of Computing?

What Do You Miss About The Old Days Of Computing?
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We have the internet in our pocket, and it runs on a tiny rectangular computer with more power and a higher-resolution screen than anything we could buy 25 years ago. But despite all these powerful machines no larger than a bar of soap, some things were better in the old days. What do you miss?

Picture: Alan Light/Flickr


  • Computer LANs with Unreal Tournament, Quake III, Battlefield 1942, Desert Combat and Wolfenstein ET.

    • I still play UT, Q3, and WolfET occasionally. My friends and I some times have “old-school” LANs where we only play games that are at least 5 years old. AOE2 is another one we’ve been playing more recently, since the HD version was release.

    • As a kid I could never wrap my head around the idea that there was a button like this at all. I mean, if there was a ‘GO FASTER’ button on your car, you’d just leave it on all the time, right? Why even have a button? lol

      • Assuming you know now, but it was to under clock the CPU, as some programs (think games) relied on clock speed to match frame rates.

        • Close, but the Turbo button was originally developed for floppy drives which could only be accessed when the CPU was running at 4.77MHz.

          • Actually thrillhouse is correct. While I won’t say you’re incorrect with the floppy drive comment, I’ve also never ever heard of that before….ever.

  • Users made an effort to learn how to do things, Now we have a generation of users who are simply not interested in learning how to build a spreadsheet or other structured document. I have office juniors who have “apps” to do specific tasks but are completely at a loss at how to crunch numbers themselves, and any training is forgotten as soon as they exit the class.

    • Yep, i remember when it was a side competition to see who could squeeze the most out if the 640k ram work area by loading as much as you can into expandable ram above 640k by using Qemm.

      Oooo, let’s not forget Xtree Gold! Also Norton Ghost used to actually work well. Disk nibbler!

      • Ah the days of Quarterdeck…. but I don’t miss endless edits of config.sys and rewriting DOS modules to that could be swapped into “upper” memory. Even with supposedly an office full of “identical” machines, I could never get the same memory swap reliability on all of them.

      • +1 for Qmem and XtreeGold. Wow that brings back some memories of the early 90s!

        Changing boot config batch files (extra HiMem etc) to play Wing Commander!
        The internet before it had visual browsers (Gopher and Archie etc).

      • Good Ol’ Bootdisks, I used to have one (Before I knew better) that would allow Xwing to run with full WaveSound support only once out of 6-7 bootups. Used to sit there with my eyes shut and the fingers crossed wishing it would work just this time!!!
        Dos4gw came about and they became less important but I do remember finally making an uber boot config in Tafe that handled Sound/CD-Rom and still gave like 610k of Conventional memory, by then it was only a exercise in “Because we can!”

  • an “off” button that actually turns the PC off [not wait a few seconds and I’ll think about turning off].
    Of course, the Bastard Operator From Hell advised people to jiggle the switch about 30 times, which produced enough transients to destroy the supply – ah yes, the good old days.

  • The Space Cadet pinball game on Windows XP… and tbh, things have changed for the better but these days we expect to find everything on the internet and sometimes forget to look at books.

  • I miss the cool noises that the very early HDD’s made. And the simplicity of creating programs in BASIC on my BBC Micro.

  • I miss the days when Microsoft understood the concept of the GUI and their own windows paradigm. When application interfaces were consistent between all applications. buttons were consistently named and placed, nothing was hidden unless you turned it off,

    • The same reasons that gave us toolbar hell, and made things impossible to find due to the vast amount of options having to be shown all the time. Which was due to ui layout logic bent on showing everything at once and having no relevance to what the user was actually doing. yeah I miss those days.

  • the tractor feed dot matrix printer that would always missfeed & you could hear through the whole house, and on my first PC the media storage device, the cassette recorder which was soon upgraded to an external floppy disc drive(when floppy discs were actually floppy)

  • Absolutely nothing.
    I don’t miss having to press play on the cassette, and then going for a meal, to come back and find it didn’t load properly.
    Not having to tweak a boot disk to get the absolute most out the 640k available, in order to play the latest game.
    Paying 20 pounds (80’s currency) for a game cassette, only to have the tape machine eat it two days later.
    Having monitors that announced being switched on with a loud ‘URNK’
    Waiting for a line to free up on any of my favourite BBS’s
    Watching the great Amiga die a slow death, due to ineptitude by Commodore.
    Installing MS Office 4.3 from 21 floppy disks,
    Discovering disk 19 is unreadable.
    Iomega ZIP disks vs The Click of Death
    Anything/everything about Windows 3.1/ME
    Games that only had IPX networking
    RAM costing $300 per stick

    As you can imagine, the list goes on, but I can honestly say, I do not miss any of those ‘good old days’, and I’d wager if I had to use those i386’s again, any nostalgic I might have had would soon wear thin.

  • XTreeGold
    Editing autoexec.bat and config.sys constantly to get the right mix of EMS/XMS to make games work

  • Changing IRQ settings on ISA cards manually and trying to avoid/work around conflicts…


    I don’t miss that at all!

  • I miss the new-ness of it all and how exciting and futuristic it all felt. I can still vividly remember getting my first computer (a Sharp MZ-80K) and how incredible it felt to have that technology in my house. Now computers and the Internet have woven themselves into the fabric of life and even the latest gizmos feel like a tepid soup of ‘meh’.

  • Mates binging their pc’s over and spending the night with the machines belly up playing doom 2 coop πŸ™‚

    We swore nothing would ever beat the graphics of Doom 2 πŸ™‚

  • 35 hour battery life for full use of a portable computer off 2 AA batteries.
    Boot up time of less than a second till it is ready to work.
    The original Atari Joystick with only one button.
    Green text on black background monitors to lower eye strain.

  • The excitement of getting a batch of AMIGA new games on floppy disc, and trying them all out. I could not wait to get home from primary school on those days.

  • Not missing to park your hard drive before powering down, waiting for the screen to warm up or writing a program and then wait 3 days for the program to finish rendering the image.

  • I miss how real world social computing used to be. without a network, when you needed advice you would have to find someone and then take your stuff over to there place to fix it.

  • Quest games. Grew up with kings quest, space quest, monkey island. Can’t remember all the others but there were quite a lot into the 90s. Legend of Kyrandia?

  • I miss the days that people with no intelligence mocked computers. They being incapable of using them, you would go online and everyone was intellectual. A utopia filled with philosophers, programmers and scientists.

    Unfortunately, money reigns. Now the internet is merely yet another extension of our cesspool society. The government won’t educate the masses, it just wants to dumb everyone down to the lowest common denominator, drill their brains with static knowledge and send them off on their way into the world as slaves. Don’t give them any time to think, reason or question and they won’t! It’s the archetype behind nearly everyone on the internet today. Dumb opinionated consumers who think their brain is something other than a well molded biological robot.

  • hmmmm let me see… what are we missing…
    oh right, there’s that game loading from a tape sound and the ever present uncertainty – will it load the damn thing or will the tape player head need a quick fix with a screwdriver? Anyway, if you must do it, do it ultra precise or come up with much better excuse for the father-son talk about why did you think that that time would be much different than the previous unsuccessful three types?

    I’m not missing anything at all, if we’re lucky, kids today don’t even understand the screwdriver principle. If something brakes, it’s probably available wherever at all times…

    But I can process the concept of being Nostalgic sometimes, that’s why I’m showing the world a book that even though it’s written in German, I’ve read it at least 10 times altogether with BASIC 1.0 codes. The biggest challenge in front of me was ofcorse that I never spoke German further than Gutten tag frau Helga! πŸ™‚
    The link to see the book cover > http://i1.minus.com/iXcJC7gVY2IS9.jpg
    [ wow it’s even the color version πŸ™‚ ]


  • The electronic cricket sound of the modem trying to connect and, I’d you are lucky, succeeding.
    Bulletin boards. The old courier mail. The days of actually being unconnected to the internet and therefore still living largely inside your own head rather than in a cyber world. Bat files. Alta Vista (recently deceased). Hoping that the computer tech who came to fix your computer actually knew what he was doing during the ten hours he spent at your house. The friendship you developed with him while waiting for Windows to reboot/install/reinstall. Trying to learn computer stuff from him without being too pushy (no Google). Printer reviews in computer mags. Nerdy computer ads in computer mags before advertising psychologists hot on board. .Those were the ads that just showed computer components without needing a sexy girl to hold them. Seeing the first computer ads that u used sex appeal: usually in the form of a girl that looked like an employee s sister or the receptionist who had been drafted in.

  • Xtree Gold. You know, reading those words on this comment thread gave me goosebumps. I can’t even remember what that program did, but I remember spending a lot of my life inside it.

  • I miss proper keyboards with which one could reliably type words of English, Yiddish, Rubbish, or Pascal or BASIC. I miss too the plastic surfaces of grey and 50 shades of beige and the utilitarianness and the eventual grubbiness thereof. And I miss the absence-of-need-for-style or fruit logos. Also the smart, cool people who used computers then, and Mosaic, and the Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computer Archives, and also the academics who made the internet what it is not today, and the excitement. Most of all the excitement.

  • The huge keyboard plugs and getting up after your parents go to bed connecting your 20m phone cable down the hallway and hoping the modem dialing didnt wake them up. Disconnecting it at 6am and pretending you just woke up from a lovely sleep. I remember stealing floppy disks and the excitement of discovering what business app you just obtained. Putting your tape games in the keyboard and loading them with a pillow over the keyboard as not to wake the whole street up.

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