This James Fallows article from the July 1982 issue of The Atlantic Monthly is a wonderful technological time capsule. Fallows purchased a PC early in the 80s for use as a word processor.
For a while, I was a little worried about what they would come up with, especially after my father-in-law called to ask how important it was that I be able to use both upper- and lower-case letters. But finally, for a total of about $4,000, Optek gave me the machinery I have used happily to this day.
In the early days of personal computing, there were many competing machines, processors, operating systems manufactured by a number of companies. The PC Fallows bought was a crazy-quilt of a machine — the monitor was made by Ball Corporation (the canning supplies company) and the printer was a converted IBM Selectric typewriter — and was soon obsolete.
If I had guessed right, my brand, the Processor Technology SOL, would have caught on, and today I’d have the equivalent of a Mercedes-Benz instead of a Hupmobile. I’d be able to buy new programs at the computer store, and I’d be able to plug in to all the over-the-phone services. But I guessed wrong, and I’m left with a specimen of an extinct breed. When I need new programs, I try to write them myself, and when I have a breakdown, I call the neighborhood craftsman, Leland Mull, who lovingly tends the dwindling local population of SOL-20s.