Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Vintage Computers Used To Teach Programming

BBC Micro

Robin Lee pointed us to this piece about using 8-bit BBC Micros from the 1980s to teach programming. Given the complexity of modern computing platforms, it's an intriguing idea. From the look of it, the class barely skimmed the surface using a BASIC interpreter, whereas making the most of the machine requires mastering 6502 assembly language.

Of course, revisiting classic machines is nothing new. The Commodore 64 -- once a fierce competitor to the BBC Micro Model B -- still has a cult following. What's new is the acknowledgement that there are several generations of young programmers who grew up without cutting their teeth on simple hardware platforms. Today's coding environments have so many levels of abstraction that it's possible to code through an entire career without having to write a keyboard debounce routine. On one hand, that's a good thing. On the other, there's nothing quite as exciting as trying to squeeze a professional application into only 16K.

Several modern manufacturers have tried to fill the void - most notably the Arduino series of microcontroller boards. These tiny 8-bit computers include dirt cheap Atmega microcontrollers that operate at five or ten times the speed of common 8-bit processors from the 1980s. These modern chips might not have the charm of classic designs like the BBC Micro and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, but they offer programmers the opportunity to design their own devices from the ground up -- something that's becoming increasingly rare.

BBC Micros used in retro programming class


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