Happy birth­day… to us

We celebrate 20 years of PCAd­vi­sor

Tech Advisor - - WELCOME - JIM MARTIN

It’s ex­actly 20 years since the first is­sue of PC Ad­vi­sor went on sale in Au­gust 1995. Read­ing back through the very first is­sue gives a stark re­minder just how much tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced in a mere two decades. It’s easy to for­get that this was a time be­fore many peo­ple had even a dial-up mo­dem to ac­cess the World Wide Web and send Elec­tronic mail, let alone a ded­i­cated broad­band con­nec­tion that didn’t pre­vent any­one else in the house us­ing the phone for – y’know – ac­tual calls.

Win­dows 95 was about to launch and then-editor Jason Whit­taker’s hope was that it would make com­puter pro­grams at­trac­tive and of real in­ter­est to the wider public. In his opin­ion they were sim­ply too com­pli­cated, buggy and bor­ing. Win­dows 95 cer­tainly did make PCs more pop­u­lar, and was fol­lowed by the mas­sive suc­cess of Win­dows XP which – de­spite be­ing un­sup­ported now – is still be­ing used by mil­lions around the globe.

Count­ing Win­dows 10, there have been eight ver­sions of Mi­crosoft’s ubiq­ui­tous op­er­at­ing sys­tem in the past two decades: 98, Me, Vista, 2000, XP, 7, 8 and now 10. Make that seven if you don’t count Win­dows 2000 as a con­sumer op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

The real gem in Whit­taker’s open­ing col­umn, how­ever, was to state that: “The in­ter­net has been over­hyped re­cently.” With the ben­e­fit of hind­sight it’s laugh­able that this was the opin­ion of a tech ex­pert. (You can read his col­umn in full on page 146.) These days there isn’t much you can do with a smart­phone in Flight mode. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery app re­lies on its con­nec­tion to the “in­for­ma­tion su­per­high­way” as we used to call it.

Get­ting online in 1995 was an ex­pen­sive busi­ness. Your bar­gain base­ment PC cost over £1,000, and that didn’t even in­clude a mo­dem, CD-ROM drive or sound card. If you had those you had a ‘mul­ti­me­dia’ PC, on which you could play Doom with­out hav­ing to put up with tinny bleeps and blurps from the in­ter­nal speaker.

Even a ba­sic smart­phone to­day has a CPU that’s at least 10x more pow­er­ful than a 1995 PC and costs roughly one-tenth as much. The rec­om­men­da­tion back then was to buy a ma­chine with a 200MB hard drive, 8MB of RAM and a 75- or 100MHz pro­ces­sor.

In the bud­get lap­tops group test on page 84, you’ll find mod­els with 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drives and pro­ces­sors that run at over 3GHz. And you can have that for a lot less than £300. We’ll look back in 20 years and smile at these pal­try fig­ures, no doubt, but right now these are ver­i­ta­ble bar­gains.

Some things never change, of course. Our aim now is the same as it was 20 years ago: to pro­vide the best buy­ing ad­vice and to ex­plain how to use the kit once you’ve got it. In is­sue 1, we ex­plained how to choose a mo­dem and con­nect to the in­ter­net. To­day we’re ex­plain­ing how to use the new fea­tures in Win­dows 10 and which smart­phones and smart watches to buy.

We’ve scanned the best bits from is­sue 1 so you can rem­i­nisce about the good old days or, if you’re a Mil­len­nial born in the 90s and there­fore too young to re­mem­ber beige midi-tow­ers and CRT mon­i­tors, so you can bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate the lin­eage of the touch­screen tech you hold in your hand to­day.

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