Tuesday 26 December 2017

2017: things that didn't quite make the cut

This year we've covered gadgets and geeky things from 1907, 1927, 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997, 2007 and 2012 (and actually even 2017). Out of all these years, 1977 stands out as the year that gave us the Commodore PET, Apple II, TRS-80 Model I, Atari VCS and DEC VAX. All of these were ground-breaking technologies that helped to shape the world we live in today.

But there were a few other things that didn't quite make the cut which are worth making a note of.

1927 may have been the year of the Jaffa Cake, but it was also the year that Newcastle Brown Ale was launched. Unusually for a brown beer, it comes in a clear bottle and the recipe has only slightly changed over the past 90 years to remove the caramel colouring. A huge export success, Newcastle Brown has been a little taste of home for Geordies the world over.

As well as chunky telephones and fancy cars, 1967 also brought the world's first Automated Telling Machine (ATM) in Enfield, London. Despite the rise of cashless payments, ATMs are still very common fifty years later... and perhaps just a little bit too common.

Another computer system launched in 1977 was the NASCOM-1 which was a computer kit built around a single board. Popular in its day due to the relatively low cost, it couldn't really compete with the fully assembled systems from rivals.

Newcastle Brown Ale (1927), ATM (1967), NASCOM-1 (1977)
 1977 also saw the release of the classic Crowther and Woods Colossal Cave Adventure. Featuring a rudimentary natural-language processor and some fiendish plot twists, Colossal Cave ended up being ported to a huge variety of computer systems and was massively popular.

We talked about the 1977 Matra Rancho, a stylish affair that looked like it could go anywhere but couldn't. Launched the same year, the Lada Niva actually could go just about anywhere but the 1970s Soviet styling couldn't compete with the chic French Matra. Thanks in part to its lightweight unibody design and dependabili, the Niva survives to this day (called the Lada 4X4 in most markets) where its simple and rugged charms start at less than €11,000 for a new one.

In 1987, personal computers were becoming more powerful with the likes of the IBM PS/2, Apple Macintosh II and Acorn Archimedes but they were also becoming more portable. The Compaq Portable III replaced the small CRT of previous models with a 10" plasma screen. At 9 kilograms it was still no lightweight, but it was finally a practical and reliable business computer that could be used on the move.

Colossal Cave Adventure (1977), Lada Niva (1977), Compaq Portable III (1987)

That's the lot for this year. See you in 2018.

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