It’s exactly 20 years since the first issue of PC Advisor went on sale in August 1995. Reading back through issue 1 is a starl reminder of 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 since last year - 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 last 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 OS.
The real faux pas 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 at the time. 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. Here's a feature explaining the internet which ran in the launch issue:
In fact, the internet has changed more than just technology: it’s changed the way we communicate, the way we work, do our homework, listen to music… in short, it’s changed the way we live.
Getting online in 1995 was an expensive business. Your bargain basement PC cost over £1000, 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. Here's an Apricot ad from issue 1:
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 75MHz or 100MHz processor.
In the budget laptops group test on page xxx, 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 machines 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 how to 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.
If you had a PC in 1995, let us know its specs below and tell us your favourite games. My own PC was an IBM P/S2 which cost a ridiculous £2,200. It had a Pentium 100 processor and a 14in CRT monitor. I had to spend an extra £130 on a CD-ROM drive in order to play the original Need for Speed. What a game!