Digital Retro Book Looks Back at Early Personal Computers

2006 – I’ve always had an interest in early personal computers and the history behind them. Gordon Laing explores into the evolution and design of the personal computer in his illustrated book Digital Retro.

Digital RetroThe book covers major personal computers such as the MITS Altair, Apple II, Atari 400/800, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Osborne 1, IBM PC, Compaq Portable, Apple Macintosh, and many others. It’s an ideal book for those who want to see professional photographs of the systems and in-depth descriptions. This book clearly captures the industrial design involved in some of the most important personal computers ever made.

Not only does this book include a wide range of personal computers, it also includes systems originally known as home computers as well as workstations such as the NeXT Cube. The book also talks about the history behind the companies that manufactured and designed these personal computers.

For many, this book will bring back long-forgotten memories. If you ever owned an early home computer – such as the Commodore 64, a Sinclair, or even an Apple II – this book will be close to your heart.

Digital Retro

Probably the best thing about the book is the uniqueness, not only of its page layout, but also because every single photograph is new – never before seen gems! I personally think it is a real joy to see full-color high quality photographs of these computers, especially compared to other books that usually have small black and white photographs.

Some will find that this book lacks information; personally, I don’t mind this, since the photographs are priceless. But some readers may prefer more text and in-depth background information and history. Some pages of the book are rather scarce, and technical specifications are missing for several computers.

Unfortunately the book is missing several systems that should have been included, such as the Xerox Alto 1, Microbee, Apple III, Macintosh Portable, and many others. Of course, books have their limits, and the author wisely chose systems we all know and love. (Admittedly, because the author decided to photograph the systems himself, including the Xerox Alto was an impossible task, as this system is extremely rare.)

I highly recommend this book, a fascinating coverage of home computer history.

Digital Retro
£13.96, $17.99, €25.94
Author: Gordon Laing
Publisher: Ilex (UK), Sybex Books (US)
Date: October 2004
ISBN: 078214330X

Rating: 3 out of 4