Time Machine

If you are like me, you like time traveling. I often wish Time Machine did actually exist. I would’ve transferred myself to Arles in 1888, shook Van Gogh’s hand and bought his painting Sunflowers, then I would’ve paid him another visit in 1889 at the hospital in Saint Rémy de Provence and bought his “Starry night”. All right, I know the rules, I’m not supposed to do anything to change the course of history. Ok, how about buying some Yahoo stock shares when they were dirt cheap?

Well, at least I can go back in time by looking at the old covers of BYTE magazine – one of the first major computer publications, and discover what the world knew and tried to predict about computers some thirty years ago. Byte magazine started in 1975, when the world’s first personal computers began changing people’s lives.

Carl Helmers, the magazine’s editor, contacted Robert Tinney, an illustrator he met earlier, and hired him to do illustrations for the magazine’s covers. Be sure to read a great interview with Robert Tinney to find out the answers to how did he get started doing illustrations for BYTE magazine, what medium did he use for the illustrations, what artists influenced his work, how and in what form did BYTE give him the illustration assignment every month and many other interesting questions.

Take a look at those covers, aren’t they amazing? Unfortunately in 1987 it was decided that the colourful and clever illustrations on the covers of the magazine are a thing of past, that they should be replaced by modern product photographs. Well, guess what? In 1998 Byte was purchased by CMP Media whose plans were to destroy the magazine as their main competitor. CMP stopped the publication on July 1998 and laid off all the staff. Byte was later revived as an online only publication Byte.com.

December 1975 – Computers: The Ultimate Toys
July 1977 – Motherboard
Computers: The Ultimate Toys Motherboard

May 1980 – Floppy Disks
April 1981 – Future Computers?
Floppy Disks Future Computers?

July 1982 – Computers in the Arts and Sciences
November 1983 – Inside the IBM PC
Computers in the Arts and Sciences Inside the IBM PC

June 1984 – Computers and Education
March 1987 – Image Processing. Digitizing the Mona Lisa
Computers and Education Digitizing the Mona Lisa

Each of these covers is like a small piece of art, a byte of the computer history. I wish modern magazine publishers could get into the Time Capsule and make illustrated covers fashionable again, wouldn’t you?

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7 Insightful Bits in response to “8 Bits Of The Historic Byte”

  1. wouldn’t that be too time consuming and slow for fashion magazine publishers? I thought they are always competing with time.

  2. Thankyou, seeing these covers again brought back a flood of memories. I was living in Vancouver at the time and had a subscription to Byte. One of my favourite sections was the hardware project. I was just learning electronics on my own and those projects were my “apprentiship” to which I owe a lot.

  3. ROFL, wow that first cover is great!! I think that’s my husband… and that’s me in the background glaring at Santa. Oh how perfect. Hahaha!

    I really like the little IBM guys painting the pixels on the inside of the monitor (although he really should be painting the M not the I, otherwise it’s typing backwards, lol). That cover definitely would not have been as effective if it were done in Photoshop today.

  4. Kriz, I don’t know about the fashion magazines’ fight for time, but I certainly prefer to see some nice illustrations like they used to have in past, instead of same old faces on dull photographs.

    You’re welcome Lenzjo (Kolin). Where abouts do you live now? I too was learning a lot from the early computer magazines. Nowadays I learn stuff mainly online.

    haha, Lauren. Looks like men 30 years ago had the same passion for computer toys as they do now :-)
    That IBM cover was my favourite one too – very clever: Inside IBM PC.

  5. This is cool. I always like to see old magazine covers and other things from the past. I liked a lot the IBM cover – very clever.

  6. Glad you liked those old covers, Simonne. I too like clever illustrations like the IBM one.

  1. Back to the Future

    [...] I’ve often wanted to go back in time and see how things were in the ‘good ole days’. It seems that I’m not the only one who wants to take a peak at the past. [...]

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on