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The Future Is Now! Top 20 Retro Home Computers

By 15th September 2020Blog3 min read

Once upon a time home computers seemed like something from the future, but here we are in 2020 with a whole host of now-retro home computers behind us. The Guardian recently released a list of the top PC machines that inspired a generation of gamers and programmers. Let’s take a trip down memory lane…

10. Tandy TRS-80 (1977)

Originally paired with a monochrome monitor (basically a cheap black-and-white TV set!) and a standard cassette deck (yes, a cassette deck!), the TRS-80 was nicknamed the Trash-80. We like it.


9. Commodore Vic-20 (1981)

This was sold as “the friendly computer”. The Vic-20 was designed for accessibility, colourful graphics, a ROM cartridge port and lots of accessories. Despite its teeny tiny 5KB memory, it saw lots of landmark titles, like Sword of Fargoal and Metagalactic Llamas Battle at the Edge of Time.


8. NEC PC-88 (1981)

This dominant Japanese personal computer from the 1980s faced stiff competition from the Sharp X1 and Fujitsu FM7, but held on to its leading position. It boasted games from all the major console developers like Nintendo, and released the little known game Super Mario Bros Special.


7. Atari 800 (1979)

This was a true gaming home computer, with four joystick ports, allowing multiplayer titles such as MULE, Airline and Dandy. Atari was also able to call on its own team of experienced developers for classic titles Star Raiders and Missile Command.

6. BBC Micro (1981)

If you went to school in the UK in the 1980s you’ll instantly recognise the BBC Micro! The 32k machine designed by Acorn and the BBC Computer Literacy Project brought this programming to the mainstream, and will forever be known as The Classroom Computer.


5. Apple II (1977)

This was the first major computer to ship with BASIC in ROM, colour graphics and up to 48k of RAM. As for games? Lode Runner, Choplifter, Prince of Persia, Castle Wolfenstein, and Ultima all debuted here.

4. ZX Spectrum 48K (1982)

Rubber keys, strange clashing visuals and a tinny sound. From Jet Set Willy and Horace Goes Skiing to Knight Lore and Lords of Midnight, this computer drew the absolute best from coders who went on to found the country’s biggest studios.

3. Commodore 64 (1982)

This machine could handle everything from arcade conversions to experimental puzzle games (Sentinel, Hacker, Frankie Goes to Hollywood) to multiplayer sports sims. Coders kept finding new depths throughout its 20 million-selling lifespan.

2. Commodore Amiga (1985)

An explosion of creative talent with studios that created complex, visually rich adventures, which opened up new game design conventions and ideas that still stand out today.

1. IBM PC (1981)

Fighting through numerous 1980s competitors, the x86-based PC is now the dominant computer platform for games. IBM may have lost control of the PC industry years ago, but its off-the-shelf components are why you’re playing on a generic PC and not the ZX Spectrum 16GB today.

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