Software Products Industry History

The history of software products was shaped by entrepreneurs, inventors, and researchers whose innovations changed our society forever. These pioneers started what some call a Third Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution, that made our online lives possible.

You could not read this webpage, play your favorite MMO or RPG game, search with Google, watch YouTube, or shop on Amazon if software did not exist. And, the software pioneers' work also follows you wherever you roam in the world.

Many new forms of software that can be traced back to the pioneers’ ideas are invisibly, yet powerfully, present everywhere. Programs help run schools, workplaces, stores, labs, banks, hospitals, government offices, you name it.

Software is continuing to rapidly evolve, and experts say that we are entering a Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). As Industry 4.0 rushes towards us, it’s a good time to look back at the beginnings of software to understand the big picture.

We have a lot of artifacts for you to explore, and are happy to chat with you about the history and possible future of software when you visit us. For now, check out one of our relics and an overview of our collection. Bookmark the page and visit again: We'll feature more artifacts here.

Before Windows: Tandy Deskmate

Overview of Our Vintage Software Collection

We have over 200 software artifacts, plus related manuals, guides,

and magazines. This figure is always growing, as generous donors

drop off items to add to the collection. We have software related

to real estate, accounting, reference, language, music, word processing,

and more. A few examples follow. Many are 30-40 years old.

Vintage Productivity Suites: In addition to Tandy DeskMate, we have

many other packages, including PeachText 5000 (1983) from PeachTree Software

(with PeachText, PeachCalc, Random House Electronic Thesaurus, etc).

Tandy Ad

Released in 1984, before Windows, this was one of the very first desktop environments to offer a suite of tools (word processing, calendar, spreadsheet, database) for small businesses and consumers, instead of big corporations. This marketing move was viewed as very strategic, and both reviewers and consumers gave Deskmate high marks for being user-friendly, affordable, and functional. At first, you could only get Deskmate if you purchased the Tandy computer it was built into, and this helped boost Tandy sales. Ultimately, you could buy Tandy Deskmate for PCs. Tandy Deskmate was a fierce competitor of Windows for awhile, and it still has fans. Yet Tandy struggled and abandoned Deskmate in the early 1990's after Windows 3.0 came out and was wildly successful. One InfoWorld article hinted of Deskmate's fate when the author called it, "the Rodney Dangerfield of operating environments: it gets no respect." Software history is full of similar tales of rising and falling fortunes.

Graph Plan

Spreadsheet/Business Graphics: We have the ancestors of Excel, including GraphPlan from Chang Labs. This was one of the very first spreadsheet/business graphics packages, and also had some powerful statistical analysis features.


Games/Recreation Collections:

Our archives house a “who’s who” of games—Star Raiders (Atari, 1982), Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1982), Frogger (Parker Brothers, 1983)—you name it.

Editors Note

This page researched, written, and maintained by Kim Elliott. History of Tandy drawn from RICM archives of PC Magazine and Washington Post, P.C. Letter, and InfoWorld. Ad courtesy of PDX Retro.