Your First Computer

Kent Wood: “My first computer was a used TRS-80 Model III with 16MB RAM and a cassette. I added two 5 1/4 floppies and maxed it out to 64 MB RAM. After buying an Epson dot matrix printer for $600, I had about $2500 in the system. With a 300-baud modem, I hit the bulletin boards. I did some Basic programming and even wrote my own checking account program. We’ve come a ways since then, haven’t we?”

Jack Fraker: “My first computer was actually two. CDC 1604 and a CDC 160A while in the Navy in the early 60s – yes, I’ve been involved with computing since 1963, at the computer museum in Boston there is some peripheral equipment I maintained at that time. We had to learn to program them for troubleshooting purposes… you could actually fix them in those days. My first home computer was a TRS80, then a LOBO Max80, the next machine was an XT, to a 486 to a P2 400. Now I have two P4 3.2 gig which I built. As I now work for Intel, I can get the chips for cheap – and after being in the computer biz for over 40 years, I figured it was time to build one, now two, and next year I’ll build a third. I can’t begin to quantify the changes in this industry I’ve seen from the original huge disk drives, to the old 12″ reel tape drives, core memory (I educated some one on the origin of the ‘core dump’ that WinNT does when encountering a problem). The computing power in my computer room at home is mind boggling.”

Mona Carol-Kaufman: “I’ve got everyone beat. My first PC was an Atari 800XL… but soon after that… are you sitting down? I had an ADAM… that’s right – I had Colecovision’s very lame attempt to put out a computer. I got it for Chanukah the year I had leg surgery, so I guess it was 1985 or so. It came with a daisy wheel printer. That thing was so loud that our neighbor’s could hear when we were printing down the block! It came with a “highly advanced” datapack, where it only took like a 1/2 hour to load a program. And it had a slot where you could play Colecovision games. They would lower the price on the thing, so every 30 days or so my dad would pack up the old computer, go back to Toys R Us, return it and buy a new one. By the end, we ended up with a straight Colecovision with an ADAM module, and an Atari 2600 module so I could play those games too. We eventually gave the computer to my aunt, uncle and cousin’s. I was bummed to find out they had tossed it recently. But yeah – the ADAM wasn’t my first computer, but it’s the experience I remember most fondly.”

Adina Hirschmann: “Compared to the others who already commented on this subject, I was a little late to the world of computing, so my computer was a bit ‘newer.’ It was a Dell ‘Netplex,’ a 486 machine with no CD-ROM or sound card. I guess that, for the time, it was pretty modern, but could only do one thing at a time. The hard drive and processor speed were pretty slow as well. While I cannot remember the capacity of that drive, the processor, an Intel pre-Pentium model, ran at 66 MHz. The mouse only had two buttons and, while the monitor was color, the screen resolution and color spectrum were both very coarse and limited.”

Fran├žois Laverdure: “Wow! Does thinking about those old machines take you back! And how many stories will we be able to tell our kids (so that they can better laugh at us!). Ever drooled over a Vectrex? Wow, those vector graphics were something else! When I was a kid, I would have done pretty much anything to get one. I did have an Intellivision. I even got suckered into hitting the maximum allowable score at Asteroids (anybody who ever spent 2 to 3 hours blasting rocks will remember how the game ended… I still have a sore thumb just thinking about it!) Then, I got a VIC-20. I even had the 16k extension cartridge and a cartridge bus (for plugging many cartridges at a time). Complete with Datasette! Boy those were slow. It was also so easy to copy them with a friend’s double cassette ghetto blaster! Typing SYS codes also meant so much. Never programmed much with it, was too busy playing Omega Race and Lunar Leaper.”

Fran├žois continues…

Then, I changed it for a Commodore 128… big mistake. Paid just too much for running C64 games. I literally wore this one out. Typing code from Ahoy, Compute, Loadstar, Byte and all the other magazines. This is where I developed a hatred for SYNTAX ERROR. I also had a 1200 baud modem (fastest on the block) and a Super Slapshot fastloader. Never got the 21-second copy hookup but I had 2 floppies (remember turning them over… something kids will sadly never get to enjoy again).

These were the good days. Before viruses, spyware, worms and such. These were the days of “Scrolling Demos” with SID music and the “singing drive” program. Even with all the high tech, dual core chips, multi GB drives and all, I often miss those simple days where computing miracles were done with less than 640K (anyone remember that some guy named Bill once said that no human being should need more than 640K ?)

Maybe there is something to learn from those old machines. Maybe it is time to put the OS back on a non flash chip like those old computers. Change the cartridge to change the OS. Too simple and efficient in every imaginable way! (Copyrights protection, Virus protection, spyware protection, ultra fast boots like on the Commodore, etc.) Maybe those old time designers had the ultimate solution to today’s computer problems. As for me, it sure would put a lot of fun back into computing. For now, I’m going back to playing Jumpman Junior on my emulated C=64.

[tags]pc,atari,computer,personal computing,computing,commodore,emulators,c64,vic20,floppy disk,byte,compute,loadstar,adam,trs80[/tags]

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.