What’s your earliest computer memory? Did you play Oregon Trail or type out a term paper in Word Perfect? We’d love to hear YOUR story.
What’s your earliest computer memory? Did you play Oregon Trail or type out a term paper in Word Perfect? We’d love to hear YOUR story.
My first experience with a computer was before the things mentioned like word processing, windows, apple etc. It was not in
my world yet. At my uncle’s place, there was an MSX. A fairly graphical computer. Next to it was his Tulip PC (x086), no
hard drive, two low density 5 1/4″ floppy disks (yes, floppies! ^_^ ) and of course, a orange-black monochrome monitor.
I’ve gotten so enthousiastic about those things. They zoom, and pop, something comes on the screen. A visible interaction
between man and machine, other then a tetris game.
I was about 8 years old, and we’ve gotten that same Tulip pc from my uncle. I was so happy. But there was nothing on.
At my school that time, they’ve gotten amazing new computers. x286, and I could play prince of persia. A sublime graphical game at that time!
So..I’ve gotten this game from my friends. Two floppies but didn’t work. Remember, no HD! After 3 days, I finally got Prince of Persia to work on my Tuplip 086x, with 2 floppies I had to change around constantly after every few “scenes”. I was happy, because I finished the game.
From that time on, I’ve gotten interested in batch processing, and later on debugging.
I made my own quickmenu in DOS. How fun was that. 8-9 years old and batch processing )) I still feel geeky when I think back. Now, I’m not much better, but still in the computer industry.
It was the summer of ‘82. I was fourteen. Most days I biked five miles to the mall to try to meet girls but never succeeded. A girl once convinced me to pay for her Pac-Man games, but I think the little yellow guy wasn’t the only one getting played.
My circuit around the mall took me to the Timex Sinclair 1000 again and again. It was cheap enough that I might be able to afford it and if I could have a computer, I knew it I could do something great with it. With some practiced lines having to do with how it would help me in school, I convinced my dad it would be a good investment.
When I opened it up and set it before the T.V, my dad said; “It looks awfully small.”
In a rare moment of restraint I read the instructions before hooking it up. But even that care was to no avail. It did not work, but it did get really hot.
When we brought it back to the mall, the salesman explained some of them had been known to cause sparks. They were very cheap. He may have mentioned a recall. This made my father insane. There was no way we were buying one of these pieces of crap and having our house burn to the ground.
But we didn’t get a refund. Somehow we got talked up to an Atari 400. I may have helped move things in this direction. I’m pretty sure I said that it was even better for school stuff — that I could type on it (we didn’t call it ‘word processing’ back then) and that it would let me delete words if I made a mistake! I was a pretty bad speller, so this was an invaluable innovation.
I don’t remember the price, but it ended up being a lot more expensive, especially after the salesmen also explained that we really needed a tape drive so I could save my work and I might want a book or two to explain how to use it.
At home I hooked it up and it came on without a flaw. It was beautiful. I could type! I could program. I could draw on the television screen! I could make sounds come out of the speaker. In the days that followed I discovered there were ‘hidden’ graphics modes! Graphics Mode 8 let me control every so many little thingies (I did not know what a pixel was yet) that I could make a green or blue line because they were smaller than the T.V. display!
But most exciting of all was when I learned about player-missle graphics. Well — half-learned. It was much more exciting before I understood the limitations. I spent a sleepless night designing a game very much like nintendo’s Zelda (years before Zelda existed), but it was all in my head and well beyond the capabilities of either me or my Atari 400.
I bought Shamus, a game of such 8-bit sophistication that it was worth it to wait 20 minutes while the cassette slowly loaded it’s goodness into my machine. I made crude animations (in every sense of the word) that involved my brother being maimed. My father would occasionally comment under his breath on how ‘beneficial’ this all seemed to my education. My mother urged me to find more useful ways to use this sophisticated piece of technology.
I bought a floppy drive and a ‘word processor’ though it would be difficult to say these things provided the intended benefit to my school work as I never had a printer. I know my parents wrote it off as a loss — they never saw me performing math equations or making pie charts or writing papers because I never did any of these things. Instead I programed, and explored. I made little things akin to screen savers, not to save the screen, but because they looked pretty. I programmed games from Compute magazine then redressed them to make them look better and ‘hacked’ them to make them more interesting. If anything, my schoolwork suffered that year for the Atari 400. Who had time for homework?
Despite this educationally grim picture, all of this laid a groundwork that led me to work in multi-media, animation and even photography. The skills I now use every day were all seeded back on that flat, unwieldy membrane keyboard.
Timex Sinclair’s may have been fine for you “young-uns,” but before that, there were the real dinosaurs, like the room-devouring PDP-11s… Aside from these monsters, my first personal experience with a standalone computer (as opposed to a standalone personal computer) was in my high-school “math lab” (no–not meth lab) in about 1973.
We had a little machine called a “Compucorp,” which allowed us to write our own programs. We would start by writing out our program by hand on paper, in what I think was an early version of FORTRAN. Then we would enter each character of each line of code into blank squares at the top of a piece of printed graph paper. We would then look down the sheet to find the pattern of six (?) bits that corresponded to each character in our code. Finally, we would take a computer card (like a punch card–anybody remember those?) and we use a number 2 pencil to fill the appropriate rectangles on the card that corresponded to each character. So each card represented one line of code (or part of a line, if it was a long one).
When you had filled out all your cards for your code and for your input data, you fed them into the CompuCorp and it would print out a number on adding-machine paper. That was your output. A year or two later we got an accessory that would let you “store” your program as a series of holes in a roll of paper tape – now we were cooking!
I remember writing a 15-line program to calculate the maximum possible resolution of a telescope, given the diameter and focal length of it’s objective lens. It was exhausting, especially the debugging part. I decided that computers were too much work. I would rather do the math by hand or, better yet, use one of those new-fangled pocket calculators that were just coming on the market. But these cost hundreds of dollars – far more than my family could afford.
A few years later I went to UCLA and saw how a “real” computer worked–with punchcards that you created using a teletype machine. By then we were learning that Next Big Thing – something called PL-1 (Programming Language 1)…
I wasn’t until a few years later still, when we got video monitors and word processing programs and email on the university mainframes that I actually found a lot of personal use for computers…
A lot of electrons have passed through the logic gates since then. I don’t miss that old Compucorp in the least, but I still have a mint Timex Sinclair somewhere in my garage…
My first encounter with a computer came in my senior year of High School. I took a “Computer Math” class taught by a math teacher who had programming experience (in FORTRAN). The class taught how to solve math problems by programming computers. He introduced the class to Flow Charts and would allow no programming or use of the “computers” until we flow charted our solution.
Ah, the “computers.” The first computer we used was nothing more than a pocket calculator (in function and capability only) that sat on top of a AV cart (obviously it would not fit into your pocket). It had a key pad, paper tape output (I think), and a magnetic card reader, which read and wrote magnetic stripped cards that looked like punch cards. This was just after TI released the first pocket programmable calculator.
After we mastered programming on that, we were allowed to use the Teletype in the corner of the room connected to a mainframe computer in a city 50 miles away. This allowed us to login with our own accounts, print out listings, and save our programs on paper punch tape. We programmed in Basic.
After high school I went to at Tech School and got an associate’s degree in Computer Science and even learned to program on a computer where you entered your program using switches that represented each bit in a byte (a PDP-8). Boy, those were the days!
My first computer memory are several rows of the little boxy Macintosh Color Classics with the screens that were barely bigger than an envelope, in the computer lab at my secondary school (junior high for US-ians *g*), when I was about 12. My dad had an electronic typewriter at home, but oh, being able to see the whole text, edit and erase with ease – it was a revolution!
All we did was text editing and a bit of spreadsheets, backing up our files to our very own floppy discs (which I’m pretty sure I still have somewhere). I took a course on typing and played a lot of Solitaire. There wasn’t even internet access – the beeping of dial-up only arrived at our school a year or two later. And only after that computers truly became more than fancy typewriters to me.
I had my first encounter with a computer at school. We were moving house, and a week before I departed, an RML380Z appeared,so at least I got to see one even though Inever touched it. I was buying all sorts of computer magazines, but was still a computer virgin even though I could talk the talk. Then my new school acquired an RML380Z (they were big in UK schools pre the BBC Micro) and all of a sudden I was considered one of the experts despite having never touched a computer before. I managed to bootstrap myself quickly enough to stay ahead of the pack, and discovered that it was fun.
I built something similar to a Science of Cambridge MK14 but based on a Z80 before I left school. At University, I acquired a BBC Micro, which was fun to program, and helped me with all my reports, final year project and Master’s thesis – I’ve still got it somewhere, and it probably still works. Somewhere in there I built my own PC. A friend obtained two bare IBM XT motherboards, so I soldered down a whole bunch of TTL chips and sockets for the bigger chips. There was the expense of buying a floppy controller card, a floppy disk drive, CGA card and a keyboard, and some strange power supply that just happened to have all the right rails, and it worked. Who needed a case? Somewhere I’ve still got original boxes of various DOS flavours, PC/MS/DR-DOS.
Next I acquired a 286 motherboard labelled “needs attention”. It had a dodgy track on it somewhere, and all the PLCC chips needed to be re-seated occasionally, but that was fine considering that it let me assemble something equivalent to the IBM AT at work for a tenth of the cost. Lurking somewhere I still have my original squeaky (remember stepper motors for head control?) 20MB hard drive, and my first 40MB ‘voice coil’ drive. Also around somewhere are old 386 and 486 machines, all put together from bits scrounged and bought on the cheap. They all worked last time I switched any of them on, but that was many years ago. Needless to say, I became a hardware engineer who can do software, rather than stick to software. This was courtesy of someone saying while I was still at school that it was easier to shift from hardware to software than vice versa.
0 – My first introduction to computers was in the late 70’s at the university where my dad worked. They had a room full of teletype terminals which were connected to a big computer in some other room. They had a user account that would run games if it wasn’t too busy. We played a text game called “Star Trek”. It would print out what the surrounding quadrants had in them, and you typed in your commands. We used a lot of yellow continuous feed paper. We made up for it by recycling the paper-punch programming cards for craft projects.
1 – In grade school, they had a Tandy TRS-80. The designers of the “Trash-80″, as it became to known, thought they could sell 50,000 units. The company decided to only make 3500 because they figured if they couldn’t sell them, they would use them themselves. They eventually sold 250,000 units. I programed the TRS-80 to show a WWII submarine with waves moving past it. How is that for foreshadowing?
10 – My first computer was a Sincair XZ-81. I paid $99 for a kit, but they ran out of kits, so they sent me one assembled, which would have cost $149, for the same price. Amazingly, you can still buy a new kit for $200. It had 1 kilobyte ram and ran at 3.5 MHz. It saved and loaded programs on a tape recorder. I programed it to show balls bouncing according to the effects of gravity, and simple orbital paths.
11 – It is a good thing they sent the XZ-81 assembled, because latter I paid $300 for a microcomputer kit, which, when I was done soldering it together, let the magic smoke out of the power supply and I couldn’t get it to work. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for help, so I threw it in the trash. I delivered a lot of papers for that experience.
100 – In highschool they had about a dozen Apple IIs. They were all connected to a thing called a “hard drive” which could store and retrieve 5 megabytes of data. Man that was a lot. My project was a program where you could save text messages which could be retrieved later by other users, kind of like “electronic mail”. I don’t think I ever got it fully working, but it was a neat idea.
101 – My next computer, which luckily wasn’t available as a kit, was a Radio Shack color computer. I think I paid $399 for it. You can get one on Ebay now for $23 + shipping. It came with 4 kilobytes of ram. I got bored with programing in Basic because it was so slow. I taught myself assembly language and made a counter than ran so fast the first digit was a blur. Man that was fast. I later upgraded it to 16 kilobytes because my programs were getting larger.
110 – When I was in early in my Navy career, I bought a Commodore 64. They retailed for $595, and are now available on Ebay for about the cost of shipping. It was the first computer I owned with a “disk drive”. The external drive was almost as big as the computer itself. I think I mainly played games on it. I once got so mad when playing a game that I took the disk out and cut it up on the spot. Solved that problem.
111 – When I was stationed in Hawaii, I bought my first laptop, a Toshiba T1000se. I think I payed well over $1000 for it. I don’t see any listed on Ebay right now. It had 4 megabytes of memory and ran at a blazing 9.54 MHz and had MS DOS 3.11 in ROM so it booted quickly. I mainly used it to play submarine simulation games like Silent Serice II and 688 Attack Sub, which is kind of crazy considering I was living on a sub at the time. Toshiba latter sold some CNC technology to the USSR which allowed them to make advanced submarine propellers. There was some kind of boycott, and I was a bit embarrassed about owning it. I ended up selling it for $50, which is what it cost me to replace the battery to get it ready to sell.There you go. Eight bits (a byte, get it?). Catch the binary numbering? I didn’t even make it into the Windows era. Oh well, tune in latter and I’ll tell you about the hand-me-down 3-GHz, dual-CPU Xeon, workstation they gave me to run Linux on at work. Talk about fast . . .
Now I’m thinking about going back for another try at the ZX-81 kit. Maybe I can keep the magic smoke in this time.
In 1980 (when I was in second grade), our elementary school was lucky enough to acquire four Apple II Plus computers. They had absolutely NO IDEA what to do with them.
Eventually, they converted a storage closet into a computer lab and let the three students in the gifted class go to town on them. We used Applesoft BASIC to create loops using the PRINT command, sending each other important and endlessly-repeating messages such as “Computers are cool!” or “I’m bored!”
In the summer following my third grade year, I took my first programming class through the school board’s Gifted Enrichment program. There, we used Apple IIIs to create vector graphics — in a whopping 16 colors! I learned a bit more BASIC than I had picked up on my own in the closet-cum-computer-lab, but drawing sailboats and houses most of what I took away from the class.
Sometime after this, we acquired an IBM PCjr at home, which only solidified my idea that computers were for fun, since it came with my very first PC game. (We had previously acquired Texas Instruments game console with games on cassette tape, so not my first video game, you understand, but first PC game.) It was a text-based trivia game, and I played it endlessly. At least until Qbert came out for PCjr – then Trivia 101 was dead to me.
All of this playtime led my parents to believe I was a Certified Computer Genius, so when my father decided to purchase a personal computer for his business (an Epson he acquired in the mid-80s), I was designated to accompany him to classes. I learned to use WordStar, CalcStar, and dBase II on the Epson and often coached my father at the office when he forgot how to do something. This was the beginning of a career.
Today, dozens of operating systems, programming languages, and office suites later, I’m still coaching people in the use of computers for business applications. I’ve been fortunate enough to combine that job with my other passions – communicating through the written word, and providing help for those in need. Now, as the Director of Operations for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, I oversee our IT and publishing departments, as well as our awareness efforts through an online/social networking presence.
Sometimes when I’m tweeting a message to our readers, I’m reminded of the PRINT loops on those old Apple IIs; or when I’m photoshopping an image, I’ll remember that sailboat drawing I was so proud of in summer school. Though I’m using computers today to help change the world for people with MS, it’s still all playtime to me!
I’m too lazy to right a big story. But, my first computing (it was a verb once) was playing Venture on the Colecovision. Yes, we had a Vic 20 too, but, that was for the bigger kids and the cartridge action was nothing like it was with the Coleco! Nothing quite says awesome like entering the skill level in a Coleco pad.
My first experience with a computer, was with an Apple IIe, and I was only 5 yrs old. I remember thinking that, “Wow, this is neat.” As I play Oregon Trail for the first time on the Monochrome Green screen. That first experience with a Computer was my Geek Birth.
It was the fall of 1983 and I had just finished the first draft of my master’s thesis on a typewriter, when my family’s small business bought a Kaypro. A Kaypro was a portable computer that weighed a little over 20 pounds. The computer case was the size of small suitcase and made of steel; the keyboard case was made of aluminum. This Kaypro came with two 5 1/2 inch floppy drive slots (200 K, each) and a hard drive that could hold an amazing 10 megs, and I remember that some computer experts questioned the wisdom of putting so much capacity in a portable computer. The Kaypro had a small cathode ray display, with green on black lettering. It came with a library of training manuals, all several hundred pages in length, and it took several days of going through a manualto learn the basics of the ten or so pieces of software that came with the machine, including my beloved WP program: WordStar.
Those who did not grow up in the age of typewriters have no idea what a revolutionary product WordStar was. Even though you had to memorize several dozen key combinations to execute commands, and though there was no WYSIWYG, mouse, etc. you could type a paragraph and then edit it before printing! It could reformat a paragraph! It formatted footnotes! And it had a spell checker! I used that computer to finish the rest of my thesis, and soon had my M.F.A. in hand.
By the fall of 1984, I had gotten my first job teaching at a small liberal arts college, and in preparation I payed $2,700 dollars for my own Kaypro 2X. To put that cost in perspective: in 1984 I rented a two-bedroom, two bathroom house on a lake with a private dock for $300 a month. My 2X didn’t have a hard drive, but it came with a very dependable daisy wheel printer. I was the only faculty member who owned his own computer or had a computer in his office.
Ten years later, after never crashing, I finally had to put my Kaypro away, for its cathode ray display had became unreadable. That was a sad day.
Our first computer was an Apple IIe, donated by a kindly gentleman from our church. It came with a boatload of those GIANT floppies and my brother and I instantly set out to figure out what awesome might be contained therein.
Did I mention the porn?
YES. Our benefactor had accidentally (at least I hope it was accidental!) left his porn collection integrated with the rest of the disks. Porn so basic, so barebones, that the – ahem – pace was controlled by the space bar.
Not surprisingly, after that fiasco, neither of us got computers until after we had graduated high school and could buy them for ourselves.
I won my very first computer in a contest. I was 9 years old, the year was 1984. The computer: a Commodore 64. The contest was open for those 10 and under and my brother entered my name, and I WON!!! I was so excited. We played games, and of course made cool pictures using letters. My father brought home a second Commodore within a few months, so my brother and I both had computers at an early age, unheard of in the early 80’s!
I was introduced to computing in the late 70’s when the company I managed a branch office for converted their accounting from manual entry ledgers to terminals linked to an IBM mainframe computer. The terminal was the size of a small desk with what looked like an IBM Selectric typewriter. Then, in the mid-eighties I was thrust into the world of personal computers which were acquired by the Federal agency that employed me to formulate and conduct sales of big ticket assets. Lotus 123, Wordperfect and I became fast friends and the best of enemies. Suprisingly, no training or mentoring was provided, just an IBM PC with a 12 inch black monitor displaying glaring bright green text. I can’t describe the eye-strain headache pain it produced. Everything about that early computer was metal and very heavy. It may have had a 5 megabyte hard drive, but we mostly used a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk to load the program and a second 5 1/4 inch floppy disk for data storage. I remember those black or silver self-adhesive stickers that had to be applied over the notch on the side of the floppy disk to write-protect its contents. Sometimes the data on a disk would be over-written by a novice user if the sticker was not in-place. And, occassionally a program disk would be written to by accident; backing up the Lotus 123 program disks was a necessity. It still amazes me that we were able to work more efficiently with those rudimentary PC’s. But, the program code was written so tightly that DOS and the PC’s 8 or 16 KB of memory would handle the load without too much choking. That king of programming has been lost to more easily compiled applications with billions of lines of fat code that bogs down even the most robust machines. At home, I had a Pong game console that connected to my 21 inch color TV via the antennae terminals. Pong was displayed in black and white, but what fun at parties. Those were the days, and in some ways I’d opt to go back for more.
I was a college intern (engineering co-op) working at a power plant in 1982. I had lots of free time and they had a TRS-80 with just floppy drives in the air conditioned office. The plant was hot and dirty so I liked to work in the office. There was a Visacalc program that one of the engineers had used to create the daily operating report. I took over the responsibility and improved it. Over the following work assignments I worked on other TRS-80s, an Apple II, and finally an IBM PC ( no hard drive) using a new program called Lotus 1-2-3. It had the ability to create macros and I was off and running. I write this today on my iPad. We’ve come a long way together in 28 years.
My first personal computer was the TI-99A. I spent untold hours typing in programs from magazines and then debugging them before storing them on cassette tapes. Ah… good times. I remember fondly the traffic-light control game and the air-traffic controller game. Didn’t invest heavily in peripherals but had friends that did!
Dreams of my Apple II+….Choplifter, Ultima III, Wizardy I. There was an Apple store in Doylestown, PA and I used to love to go in there to see the new software offerings on the wall and the new computers setup for trial. Nothing better. Used to pretend to be sick so I could go exploring in Wizardry. Discovering the modem (300 baud!). Bit copying. It is in my DNA.
Forget it. The first computer I own went to the dump last century.
First computer I’ve used was the Tandy Radio Shack TSR-80 color computer. It was at school. They were donated, I think. They cost, at the time, $5000. Those state of the art color computers featured a full four colors!!
In addition to black and white, I remember cyan and possibly red. I don’t remember what the other two colors probably yellow.
I remember Logo. I remember programming the turtle to move. Forward 10, right 90, turtle hide/show. Then there was BASIC. I remember tic tac toe.
I remember they were networked. That’s right, networked. They were all connected to a computer which was connected to a tape or something. All the students were told to type all together: cload. That’s Computer LOAD. And press RETURN. Then the teacher would do something on his main computer and all at once all the computers would load the tic-tac-toe at once.
It must have been five bits per second.
I remember programming BASIC. There was a kid who could not type in “print”. She would misspell it all the time.
Or was it TRS-80.
I still remember my dad setting up the PET on a card table in the middle of the lounge, my brother and sister and I approaching with trepidation, and the blinking green cursor waiting for our very first input.
I wrote up my own first encounters with the Commodore PET 2001 on my blog at http://wp.me/P1bV4-1z