Get PJ Media on your Apple

VodkaPundit

What Was Your First Computer?

January 3rd, 2014 - 11:16 am

The Ars Technica staff looks fondly back at the computers that turned them into nerds.

The first computer I owned was a slightly-used Commodore VIC-20, purchased in 1981 for 100 of my own hard-earned dollars. It featured a screaming 1mhz 6502 processor, and 4k of useable memory. I loaded games and saved my (tiny) programs to a cassette. It plugged into the back of the den television with one of those little RF selector boxes. A single OSX icon has many more pixels and far more colors than the VIC could put up on an 15-inch TV screen.

But that wasn’t the first computer I used. For that we have to go back to the late ’70s.

Whenever I found myself stuck on a Saturday morning at the office with Dad and Grandpa, I’d kill time playing with the steel tension strength tester or one of the dumb terminals in the main office. There were probably seven or eight of them at the time, wired in (at something less than modern network speeds) to a CP/M machine the size of a refrigerator custom-built and hand-coded by Dad’s friend Bob Wagner. The entire system — keep in mind there could be seven or eight people all logged in at once — wielded a mighty 128k of memory.

If memory serves (heh), that’s less than the buffer in an obsolete 2007 iPhone.

Games? You could flip the switch on the monitor to change it from an ugly white-text-on-black to a hideous black-text-on-white. And then back again. But that was really only fun the first few dozen times. (Did I mention I got stuck at the office on an awful lot of Saturdays?) There’s a good chance your car stereo has many multiples the graphics power of a late-70s office computer.

Breathtaking.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Ditto on the VIC-20. That cassette deck rocked!

Now for something completely different. In a post below, you wax poetic over the joys of surfing the web with your iPad. Well, I've just about given up on pjmedia from my iPad. I can't seem to touch a damn thing on this site without having some sort of pop-over or -under ad come up. It is extremely intrusive. I'm one of your biggest fans, and I'm ready to toss in the towel.

Please talk to management about this. I know I'm not contributing a gazillion dollars to PJ's bottom line, but I am a cheerleader. If I'm getting tired of it, then I would imagine that the casual reader has been chased away.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Another little piece of computer history: Back in these years that everyone is talking about, I was flying F-15Cs, our nation's frontline high-tech fighter. It had a wonderful piece of electronic gear that detected enemy radars, identified them, and displayed the approximate position on a scope. That was all done with a 32K computer. About 1986 they upgraded it to 64K. I guess back in those days, guys could write some pretty tight code.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
IBM 360, 80 column cards and all. Early 70's at college.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
First computer used was the mainframe at my college, using SPSS (statistical package for the social sciences) to analyze data on punch cards (neither folded nor spindled). That was probably '73 or '74. I had no clue what I was doing and, as a result, forgot to separate all of the cross matches I was asking for. The result: The computer took overnight to spit out hundreds of pages showing a single table having about 47 dimensions. Second result: Very unhappy computer people. The information was completely useless, of course. But I "requested" it. That's why they call them "TOMS" (totally obedient machines). They do what they are told to do.

First computer I owned was an IBM 8088 clone in '88 upgraded to have 2 (!) 5.25 inch floppy drives and (later, when I could afford it) a Seagate 40 meg hard drive. Guess I was late to the party. It came with an amber monitor. The HD was $400 installed. Ran everthing using DOS. I held off being subverted by Windows until v3.1 My how things have changed.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
My friend and my High school had Apple II's, but I didn't own one myself (I think I still have my floppies somewhere in a box). I actually knew more than the Math teacher about using them, and I could do Shape Tables.

First one I owned was a 128K Mac required at Drexel as part of the Apple Consortium program. Was really p.O.ed that the next year students got Mac Plus's for the same price.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
First Computer Used: An IBM 7072

First Personal Computer (bought for work): An HP 9830

First Home Computer: An Apple II

Oldest Machine Still in Use: An Apple IIc
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
My first computer was a TI console that displayed on a B&W TV. However, the first computer I had that really did something was a Kaypro 2. I used that for my home-based engineering business (along with an Epson dot-matrix printer) for several years.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
First one used: University of Cincinnati mainframe over a dial-up 300 bps acoustic modem & a teletype machine. It used punched paper tape to store programs.

First owned: Epson QX-10 running CP/M. It came out about the same time as the IBM PC, and was far superior, especially graphics. A dedicated video processor controlled bit-mapped graphics at 640x400, something the PC didn't feature until EGA days.

It had as *standard* features: a clock calendar, serial port, parallel port, 256k RAM and two floppies storing 380kb each. It came with everything except the letters "IBM" on the front.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm kind of surprised I'm first one to be saying Commodore C64. Yeah I know, ya-da, ya-da, ya-da, just say SID chip already. Fine I will. The SID chip was and amazingly remains awesome. It was what made the eighties sound like the eighties and it was affordable. I got $100 rebate on mine by trading in my Atari, (I was headed to college).

The great thing about the C64 as opposed to...well...anything else in it's day was that it really rewarded creativity. That may well be the reason that the former eastern block countries lead the world in computer crime (until recently anyway). The C64 was the biggest seller in eastern Europe in the 1990s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=D_f3uIzEIxo
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
My VIC lasted almost exactly one year -- I bought a C64 almost as soon as they were introduced. Second half of '82, I think. It finally died in '89 and I replaced it with another C64 just like the first one, only smaller and whiter.

I loved those machines.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are people still running them. Strangely enough.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
the first in my family was my brothers Osborne 1. 4Mhz CPU, 64 KB memory.

Portable at 24.5 lbs
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oct 1979, TRS-80 Model I with 4K of RAM and an awesome data storage system that doubled as a low-fi music player/recorder (aka a cassette deck).
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 Next View All