Rich’s Way-Back Machine: My First 5 Computers

vic20 and tvI’ve seen a few people recently posting on Facebook about their first 7 jobs.  Being a techie for as long as I can remember, I thought that listing my first 7 computers would be more appropriate… then I couldn’t remember much past my 5th computer, so here we go with my first 5 computers!

  1. The Commodore Vic 20 was our very first family computer. I was about 13 years old when my parents bought it in 1980 or 1981, and it cost about $300 USD. The Vic 20 came with a screaming 1MHz, 8 bit processor, (current processors can clock in at over 4000MHz, and manipulate 64 bits of data concurrently), and had 5KB of RAM! We hooked it up to our TV, and I had fun typing in programs in the BASIC language for it to run. The craziest thing about this little computer was that to store the programs I typed in, we purchased the optional data storage device, which was a “tape drive“, that used audio cassettes that you could put into your walkman! 😉  It also had a slot so that you could plug in game cartridges and avoid using the  very slow cassette tape drive.
  2. In 1984 I was learning to program Apple BASIC on Cedar Hill Jr. High’s Apple IIe’s, and that same year my parents purchased an portable Apple IIc for just under $2000 Canadian dollars! The good news is that I still have it sitting in my office at work, and it still runs like new! It came with a 1MHz, 8 bit processor and a huge 128KB of RAM 😉 I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Apple IIc and IIe.  When I arrived at the University of Lethbridge in 1986, I found a small “graduate student only” room with an Apple Macintosh hooked up to a laser printer.  It was there that learned the basics of desktop publishing on Adobe Pagemaker, and made my professors happy with my legible laser printed essays (see an example of dot-matrix printing to understand why this was a bit deal).Apple IIc
  3. toshiba_t2000bAfter returning home from two years in Brazil in 1990, I prepared to enter the Business program at the University of Victoria by purchasing a Toshiba T2000 laptop. It came with a processor similar to the very popular IBM XT desktop computer, but in a much more portable format. The T2000 had an 4.77MHz, 8bit processor. It did not have a hard drive, which were still very, very expensive, but did have two floppy drives so you could use one floppy drive to run a program, and the second to store your data. The T2000 was not fast enough to run the still quite buggy Microsoft Windows 3.0, but it’s portability is what drew me to it. It’s battery life was not great, but I loved being able to take class notes on a laptop, which was a real novelty back in 1990. It did not come with a modem. Anyone want to guess why? The answer is at the end of the description of computer #4.
  4. windows_3-11_workspaceLovingly built by hand in 1992, and running MS-DOS 5 and Windows 3.1, my Beige Box 386 was an ugly sight to behold compared to an Apple Macintosh. My computer sported a screaming 16MHz, 32 bit 386 Intel processor. That said, was I running a GUI operating system for a fraction of the cost of an Apple Macintosh computer. I also purchased Adobe Pagemaker desktop publishing software so that I could publish a club newsletter and put some extra polish on some of my university essays. As much as I love the portability of my T2000, I sold it when I realized that I could afford a desktop computer that was capable of running a graphical user interface, complete with a mouse.  Believe it or not, the World Wide Web had not been invented yet, so it didn’t have a network card or modem for connectivity.
  5. escom-bigtower-intel-pentium-60-goldcap-cpu-16mb-toshiba-ram-wdc-ac2540h-540mb-ide-hdd-40x-cd-rom-otivga-isa-grafikkarte-opti-82c933-isa-soundkarte-isa-com-lpt-karte-intel-s82433lx-pciset-seasonic-ssaAs I began beta testing Windows 95  late in 1994, I purchased a new motherboard and processor for my beige Box. It was a 75MHz, 32 bit Intel DX4 i486 processor.  Considerably faster than my only 2 year old 386 machine, this computer ran Windows 95 well enough that I didn’t feel a burning need to buy a Macintosh computer anymore.  I also purchased a 14.4 baud dial up modem so I could access the internet and the World Wide Web. What was really sophisticated at the time was how I shared that dialup internet connection with another computer in the house via a coaxial network connection. Very high tech!

I eventually did start using Apple computers again in 2006 when Apple moved back to the Intel processor platform and I could easily run OSX and Windows on Apple’s beautiful hardware. From this point on I have been operating system and platform agnostic, using the best tool for the job whenever possible, whether that be OSX, Windows or Linux.

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