My computer history – a boring tale

computerThis is a history of my initial computer exposure and my ownership. I doubt anyone will find this interesting but me, but since computers have been a big part of my life, the documentation of my quest would be incomplete without it. First of all, to say that computers are a big part of my life is as much an understatement as saying Bill Gates has enough money for his needs. Almost every aspect of my life is linked to computers: work, photography, entertainment, church service, vacations, journal or blog writing, computer programming, staying in touch with fiends, and so on. I’m not saying all of these are one hundred percent computer based of that I don’t do other things. I am just saying that computers are everywhere in my life and have been for a long time.

The story starts when I was 15. I worked for my dad as a dishwasher at his restaurant. On Saturdays, I would go down to the restaurant when he opened it, since I had no other ride.  With all the time to kill before I needed to start work, I would go to Radio Shack a block away and play with their TRS-80 computer. I’m sure they were tired of seeing me every Saturday, but I was undaunted. Back then, you loaded programs into the computer using a cassette recorder. The elements of the program were represented as sounds that you would play into the computer. I remember my favorite game (they really didn’t have many) was called Super Star Trek. You had a screen of numbers, asterisks, and other characters that represented your view into space. Your goal was to search from sector to sector looking for Klingons to destroy while avoiding being deserted yourself.  A few months into playing this game, I learned about computer programming, where you could control what the computer did. I got the computer to print statements on the screen like “Hello Bill. How are you?” Next I discovered loops, where I could with a few lines of code get the computer to count forever, or at least until you stopped the program, and print each number to the screen. I was hooked. Computers were not only great for playing games, but you could get them to do work for you.

If I remember right, the TRS-80 was around $400 back then, which might as well have been $10000, because I wasn’t getting one. Three years later, when I was a senior in high school, our school got their first set of computers, Commodore CPMs. I took the first computer programming class ever offered and felt sorry for the teacher. Many of us students knew more than he did, and the class, though far too basic (pun intended), introduced me to a few more concepts of programming.

It wasn’t until 3.5 years later that I purchased my first computer, an IBM XT clone for $700 that ran MS-DOS and came with a 12 inch amber screen. It was a great day for me; I finally had a computer I could use whenever I wanted for or as long as I wanted. I became quite expert at using WordPerfect 4.1 and Lotus 1-2-3. Since then, I have owned many computers and they have all been vital to what I was doing in my life at that time. Here is the history. I am excluding the non-primary computers, which were were well over 10 but had a very minor role in my life.

  1. IBM XT clone (generic brand) with 8088 processor running at 4.77/10MHz and 640 kB RAM, two 5.25 floppy disks, and a 12 inch amber screen – age 21. This computer got me started into doing my extensive journal writing, computer letters, and learning how to do some fairly complex things with a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. The big program for me was Wordperfect 4.1 word processor. Cost $700. (3)
  2. Apple Mac SE30 with 8MB RAM, a 40GB hard drive, and 9 inch built in screen running System 6/7 on an Motorola 68000 processor and 68030 math co-processor – college senior year and graduate school. I needed a computer like this for my thesis work. I was doing some computer optimization work that involved a lot of mathematical computations, so this computer with the coprocessor was invaluable. My school department also used Mac and they had a far better interface at the time, so this was an obvious choice. Cost $3200. (5)
  3. Gateway PC running Windows NT 3.51 with an Intel 80486 processor, 80 GB SCSI hard drive, 17 inch Sony Trinitron SVGA monitor, and 4 MB RAM. I switched back over from Mac to PC because I was starting to do software development and Mac had dropped to about 4 percent market share and Windows was the clear choice if you wanted the largest customer base. $2700. (5)
  4. Dell with an Intel Pentium II running Windows NT 4 and a 17-inch Trinitron monitor. The Gateway was just beyond its time, needed more hard drives which it couldn’t support, better graphics card, more memory, and so on.  $900. (5)
  5. Dell with Pentium 4 running Windows 2000. When you find a good brand, you stick with it. Needed to upgrade to the newer hardware and the previous computer just couldn’t do the job very well anymore. $650. (5)
  6. White Box running Windows XP with 3 GB RAM, an Intel Core 2 processor, and an SATA hard drive. I needed lots of expansion capabilities and this was it. This computer gave me more power for photo editing. Since I edited so many pictures, a few seconds saved here and there multiplied hundreds of times ends up in a lot of time. Free. (5)
  7. Apple Mac Mini 16 GB memory and 1 TB hard drive running Mac OS X Mountain Lion. I was not happy with where Microsoft went with Windows 8, Mac OS X was based on UNIX and had more 64-bit applications, and my main platform at work was a Mac. (1+)

So there it is. In writing this, I furthered my quest to know myself by discovering that I go far longer than most before getting a computer, even though I am obsessed with them and use them far more extensively than most.

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July 8, 2014Permalink