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What Was Your First Computer? 1485

michaelmichael writes " is running a special report, asking readers to tell everyone what their first computer was. This was prompted by another article commemorating the 60th anniversary of ENIAC." I started on a trash 80 in like 5th grade. And although I did a lot of programming and games on 8086s, it wasn't until I got a 286 in middle school that I really considered a machine "Mine".
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What Was Your First Computer?

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  • Commodore 64, baby! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:08AM (#14705871)

    I also did a lot of work on the TRS-80 when I was in junior high (yikes...just dated myself there). I put in a lot of late days and managed to write a few cheesy games (press play on tape :P). But the first computer I actually owned was the Commodore 64 (in bold because it was awesome).

    (BTW, don't try to chat on IRC with a 300 baud modem and a 40-character-wide screen. It causes brain damage.)
    • Commodore 64 and Radio Shack tape deck on my little 9" Back and White TV.
      I actually found it about 12 years ago,and ended up giving it to someone geekier than myself.
      • by drakaan ( 688386 )
        Same rig for me as my first.

        For those of us who cut our teeth on PET/CBM/C-64/C-128/VIC-20 machines:

        10 POKE 144,88
        20 ?CHR((RND(1)*255)+1): GOTO 10

        used to do that to as many of the PET and CBM machines as I could in the computer lab right before the bell rang...

    • I still have mine! load "frogger" ,8 ,1 Those old games were fun!
    • I (and my dad) distinctly remember me having a device called a 'Commadore Plus 4', that loaded games on tape very slowly while the screen went funny colours. Could someone in the know confirm whether this really did exist or not? I dunno if it was unique to the UK or something. It's so rare I even seem to have trouble finding info about it on the net. I have a feeling it was a precursor to the C64.
    • by MBAFK ( 769131 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:20AM (#14706052)
      My dad wouldn't buy me a console when I was little, he thought you should be able to do more with a computer than just play games so I got a Commodore 64 for Christmas when I was 7. By boxing day I was bored shitless with Rambo and read the manual, after "10 print "Commodore 64 "; 20 goto 10" I was hooked.

      Sometimes I wonder what I would be doing now if he had given in and bought me a NES.

    • by a803redman ( 870583 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:42AM (#14706384) Homepage
      C64 that damn thing caused me not to get laid will I was in my late teens. Who needs girls when you have Mars Saga and Basic.
    • by db32 ( 862117 )
      I was only a kid, but the C64 was my first machine. Jumpman, Jumpman Jr, Ollo, Ollo II, Hero, Space Taxi...ahh fond memories...except for Mission Impossible...I hated that game, I couldn't figure out what the HELL you were supposed to do. But that was years ago...sniffle...
  • by Mainframes ROCK! ( 644130 ) <> on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:08AM (#14705873) Homepage
    An emulated IBM 370 on VM/370. Running WATFIV. happy days.
  • Amiga 500+ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Use Psychology ( 873643 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:08AM (#14705875)
    mine was an Amiga 500+ - ah, those were the days.
  • by Renegade Lisp ( 315687 ) * on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:10AM (#14705887)
    My first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81 which I got when I was twelve. Much more deeply than the actual computer I remember the moment when I had first switched it on and typed "print 2+2" on that piece of membrane pretending to be a keyboard ("print" was actually a function key, you couldn't type it letter by letter). I still remember my astonishment when I pressed the "New Line" field and the number "4" appeared in the top left corner of the screen. It was something radically different from a pocket calculator. Or so I felt. Since this moment the fascination of programming has never left me again.
    • I had the Timex Sinclair 1000 [], which was the North American Version of the ZX-81 []. 2K RAM, 3.25MHz. I would program text adventure games as a crazy long series of if-then-goto statements. At the end of the day, my father would make me turn it off. No permanent storage -- poof, gone. It was awesome.
      • This was my first real home computer too. I had mine set up with permanent storage of course....tapes, lots and lots of tapes storing lots of lots of software. Most of it self written. I also had the little thermal printer. Didn't have the memory expansion pack, or the modem (they did have modems for them) though. I do remember how much I wanted them though, but it was hard to find the parts around here. I spend a lot of time programming my own simple video games, and text based games into it. Also wrote so

    • by Tet ( 2721 ) < minus poet> on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:19AM (#14706035) Homepage Journal
      My first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81

      I was depressed by how many of the people in the article listed an IBM PC as their first computer. There was a magic about the early 8-bit micros that captured the imagination, and that was just completely missing on the PC. I, too, was brought up with the joys of wobbly RAM packs, dead flesh keyboards, and progressed up through the C64 and onto the Amiga before finally migrating to a PC compatible in the mid '90s. People that only had access to a PC have no idea about what they were missing.

      • by chato ( 74296 ) <.lc.otahc. .ta. .otahc.> on Monday February 13, 2006 @12:18PM (#14706921) Homepage
        I think what was lost when the IBM PCs became popular, was the fact that you no longer started inside a programming language interpreter. In an old ZX80/Atari/Commodore, after booting you had just the prompt:


        The computer was inviting you to type something. Nowadays the computer invites you to explore what others have done, not to create your own stuff to make it work. And that's a huge difference.
        • READY. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Monday February 13, 2006 @12:50PM (#14707365) Homepage Journal

          Although my first actual, purchased system was too 'modern' to have a native command interpreter mode, I spent a lot of hours in the Apple II BASIC mode and will always have a soft spot for it (and will probably also never be fully comfortable with BASIC that doesn't begin each line with a number).

          You don't -- or at least, I don't -- get that same 'blank page' feeling on turning on a modern desktop'ed system. Especially on my office Windows machine, where it always seems as though the hard drive is churning and clicking, for no particular reason. It's irrational, but it gives me the impression I don't have the computer's full and complete attention, and damnit -- I want that. (Besides which, it's distracting.)

          I still do a lot of personal correspondance on an IBM Selectric II typewriter. Actual, physical paper letters. (Yes, the Post Office does still do things besides eBay shipments and junk mail.) If I had to pin down the one thing that keeps me coming back to the Selectric, it's the "user experience" you get when you switch it on. You sit down, you take off the cover, you insert a piece of paper. You turn the switch "On." There's a nice heavy clunking sound, the carriage twitches a bit, and then there's nothing but a low humming, and sometimes a faint whiff of ozone. If you put your hand against it, you can feel a slight vibration. And then it does nothing else, except wait for you to do something. That's its equivalent of "READY."

          As much as I appreciate a good preemptively-multitasking OS and the ability to schedule things with my crontab and otherwise have the computer just 'deal with things' for me, I can't deny that there's something reassuring from time to time about using a machine that doesn't try to out-think you.
    • My first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81...

      As was mine. The membrane keyboard, the little thermal printer, saving programs to my tape deck (I didn't have the offical Sinclair tape storage devide; I had to use my own tape recorder). I had used the TRS-80 Model 1 we had at school before and was astounded when about 10 Commodore Pet computers made their way there a short time later. I still remember writing a program in Basic to solve the Kinight's Tour! But the Sinclar was mine, though within a year it was re

    • by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:29AM (#14706189)
      Ah yes,

      They joy of finding the odd things you could do by POKEing numbers into the system variables (nicely documented in the manual). I also spent an awful lot of my time using dodges to save memory.

      I seem to recall that using a real number in Basic took 4 bytes, so rather than using LET A=A+3 people used stuff like LET A=A+INT PI since that only took 2 bytes.

      Also you could make some damn fine music* by placing your transister radio next to your ZX81 while it executed different types of FOR/NEXT loop. The more statements inside the loop, the lower the note. Map different loops to different keys and you've got a synth baby.

      Happy days.

      * I lie, it was dreadful.

    • by ozbon ( 99708 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:44AM (#14706413) Homepage
      Yeah, I started off with the ZX-80, then "upgraded" to an -81. Now there's a scary concept - upgrading to 1K of RAM...
      • Dude you're so out of date, I have a 16K upgrade on my ZX-81.

        The only problem now, is that the power plug is somewhat loose, and I'm missing one of the rubber pad at the bottom, so the whole thing tends to tip around when I type, so I'm lucky if I can finish writing a ten line program before triggering a power failure...
  • Mine? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:10AM (#14705891)
    Well, the first that I owned was a SOL-20, but that was only because the prices finally came down to where I could afford one of my own.

    Although, that DEC PDP-8 was pretty sweet at the time.

  • TI-99/4A (Score:2, Funny)

    by breadlord ( 827860 )
    Used to do my FORTRAN homework in BASIC, get it working then translate back into FORTRAN at UIC. Ran upstairs from the basement screaming and danced my mom around in circles when I got the modem working. After many months, I simply neeeded to cross pins 2 & 3 on the serial cable. Yeah, I was a lamo.
  • Mac 128K (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:11AM (#14705899)
    Purchased on January 24, 1984, from, of all places, a Dillard's department store in Dallas, TX.

    There it is, next to a NeXT Cube and a CHRP box, on the top shelf in my office: jpg []

    Also present are a 20th Anniversary Mac and a PowerBook Duo, with dock: []

    And over 22 years later, I'm still using Macs. Even found a wife who loves Macs too. ;-)
  • VIC 20 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LarsWestergren ( 9033 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:11AM (#14705909) Homepage Journal
    VIC 20 was my first, the predecessor to the Commodore 64 (which I also got). We were green with envy for the kids whose parents had gotten them a Commodore 128.

    Then... Amiga 500, Amiga 1200, then I got my first PC, an IBM BlueLightning, specifically to play Doom.
    Unfortunately all I did on all of those machines was play games. Had I started programming earlier...
  • which I used to connect to internet services such as archie, veronica, and gopher on a remote VMS system.
  • with a ):monochrome:( screen
  • I had a Commodore 64, it lasted about 2 years before it died. My favourite game was Bruce Lee where you kick ninja butt incessantly.
    Also did some BASIC programming with it.

    Captain Kirk was a great salesman. He could have sold Valentine's Day cards to a Vulcan.
  • followed in short order by an Apple II.
  • Apple ][+ (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LoadWB ( 592248 ) * on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:12AM (#14705928) Journal
    It was in school, our GATE program had an Apple ][+, and I had a subscription to COMPUTE! Magazine. Later that year my parents bought a TI-99/4A. I want to say this was around 1980/1981, I was about 6. Later that spring I wrote my first video game on the TI.
  • The good ol' Apple II was my first...
  • Yeah, that was the first computer we had at home. Technically it wasn't mine, but I did spend the most time using it. Later my dad got an Epson Apex (XT clone, /w 20MB hard drive), followed several years later by a family IBM PS/1 (486SX-25, 2MB RAM, 120MB hard disk).

    Finally, around the latter half of 7th grade, I got the first machine that was 100% mine:
    Custom-built 486DX2-66, 8MB of RAM, 540MB disk
    (ran OS/2 2.1, had DOS/Win 3.1, eventually wound up tinkering with Linux and Win95 as they became known/ava
  • the Timex Sinclair 1000 [] was my first. Black and white TV output, no lower-case characters, a membrane keyboard, and a whopping 16 kilobytes of memory made it a wonder that I didn't move to a shack in Montana and foreswear all technology.

    It's doubly surprising since my second computer was the ill-fated IBM PCjr [] (which, to be fair, was a decent computer once the infamous chicklet keyboard was replaced).
  • The first computer I ever used was a BBC Model "B". I spent the next few years lusting after one, but my parents could never afford it. The first computer I ever owned was a ZX Spectrum +2B (the black case without the scewed up sound), complete with weird Amstrad modifications. I hated Amstrad for years afterwards, especially since my first PC was an Amstrad 486SLC, with weird Amstrad crap hardware and no upgradeability.

    Now, the first machine I every actually paid for myself was an AMD X5-133 the served
  • Hell, I even wrote some code using GFA Basic, which wasn't a bad little package, actually.

    My first 386 wasn't far behind, though. I recall a friend of mine (who worked with big machines for EDS) saying, "What could you possibly need with an entire 386 at home?"
  • by XorNand ( 517466 ) * on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:14AM (#14705959)
    My first computer was a Packard Bell Legend II AT (286), purchased by my father in 1988. The interesting thing is that my parents were absolutely steadfast about not allowing me to have a modem. My father was overly concerned about me calling Sydney Australlia (always Sydney for some reason?) for hours at a time. My solution was to illicitly buy second-hand 2400 bps modems from the kids at school who were, at the time, upgrading to expensive new 14.4kbps ones. And I do say "modems"--I went through three of them after my parents kept discovering them. I would get up at 3am and run a 100 foot telephone cable from our living room to the basement, where I would spend about three hours a night chatting and playing Tradewars 2002 and Legend of the Red Dragon. Always by dialing only local BBSs of course. Kinda funny that 15 years later I would help found a VoIP company, which helps people save on calls to Sydney. ;-)
    • by Ghostx13 ( 255828 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:34AM (#14706264)
      My first box was a C-64, but I didn't really get into computers until I found an old (well really new then) 386 while dumpster diving. I didn't know much about computers at the time. Just what I had surmised from the schools computers and watching the techs work on those. Basically someone had thrown out a perfectly good 386 - the power cable had just come loose from the HD.

      So now I had to get a modem. I found a huge stash (15) old cardinal 2400 baud industrial modems (big metal cases) and a couple of 9600s dumpster diving at an airport. I was the toast of all my geek friends because I had modems to give to everyone. We used them forever. We were all members on as many BBSes as we could find locally. We'd play LORD on every one of them. It was great.

      We progressed to playing Warcraft on direct dial during the week, and on the weekends eveyone would bring their boxes over and we'd play over null modem cables. Pre-curser to the lan party I guess ;-).
    • by nganju ( 821034 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:46AM (#14706451)
      What would really be funny is to see if you could run your 2400 baud modem over the VOIP connection to Sydney :) .
  • Vic 20 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coldtone ( 98189 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:14AM (#14705961)
    Followed by the great Commodore 64. I got my mileage out of that machine!
    And then about 8 years later the Amiga 500. Then I decided to slum it with the rest of the world and got a 286.

    I really wish they would make a console system that could be programmed out of the box. That's why I'm a programmer today, because I was able to write my own games as a kid. But the kids with the consoles can't program it out of the box. It think it's a real shame.
  • Acorn Electron (Score:3, Interesting)

    by seti ( 74097 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:14AM (#14705966) Journal
    My first computer was the Acorn Electron, I used to write games on it (including my very own Spaceballs adventure game.. ahem).
  • A1200 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow.wrought@g ... om minus painter> on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:15AM (#14705969) Homepage Journal
    The first computer I ever played with was my friend's C64. We also had those at school in the sixth grade computer class. My brother also had an IBM PS2 at about this same time which I also played with.

    My first computer, however, that was mine and mine alone, was a Commadore A1200. It had the stock 68020 running at 14 Mhz and 2 megs of RAM. I splurged and spent $600 upgrading it with a expansion board with a 68030 CPU and FPU both running at 50 Mhz! I also got an 8 meg simm to bring the memory up to 10 (the simm was half of the $600). That plus an 80 MB HD meant that I never had to worry about space;-)

  • KIM-1 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Engdy ( 124179 )
    My first was a KIM-1 []. The level of excitement I experienced playing Hunt the Wumpus has rarely been matched since.

  • A breadboarded 4004 with gobs of 74xx series support goo to make it act like a computer. Then an IMSAI 8080, with the coolest front panel ever.


  • Essentially the same machine as the ZX-81, but it came as a kit. Unlike "building" a PC nowadays, you actually needed to solder all the parts onto an empty PC board. This was the first machine I actually OWNED.

    The first machines I did any work on were Commodore PETs and Trash-80s in Junior HS.
  • can still them at work at the Museum of Science and Industry. For all the changes that place has been going through, they've left the west balcony pretty much undisturbed, which means that the physics displays are still running on their original TI-994/As. You can even see them through a clear panel; some are black, some are that strange ash color (did these actually exist for purchase?)

    As an added bonus, they're showing the Game On exhibit again (all video games from Spacewar to the present) for a d
  • I was in college and loved computer science. I bought and assembled not only the H-8, a wonderful 8080-based machine, but also the notorious H-19 "terminal" - a real monster of a kit that gave me nothing but troubles. The H-8 was an incredible machine, and still ranks among the best experiences I ever had. It had a nice breadboard board that you could have fun with, and an extension card so you could raise the breadboard card out of the chasis and play with it while your machine was running. I miss thos
  • My first machine was the ORIC-1 []

    I was too young to remember ever not having a computer.. but I still have fond memories of its awkward rubber keys, the way you had to hook it up to the hi-fi to load the programs off a tape, and best of all, it's game of frogger.

    Strange that in many ways it's the limitations of such machines that you fondly remember..

  • I'd wager a bet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:18AM (#14706012)
    This is going to be one of the threads with the most unique replies and the least moderation tags... Simply 'cause EVERYONE has an "opinion" about it and nobody if anyone has the same as another poster.

    But to keep the few people who don't post but instead mod from bashing me with "offtopic" down into the sewer, my first computer was an Atari 800XL. And I STILL say its graphics was way ahead of anything commodore put into its 64!

    . o O (Great. Now you get modded down for flamebaiting...)
  • I was so lucky to get it!!! In today's dollars that is like buying your kid a $12,500 computer! Good thing my parents were loaded!

    Ultima III / IV / V best games EVAR!!!
  • The high school connected to some local college with a teletype terminal. We had access to BASIC. I wrote a Conway's game of Life in BASIC for my first program. CRT terminals did not become common until 1975 when 1K RAM memories could store a 5x7 pixel display character set.
  • and my first portable computer was a TRS-80 Pocket Computer 2 with (gasp!) 8K RAM. Did anyone else have one of these?

    Ah those were the days--writing BASIC programs in the back of math class. I still remember some of the games I wrote using ASCII characters as the spaceships and how "cool" all my nerdy friends thought it was.
  • Monitor, CPU and keyboard all encased in one giant chunk of metal with a whopping 16K of RAM. Plus, an uber expensive tape drive attachment.

    And it was instant on, baby! Of course, it took forever to load something from the tape drive.

    Here you go. t=1&c=103 []
  • Sinclair Spectrum 128K +2 with the built in tape player. I must have spent hundreds of hours glued to Elite or writing Basic programs on that machine. Second was a Sam Coupe.
  • ...with the "extended BASIC" cartridge... and SPRITES! God how I loved the TI-99 sprites. Even made $60 as a 16-year-old by inventing a computer game that I submitted to 99-er magazine. Still have the issue where my game appears in all it's GOTO-laden glory. :)
  • An HP 9830 "desktop" computer. It had an integral thermal printer, and the two together weighed about 80 pounds. It had no processor: it was entirely TTL. The screen was a fiber optic display consisting of about 30 9x5 arrays, so it could display one line of text. It had 1K of memory, I believe, and ran a primitive version of BASIC called (informally) Rocky Mountain BASIC, which was an HP standard in the '70's. I think it was released in 1970, and we got ours in 1974, on loan from dad's work. We kept
  • An Atari ST, with the assembler and C compiler that came as part of the Atari development kit. The original machine is long gone (my feckless brother sold it without telling me), but I bought one off of Ebay for nostalgia reasons. It came with Lattice C, which is a pretty decent compiler and even works under the hatari emulator.

  • Not mine, of course. The first computer I owned and assembled (years later) was a ZX81 kit. If you were used to 4MB of RAM and MVS , using 1K made you return instantly to the IBM. Sold the kit at a profit and the next box I owned was a home-built 386. Again, many many years later.
  • our school got 4 trash 80s when I was in 10th grade.. but the
    first I owned was a early edition AppleII w/48K!  And then there
    was that dec2060 I 'owned'
  • With the grappler for printing those cool asci images. Also had two floppy drives, so I could play Ultima without that annoying "Insert Data Disk" message.
  • My first computer was an Atari 800 with a tape drive. I later got a floppy drive for it and there was much rejoicing. To be fair, I did have to share it with my Dad. My Dad liked to type in programs from Compute! magazine, which was quite annoying when we only had the tape drive, as he would tie the computer up for days typing in a long program and and not saving it. ( I wanted to play Crush, Crumble and Chomp! or Temple of Apshai.)
  • I had user accounts on a Prime 400 and a VAX 11/750, but this was the first computer that was "mine". It was incredible, a "portable computer." You could put the keyboard up, a couple of snaps, and you could carry it around. OK, it weighed a ton, but still! Built-in monitor, a ton of bundled software, two disk drives, CPM, etc., etc.,etc.

    I sometimes think back to that one when I sit trying to install some new word processing software that takes up more space on my hard drive and more RAM than befor

  • It was a piece of crap but I learned my first assembly and basic with it.
  • My dad worked for the company and we had a teletype in the den. Learned GECOS and MULTICS and learned how to program in Basic.

    My first job was programing the Altair 8800 to handle inventory control.

    (yes, I'm an old-timer)
  • Back in the Christmas of 1981.

    Man, I *loved* Tombstone City.
  • by GweeDo ( 127172 )
    My father gave me his old Epson Equality II+ 8088 when I was in second grade. I learned MS-DOS 3 and GW-BASIC on that bad boy. I even play with PASCAL on that sucker. It finally wasn't enough for me, so I opened it up having no clue what anything was and stabbed a part that looked important to me (with my compass). It definitly made the machine not work, it just turned on and then blinked...

    Years later I now know I stabbed the IDE cable multiple times :) It just couldn't find that uber huge 20MB Hard D
  • Learned on a PET, but the ZX80 was the first one that I owned. Man, trying to program in ONE Kb really keeps you on your toes. I remember when I finally got that 16K upgrade cartridge - wow, the programs that I could write then. And then my first commercial game - the flight simulator - never looked back.
  • First computer that I owned was a birthday present: a Commodore Vic-20. (I may still have it and the cassette tape drive still in a box somewhere.) I must have been in 5th or 6th grade when I got it.

    However, I used an Apple-II for programming at school before getting the Vic.

  • ...close to 100 comments and not ONE that goes like this:

    "The first machine I ever OWNED was your Windows box."

    C'mon, slashbots! Wake up!
  • was the first computer I owned. It had a cassette tape drive for mass storage. The Model I was followed by a Model III with dual 8" floppy drives and the finally a hard drive in the first IBM PC. I also had one of the first 128 Kbyte Macs.

    The first computer I ever used was a DEC PDP-8 on which I spent many hours writing BASIC programs using stolen accounts (I was in junior high and used to look over the shoulders of the college kids when they logged in after I had snuck into the local college computer

  • When I was six, my parents bought an Amstrad 128K. This technological marvel only had volatile storage, so to save something, you had to use 3" floppies that could kill a man if thrown at him. Its other media type was a normal audio cassette. When I wasn't busy copying game code verbatim from magazines, my sister and I would play a game from those audio cassettes, like Green Beret.

    But it wasn't easy. A game on an audio cassette would only load successfully a third of the time, and the external cassette de

  • PDP-11/70 was the first computer I ever loved. I mean, I got to use a terminal, didn't have to deal with punched cards and got to code in Pascal!

    Apple IIe was my first home computer. Fully loaded with 64K of memory, dual floppies and a 1200bps modem. Wahoo!

  • []

    I think not. Good times, though...
  • IBM PC jr got it for christmas about two weeks before they discontinued it. Still enjoyed it, though. Fortunately, I got the one without the chicklet keyboards....
  • My first was the Pet 4032 (Fat 40). My second was the C=64. My third was the Kim-1. (Kind of a step backwards, but I was reading Lance Leventhal's 6502 book and it seemed like a good idea at the time.)

    It amuses me that my cell phone has more memory than my first 6 computers put together. And that I carry around a USB thumb drive that is bigger than my first 4 hard drives (including the one I installed SLS Linux on) put together.
  • with keyboard, disk drive and VDU drawn on with felt-tipped pens.
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:27AM (#14706151) Homepage
    The machine I built myself in high school out of approximately forty DPDT relays didn't count, because it didn't have any memory or any way to execute a program automatically. It was a five-bit binary adder and multiplier. But in order to make it multiply, I had to press about six buttons repeatedly in a predetermined sequence. I always figured eventually I would add some kind of clock and sequencer, but I never got around to it. By the time I got more than about a dozen relays, the train transformer I'd been using to power them no longer had enough power; my allowance didn't enable me to buy enough #6 Ignition dry cells; and my parents flatly refused to let me have a car battery.

    GENIAC certainly didn't count, and neither the the "analog computer" with three potentiometers and a voltmeter that I got as a science kit.

    The PDP-1 truly feels to me like it was "my" first computer, even though I had to share it with about a hundred other MIT undergraduates, and come in at 2 a.m. in the morning to get time. I used it mostly for programming, but also for what would now be called word processing (formatting with a program called TJ-2, and outputting in Flexowriters which had IBM electric-typewriter mechanism and produced what would later be called "letter-quality" output. No spreadsheets, but Expensive Desk Calculator was a lot more capable than most real desk calculators. No MIDI, but using Pete Samson's harmony compiler I coded up a few pieces of music and had the PDP-1 play them in four-part harmony.

    Games? Spacewar, of course. And "flight simulator simulator." That was a byproduct of a real research project, which coupled the PDP-1 for human input (joysticks etc.) and display to an analog computer that did the real simulation heavy lifting. That was the "flight simulator." The guy who did it, Ray Tomlinson, knew that people enjoyed "flying" it so he made a "flight simulator simulator" in which the analog computer was replaced by a much simpler and less-realistic set of calculations made by the PDP-1 itself.

    The first computer I personally owned and had in my home was a VIC-20. I don't have anything like the same depth of feeling for it that I have for the PDP-1, however. At about the time I bought the VIC-20, there was a gentleman who lived about a block away from me who was in Digital's AI group and they let him keep a real computer--I think it was might have been one of the original Microvaxes--in his house. I was green with envy.
  • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:30AM (#14706203)
    It had some overheating problems a couple years back. Turns out it needed a new fan (imagin that a fan would die in 20 years of use and dust, dirt, fuzz... ). Once I took it apart and replaced the fan and cleaned out all the dust, it is running like it's good old self. Now if I could just find the hard disk enclosure or a disk drive for it, the tape load system is just painfully slow, although it is nothing like having your favorite program's "song" memorized to let you know how far it is in the load process...
  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:41AM (#14706378) Homepage
    If you're in the UK and you're of the right generation, your answer will likely be a ZX variant (80 maybe, 81 possibly, Spectrum more likely) or Acorn of some kind (BBC B, Electron, maybe a BBC Master). If you're in the US, then as I understand it your answer may well be Apple II or TRS-80, maybe Commodore 64.

    Not that C64s weren't popular in the UK as well - I had one myself (still do have one actually). But I had it after my Spectrum 48k.

    So what other regional quirks exist? I've heard of something called the MicroBee for Australia? What about Germany - they normally went for Commodore hardware as far as I know. As for the rest of the world, I really don't know what the taste in computers was but would definitely be interested to find out.


  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @11:57AM (#14706637) Homepage Journal
    My first computer was built out of TTL in my parents' basement; 74181 ALUs and such. That's all there was at the time that you could really get everything you needed at a reasonable(!) price. Ran slow, hot, and had some pretty odd instructions, frankly. But I was young and crazy. It was fun. It was also an entertaining change from hot-rodding guitar amps, which is what I was doing for money at the time.

    My second computer was built around an 8008 chip. Not as much fun. All the cool stuff was already on the chip.

    My third computer was an SBC from National Semiconductor, using an SC/MP MPU. Nothing to build, so it was all about the programming. The SC/MP was a bit of an oddball, so I learned some new things.

    Then I got a SWTPC 6800 "kit", which was really just a solder and screw assembly, then a Gimix 6809 (still have it, and it still works), then an IBM PC, then several Amigas, then several more PCs and RISC PCs (I have PowerPC, MIPS and Alpha machines on shelves, they ran RISC versions of Windows NT), then Linux, finally grabbed a Mac (mini.)

    During the course of my career, I worked at IBM (Boca Raton) and got to use their ATOM uP, an old (at the time) punched card machine... the specifics of which have thankfully slipped my mind (punched cards are annoying, suffice it to say) and a scientific mini, the model of that is also fogged out, and I didn't use it that much, really.

    I did a lot of hardware designs using the 6809 and its A/B variants when it was current; I liked (I still like) that MPU, it just seemed to have the best instruction balance of any 8-bitter I ever ran into. By comparison, the 68000 and family were pretty much of a dissapointment. I thought they'd be 6809's on steroids; Not so. They were a step wider (good), a step more orthogonal (also good) and a step simpler (backwards.) Fewer clever addressing modes mainly, but that was exactly what made programming the 6809 such a breeze.

  • C64 baby! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Achra ( 846023 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @12:05PM (#14706755) Journal
    My first was a C64. I had the tape drive.. Later, the 1541 disk drive was added. My first PC was a "Corona" brand PC-compatible. It had a 4.77mhz 8088, 640k ram.. The motherboard had an onboard text-display adapter. Dual 360k drives! Much later, I scored a 10mb Hardcard.. Then a 1200 baud Hayes Smartmodem. I discovered MUDs and was hooked (No graphics card, remember).. It was a long time before I ended up with that CGA card..
  • by bgarcia ( 33222 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @12:07PM (#14706771) Homepage Journal
    I believe it was the first 16-bit home computer. Unfortunately, it ran slower than all the 8-bit competitors available at the same time. But my parents bought me one (no doubt because they were on clearance) and I was writing all sorts of cheezy programs in basic in no time! I wrote two programs that used every last bit of the available memory in that machine. Took forever to load & save programs from tape.

    Fun times. :-)

  • PDP-11/05 with RT-11 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HPNpilot ( 735362 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:07PM (#14707628) Homepage
    Big old clunker, only had dual 8 inch floppy drives.

    I had a VT-52 terminal, ASCII only, no graphics.

    The box itself had 16k words of core memory and no boot ROM card, so each time I started it I had to toggle in the boot code on the front panel switches. Fortunately I figured out a VERY short routine which worked. The core memory consisted of two 8K by 18 bit (2 parity bits) planes, each of which was a quad wide card for the Unibus backplane, and two logic cards each of which was hex wide. The RX-01 floppy drive required an interface card, as did the serial interface for the VT-52. IIRC those two were quad width. This thing pulled well over 1000 watts of power.

    RT-11 was very much like DOS. A friendly DEC field service person gave me the full software distribution, which operated quite differently than the way Microsoft does. What you get is a bootable OS which brings you into a SYSGEN procedure. In this, you specify exactly what you have for peripherals, what their bus addresses and interrupts are, and the code essentially assembles and links up a custom version of the OS for you. That's right, you actually had the source code right there. I took advantage of this to add my own "extensions" and later, device drivers (tricky until you got the hang of it).

    RT-11 ran BASIC, which I used for most quicky stuff, and of course ASM.

    Later on I acquired a Xerox Diablo removable cartridge hard drive (5 MB fixed, 5 MB removable) but still no boot card, they were still expensive. Eventually I picked up a Qbus box from where I worked (they used the cards in their own custom backplanes and boxes) and found a full set of 11/23 cards for $5 each (!!!) at some surplus place up in Woburn. There was even an AMD 2901 based math coprocessor which had a guaranteed maximum speed of 1 Mflop. Picked up a NEC spinwriter real cheap due to being only for 230 volts (big deal, sit a $5 autotransformer behind it).

    Wrote my own checkbook balancing and accounting package, ran a small business from the system for years.

    Switched to an IBM compatible AT clone at 10 MHz when I needed to run a PC board layout package (don't remember the name but it had a dongle) and this machine was slightly faster than the 11/23. Almost went Mac route but it was the availability of software that I needed that made the decision.
  • by SoCalEd ( 842421 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:16PM (#14707750)
    Ok. It wasn't really a computer, but that silly little cartridge was the initial hook that got me interested in computers back in 1980. Sure, you couldn't do squat with like 128 bytes (IIRC)and you couldn't save or anything, but that first taste of programming was a peek at the man behind the curtain. After that, I couldn't get enough....

    Did I mention I still have that machine?

  • by akc ( 207721 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:29PM (#14707924) Homepage
    When I was 11 (in 1962) my Father started reading books on computers and what they could do. I did too and started teaching myself what computer languages were and I started writing small programs on paper. I could't of course run them.

    In 1968 he got a Honeywell 516, a machine the size of 2 washing machines and a microwave (one washing machine box held the processor, the other the memory and the microwave on top held a paper tape reader and punch). There was a standalone teletype. He set out to prove you could automate a coal mine with it (he worked in the research department of the UK Coal Board). I went to his office in the school holidays and wrote programs for it.
  • Atari 800, oh yes! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mad-Bassist ( 944409 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:32PM (#14707970) Homepage
    I started playing around with the mainframe at the college where my dad was a security guard. I was the only nine-year-old with a user account. Heh heh. From there I went on to hanging out in Radio Shaft and playing around with the TRS-80 Level I (before they called it the Model I.)

    The first computer of my own was the Atari 800. Apple was nice, but I avoided it because Atari had the best graphics and sound hardware in its day. Besides, Star Raiders was the killer app, and I still play it with the free Atari800Win Plus emu every now and then.

    I did a little hacking too, thanks to Omnimon. It was a circuit board that plugged into one of the ROM chip sockets, and it filled the unused $C000-$CFFF block of memory with a program that allowed one to interrupt anything with a press of Select and System Reset. It was now possible to take the machine code of a program that's running (even game carts) and do some simple disassembly. It also had a mini assembler that worked one instruction at a time. The Omnimon board also had one wire patched into the ROM that held the top of memory (to $FFFF) which is how it interrupts the boot process. (The last few bytes were pointers used by warm and cold starts.) There was also a three-position toggle switch that I added to the case. If I remember right, one setting allowed interruption, one restored the original ROM pointers, and the last position made the $C000 block disappear so the machine looked unaltered. Unfortunately, the later models used that memory area (probably for the rainbow logo and that sophisticated "self-test.") I think I saw a mention of a version of Omnimon designed for the newer machines, but I had the original.

    Oh yeah, I also added a little switch in the bottom to silence the internal speaker since I would be writing programs through the night. At one point I upgraded the beast from a CTIA to GTIA chip and enjoyed the extra graphics modes that were in the later models, and I took out the power LEDs and replaced them with green ones. Ahh, the memories!

    I remember being in awe of the bank switching technique used in the macro assembler cartridge I owned. I wasn't to shabby at speaking 6502 and Antic display list instructions. Heh heh.

    That old computer died eventually. The keyboard needed to be replaced, and by that time they were impossible to find and cost over $100. After using a driver I wrote that made the escape key a space bar substitute (unless shift was pressed,) the computer was fried by a power surge. It died slowly over the course of a month, and towards the end started rebooting spontaneously. I laid it to rest and got myself a 65XE. A few years down the road that computer was stolen from storage, but they didn't get my carts and disks. I hope they had fun with it, and the high-pitched whine my poor old 13" TV had. Heh heh heh.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.