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John Markoff of the NY Times on his first PC, 20 years ago.

By wiredog in MLP
Sat May 12, 2001 at 08:11:16 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Mr. Markoff reminisces about his first PC, which he paid $3000 for 20 years ago. And see the related article on the Computer Museum History Center

For his $3000 he got:

  • 4.77- MHz Intel 8088
  • Two 5 1/4-inch floppy-disk drives
  • A monitor that displayed text in green on black
  • 64 kilobytes of memory
  • PC DOS 1.1 (command.com fit in 5k)


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John Markoff of the NY Times on his first PC, 20 years ago. | 57 comments (51 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Yeah? Yeah? (5.00 / 2) (#5)
by driph on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:13:47 PM EST

Okay, I'll bite.

First machines? 20 years ago, for around $600 for the base machine(quite a bit more for peripherals), my dad brought home an Atari 400:

  • 1.70 MHz Mostek 6502A
  • One Indus 5 1/4-inch floppy drive
  • A composite monitor that displayed 256 colors, thanks to the ANTIC chip
  • Best sound on the market(4 voices!) thanks to the POKEY chip
  • 16K built in RAM
  • SpartaDOS
  • and a membrane keyboard that has skewed my typing ability to this day.
Later upgraded the machine to 48K, added a 510(?) Atari floppy drive, and a kickass 1200 baud Prometheus ProModem.

The OS/platform flamefests of today are nothing compared to the wars we fought on the BBS's... Atari vs Commodore...mmmm

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave

Whoops! (none / 0) (#9)
by driph on Thu May 10, 2001 at 04:02:21 PM EST

Oh shit! I forgot about the tape drive! How could I forget waiting 5 minutes just to load Zaxxon...

Oh, and the proc was actually 1.79MHz.

And BASIC was a cartridge. So was Assembler, but I never learned how to use that. I was quite content writing choose your own adventure games in BASIC and copying programs out of the back of Antic magazine.

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]

Zaxxon rules! (none / 0) (#13)
by Phaser777 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 09:15:51 PM EST

I remember playing that on my old Apple IIe. Didn't take 5 minutes to load though. The old 5.25" floppies (in their 3-inch-tall drives) were a bit faster than tape. Ah, the good old days...

My business plan:
Obtain the patents for something (the more obvious and general the better)
Wait u
[ Parent ]
Zaxxon reverse side games (none / 0) (#35)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 12, 2001 at 01:28:50 AM EST

Zaxxon was cool, but the shareware games that game on the other side of the disk were even cooler!

There was:

  • Joust - you rode around on ostriches trying to break stuff with a lance.
  • Bolo - not to be confused with that newish multiplayer game -- this was Bolo, Annals of the Dinochrome Brigade
  • Kamikaze
  • -- you shot down bombers as they flew overhead, every 10th plane tried to smash into your ship
  • some big 132K game that I couldn't play because I didn't have a IIGS

[ Parent ]
Ah, Bolo (none / 0) (#43)
by cpt kangarooski on Sun May 13, 2001 at 03:48:01 AM EST

It's so rare to see anyone who knew of, remembers or thinks fondly of Bolo. (again, this is the old Apple II version) But man, that is one of my favorite games of all time. I used to play it on my IIgs when I was a kid, and it never lost its appeal.

Even these days, I have a nice emulator that I use to play my favorites: Bolo, Karateka, Roadwar 2000.... Fortunately loads of these things are up in cracked format on the net.

All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
Yes, Bolo (none / 0) (#46)
by Lode Runner on Sun May 13, 2001 at 11:16:27 PM EST

I can see that you're a person of good taste, for Bolo was by far my favorite game on that disk.

I loved playing on two settings:

    Difficulty: 1; Density:5 -- Here you could let the slow Y-shaped ships accumulate until the filled the entire maze area around their bases, then you could set off a huge chain-reaction with one shot... if timed right it could knock out the base too!

    Diffifculty: 9; Density:1 -- Here you could play a high-speed chase game... the enemies would track and kill you unless you zipped around at top speed... to survive you had to go full-throttle and shoot backwards at your pursuers... nothing was so satisfying as killing one and seeing three more get caught up in the explosion!

Nope, they don't make games like that anymore!

[ Parent ]

The other side (none / 0) (#44)
by Phaser777 on Sun May 13, 2001 at 02:58:46 PM EST

I don't remember there being any games on the other side. Although the last time I played it was at least eight or nine years ago, so I don't remember much. Now I'll have to dig out the old IIe and see if there is anything on the other side.

My business plan:
Obtain the patents for something (the more obvious and general the better)
Wait u
[ Parent ]
Bolo is worth it (none / 0) (#47)
by Lode Runner on Sun May 13, 2001 at 11:22:14 PM EST

One game in particular, Bolo, is worth playing if you can find that diskette.

I hear you can get it on emulator now, but I can't find it myself.

There were some great games for the Apple ][.... Bolo, Lode Runner, Wings of Fury, Larry Bird and Dr. J One-on-one, Ultimas I-IV, Might and Magic, Seven Cities of Gold, Skyfox, PMH Pegasus... that was a golden age!

[ Parent ]

The Membrane Keyboard (none / 0) (#27)
by ignatiusst on Fri May 11, 2001 at 12:25:31 PM EST

Wow.. That really brings back the memories..

I remember the "A" on my (Atari 400) keyboard breaking.. An essential letter if you played Star Raiders.. I eventually had to stick a needle under the membrane and press on it everytime I wanted the letter "A".

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift
[ Parent ]

Star Raiders.. (none / 0) (#30)
by driph on Fri May 11, 2001 at 05:10:45 PM EST

Hahah.. Yeah, a bit before the days of remapping the keys, eh? My dad eventually picked up an Atari 130xe, but I stayed on the 400 for a while(until I was able to get my own 800) because the cartridge slot and the 4 joysticks ports were more to my preference.

The "A" key was Aft view, right? I still consider Star Raiders to be one of the best games ever..

Hmm..I think I'm going to run by storage tonite and pick up the 400... Haven't played in ages, wonder if I can achieve anything higher than Galactic Cook..:]

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]

My first was an Atari 800... (none / 0) (#53)
by Ricdude on Mon May 14, 2001 at 02:19:09 PM EST

Which had 4 joystick ports and two cartridge slots. IIRC, there was only ever one cartridge designed for the 2nd slot, but who cares, it had a whole 2nd slot! =)! And the only game that was really entertaining with four players simultaneously was M.U.L.E., but that game alone was worth the two extra joystick ports. I was glad my folks waited until that came out, instead of going for a TI99/4a, or Timex/Sinclair, or such. I mean, the Atari 800 had up to 48K of RAM. 48K! What could you possibly run that would take that much memory...

[ Parent ]
Nostalgic (none / 0) (#6)
by mikael_j on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:24:11 PM EST

My first computer:
second hand Spectravideo SVI-328
80kB RAM
32kB ROM
SV-BASIC (modified MS-BASIC)
tape drive

/Mikael Jacobson
We give a bad name to the internet in general. - Rusty
These are pathetic (none / 0) (#7)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:32:46 PM EST

...so is mine, but it's better than anything currently posted:

1979, $1000, TRS-80. 16K of RAM, monochrome monitor, cassette deck for loading programs. Later (much later, late 80's/early 90's) I had the Model III (essentially identical but with a 5.25 floppy) in high school computer class.

Play 囲碁
TRS-80s (none / 0) (#8)
by misterluke on Thu May 10, 2001 at 03:51:47 PM EST

Did you play Lost World Pinball?

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure (none / 0) (#11)
by DesiredUsername on Thu May 10, 2001 at 07:56:42 PM EST

I had a pinball game, but I never heard the name "Lost World". One of it's memorable features was a music box that played one more note (of one particular song) every time you got the ball (read: pixel) in it. I played that stupid game for HOURS.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
TRS-80 pinball (none / 0) (#34)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 12, 2001 at 01:19:45 AM EST

I played the pinball game on the Model III and the Model IV, and the only thing I remember was that bonus box that magically appeared in the center of the screen just above the paddles.

Galaxian Invaders was really my forte though -- I remember breaking 1,000,000 points and having to ask my father what that number was called. Robot Wars was cool too. And who could forget Adventure?

[ Parent ]

My first computer (3.00 / 3) (#12)
by delmoi on Thu May 10, 2001 at 08:34:48 PM EST

Let see...

My first computer: Pentium 75, 8megs ram, 850meg hard drive. 14.4k baud modem.

I think My family got it for $1600, $800 of which I made working over the summer. A p120 would have cost $2400. I was a little pissed when I learned about over clocking, and was able to clock that 'lil chip to 133... 3 years after I bought it :P

*sigh* I really wish I had had a machine growing up, though. Hearing about my friends and their DOS boxes and apple twos makes me think about all the fun I missed out of when I was a kid (I got my box when I was 15 or so)

I ended up using windows 3.1 for a couple months, most of the time while Acer tried to work out a soundcard driver for win95...
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Peer Pressure (3.00 / 3) (#14)
by Devil Ducky on Thu May 10, 2001 at 11:01:14 PM EST

Everyone else is doing it. Do it! You don't want to be left out do you?
All right, all right, shut up, you annoying voice in my head.

The first new computer my father gave to me was an IBM PC Jr. monochorome, memory exmpanded to 32K, 5 1/2, no hard drive, etc. The physical dimensions on this were nuts! To expand the memory by 4K you had to add a new side to the computer that was about 2"x4"x16", and there were 4 of those. No modem though, so I didn't use it much. :)

I can't even pretend to remember my father's first PC, it was about 20 years ago. I do remember some favorites though.
The XT, first one we ever had that could do more than just sit there and piss me off. Until Windows brought that feeling back.
The "luggable," IBM's first attempt at a portable computer. The case had a tiny little monitor built-in to it, and it had a handle. The thing must have weighed at least 50 pounds, and it didn't have a battery. Notably this was later moved into the XT case.
We had a 386, nothing special...
Then came the first non-IBM computer (Dad no longer worked there.) Packard Bell 486-75, 750Mg HDD, 14.4 modem, 15" color screen, 2x CD-ROM, Windows 3.11 (which I rarely used), all for $750. I was amazed, that's surely more harddrive than anyone would ever need, and that modem with speeds like that I was going to be the envy of all my firends... Then the web hit...

The first computer I bought myself was a 200MHz w/MMX (the company had swapped out the 166 and forgot to change the price :), a 2.5GB hdd, 8X CD-ROM, Win95, etc $600, considering the 200MHz had only come out earlier that month that wasn't bad at all. Even though every part has been changed, sometime more than once (4 sound cards and counting!) that computer is the one I sit at now. And yes, the case has been changed (twice), the keyboard, mouse, speakers, video card (thrice), floppy, zip, CD-ROM (thrice), hard drives (many many times), everything, but it's the same computer in spirit.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
First Computer (3.33 / 3) (#16)
by flieghund on Fri May 11, 2001 at 12:13:55 AM EST

Since this seems to be rapidly turning into a "Describe your first computer" kind of story, here's my version:

Commodore Plus4. My mother got it for me circa 1988 by trading my old bunk bed frame. <g> In retrospect, and as near as I can tell, that "4" was as in 4 kilobytes of memory. It was about the size of a compact but thick keyboard, had a couple of slots for program cartridges (none of which seemed to exist by the time I got the machine), and used a standard television for output. But hey, that output was in a stunning 16 colors.

It had a couple of built-in functions -- a word processor and a spreadsheet, not sure what (if anything) else. With only 4k of memory, there were several interesting looking BASIC programs that I could never completely enter into the computer. Oh, and the 5.25" floppy drive only worked with the spreadsheet program, so I could never save any of the programs that I wrote. But it did wonders for patience...

BTB, my first "modern" computer was an old 286 I got from my uncle around '91 or '92. If my memory serves correctly, it was something like 8 MHz. I distinctly recall that it had an amazing 2 MB of extended RAM and an absolutely incomprehensibly huge 30 MB hard disk.

Using a Macintosh is like picking your nose: everyone likes to do it, but no one will admit to it.

Plus 4 (none / 0) (#50)
by ajduk on Mon May 14, 2001 at 05:59:21 AM EST

Actually, I think it had 16k of memory.. the idea from commodore was to have a budget computer (the Plus 4), and an expensive one (the CBM 128). CBM never were mutch good at strategy, or marketing for that matter.

Anyway - I started on a VIC-20. 5k(?) RAM, 20k ROM. 3583 bytes for all your stuff..

[ Parent ]
A deprived childhood =) (4.50 / 2) (#17)
by Nemesys on Fri May 11, 2001 at 12:33:59 AM EST

My first computer:

A AMD K-6 - 450 Mhz
64 MB's of RAM
7.5 GB Harddrive
A CD-ROM drive
3 1/2 floppy drive

So, I didn't get my first computer until 1997. I had a deprived childhood =)
Some of these machines though...gosh, it's just weird, some of them are older than me...

My first... (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by michaela on Fri May 11, 2001 at 01:33:01 AM EST

was a Control Data mainframe that I worked with via 300 baud accoustic coupled modem on a portable dumb terminal. No fancy monitors for me, green screen or otherwise. It was thermal paper or pin-fed plain paper (you remember the stuff), depending upon which terminal I had.

Ok, so it wasn't my computer. My dad worked for Control Data and I'd get to use the system when he had the terminal home for the weekend.

My first real computer was an 8088 clone; 640K RAM; 20MB, full height, hard drive; monochrome monitor. I built it myself when I was working for Northgate Computers.

At one point, before the 8088, my dad bought a Zenith Z100 system. S100 bus, 360K floppies, and it ran on a special version of MS-DOS. There wasn't much in the way of software, but I remember using Wordstar and a dreadful database program called Condor.

It's all a far cry from any of my current systems, although I do have a Commodore PET computer in storage.
That is all

AMIGA 2000! (none / 0) (#19)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 03:02:33 AM EST

my first computer was an Amiga 2000, with some sort of upgrade of Hard drive space and or RAM All Hail the amiga in it's supperior glory!
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
Mine is greater (1.00 / 1) (#20)
by raz on Fri May 11, 2001 at 04:21:05 AM EST

What does this do to you? Any kind of joy? Nobody cares.

[ Parent ]
My First Computer (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by YesNoCancel on Fri May 11, 2001 at 07:33:28 AM EST

1986: German-built Amstrad/Schneider Joyce PCW 8256.
  • Z80-A CPU with 4 Mhz
  • 512 KB RAM
  • Two 3" floppy disk drives (yes, 3", not 3,5 or 5,25 - these disks had 173 KB storage capacity)
  • No HD
  • Green-on-black monitor. The actual computer was built into the monitor (same as i-macs today)
  • No mouse, no GUI
  • CP/M-Plus Operating System
  • Joyce Printer
My father chose this computer over an IBM PC back in 1986 because it had superior word processor software (actually the whole computer was specifically tailored for word processing, with extra keys for bold, italic, underlined etc).

Amateurs (3.00 / 2) (#22)
by Nezumi on Fri May 11, 2001 at 08:05:23 AM EST

My first computer was a Commodore Vic-20. It came complete with a whopping 4k of RAM. It did not come complete with much of anything else.

Storage media was on a cassette tape (drive sold separately), and disk drives cost more than the machine did. You could upgrade the memory by cartrige to 8k or a whopping 16k, but for some reason it changed all the memory addresses when you put the cartriges in.

However, that was only the first computer I owned, not the first computer I used. That honour would have to go to the venerable Commodore PET, way back in the dim days of 1979.

I suspect to beat that, you'd have to be Sid.

Memory in the VIC (none / 0) (#55)
by MrSmithers on Mon May 14, 2001 at 10:58:06 PM EST

Yes, but only 3k of that memory was actually usable. :)

Aaaaah, I can remember the days of typing in BASIC game programs from Compute! magazines (before they got crappy). Never mind they were all rip-offs of arcades and consoles, it was still great fun! :)

[ Parent ]
BBC Micro (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by Paul Johnson on Fri May 11, 2001 at 08:53:33 AM EST

My first personal machine was in about 1980. It was a BBC Model B (with the 32k of RAM). It had a 6502 CPU clocked at 2MHz, which made it the fastest thing on the home market. The other 32k of address space was taken by 16k OS and a separate 16k Basic interpreter which featured procedure calls with local variables. There were also "sideways ROM" sockets into which one could insert ROMs for word processors or other languages and switch them into the address space under OS control. Later on I added a 100k floppy disk drive. Display was on a TV screen or optional monitor, and video memory was taken from the 32k RAM, so it was a tradeoff between resolution and program size.

The Beeb had a number of innovative features, including a precision 14-bit 4-way A-D port that could be used for joysticks or real world interfaces. For many years this made it a favourite of school science labs because you could hook sensors to it and get accurate readings. My wife teaches physics, and her school only pensioned off its old Beebs a few years ago.

There was also an optional network interface called "Econet". This was a bus network with collision detection, the same as Ethernet. It was built using RS232 serial ports and ran correspondingly slowly, but the OS included a simple network file system, and you could run one computer with big disks (i.e. 2x400k floppies) as a file server.

The BBC Computer was so named because it was produced as part of a national computer literacy project sponsored by the BBC. As part of this they wanted people watching their educational TV programs to have a common computer they could try things out on. There was even a teletext adaptor you could download software with.

Overall a seriously cool machine for its time, and one I remember with great affection. It was made by a company called Acorn, which eventually mutated into ARM.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

Cool (none / 0) (#24)
by cezarg on Fri May 11, 2001 at 08:58:38 AM EST

The cool thing about the BBC was that it was made almost entirely out of off the shelf components such as the 6522(?) io chip. The ics were well documented and interfacing custom hardware was easy and fun. Hmm.. Those were the days.

[ Parent ]
Don't get me started (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by cezarg on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:15:56 AM EST

on this nostalgia tune. I'm quite prone to go on a rant about good ol' days! I actually owned the best computer in the world back in the eighties. Got it for my birthday in 1984:

Sinclair ZX Spectrum. I had the rubbery version with 48K ram. It ran on Z80A (3.5 MHz if I remember correctly) and had a whopping 8 colours to boot.

It was a joy to program and play with. Most importantly though it began the era of home computers in the UK and other countries touched by the early eighties crisis. Surely Apple had personal systems before Sinclair Research released their first product ZX80 in 1980 but Apple computers were selling for thousands of dollars while Sinclair's offerings ranged from a hundred to hundred fifty UK Pounds. Not only did the speccy sell like hotcakes it also started the UK video games industry which is very buoyant to this date.

Wow... I'm feeling old, today (3.50 / 2) (#26)
by minusp on Fri May 11, 2001 at 11:11:00 AM EST

The first machine I didn't have to share was an XT clone in 1986... VIC-20 cpu and a MEG of ram, TWO (gasp!) 5.25 floppies, and a 13" amber screen.
Before that, I got to build, and then abandon, one of the Motorola 6800 kits that were available to tech students in, what, 1974? No case, boards hanging out in the air, hooked up to an old b&w TV. Heathkit power supply... kept that, and the manuals...
But I sure would like to know what happened to the PDP-8 that found its way into WAFZ (a/k/a Studio C at WRPI) a long time ago... it made a great process controller for the video synth, as well as keeping the heating bills down!

Remember, regime change begins at home.
ok, i'm in (3.50 / 2) (#28)
by no carrier on Fri May 11, 2001 at 01:58:40 PM EST

kinda like the 'who am i' thread. i agree with the 'not an mlp if you have to register' comment though, but getting to talk and read about our old friends more than makes up for that.

anyway, my first was an apple //c with 128k ram, color monitor and a second 5.25in floppy drive. ahh, the good old days of BASIC in high school

actually, that machine gave me a hatred for apple when i realized that if i wanted to upgrade i would have to talk my parents into buying a new computer (yeah right, i bought my own i got to college, a 486 dx66 wintel). oh well, i was 10, live and learn.

I stab people.
History of my computers (3.50 / 2) (#29)
by unstable on Fri May 11, 2001 at 02:34:26 PM EST

My first was an Atari 800xl. I mostly played the cartridge and floppy games on it...

next was my step-fathers XT turbo (yes turbo... we're talking a smoking 5-6Mhz here baby) with a EGA graphics card, 60M harddrive, and DOS 3.x. This is what really got me into computers. It started with flight simulator and advanced into me learning DOS (to play more games) then into system configuration/support (to fix my fsck-ups) by then I was long hooked.

Next was a hacked up IBM XT with mono graphics and a 10M HD. This is the first machine that I built from parts (all scavenged)

My 4th machine was a 386 sx that I scavenged from bits and peices (school, stepfathers work etc).

After that the family got a pentium 66Mhz (yeah.. they acually made 66 Mhz P1 chips This was the first machine to run Win95 (the horror)

Now I'm running a laptop (AMD 266 Linux/Win) a PIII 450 (Linux/Win) and a 750 T-bird (windows)

ok.. enough boring you guys.

Reverend Unstable
all praise the almighty Bob
and be filled with slack

OK, my first, and does this ever date me... (none / 0) (#31)
by kezdeth on Sat May 12, 2001 at 12:09:32 AM EST

MITS Altair, followed by a Trash80 CoCo, followed by a Vic20, then a C64, then a C128. In there somewhere before the C64 I got a chance to play with CPM on a friend's machine as well. Later, a very ugly little 286, and then to the current workstation.

A boy and his TRS-80 (none / 0) (#32)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 12, 2001 at 01:06:47 AM EST

Wow, I wish there were more resources out there for the history of computing...

This takes me back to 1980... I was four years old when Dad brought home the TRS-80 Model III. People badmouth the "Trash-Eighty" all the time but I couldn't have asked for a better first computer. It taught me how to deal with bad operating systems and buggy software from the get-go.

Deep Dive wouldn't run? Well, go into BASIC and write something that will make it run (and give me an extra ship too!) For me, the work-around was just part of the everyday computing experience. (Can't learn that on the Apple ][)

But enough about me, here are the specs:

  • Z-80A Processor (2 MHz) -- kits were sold to double this to 4Mhz
  • 16K - 48K of RAM Maximum
  • 12 inch Black and White Integrated Monitor (63x16 text and 128x48 for graphics) -- these were great, especially when they were powering down: you could see the image on the screen collapse into a dot at the center of monitor and fade away.
  • Cassette Tape Recorder (500 Baud (Low) or 1500 Baud (High))
  • Optional Internal (2) and External (2) 5.25" Floppy Drives holding 178K each
  • Optional Hi-Res Graphics Board Built-in 25 pin RS-232 (Serial) Port for Modem Connection
  • Built In Printer (Parallel) Port
  • Built in Drive Expansion Card-Edge (for external drives)
  • Substantial Compatibility with the Model I (main incompatibility: Port vs. Memory addressing)
  • Model III BASIC ROM (14K) co-copyrighted by Tandy and Microsoft.
Then in 1983 we got the Model IV, but that's a whole other story...

Say, if anyone here's nostalgic about TRS-80 games, could you post a reply?

TRS-80 games (none / 0) (#41)
by mjs on Sun May 13, 2001 at 12:44:41 AM EST

*sigh* I had a Model I, which I absolutely adored. I never had the problems which gave so many of these machines the "trash-80" moniker; I cleaned the connections once a month or so with a soft pencil eraser and it never froze up or spontaneouosly re-booted on me. I started with a 16K Level I machine and it eventually ended up with three double-density floppy drives and an Epson MX-70 printer for which I had to write my own driver (wrote one for TRS-DOS and another one for LDOS when I discovered it.) My first college papers written on my own computer in my own loft (Scripsit, saved to cassette tape and printed with those early dot-matrix fonts where descenders for letters didn't go below the line - they just moved the letter up in the box.) Teachers loved it, once I convinced them that the computer wasn't really writing the papers for me.

I can't remember the name -- the game was from Broderbund and you were a trader with a spaceship. You quickly learned that three-way deals made you the most money and you needed it because if you didn't have a few fighters escorting your freighter, you weren't going to last long. And a primitive first-person shooter; I can't remember much about it except that you had a laser gun and it shot those HUGE TRS-80 block pixels at things. :)

My first modem: 300 baud and it didn't need a serial port -- it ran out of the cassette port. Neat-o dial up to IUSB's Prime, where I could do my Pascal class assignments and avoid "computer lab hell" waiting in line for one of the greasy ADM-3a terminals in the building basement. Gah, what fun!

[ Parent ]

More TRS-80 nostalgia (none / 0) (#48)
by Lode Runner on Sun May 13, 2001 at 11:31:12 PM EST

I had real trouble with my first and second-grade teachers with stuff printed out on the TRS-80's printer. They simply refused to believe that I'd typed them; I was accused of getting my parents to do my homework and, like you, of getting the computer to somehow write book-reports for me.

As for games, I didn't have either of the two you mentioned... but I do remember the giant pixels fondly. I loved to add "realism" by turning off the lights to make the pixel trails glow. (This was great for Galaxian)

Anyway, the other month, my father told me he was going to throw out the TRS-80. I saved it, and now it's in my possession. It needs a little cleaning, but it still works! Wish I could say the same for my 386... (well, to be fair the TRS-80 didn't have a hard-drive, but still....)

[ Parent ]

A stroll down the memory lane (none / 0) (#33)
by decaf_dude on Sat May 12, 2001 at 01:19:03 AM EST

I can't believe nobody mentions C=64! 64K, cartridges, tape drive, 5 1/4 floppy (oh, the envy...) LOADING... FOUND TURBO (anyone?)

Nowadays whenever I hear Pokemon, I'm reminded of "cheats" (C=64 style) with lines upon lines of POKE instructions. Ah, the good old days...


C64 (none / 0) (#38)
by kezdeth on Sat May 12, 2001 at 01:18:30 PM EST

Um, dude. I did mention the C64.

[ Parent ]
C64 (none / 0) (#45)
by Teehmar on Sun May 13, 2001 at 03:49:49 PM EST

The first computer I owned was a used C64. One of my teachers had used it as a portable computer.
He was upgrading to a Radio Shack Model 100. He had the C64 setup in a brief case with the tape drive. He'd also taken a 300bps vicmodem, and mounted it inside the C64's case. So I had an internal modem. He added 3 holes in the back, 1 for the carrier LED, 1 for the answer/originate switch, and 1 for the phone handset cord jack.

I used that tape drive for quite a while, until I could afford a 1541 floppy drive at $179 or so.

Last I checked, that C64, as well as my later C128 are buried in the closet someplace.

[ Parent ]
yes! rock! (none / 0) (#57)
by Perianwyr on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:28:35 AM EST

I had a c64 for way too long. The first software I ever got for it was pirated (from one of my father's friends at work.) I had 10th Frame Bowling (on one side of the floppy,) Leader Board Golf (on the other side,) and a copy of Fast Hack 'Em on another disk. I did not recognize the momentous importance of this second disk until the use of my first commercial software purchase was requested by a friend :) I remember buying all the $5 clone games (Caverns of Eriban...) at first, and then moving up to Epyx games next once I began to have money. And Infocom games... my mother and I would play those together, one person taking up when the other got annoyed with the game. And say nothing of Demon Stalkers... Archon 1 and 2... I remember mourning as the c64 section in my favorite software shop shrunk, and finally became nonexistent under the weight of the Macintosh and PC titles. Ever the underdog, my next machine was a Mac LC (16mhz 68020, 4mb memory, 40mb HD...) on which I played Might and Magic II. It took me 7 months to beat that, if only because I never really figured out the point of the game for a while, other than leveling and getting items :) I had that for ages, then I ended up with a Powerbook 165c. That machine changed my life. I had it until it fell apart into tiny pieces (and even then it became the Punk Laptop when I taped it back together with duct tape.) Like before, I mourned as my Macintosh was marginalized by the Wintel behemoth, but then I got even by getting a pentium-90 :) And now I'm on an Athlon 1ghz, and the games are still no better than Archon... hmmm... so far, but no further to see.

[ Parent ]
1978? 1979? Ohio Scientific Challenger P/2 (none / 0) (#36)
by renec on Sat May 12, 2001 at 04:50:49 AM EST

Or was it P2? Who remembers. Still have the thing, blue box, etc. I was only 3 or 4 at the time. I remember my dad soldering on a 300 baud modem on to the motherboard and trying to make that work..... I've never heard this computer mentioned by anybody. I do remember my dad upgraded it to 8K or ram from 4K, and gave it colour. We used to play some mission to mars game and asteroids.. space invaders as well.. Cassette tape, of course. I hear rumour it had floppy available, but we could never afford it. Rene

Ohio Scientific (none / 0) (#37)
by mcherm on Sat May 12, 2001 at 09:06:31 AM EST

Wow! Someone else had an Ohio Scientific! I don't think I've seen it mentioned online before. When I finally got rid of mine, I donated it to a museum.

-- Michael Chermside

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]

Ohio Scientific (none / 0) (#42)
by mjs on Sun May 13, 2001 at 12:56:33 AM EST

I haven't heard that name in a long, long time. I remember their advertisements in the magazines and thinking that they had some good specs. I was a "junior" programmer for a service bureau running an IBM S/34 -- junior as in, "we pay minimum wage, so no one with any training at all will work for us. Wanna learn how to program, kid?" Hell, yes: beat the crap out of driving a truck...

One of our clients was a hardware store which wanted it's own accounting system, which I was more than happy to do since it was extra income, outside of my normal job (oddly, my boss knew what I was doing, said it was ok. Well, she wasn't real bright...) We looked at a lot of machines and settled for an Exidy Sorcerer with a couple of 8" floppy drives, running CP/M. I wrote their accounting system in CBASIC and, as I recall, charged them $300 for it. Man, was I young and stupid!!!

[ Parent ]

Ah yes, I remember those (3.00 / 1) (#39)
by jij on Sat May 12, 2001 at 05:29:45 PM EST

but, ya know, I had an Apple II+ that was faster than the 4.77mHz 8088 PC. And then the PCs got faster and faster and the Apples got to be really poky by comparison. And we had no idea then how much faster computers were going to get. :)

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric

As long as we're having an oldest computer contest (4.50 / 2) (#40)
by jij on Sat May 12, 2001 at 06:03:18 PM EST

The first computer I ever used was in 1966/67 at the University of New Mexico when I was a high school student. My friend's dad was a math professor there, and we used his account (until the university complained about the amount of valuable computer time we wasted) to play with the mainframe there. I don't know what it was but it was old then; had vacuum tubes, which had to be replaced regularly by a freshman with a shopping cart full of new tubes. We had to use a keypunch machine and lots of cards to write programs, which were fed into a slot by the compsci guru on duty, and 10 or 15 minutes later, if we were lucky, the results would come back. A program to add 2 and 2 required about 20 cards, IIRC. There was also a room full of terminals, on which one could play primitive games. We thought it was pretty cool stuff. A 4.77 mHz 8088 computer then would have been heaven itself.
BTW at one time I lived a block away from MITS, who I think made the Altair computer(?). Ah, the old days... :)

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric

"describe your first"? fun. (3.00 / 1) (#49)
by Requiem on Sun May 13, 2001 at 11:35:32 PM EST

When I was five (1986), my parents bought this machine:

- Xerox. 8086 CPU
- 640KB RAM
- 5 MB HD (upgraded to 20 in 1989)
- Monochrome display, with CGA graphics. The monitor's still in perfect condition, with no burn-in.
- 1 5.25" 360K floppy drive

It was a fun machine. I played games on it, learned how to use DOS 3.1, and generally had a good time. It still works, fifteen years later. I occasionally boot it up to see if I can beat the computer at Chessmaster 2000. Which I can't, still. Ahem.

I'm surprised no-one else had a... (none / 0) (#51)
by Mr Tom on Mon May 14, 2001 at 11:27:07 AM EST

Spectrum +2. The 128k jobbie with the tape deck whacked on the side. And a top little machine it was.

And all the Dizzy games. And Bubble Bobble, which was God's gift to humanity....

Although I never could get very far in Neverending Story..... :-/

..and from there to a Miggy A1200, with all the bells and whistles and gongs that that had. (The best gong being Sensible Soccer, natch!).

.. thence to a Cyrix 166, with a whacking great (then!) 17" screen...

.. and then to my current (and about to be upgraded) Celery 400. With the same monitor. :-)

..But how much do I miss the Speccy and the mig... Sadly, both the floppy and the HD on the mig have bitten the dust, which is a pain for trying to get it back up for some gaming....
-- Mr_Tom<at>gmx.co.uk

I am a consultant. My job is to make your job redundant.

I remember those (none / 0) (#56)
by Pyrrhonian on Tue May 15, 2001 at 07:43:53 AM EST

Ahh Spectrum, the joy of it all, such gameplay! (or maybe I was just young) even though the tapes took ages to load and my tape machine once or twice killed them (the horror!) it was great.

After I moved from the 48k version to the 128 it rocked, Dizzy was a great game but by far the best was one I got hold of from somewhere called "how to be a complete bastard" all about gate crashing a party and wreaking it.

If I could get hold a copy of that which ran on a PC I would be over the moon.

[ Parent ]

no respect for markoff, or his blabbering (1.60 / 5) (#52)
by mushroom on Mon May 14, 2001 at 01:17:52 PM EST

you know what? i think he is probably fabricating this story in order to make money and get an ego boost. http://simson.net/clips/96.IU.MitnickMarkoff.html

the memories... (none / 0) (#54)
by captaingoodnight on Mon May 14, 2001 at 08:20:55 PM EST

Apple //c (the white one), with the little green-on-black Apple monitor, plus the extra 5.25" external floppy, plus an ImageWriter. I picked up my handle from my favorite game on this computer...

John Markoff of the NY Times on his first PC, 20 years ago. | 57 comments (51 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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