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Geek Toys, Part 2: Computer Toys

By El Volio in Technology
Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 11:40:15 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

As a kid, there were a lot of computer "toys" that had a shaping influence on me. Some were software, some were hardware, a few were general phenomena. Here's a list of what really kept me occupied on my dad's computer when I was a kid.

Second in a series. Part 1: Proto-geeks was published in November 2002.

Full disclosure: I'm 26 now, so most of this stuff is in the 1980s. If you're from an even slightly different era, you may have had completely different stuff, so feel free to throw it in.
  • Flight Simulator (original): This was really the very first flight simulator available on the PC, and in fact for a long time was considered the best test for whether a clone PC was fully IBM-compatible. It had a great World War I combat mode, and the manual included maps of a number of areas complete with VOR stations for navigation. I remember during summer vacations, I'd set up for a long haul flight (from, say, Chicago to New York) just to play with the navigation. The newest versions just don't have the same charm to me. There's a timeline to explain what I mean.
  • GW-Basic: This was the first introduction to programming for thousands of people, Dijkstra's scorn notwithstanding. You could find source code in most computer magazines and not a few books; this required typing it in by hand (and then debugging based on the resultant typos). A few intrepid souls have written a better history of it, or you can check it out yourself.
  • TRS 80: Not everybody started out on Apple IIes or Commodore 64s -- in fact, in my elementary school, we didn't have many Apples at all, just these plus some C64s. While the TRS 80 wasn't my first computer, it was the first one I really treated as a PC and not just a glorified typewriter. We used a Model III at home for gaming, word processing, and BASIC programming. Later, I got a Model 100, which was a real notebook, albeit with a five line display. Some folks still really love these old computers.
  • Wordstar: My first computer was a CP/M machine (the Ibex 2200). It had a five-inch amber screen -- and Wordstar. This was really the very first software I used on anything like a PC; I remember as a small child getting to "play" by having my dad open a blank file and letting me bang away. It's still in use by a few, and others have set down its history.
  • CGA/Mouse: The introduction of both CGA graphics and a mouse opened up a whole new (non-text) world. I still remember the days each of them came home. We used to play a game called NFL Challenge that would show a graphic screen with Xs and Os as the play developed. Seeing them in red and green was amazing! And playing with PC Paintbrush was a blast for hours and hours...
  • Modems (BBS): Modems opened the way to bulletin board systems; this was my first exposure to the idea of using computers to reach out to others. I would dial in to a dozen or so each day to check my e-mail (separately on each one), play another round of door games (Solar Realms Elite and Legend of the Red Dragon were my favorites), and maybe check out the latest additions to the file archives. When I got a bit older, forums on a few of them introduced me to a lot of new ideas and perspectives; you might even say Kuro5hin is just an extension of the same thing. Others used CompuServe, but I didn't -- like George Castanza says, why pay for what you can get for free?
  • Shareware: Shareware provided tons of software that you just couldn't get commercially. Remember, this was before widespread awareness of "Free software", especially in the old PC world. Games, productivity software, you name it. Usually, I would get it by downloading from BBSs (as above) or from catalogs like Blue Byte Software, who now does something only tangentially related (games publishing).
Those are the general toys I played with the most. Yes, there were lots of other games (like Empire Deluxe), and I actually did more programming than is reflected in the list, but I had to draw the line somewhere. What did you mess around with?

In the next article: a discussion of geeky toys now (not gadgets, just toys for adults: think Mindstorms, not TiVo).


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Favorite computer "toy":
o Flight Simulator (original) 10%
o GW-Basic 14%
o TRS 80 10%
o Wordstar 3%
o CGA/Mouse 2%
o Modems (BBS) 37%
o Shareware 11%
o Other (comment below) 10%

Votes: 78
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o Part 1: Proto-geeks
o timeline
o scorn
o history
o check it out
o really
o love
o use
o history [2]
o Solar Realms Elite
o Legend of the Red Dragon
o Also by El Volio

Display: Sort:
Geek Toys, Part 2: Computer Toys | 60 comments (54 topical, 6 editorial, 1 hidden)
go outside (1.69 / 23) (#1)
by voltron on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 08:55:19 PM EST

meet girls.

or boys. just meet people. (1.87 / 8) (#6)
by cicero on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 09:18:42 PM EST

I am sorry Cisco, for Microsoft has found a new RPC flaw - tonight your e0 shall be stretched wide like goatse.
[ Parent ]
Research, then flame (4.54 / 11) (#20)
by locke baron on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 08:51:29 AM EST

If you've ever read his diaries, you'll note that El Volio is married, and IIRC, has kids... Ergo, your advice has already been taken.

Stupid stereotypes do nobody any good. It's no better to pidgeonhole all geeks as pale, fat, lazy, malodorous social non-fits than it is to mark all women as weak, submissive, unintelligent objects or all blacks as backward, atavistic monkeys. So please, come off your goddamnable stereotypes before someone assumes that you're stupid - that would be bad.

And besides, stereotyping is SO 20th-century. Get with the times.

Micro$oft uses Quake clannies to wage war on Iraq! - explodingheadboy
[ Parent ]

Don't have to. (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:46:21 PM EST

Been married to one for nigh on 13 years now.

Wouldn't it be a victory for the oppressed people of Iraq, of North Korea, of Iran, if their police-state regimes were overthrown? Even by a cowbo
[ Parent ]

Ye olde boxen (4.33 / 3) (#2)
by aldjiblah on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 08:59:16 PM EST

I carry fond memories of the time my dad ran his small accounting firm on one of these babies. He wrote an impressive accounting suite in BASIC that ran for years on it. It also got me into programming, learning about files and data storage; too bad the C64 entered my life, seducing me with its colorful games - if not for that, I have no problem imagining myself being something of a computer wiz today :)

Excellent site (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by El Volio on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 09:19:43 PM EST

That's a really cool site... I bet I could spend hours on it. Definitely a bookmark.

[ Parent ]
Don't forget... (4.83 / 6) (#10)
by gr3y on Sun Jan 05, 2003 at 10:44:27 PM EST

all the handhelds that came out in the late 70s - early 80s with the primitive "Texas Instruments" pocket calculator graphics, and names like "Football" or "Soccer". Or the many gaming consoles before Nintendo, Atari most specifically. Or the games released around "Star Wars".

Or even pocket calculators, because we used to sit in math class and figure out what operations on which numbers would equal "80085" turned upside-down, which looks a little different on a seven segment display.

CGA graphics were an important milestone, but it was so quickly supplanted by MCGA and then EGA and finally VGA that it seemed that it slipped by almost undetected. EGA existed for practically no time at all, it seemed.

The first computer I ever used was one of the ancient console TRS-80s. I remember a girl in class that seemed to love the idea she could program:
20 CLS
30 GOTO 10
and enjoy the flicker of the screen updating.

Ah, the memories...

I am a disruptive technology.

In the beginning, when all was new... (4.50 / 4) (#12)
by czth on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 12:19:47 AM EST

The first computer I ever used was one of the ancient console TRS-80s. I remember a girl in class that seemed to love the idea she could program....

It's pretty cool the first time you program a computer, and each milestone thereafter, all discovered by incanting cryptic formulas from badly-written books... not so badly these days, of course, but it's still arcane wizardry (obviously I'm not talking about fluff like VB here).

My dad told me that he'd told someone where he worked that he was reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time; "I envy you" was the response. To go back to the magic for the first time (allow me this brief sentimentality, please :).

My girlfriend might be interested in programming; if so, that's cool, and I envy her the discoveries she's about to make (also, I get to teach her, which is also neat) (if not, that's fine too).

It's cool to be a guru and the font of all knowledge :>, but ah, for long ago and when the world was new....


[ Parent ]

Remember when they set up C=64's in retail stores (none / 0) (#31)
by IHCOYC on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 11:15:29 AM EST

For a while, whenever I saw a Commodore or Atari computer set up in a retail store, my first instinct was to go in and type in a programme that went:

10 X = INT(RND(0)*26) + 65
30 GOTO 10

Given more time, I would modify this to add word breaks, some punctuation, and so forth to its output.

Grais ingenium, Grais dedit ore rotundo
Musa loqui, præter laudem nullius auaris. . .

     --- Horace
[ Parent ]

Maze (none / 0) (#38)
by awgsilyari on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 07:02:42 PM EST

You can get a really nifty maze pattern by doing:

10 X = 47+45*INT(2*RND(0))
30 GOTO 10

Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Spectrum fave. (none / 0) (#39)
by bowdie on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:14:53 AM EST

10 PRINT 2,0;"Program : Bruce Lee" 20 RANDOMISE USR 1302 RUN Retreat to the singles counter and watch the fun.

[ Parent ]
Damm, I'm lame (none / 0) (#40)
by bowdie on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:16:06 AM EST

10 PRINT 2,0;"Program : Bruce Lee"


Retreat to the singles counter and watch the fun

[ Parent ]
Nostalgia... (4.25 / 4) (#13)
by pb on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 12:45:29 AM EST

Ah, yes.  Who can forget your first computer system, your first RPG, or the first time you lost all your data?
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
More Geek "Toys" (1.10 / 48) (#14)
by Hide The Hamster on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 01:54:30 AM EST

  • K-Y Jelly: An all-time favourite of lonely geeks everywhere, K-Y can be used to lube up one's own loose asshole for inserting coke bottles, carrots and kielbasa. Also useful for the all-too prevalent masturbatory habits of a nerd.
  • Coleman Camp Toilet: Being a geek, you're probably a really huge fat fuck. This portable camp toilet is very handy because you're, naturally, too obese to hoist yourself out of an office chair with cracking plastic base. Suggested accompanyments: aluminum walker in case camp toilet needs emptying and sponge-on-a-stick for washing.
  • 50%/50% Lard/Frosting, Tubs of: While not a marketed product, this is THE time-honoured snack of overweight sysadmins.
  • Electric Butt Plug: Hey! You're a geek, it's Saturday night! You've got nothing else to do, sit on this fella for a couple hours.
  • Jägermeister: Ah yes, the ol' Jäger. Best put by Eric S. Raymond, "Jägermeister is best consumed super-chilled; from the ass-dimple of a young twink."

    Free spirits are a liability.

    August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

  • excuse me, but fuck you. (4.62 / 8) (#15)
    by benxor on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 06:09:43 AM EST

    You know, not all geeks are fat and homosexual - only the ones you see wearing Perfect Storm caps in documentaries about render-farmed graphics, and whatever other archive of inaccurate bullshit pop-culture you draw your homophobic incredulities from. I urinate upon your comment.

    [ Parent ]
    Whoa. (3.66 / 3) (#30)
    by Arkayne on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:53:59 AM EST

    That flaming was so perfect it sexually arosed me.

    [ Parent ]
    Memories, memories! (4.50 / 2) (#17)
    by epepke on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 07:10:45 AM EST

    Ah, the TRS-80. Mine was a Model I that I bought with money saved from a summer with the Youth Conservation Corps. I overclocked it, added a bit of screen memory so that it could display lower-case, and wired in an analog joystick with a couple of 555 timers. My first implementation of the Bresenham line algorithm, "half-life," any my first interpreter capapble of native recursion, all with a cassette-based assembler. Peek and poke and keeping machine-language routines as pseudo-source in BASIC programs. Those were the days.

    Wordstar still had something modern word processors lack: responsiveness. When you hit a key, the character appeared; justification happened during a lull in typing. Customizable out the wazoo.

    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

    Ahhh, WordStar... (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by gordonjcp on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:03:11 AM EST

    I loved it. I still use it, from time to time, when I am doing stuff under CP/M. The reasons for still keeping a CP/M machine around are diverse and strange, but often if I need to cruft up some Z80 assembler code, it's quicker just to do it "natively" on an old CP/M dinosaur. Plus, it freaks out the "GUI-on-everything-cross-compile-from-Cray" types.
    I really, really liked WordStar. It did everything that 99% of people need in a word processor, and nothing else. It could spellcheck, but didn't piss you off with suggestions unless you asked. I don't think it did grammar checking - maybe later versions did. But, as you said, it was *fast*. Even on a 4MHz Z80 cpu, it was bloody fast. Word counts were a bit draggy, I'll admit that. Only on huge documents though.
    And - perhaps most importantly - no Clippy!

    Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.

    [ Parent ]
    Ahh, Wordstar (4.00 / 1) (#32)
    by DaChesserCat on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 11:47:59 AM EST

    Agreed; I used the hell out of this program. My first experience was with an Osborne O1. That was the only CP/M machine in the school at the time (I'm talking about my high school); all the other machines were Apple ][+ machines (they later bought a bunch of //e's).

    I rather liked the fact that WordStar could, with our NEC Spinwriter printer, microjustify text. That is, instead of just adding spaces between the words to provide full justification, it could add small spaces between the letters. We take this for granted today, with our proportional spacing GUI-based wordprocessing software and laser and inkjet printers, but this was actually a pretty cool accomplishment with a daisy-wheel-type printer (O.k., so the Spinwriter used a "thimble" instead of an actual "daisy wheel;" same basic technology). The school paper was usually done on AppleWriter; the justified galley strips looked terrible because, if there were only two words on the line, there would be a whole bunch of spaces between them. A friend of mine saw what I could do with WordStar, and had me to print the galley strips for one of his articles. The teacher in charge of the newspaper refused to accept the strips, because they looked so much different. Truth be told, the looked fairly professional, while the rest of the paper looked HOPELESSLY amateur. Since she (the teacher) didn't discover it, she wasn't going to allow it.

    Later, working as a temp, I keyed the manuscript for a 100+ page book on WordStar on an IBM PC. The employer was quite impressed because I could use an old, dusty machine to do something so useful. Another employer actually went out and got a copy of WordStar 2000 when I showed them how their current WP software couldn't handle the multi-column text they wanted for a project, but WS2k could.

    Just because it's old doesn't mean it wasn't powerful.

    Trains stop at train stations Busses stop at bus stations A windows workstation . . .
    [ Parent ]
    Oooh, an Ozzy 1! (none / 0) (#36)
    by gordonjcp on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 03:42:49 PM EST

    I've got one of those... It's not working at the moment though. If anyone in the UK has a set of working SSSD disks for it (all of 92k per disk) I'd love a copy. I used to use this for developing Z80 embedded code, 'cos it was faster than running an emulator on the 286s at work. Of course, the boss's machine was a 386/25, and was only used for playing "Prince of Persia"...

    Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.

    [ Parent ]
    East is East, and West is West. (3.00 / 3) (#18)
    by i on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 08:22:31 AM EST

    When Western geeks used to play with their Spectrums andd their TRS-80s, their Eastern counterparts had to build their toys first. Mostly out of chips stolen from factories/labs, because they weren't available at retail stores.

    and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

    Not all (none / 0) (#21)
    by yanisa on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 08:55:38 AM EST

    Smuggling ZX Spectrums was such a popular sport in my country (Slovenia, then Yugoslavia) that somebody wrote an adventure game where the player's purpose was to smuggle a Speccy into the country :)

    The BBS part got my eyes misty, as well - Fido netmail addresses anyone? I was 2:380/110.


    I think this line's mostly filler
    [ Parent ]

    1:247/317 -nt (none / 0) (#29)
    by czth on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:10:27 AM EST

    [ Parent ]
    I loved the VAX. (5.00 / 4) (#22)
    by haflinger on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:02:33 AM EST

    it's exciting. i loved it. even with our crazy sysadmins.

    other VMS lovers may understand this quote I found on quux.

    VMS Beer: Requires minimal user interaction, except for popping the top and sipping. However cans have been known on occasion to explode, or contain extremely un-beer-like contents.

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey

    Don't forget CDC 6-bit ascii (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by iGrrrl on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:21:31 AM EST

    Back when I worked for the computing center at Florida State, they still ran the old Control Data 6 bit ascii machines with VMS. Most of the programmers I knew had learned to juggle while waiting for programs to compile. For a while afterward when I went to grad school the first time, I had the use of a microVax all to myself. It was fully loaded with the early versions of what used to be called the Wisconsin Software Package for analysis of DNA and protein sequences. I was the only one who understood how to use it, and for nearly a year it was mine all mine.

    Years and years later, when I was first working on Macs because they had the best electrophysiology software, I ran across the following .sig:

    Why Macintosh? Because when I want to *fight* an operating system, I'll use VMS!
    Truer words were never spoken.

    You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
    remove apostrophe for email.
    [ Parent ]

    A MicroVAX all to yourself? (none / 0) (#34)
    by haflinger on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 02:38:24 PM EST


    I started on a VAX 11/780 that had, on average, about 30-40 users online. And yes, it crawled when it had more than about 4. But it got worse. After I'd been at school a wee bit, they decided to cluster it with a VAX 11/785. They did this because the poor 780 was spending over 90% of CPU time running the swapper, and that was considered a nonoptimal use of resources.

    However, clued-in VAX fans will immediately realize that neither the 780 or the 785 were really designed to be used in a DECcluster. And yes, the cluster did solve the swapping problems, but unfortunately, it introduced a new problem. The new machine combo now spent over 95% of CPU time in cluster network communications.

    The cluster did solve the problem though, in a way. After one term of the cluster, they bought a MicroVAX 3800. It was loverly. Suddenly, it was no longer possible to watch your keypresses appear on the screen in slow motion.

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
    [ Parent ]

    Children of GW-Basic (4.00 / 1) (#24)
    by SaintPort on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:20:42 AM EST

    YABASIC - Yet Another BASIC, multiplatform and fast... love playing with this...

    wxBasic = wxWindows + BASIC

    The BASIC Gurus...

    BCX = BASIC -> C (sweet)

    Rapid-Q (Q like in QBASIC)

    Remember Borland Turbo C?
    There was a Turbo BASIC, and it still lives as

    Search the Scriptures
    Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

    CGA, like my life, was a travesty. (4.00 / 1) (#26)
    by j1mmy on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:31:08 AM EST

    The screen's memory space was interlaced in opposite directions and (if memory serves me correctly) used a backwards bit ordering. This required anybody doing any CGA to write some really kludgy indexing and masks just to draw a damn pixel. You could save yourself a little work by double-buffering and doing the interlacing during a page-flip, but it was still a mess.

    That said, I really enjoyed GW-BASIC in my younger years. I spent more hours coding in that than I did doing anything between the ages of 8 and 13 or so.

    I caught the door game bug in junior high. LotRDm TradeWars and Arena (I think it was called arena) became my new crack.

    Then Doom showed up. It's all been downhill from there.

    If CGA was kludgy... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by czth on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 10:08:17 AM EST

    EGA wasn't much better. The 16-colour mode required switching between four bit planes, so to write a pixel you had to do four writes (maybe less if you cached the existing pixel colour, but who had that kind of memory?).

    Then there was the Amstrad, which was not only interlaced (i.e. the pixel after the end of row 0 was the beginning of row 8), but the bit ordering for colours was completely screwy (hint: for two 16-colour pixels abcd and 1234 in a byte, it was something like a4c2db13).

    And now of course it's even worse, with proprietary APIs and hardware manufacturers not allowing anyone to see specs for communicating directly with graphics devices; that's the saddest of all.


    [ Parent ]

    FlightSim follow-up (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by graal on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 09:56:36 AM EST

    Flight Simulator II, for the C64...featuring windows, which meant you could look out on the, er, Chicago skyline when taking off from Meigs Field.

    Afterwards, subLogic came out with Jet (remember the cool cursive logo?). A friend of mine fired it up on his C128 (with stereo sound) and it sounded to me for all the world like a real jet engine.

    Awhile back, I came across a shareware VGA flight sim game for DOS with the unlikely name of corncob. You could fly around, get out of the plane and fly it by remote control, or land the plane and complete the 'ground mission', which largely consisted of planting a bomb near the bad guy's base, moving a safe distance away and detonating it.

    Cheesy, but fun as can be. Almost as much fun as Elite

    For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
    inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
    -- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)

    Some things are just best forgotten. (3.00 / 3) (#33)
    by Phillip Asheo on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 01:48:04 PM EST

    The 80's is one of them.

    "Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
    -Earl Long

    Clealy, Sir, so are punctuation rules. (none / 0) (#42)
    by it certainly is on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 09:53:16 PM EST

    Look at the way you abuse the apostrophe. It's almost as if you didn't care... you heartless brute!

    kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

    Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
    [ Parent ]

    Clealy, I have a lot to learn... (none / 0) (#50)
    by Phillip Asheo on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 12:07:37 PM EST

    Clealy when I have your talent with the English language, thing's will be a lot better. Until then I guess you will just have to deal with my mistake's.

    "Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
    -Earl Long
    [ Parent ]

    Clealy, Sir, (none / 0) (#51)
    by it certainly is on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 01:18:40 PM EST

    missed out on the "Clealy, Sir" debacle. It's quite a treat.

    To save you valuable time, I'll summarise it here: Biil Palmjob writes "Two whole typos in a post of several hundred words! Clealy, sir, have proved me factually wrong...", gifts his legions of USENET fans with a new catchphrase.

    kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

    Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
    [ Parent ]

    what is this USENET you talk of ? n/t (none / 0) (#54)
    by Phillip Asheo on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 04:12:49 PM EST

    "Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
    -Earl Long
    [ Parent ]

    Oh the 80s. A misspent (so they told me) youth. (4.00 / 1) (#35)
    by idiot boy on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 03:35:13 PM EST

    Started out with a Motorola Exorcet 33. Big 6502 (I think) behemoth with a 6" green screen and twin 51/2" floppies. Chess on that was a joy.

    Onto the BBC Model B which gave us...


    Definately my favourite game of all time. I spent a truly collossal amount of my life glued to that wireframe baby.

    Dragon 32 A 6809 based beastie from the depths of the Welsh hinterland.

    And of course, as an Acorn afficionado (by this time), an Archimedes A3000.

    mmmm. ARM based loveliness.

    Of course, all I ever really wanted was a Spectrum but my dad worked at a Uni so I had to have "useful" computers. Git.

    Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself

    Elite! (none / 0) (#44)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:28:58 PM EST

    When I saw that running on a C64, my jaw dropped. I wasted many, many, hours playing Elite in my dorm room. It was also the only game where I cracked the copy protection - it had an incredibly annoying optical lens thing you had to look thru to read some letters on the screen. Took me an hour with a hex editor to no-op out the code that looked for the stupid thing...

    Wouldn't it be a victory for the oppressed people of Iraq, of North Korea, of Iran, if their police-state regimes were overthrown? Even by a cowbo
    [ Parent ]

    Check out Eve Online (none / 0) (#47)
    by idiot boy on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 03:38:05 AM EST

    Looks like it might make a pretty good fist of an MMPORPG Elite. Can't wait.

    Hopefully it won't comsume quite the same proportion of my time that the original did. Might end up losing my job :).

    Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself
    [ Parent ]

    Sigh! The 70s.... (4.00 / 1) (#46)
    by phliar on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 12:23:55 AM EST

    The first computer I laid my hands on was a Philips DS-714, an ancient 2nd generation (i.e. discrete transistors) machine that had a teletype -- think printing terminal, it's where the abbreviation tty comes from -- and core memory, and a drum for fast storage. It was a strange beast of a machine, with (if I remember right) a 62-bit accumulator, and some of those bits were special. No assember, you hand-assembled your code and entered the machine code. When I was in school Dad would take me to work with him, and I spent hours in that freezing machine room. It took all summer to get a tic-tac-toe program written. You saved files by manually allocating tracks on the drum, or you wrote it on 7-track magnetic tape. A pain in the ass to get anything done.

    But man, I was hooked.

    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Wow (none / 0) (#48)
    by idiot boy on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 03:44:32 AM EST

    Closest I got to such beasts were the punched cards that my dad kept in huge boxes in his cupboard at work as a souvenier of his PHD days on a punched card machine. I especially like the stories of how getting one hole wrong meant a three day wait for another slot on the machine. Talk about enforcing good coding practices :). He never tires of telling me how lucky I am to have a keyboard :).

    Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself
    [ Parent ]
    Punched cards? Luxury! (4.00 / 1) (#52)
    by phliar on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 02:19:56 PM EST

    The DS-714 did have a papertape punch and reader, but no punched cards (IBM called them Hollerith cards). I had to wait till I was an undergraduate, and got to use them on the IBM/360. That was a cool machine (BALR 3,0 and USING *,3 anyone?); it remained my favourite until I met the PDP-11 in '83 or so. (The Unix assembler on the PDP-11 remains my all-time favourite.)

    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Wang 720b for me. (none / 0) (#49)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 08:49:52 AM EST

    Nixie tube display, with a connector for a teletype (which we didn't have)

    I had more fun hacking that machine...

    Wouldn't it be a victory for the oppressed people of Iraq, of North Korea, of Iran, if their police-state regimes were overthrown? Even by a cowbo
    [ Parent ]

    Nixie tubes! (none / 0) (#53)
    by phliar on Wed Jan 08, 2003 at 02:25:12 PM EST

    Now that's a geek toy worthy of the name. I partially built a digital clock using a 555 and 74xx counters that was supposed to use nixies but I couldn't save up enough money for them. (Nixie tubes aren't made any more, but you can still buy them -- and they're still pricey.)

    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Okay, I'll admit it... (4.00 / 1) (#37)
    by bigbtommy on Mon Jan 06, 2003 at 05:58:35 PM EST

    It was an Amstrad C 128 that started it all. And then I started programming BBC Basic on a 'B' series I found kicking about. I moved over to a 386, 486, Pentium 120. The 386 running 3.1, the 486 and Penty running '95.

    Then I got my sanity. And bought a Mac.
    -- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up

    A few for myself (5.00 / 2) (#41)
    by Mister Pmosh on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 04:47:56 PM EST

    Video Games: Atari 2600, ColecoVision, and later on the NES. Those handheld games that another person mentioned too, but mostly because I was too poor to afford a gameboy.

    Computers: Mostly the Apple IIe early on, but I was given a C=64 about the time 486 processors came out for IBM machines. I bought my first IBM compatible computer when I was 18. It was a 486DX2/66 with 8MB RAM, 420MB hard drive, and 2x CDROM drive. The bad thing is that it was a Packard Bell.

    Other: I used to play with those Radio Shack kits to build a buzzer, radio, etc. In fact, I remember building traps around the house with hidden buzzers, snap pops, and whoopie cushions. I also enjoyed radios, and had a small silver tape player that I would record different things with. My friend and I also thought we would be able to build a Transformer by taking apart radios, televisions, and other electrical parts that his family left laying around. Fortunately, neither of us were shocked by capacitors or TV tubes.
    "I don't need no instructions to know how to rock!" -- Carl

    Ugh. You had computers in *grade school*? (5.00 / 2) (#43)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Jan 07, 2003 at 10:25:28 PM EST

    I feel old.

    Excuse me while I go get my reading glasses... Where did I put them?

    Wouldn't it be a victory for the oppressed people of Iraq, of North Korea, of Iran, if their police-state regimes were overthrown? Even by a cowbo

    Caught in the middle (5.00 / 1) (#55)
    by kichigai on Thu Jan 09, 2003 at 09:46:28 AM EST

    When I look in my math book, from around the mid 1980's, I see sections titled "Computer Key In". They were BASIC programs that the student would put in a computer, RUN (I still remember my BASIC), and document the results. However, I never got to do any of that. When I finally entered in public school, at 5<u>th</u> Grade (I was home schooled up 'till then), we had Apple LC IIs. They were slower than my 486 Laptop (Running Debian 3.0 and X). The most fun we had was with Number Munchers. The rest of the time was waiting for Claris Works to load so we could type research papers. And if we were really lucky, we could go the the Second Computer Lab, where they had Power PCs, and go on the internet ("Not all at once now students! You'll clog the internet") for research. And this was in '95.
    But I was behind the times until around '99. My first computer was a Commodore 64 that my dad had used. I loved that thing. My favorite game was Tapper, by Sega. Then, I learned about my dad's "big" computer: A 386 XT. It ran D.O.S. 5.0 (Later upgraded to 6.22), and Windows 3.1. It then learned about the wide world of Shareware. I got most of my games from friends who had Pentiums and good internet connections. For a while, we had a 14.4 Modem hooked up to it, but had trouble finding providers who supported 386s in the days of the 100 MHz Pentiums. Eventually, we signed with AOL. The thing I disliked most about that machine, was when it became very clear to me that it was old. When all software came on CDs, and required, at minimum, a 486. And there was Lemmings. My dad needed me to select the little icons for him.
    After that was my Cyrix "586." It was supposed to be a 200 MHz machine (In the days of 300 MHz boxes), but it was acutally a 150 overclocked to 200. It ran Win95 and had a built-in 33.6 Modem, along with a CD-ROM drive. I even had fun playing Virtua Fighter, Sonic 3 and Knuckles and Sonic R on there, in addition to my old Commander Keen games, and several other new ones. My abosloute favorite game to play on there was Final Fantasy VII. The massive four disc set amazed me. But, due to some minor problems (One being a certian Pentium Clone, the other being a really cruddy video card), the game was not as it should have been. It could only run a 320x240 mode (Unfortunatly, the Pre-Rendered backgrounds and FMVs were all at that resolution) if I wanted to view at more than 3 FPS. Eventually, I broke down in the Temple of the Ancients and cranked the res so I could see where all the ladders were against the blocky background.
    When the Playstaion came out, I got an NES. That was followed by a GameBoy, GameGear, and a Genesis.
    The year I finally got up-to-date was in 1999. I bought a Sega Dreamcast. Oh, I loved it. And still do. But I have to realign the laser to play my favorite games. We also got a computer that was almost on the bleeding edge: a Pentium III 500 MHz with a nVidia Riva TNT2 w/ 32 MB RAM. We swapped the DVD-ROM drive in favor of a CD-ROM and a CD-Burner. By this time we had Cable Internet, so we went with a NIC too. But the machine is still running today. Doing everything I ask of it and more. But I still use old junk. Remember that laptop mentioned above? I use to to write HTML Coded School Assingments (In VI EEeech!) while others are on the computer.
    "I said I was smart, I never said I was mature!"

    HyperCard was fun. (none / 0) (#56)
    by sanjiseigen on Wed Jan 15, 2003 at 09:48:26 PM EST

    It was pretty cool to mock up simple little Myst-like games.

    I used to have a BBC Master (none / 0) (#57)
    by melia on Fri Jan 17, 2003 at 04:36:52 PM EST

    It was bloody good, too.
    Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
    Go Flight Sim!! (none / 0) (#58)
    by Baldwin atomic on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 12:28:04 AM EST

    Playing the old flight simulator when I was younger is probably the reason I use "invert mouse" in FPS games to this day...

    Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
    Atari 400 (none / 0) (#59)
    by photodharma on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 11:34:29 PM EST

    My first machine was an Atari 400. I remember typing in line after line of Basic on that microwave oven keyboard and the time it took to load a program with the magnetic tape drive. WooHoo! Centipede was cool, though.
    School-Library.net- Open Source for Schools--Freedom to Learn!</TEXTAREA>

    Public Key:
    If you have a PGP/GPG public key (used for encrypting and signing email), paste it in here.

    Geek toys from Japan (none / 0) (#60)
    by Hiragato on Mon Feb 10, 2003 at 03:10:14 PM EST

    Maybe this a little bit off topic, but I don't know a better place to ask. I recently discovered a nice website which offers the latest geek toys from Japan (ultra slim notebooks, digital cameras, etc.) but somehow I lost the fscking link. Can anyone point me to some sites which sell such stuff? Thank you in advance!

    Geek Toys, Part 2: Computer Toys | 60 comments (54 topical, 6 editorial, 1 hidden)
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