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First Computers 614

theodp writes "You never forget your first love. Or your first computer. Good Morning Silicon Valley readers share fond memories of their first computers, including SuperELFs with 256 bytes of RAM, $99 Timex Sinclairs, 26-pound 'portable' Osbornes, 'high-speed' 300 baud modems, Apple IIs running COBOL, and even a Mattel Aquarius (complete with Microsoft Aquarius-BASIC 1.0!)."
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First Computers

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  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) * <tom@thomaslee[ ]eland.com ['cop' in gap]> on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:16PM (#7797912) Homepage
    ...has a list of most of the candidates [gondolin.org.uk], including the Mattel Aquarius [gondolin.org.uk].

    No TRS-80 pics, though... odd...
  • First kiss? (Score:5, Funny)

    by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:16PM (#7797918)
    Some remember their first kiss. However, for the 43 year old virgin still living with mother (and who salivates over Galactica remakes), this question will do instead.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:34PM (#7798150)
      Hello AtariAmarok, this is your mother. You spend far too much time posting to Slashdot ! Now leave the computer alone and come and watch a nice episode of Galatica.
    • Basement? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Atario ( 673917 )
      Seems the bad-geek stereotype always involves a basement. Good thing our family didn't have a basement. There but for the grace of slab foundations went I, I s'pose. It made me go out and be halfway-normal...

      Atari 1200XL, early eighties. Remember to hit F2 to disable video during CPU-intensive operations for improved speed! Oh -- and death to cassette drives.

      fer cryin' out loud

      P.S. Key-clicks and I/O noises kick ass; disk-notching tools are for wimps (what'sa matter, you too clumsy fo
  • Oh yea... (Score:2, Funny)

    by JawFunk ( 722169 )
    I'll never forget playing Leisure Suit Larry on an orange screen computer, God knows the specs, I was too young. But the PG-13 content kicked ass.

    • lets see we usedto play this on an IBM XT think it was a 286. This was in teh computer lab at school that only had one computer. The screen was green though. It amused me hwo you had to answer these question that only a middle aged american would know in order to start the game.
  • Ti-99 4/a (Score:5, Interesting)

    by georgeha ( 43752 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:17PM (#7797940) Homepage
    with Parsec!

    I co-oped at a Federal Agency that tried to use these, back in 1987, it was to laugh.
    • My families 99/4a still works (beyond that, we have like 3 spare "keyboards").

      parsec, munchman, and "advanced basic" (as your basic basic wasn't good enough).
      • Re:Ti-99 4/a (Score:2, Redundant)

        by zakezuke ( 229119 )
        Let's not forget terminal emulator II (never saw terminal emulator I), which wasn't only required to get a damn modem to work, but was required for true text to speech. Unlike Extended basic where speech was based on a very limited vocabulary. I remember for my spelling I had to use regular basic as my vocabulary words were not in extended basic.

        And one of the fastest tape drives of the time period. I don't remember it's baud rate, but I know it was faster to leave programs on friends answering machines
      • I got mine on Christmas 1983. They were selling them dirt cheap at K-Mart because TI had discontinued making them. Something about that nasty tendency of the power supply to catch on fire...

        Within a couple of years I'd managed to beg the folks to pick up the "Mini Memory" cartridge that let you program in assembly language on it and wrote a couple of programs to move sprites around the screen with a joystick. That was about as far as I got with it before I discovered the Apple ][ machines at school...

    • by kenjib ( 729640 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:26PM (#7798047)
      I see your Ti-99 4/a and raise you a voice modulator. "Fuelling station ahead" in a lusty female voice... Who needs to remember your first kiss, anyway, when your first computer sounds totally hot?
    • TI 99/4A with Speech Synthesizer was the best. That barely comprehensible voice echoes with warm childhood memories... I still have mine. Actually, I have four. I don't know what to do with them, but I can't bring myself to dump them. My first coding ever was in BASIC on those things... 80 lines of code that just made the screen do pretty things, and that I had to retype every time 'cos the thing didn't come standard with any kind of storage... then I got the cassette tape "drive."
    • Texas Instrument 99/4A [99er.net] was my first computer. My father bought one so I could learn to use a computer except I learned to use it for games. I was into Atari 2600 [atariage.com] games and arcades (e.g., Pac-Man).

      Recently, I finally got TI99/4A to work in MESS emulator. The instructions can be found here [uwm.edu] in case anyone is interested. Some of those games still rule! :)

      You can see my computer and console history here [zimage.com].
  • *sniff* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:18PM (#7797942) Homepage Journal

    Apple ][+ in 1980. 48K RAM (later upgraded to 64K with a US$99 16K card I bought on a trip to Las Vegas), two 143K floppies, TV with composite in. No cassette, I was a rebel even then :) Oh, bought an Apple Super Serial Card to drive my external, manual 110/300 baud modem (dial, listen for the carrier, flip switch, hang up phone). Oh, I got a printer with it too, an Epson MX80 which was driven by a Grappler card in the Apple. That printer was an absolute battle tank and still works although it's out of use now.

    In 83 or 84 or so I got a 10 MB hard drive for the Apple and thought I'd never need more.. how quick we forget. :)
    • Oh, I got a printer with it too, an Epson MX80 which was driven by a Grappler card in the Apple. That printer was an absolute battle tank and still works although it's out of use now.

      For me, it was an Okidata 182. NEAR LETTER QUALITY!!!

      • Re:*sniff* (Score:2, Interesting)

        by grub ( 11606 )

        In The Day I was looking quite seriously at a device which clamped to an IBM Selectric typewriter. Basically it was a box with a load of solenoids which "typed" the data it received from the computer. True letter quality. Heh, thinking about that stuff now is almost embarassing.
  • Trash-80 anyone? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oroshana ( 588230 )
    My first 'puter was a Tandy TRS-80. It had 8 colors! I hooked up a radio-shack tape recorder as a storage device. I wrote a 10k line Tangrams program! And I was 8 years old. Beat that! (Okay, so my dad helped with the program.. but still!)
    • My first was a TRS-80 Model IV Portable - this gigantic sewing machine looking, suitcase sized luggable with 2 5 inch floppy drives and a 800 baud modem. Still sitting in my parents attic last I checked . . . but that was like 3 years ago.
    • Yup. The TRS-80 was my first as well.

      I still think audio casette qua computer storage device was neat. Listen to your data! My favorite TRS-80 game was Peanut Butter Munchers. I've tried in vain to find an emulator.

      I also remember playing the skiing game, but not understanding slalom rules. So since I got a point every time I missed a gate, I discovered I could just leave the course and wander through a totally white screen until I heard the cheers for the end of the race.
    • " I wrote a 10k line Tangrams program! And I was 8 years old. Beat that!"

      I was on girlfriend no. 2 at the age of 8.
  • an 8088 made by "Amstrad" or some company that was doomed. See, when I was a kid, my parents insisted that everything you buy at Costco was an unbeatable deal. It was a choice between the Amstrad POS and the Apple IIgs. We ended up with the PC and regretted it from then on.

    It had a non-Windows GUI ("Geoworks" or something like that) and was generally a slow, unresponsive, clunky, piece of crap.

    I hated it. It's now sitting in my sister's garage, covered in dust.

    • in '88 I think my dad purchased an amstrad 2400 I think. it had an 8088 with 512k of ram and two 5.25" floppies. It had a basic gui type interface very simular with windows 1.0 which came out much later. it could run quite a few games including test drive. I've seen Apple IIe that dont even come close quite honeslty
    • I had one of these:

      http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.as p ?s t=1&c=189

      And although it wasn't technically a computer per se, it was the first thing I owned that resembled a computer. I never could figure out how the hell to program my ZX-80 with that touchscreen pad for a keyboard, 16k and all ;-).

      Anyway, I loved my Amstrad. Durable as hell. I moved it cross country on numerous occasions, and used it religiously through a B.S. and Masters from 1986-1992. And it had a Basic disk (which i
  • My first PC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Isopropyl ( 730365 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:19PM (#7797949)
    Wow, all those oldtimers and their 1970s era computers. We've got a Commodore 64 in the basement, but our first home computer (at the ripe age of six) was an IBM PS/1, with a 386 processor and an 80mb hard drive. It's taken the years rather well, and I still tinker with it. I've put Slakware on it and use it as a journal.
  • My First PC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mt2mb4me ( 550507 ) *
    My fist pc was back in 1989, I know, not too old to some of you, it was a HP Vectra ES-12, 12Mhz 286 /w 640k of ram, and a 40MB IDE hard drive, VGA graphics. I'll tell you it was neat to see that they used IDE instead of MFM. We eventually bumped it up to 4 meg of ram, and added a 1x cd-r and 80 meg hard drive. That computer took forever to boot, to count all the way up to 4096 bytes of ram. and windows 2.11.
  • by fanatic ( 86657 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:20PM (#7797962)
    now that makes sense...
  • My first... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by I8TheWorm ( 645702 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:20PM (#7797965) Journal
    ... was a Toshiba T-100 with two, count 'em two, 5 1/4" floppy drives, running C/PM on an 8bit Z-80 processor, with a whopping 64k of RAM. It didn't take long for them to discontinue it, since MS-DOS was taking over the world at the time.

    I blame that computer for my being a professional developer today. I had to write software if I wanted any, being discontinued, and local shops only carrying DOS and Apple programs.

    This line from the article cracked me up...
    Next one was a Toshiba laptop, secondhand from my brother, running OS/2. How's that for dating myself? Barely opened Web pages. I remember looking forward to OS/2. Hell, I remember looking forward to the Lisa and __ducking__ to Windows 1.0. Web pages? What were those?
  • and it's still around.... every few years i power it up to play some games with the Mach2 joystick.... . Beachhead, spy vs spy etc... AH the memories! too bad the internal modem burned up many years ago (literally... smokey and melty).
  • A commodore+4, I think (correct me if I'm wrong please), this was released in the states as the vic 20. The plus 4 reffered to the MASSIVE 4Kb of extra RAM, this made it ideal for "Business Applications". It's currently in a loft in Scotland in my mothers house, but still works with the original tape deck and everything!
    ...Sorry, got carried away.... god I miss her.(the Commodore, not my mother!)
    • The VIC-20 was nowhere near a Plus/4. The Plus/4 was closer to a C64. Unless the Plus/4 moniker was the European equivalent.
    • A commodore+4, I think (correct me if I'm wrong please), this was released in the states as the vic 20. The plus 4 reffered to the MASSIVE 4Kb of extra RAM, this made it ideal for "Business Applications". It's currently in a loft in Scotland in my mothers house, but still works with the original tape deck and everything!

      The +4 was an upgrade to the Commodore 16 (the Vic20 was much older, and had much less oomph). It had several built in apps for wordprocessing, spreadsheet work, etc.

      More info on the +4 [plus4.org]
  • Timex Sinclair (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:20PM (#7797973) Journal

    I know most slashdotters are too young to remember this marvel. First, it had a lovely membrane keyboard. Second, its memory was so low that every time you typed a character the entire screen had to noticably refresh which was really hard to look at. My friends and I were kids at the time and all getting our parents to buy us computers. Well, except for one of us. So, being kids, the rest of us made fun of him because he didn't have a VIC-20 or TI/99-4A like we did. He begged and begged his parents to get him a computer so he wouldn't be the odd man out. They finally relented and bought him ... a Timex Sinclair! Oh boy, if you thought we teased him badly before...


    • My cousin had one of those! If you were actually trying to write any code on it, and got down to below half of the page, each character typed refreshed the screen. It was painful to write on that thing!
    • You mean ZX-81? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chazmati ( 214538 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:31PM (#7798116)
      I loved my ZX-81. It was cooler BEFORE Timex jumped in and put their name on it. I tricked mine out with a memory expansion pack, 300 baud modem, and custom (real keys) keyboard. Wish I'd taken some pictures of it. It's probably across the country in my mom's basement.

      Oh, and the speed... it was awful. So I started learning assembly. None of the cool programs were in BASIC; they all looked something like this:

      10 REM !@#(*~>8A6$^Q@#&@!(... ETC)
      20 CALL 16514

      The assembly code was stored in a REMark statement, the first line of the program. The second like would jump into the BASIC program storage area. The reserved words were all tokenized, so 'REM' was just one byte at memory location 16513, and 16514 was the first byte of the comments - your assembly program!

      Ah, thanks for the trip down memory lane. Almost forgot about that machine.
      • Re:You mean ZX-81? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MoTec ( 23112 )
        I had one of those, my first computer, plugged into the TV in the living room... I remember spending many hours typing in programs like that (and later for my vic20) from the backs of magazines. Unfortunately I would drive myself half insane trying to find typos. Some of the ones I spent the longest time on never worked.

        One of the magazines started printing checksums and had a program that generated them as you typed the line. What an improvement! Wow... That was a LONG time ago, now. Hate it, must b
    • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:35PM (#7798165)
      A friend of mine had one of those. When he first got it I went to his house and he asked if I wanted to play a game.
      "Sure," I said.
      "Hang on," he replied, "I have to program it."
      So the next 10 minutes were taken up by him typing in a racer-type game in basic.
  • ADAM (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stingr ( 701739 )
    My first computer was an ADAM. They stopped making it right after I got it so the only programs I ever had for it was a word processor and a Buck Rogers video game, both of which ran off of cassettes.

    Ahh that brings back memories.

    I used to do my homework on it and I got in trouble because my teacher thought the computer was doing it for me. To this day that still makes me laugh.
    • Re:ADAM (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:25PM (#7798025) Journal

      Ah yes, another blast from the past. This system consisted of a keyboard, a CPU/drive box, and a daisy-wheel printer. And guess where the power switch for the entire system was? On the printer. I shit you not. So, if your printer ever broke down and needed repair (a not-to-uncommon occurance for daisy-wheel printers), you were SOL for however long it took them to fix the problem and mail your printer back to you. You couldn't even play your Buck Rodgers game. Who the hell puts the system power switch on the PRINTER???


  • ...and man that thing [digibarn.com] was badass.

    You just plugged it into a tv and you were up and running. Sort of an early portable. And even cooler, if you didn't have a system disk in it when it started up, you could just start programming in basic. I've still got it somewhere. Damn thing still works. Take that, modern hardware!

    10 PRINT "(little brother) SUCKS!!!"
    20 GOTO 10

    Good times.
  • Commodore 64 with two 5 1/4 inch floppy drives, and , wait for it, the Commodore 128 cartridge. Man, I thought I was the coolest kid on the block. Blue screen, green screen. Took me an hour to program games in basic that I never got sick of. I still have a book on basic game programming, now I am going to go home and do it. I also remember, and feel free to correct me if I am wrong, a children's science magazine that used to feature a basic game for kids to program in the back. I can not for the life of me
  • My first video games device was an Atari 2600. Not really a computer, but I loved it. A few years after I got it my aged cat peed on it and it never worked properly again. :-)

    My first real computer was a ZX Spectrum 128 +2B [1], the funky non-standard thing Amstrad put out after they bought Sinclair Research. I still have it, and it still works perfectly!

    After that I got a 486-33 PC. I requested an Acorn 3010 (remember those?) for Christmas this year but the asshole salesman talked my parents out of i
  • Commodore Vic 20 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the Man in Black ( 102634 ) <{jasonrashaad} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:24PM (#7798016) Homepage
    Coding up adventure games out of my "101 GW-BASIC Adventure Games" (or whatever it was called) whiled away quite a few hours. Had a cartridge slot, and I remember wishing to high heaven that I had the external tape drive for it.

    20 GOTO 10

    At least I think ';' is the "no hard return" character in GW-BASIC.

    Ahhhh, memories.

    Things got more interesting when I stepped up to the high power Tandy 1000 from Radio Shack (YEAH, baby!). I still remember upgrading the RAM from 256K to 640K. I thought I was the MAN!

    5 1/4" floppy drive. No hard drive. Playing The Bard's Tale I, II, and III (Mangar's Mind Blade RULES ALL), Space Quest I-III, King's Quest I, a handful of Zorks, countless others. All by swapping those 5 1/4" floppies to and fro at several points during the game.

    Those were the DAYS, baby! The DAYS!
  • My first real long term girlfriend gave me a HP11C [calpoly.edu]. It may not be a _real_ computer, but I have fond memories of it. I kept the calulator, and use it to this day, but the girlfriend dumped me (wow, over 16 years ago). At least I got to keep the calulator, and my wife does not question me about it :-)

  • The "20" was the amount of physical memory, a whopping 20 kilobytes! And those were 6-bit bytes, with one bit used for parity.

    Integer math took another bit for sign, and performed operations with decimal arithmetic; binary 00101 + 00101 = 00000 (plus overflow).

    Hard to believe you could get a playable 3-d tic-tac-toe in 20k...

  • Ahh my first loves, that PDP 11 [pdp11.org] that was on the other end of the 9600 baud dedicated circuit when I was 10. Then came our first home computer, chicklet keyboards, basic and I got it at Radio Shack - wow - what a stunner, color graphics and everything. Yes my 6809E powered Color computer [byte.com]

    It all went downhill from there - in the room with me now are 3 alpha powered multias. [spacepants.org] Including the First box [obsolyte.com] I ever ran Linux on. Now I'm surrounded by obsolete sparq boxes, some old X86s and somewhere around here is
  • a TRS 80, mod III. I remember playing a flight simulator on that beast. It used periods for the runway.
    My father was a DP Manager when I was growing up... I remember visiting the Univac every Saturday morning, and playing startrek. Sorting cards occasionally earned me a buck.
    The original definition of PC compatible was whethere a computer could play MS Flight Simulator" 1.0.
    We've come a long way.
  • I loved that thing. I became a man on that computer... so to speak.

    My dad, latex gloved and static wrist banded just couldn't push the 8k memory chip in... he was afraid of breaking it. But I needed (_needed_) to play F15. So I unceremoniously shoved him aside and snapped it in with satisfying, manly, click.

    The next was an A500... best computer ever. 4096 colors _and_ half brites!
  • ..was more hefty than the one in the article, mine had 24k ram and 8K BASIC on tape (dual cassette interfaces). Never did have money to buy a printer for the thing. I think terminal was vt-52 clone, but not sure since I've worked on so very many vt's in past 22 years.
  • Brought home in October 1985, as an early Christmas present when I was in 7th grade.

    128K RAM, single 5.25" floppy, no HD, running DOS 2.11 or so. What a piece of shit that thing was. It wasn't even 100% PC-compatible, it was more like 85-90%. And of course most of the stuff I really wanted to run on it needed that extra 10-15%-- I remember saving up for weeks to buy a copy of F-15 Strike Eagle, only to find out it wouldn't run. Man, was I pissed off that day.

    In late 1990 or so I upgraded it with a 640K 3r
  • With a typewriter printer the size of Montana.... Many wasted hours with Basic & Hitchhiker's Guide....
  • P4 (Score:5, Funny)

    by WordUpCousin ( 735088 ) <chiajunk.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:28PM (#7798070)
    "My first computer is a P4 3.2 GHz, 1 Gig Ram, 2 120 gig HDs, a 20 inch LCD monitor, ATI Radeon 9800 XT and a 8x DVD-R Burner"

    If a 10 year old kid said this to me I'd give him a high-five for having a nice computer, and then punch him in the nuts for being spoiled. (Mine was a 8086) =)
    • Re:P4 (Score:3, Informative)

      by Martigan80 ( 305400 )
      (Mine was a 8086) =)

      Then I would kick your ass for being spoiled! I had an Atari 800XL with a 300 Baud modem plus two cartridges.

      Who's next to get kicked?
    • Re:P4 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by trickycamel ( 696375 )
      I guess it's my turn to punch you in the nuts. Mine was a Sinclair Spectrum ZX80 with 48KB of memory. I dreamt of upgrading to 128KB. 8086 was beyond even the wildest dreams.
      It used cassette tapes as external media, no floppy, no hard drive. It was hooked up to a black-and-white TV, so you had to guess the color of objects on the screen. When it overheated, video output would become garbled, but if you hit it in exactly the right spot on the case, it would come back for a while.
      Still, playing Elite on i
  • The first computer I actually owned was a TRS-80 Model III. I was quite excited when I learned to program the graphics of this 128x48 display.
  • My first computer was a TRS-80 Model I Level I with a whopping 4k of ram. Good times.
  • How could they overlook the PCjr?
    16 colors, TI 3-voice sound..
    Mine even had a v1.0 Microsoft Mouse.

    It was even "portable".
  • I could look it up, but I guess I'm just more curious if I was the only person who grew up with one. We had one at home in England (my dad has been in the computer biz since the beginning). Our school got one and I had to teach all the teachers how to use it. It was then I realized that there was money to be made doing this stuff! :)

  • Texas Instrument 99/4A [99er.net] was my first computer. My father bought one so I could learn to use a computer except I learned to use it for games. I was into Atari 2600 [atariage.com] games and arcades (e.g., Pac-Man).

    Recently, I finally got TI99/4A to work in MESS emulator. The instructions can be found here [uwm.edu] in case anyone is interested. Some of those games still rule! :)
  • My first computer (in the loosest sense of the other word ) was an HP-25. With 49 steps of program storage it was just enough to play with prime number generators, moon landing simulators, and other simple programs. I got it in the spring of 77. This started my obsession with HP calculators, erm umm computers.

    My second computer (or first if your are somewhat picky) was a Timex Sinclair that my wife and I got for sitting through a time share vaction sales presentation in the early 80s. Boy, did we hav
  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:34PM (#7798153) Homepage
    1: homebrew 6502 on OSI bare PC boards. I had 4 4k ram cards and a cpu card with the TIM monitor.

    2: DEC LSI-11 that I assembled from parts salvaged out of the dumpster when I worked at DEC. I had a 5' high rack with two 4 slot card cages, 64kb or ram, and an RX01 dual floppy drive. Ran RT11.

    3: KIM-1. didn't do too much with this.

    4: CPM system built from a 'BIG BOARD' kit. 3 8" floppies, 64k (later expanded to 256k) ram, and also later added a 5mb 5.25" hard disk with another kit.

    All of these were sold off quite some time ago.

    It's been a chain of pc's since then.
  • Adam! [perfidious.org] Zilog Z80-A @ 3.58MHz 80K, 64K available TV (RF) & composite video 24 X 36 text, 16 colors 256 X 192 graphics cartridge, video, AdamNet 3 internal expansion slots Daisy-wheel printer 1 or 2 internal cassette drives External floppy drive OS: BASIC, loaded from cassette

    fear... Just hope you didn't record Rick James' "Cold Blooded" over BASIC
  • my first pc (Score:4, Funny)

    by erikdotla ( 609033 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:34PM (#7798161)
    Since this thread is likely to degenerate into a "my first PC is older than yours" competition, I'll try to win right away:

    My first PC was a block of wood with keys etched into it using a sharp rock. We had to press the keys and draw pictures really fast into the dirt with sticks.

    We were very poor.
  • If we're speaking technically, my first computer was a Little Professor calculator [si.edu]. If we're talking something that could be used for programming, then we have to count the the Atari 2600 with its Basic Programming [atariage.com] cartridge and controllers. If we're talking first, full-fledged machine, then mine was an Atari 800XL [machine-room.org].
  • C-64 (Score:2, Insightful)

    Yup, I remember it fondly. Xmas in the 80's and a Commodore 64 under the tree. A big old floppy drive, keyboard, monitor and a couple of games. Popeye and some drawing game. Those were the days.... The monitor still works great, wish I still had the other gear.
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:42PM (#7798271) Journal
    LOAD "$", 8


    *checks list*

    LOAD "GIANA", 8, 1


    * the message 'CRACKED BY MR Z' appears *
    * screen starts to flicker in all sorts of colors *
    * voila! *

    That's all I cared to learn, except for the occasional '10 PRINT "HELLO!" : GOTO 10' program.
  • An Atari 2600 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @05:46PM (#7798308) Homepage Journal
    No, I'm not kidding. My first contact with a programming language was with the "BASIC Programming" cartridge for the family video game system.

    It had this horrific modal interface where you had a 6 row, 4 column keypad (actually, two 3x4 keypads that locked together). Every button had four possible values, denoted by color, and you'd press a special button to cycle the cursor through the colors until you found the one you needed. For example, suppose the top-left button had "A (red)", "B (green)", "C (yellow)", and "D (white)". To write the word "CAB", you'd hit the toggle button until the cursor was white, then you'd hit the top-left button. Then, you'd toggle until the cursor was red and hit the button. Finally, you would toggle until the cursor was green and then hit the button.

    Of course, that only meant that it took longer to fill the 63 byte memory.

    It was a total letdown. I'd begged my parents for months to buy this so that I could learn to program. I think the box cover had a spreadsheet and some physics formulae on it, and I fully expected to be balancing budgets and flying to the moon in no time.

    By comparison, I was ecstatic at the unbridled power and possibility of the ZX-81 (with 16KB RAM pack!) that I got for Christmas the next year.

    Take your fancy-schmancy PowerBooks and get off my lawn, you whippersnappers!

  • by Mantorp ( 142371 ) <mantorp 'funny A' gmail.com> on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @06:03PM (#7798509) Homepage Journal
    All the pirated games.

    I think I bought roughly 1% of the games I played. Copies of tapes full of games spread faster than chicken pox through my middle school.

  • On some old big iron (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ashtead ( 654610 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @06:10PM (#7798569) Journal
    The first computer I ever used was the PR1ME at the Oslo College of Engineering. This ran something called PRIMOS and it would reply with "OK," or "ER!" as a prompt depending on the outcome of the previous command. We had class accounts for the programming class, and the ones of us that were in active hacking mode made our own subdirectories for our stuff.

    We all would write FORTRAN programs to run on this machine, and of course we would try for the holy grail of finding out the password on the "MFD", the "Master File Directory" ... you see, each directory could be protected by a password but there was also a system subroutine called GPAS$$ (IIRC) which would obtain this password in a form suitable for going one level down. Which I think was called "attaching" to the directory. Going the other way however, was nontrivial....

    We typed our stuff in using some 1200-baud terminals which only worked with capital letters, so all our code got this dense, brick-wall, appearance, what with FORTRAN requiring things to start in column 7. The only 9600-baud terminal was the graphical Tektronix one right next to the machine room; this was to be used sparingly for nongraphichal purposes lest its screen wore out. Apparently, this terminal screen operated on a principle similar to an analog storage scope, flooding the phosphor with electrons. That thing was FAST though. It also allowed lowercase characters, but the compiler didn't like those, which made for interesting debugging sessions on the other uppercase-only terminals. This is probably where I got into the habit of starting loop indexes at J. I looked too much like 1...

    I learned a lot of computer details on this thing, stuffing text into INTEGERs two by two characters, and experimenting with left- and right-shifting them... The characters were like ASCII but with the 8th bit set, the interface was basically 16-bit with a 65536-word addressing limit, and this could be extended for programs with big data using some compiler switches, -32R and -64V and similar. Of course we did have to try and find out what were the limits, how far we could go with lists of INTEGER*4 size prime numbers or electronic component matrices before it overflowed or our program crashed.

    AFAIR, no-one ever managed to take the system completely down. And the MFD password was revealed at one point, but as a result of social engineering, not cracking...

    Now for the second computer, that was a Commodore PET, and the third, which was a Commodore 64, both of which ran BASIC with line-numbers and two-letter variables. After having become used to writing fairly structured FORTRAN, having no way of partitioning things into functions with local variables felt restrictive... I never became a fan of BASIC in this form, and by the time BASIC had shaken off its linenumbering shackles, I was already done with Pascal and having discovered the UNIX workstations they had at the university, learning C. These things were more in the same league as that old PR1ME system and C certainly was a lot nicer than FORTRAN.

    Of course, a student in the 80s couldn't afford anything that ran UNIX, so I learned Pascal and practiced C on the fourth computer I had and the first one I actually owned, this was a 4.77 MHz IBM XT Clone from 1985.

    I still got that one, it still works, and I power it up occasionally, just to feel the factor of 700 or so difference in processor speed.

  • by internewt ( 640704 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @06:13PM (#7798596) Journal
    My first computer was the good ol' Atari 2600. Mmmm, wood finish :) A tandy games thing, C64, amiga 500s, PCs... now.

    But back in the '80s, my Dad set up the home with the central heating controlled by a Commodore 64. It was custom software on external tape, with different programs for summer and winter. The software controlled 10 zones, 7 "rooms" (the hallways in the house counted as 1 room for instance), 2 towel rails and the hot water. The C64 was wired, presumably via a com port, to relays which controlled the oil-fired boiler being on or off, and valves on the hot water pipes.

    Each room in the house had a temperature gauge and a radiator, a dial for manual heat setting, and a switch to toggle between manual and comuter temperature control. The c64 was programmed to set to heat certain rooms at certain times of the day, to ceratin temperatures. The hot water could be turned on easily too, via software or via a pull cord in the kitchen. The TV out that the C64 gave was connected to the TV cabling in the house, so you change to a channel on the tele in the lounge or a bedroom and see what rooms has heating on, and their tempatures, times heating was due...

    By the time the system was done, it had a custom UPS as lived in the middle of nowhere, and power cuts were frequent. Reloading the C64 was a pain, so my Dad sorted out a battery backup system. It could run the C64 for a good while, but when the batteries died, so would the C64. And without the C64 there was no heating (without grovelling into a way cavity to flick the valves mannually).

    I moved out in 1996, but since then my parents have split up and the house has been sold. But AFAIK, the system is still going strong. It was when my parents moved out in 2001. That C64 must have had monster uptimes thinking about it....
  • My first computers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MsWillow ( 17812 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @06:30PM (#7798742) Homepage Journal
    The very first one I owned was an Ohio Scientific single-board trainer, complete with 6502 CPU, slide-switches, red LEDs and a whopping whole 128 *bytes* of RAM. It taught me how to really be frugal with memory, that's for sure! I used it to make music, one squarewave note at a time. Sadly, my father threw it out a long time ago :( I still miss hacking in binary on it, and thanks to that I can still add, subtract and multiply, in my head, in binary and hexadecimal.

    My next machine was a huge step up - an OSM Zeus 4 multi-user unit, complete with 10 megabyte hard drive. It had 5 Z-80s, each with 64k of RAM, and ran a varient of CPM as an OS. That machine, I used not only to write programs for businesses to use, but multi-player, multi-user text games. That unit taught me C, and gave me an even better grasp on assembler. Sadly, it went to the same fate that my OSI met, when my father cleaned out the attic one spring :(

    Next was a throw-back, sort-of. A Zorba luggable. Z-80, 65k RAM, dual floppies, tiny green screen. This one could *natively* read, write and format almost any soft-sectored 5.25" format, wheee! I took it, and an Eagle II, to Ohio, and hand-crafted a "bootstrap" program, in machine code, to allow me to download all my software onto my friend Greg's brand-new Heathkit computer ... that used hard-sectored disks. grrrr! Goddess, what a weekend~ I managed to craft, in machine code in DDT, a simple program that allowed me to send MODEM7 over, and then we used MODEM7 to send Wordstar, Spellstar, Calcstar, Basic, C, CBASIC and a shirtload more. I was wiped - 48+ hours of no sleep, plus the most intense hacking session I'd done to then, but Greg and his new wife sure appreciated it. Wheee!

    I still have that old Zorba in my closet. My father never even got near it, I defended it with my life :) Some day, I'll be buried beside it, and their I'll lie, "dreaming" of Wordstar 3.3 and DDT, content to rest, at last. :)
  • my first PC: 286 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sivaram_Velauthapill ( 693619 ) <sivaram.velautha ... Acom minus punct> on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @06:36PM (#7798806) Homepage Journal
    My first PC (it was a late model 286 so it wasn't as sucky as the original ones):

    Best PC I ever owned

    286 20Mhz(!)
    1024k RAM (but most things only used 640k so the extra was usless unless the game supported extended/expanded memory)
    13"(?) SVGA monitor
    2400 baud modem (got it a bit later)
    20-something(?) MB HD
    3.5" and 5.25" floppy drives
    3 button wheel mouse that never really worked well
    ahh... the best PC I ever had :) Brings back good memories...

    Fondest memories:

    1. Trying to free up enough conventional memory so that I can play games with all the sound effects/music. Spent quite a lot of time hunting on BBSes for mouse drivers that used the least amount of memory possible. Unless a game supported extended/expanded memory (not the early ones), you needed a ton of conventional memory.
    2. GW-BASIC. Spent a ton of time typing up BASIC games from books I signed out at the public library :) I even tried creating a "simple" RPG game but it never went anywhere because my brother wouldn't play it. Since I designed the game, I knew where the secret keys/doors/etc were--no point of me playing it :( ... It is truly sad that modern PCs don't ship with a compiler. I wonder what little kids these days do. Do they even do any programming? Yes, you can download free compilers (gcc for example) but how many little kids would know of them?
    3. Best game moment: Dune II. Dune II also happens to be my favourite game of all time (although I have spent 50x more time playing games like Starcraft). Favourite "race": Ordos. Favourite vehicle/weapon: Sonic Tank. I can still vaguely remember being scared every time the Harkonnen Death Hands are launched :)
    4. Other games: Test Drive II (anyone remember it?)... Might & Magic V (one of my favourite RPGs of all time)... Eye of the Beholder II (never finished it; hard game)... Another one of my favourites (which I found online as abandonware) is Stoneage. Anyone played it?... Red Baron (possibly the best flight simulation game I played--more action oriented than anything)... many many more...
    5. Wordperfect 5.1... I still remember some keys like F6 and F8... can't remember but I think they are for bold and underline?? Shift-F5 for print or maybe center?? I can still remember the blue screen with document infomration on the bottom right...

    I think my computer is my first love, like women are for some men, or cars are for others. My life is totally fucked up now but thinking of the 286 brings back good memories :):):) Rest in Peace my beloved 286... The Pentiums might be faster and more flashy, but I'll always love you more ;)

    I guess that pretty much confirms that I'm a geek :) All I need next is a job in the field :(

    Sivaram Velauthapillai
  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @06:53PM (#7798937)
    This is a bit like a Monty Python skit isn't it -- but here goes...

    My first computer was a Signetics 2650 [cpu-museum.com]-powered system I built myself in late 1976/early 1977.

    "What's a Signetics 2650?" I hear all you young fellers asking

    It was a Philips (yes -- they actually had a brief fling in the CPU business way back in the late 1970s) chip that ran at an astonishing 1MHz

    Initially this system had 512 bytes of RAM memory and a 1MB ROM cutely named "PIPBUG". For its day, this was actually a pretty powerful processor which offered a whole lot of really cool mini-computer-like instructions such as serial I/O (110 baud), advanced memory addressing support (post/pre-increment, absolute, indirect, indexed, etc).

    I also built a glass TTY (terminal) to communicate with this "computer". The TTY was ultra-cool because it had 16 lines of 32 characters (all upper case of course) and a *real* QWERTY keyboard. Yes, I was the envy of all my peers who were still flipping toggle switches and peering at LEDs hooked across the address/data lines.

    One of my first software projects was an assembler for 2650 code -- hand coded and hand assembled. It was about half-way through this project that I realized 512 bytes of RAM wasn't going to be enough -- so I splashed out on 4 of the amazing new 2114 static RAM chips that had just been released. Wow -- these offered 1/2Kbyte of static RAM on a single chip (1K x 4bit) so now I had 2Kbytes of RAM and I was sure that nobody would ever need more than 2Kbytes of RAM :-)

    I managed to get the assembler into a little over 1KByte and then realized that I needed some long-term storage -- just in case the power went off. Keying in a thousand hand-coded bytes of assembler as hex characters on a QWERTY keyboard was not fun.

    More late nights and long hours resulted in an NRZ tape system based on a cheap cassette deck. Once again I was the envy of all around -- since they were still using crappy and unreliable audio cassette decks with FSK modulation. My NRZ system was very reliable and had the potential to run as high as 1200bps -- woo hoo!

    I was also probably one of the world's first over-clockers and managed to get the 2650 running at an astonishing 1.8MHz out of this chip that was only spec'd to 1.25MHz. This was great because it meant that the normally sloth-like 10 characters per second interface between the TTY and the processor then lept to an astonishing 18 characters per second - that's less than two seconds per line of characters!!

    Despite its very limited capabilities and unbelievable crudeness, I probably had more fun with that computer than with any other I've owned or used since.

    I can recall spending many, many hours hunched over that keyboard and screen, and all the non-geeks who dropped by to see if I was still alive were astonished by little marvels such as the text-based games I'd recoded for it.

    Who remembers:

    Towers of Hanoi
    Number Guessing
    etc, etc.

    Before retiring the hardware I also wrote a simple BASIC interpreter that fitted inside the now massive 4Kbytes of RAM I'd upgraded to.

    And, to give Philips/Signetics credit where it's due, when I eventually moved on to the 8080 processor I was gobsmacked by the crudeness of its instruction set in comparison.

    And these days kids start bitching on boxing day because they've already clocked the latest PS2 or Xbox game -- ah, they don't know what they've missed :-)
  • RS/6000 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by killmeplease ( 50275 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @08:06PM (#7799454) Homepage
    My first computer was a Macintosh Plus with an extrnal 40 MB Hard Disk the size of an unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. That is not the cool thing though.

    My first programming environment in college (circa 1996) was an old RS/6000 running AIX that the entire Computer Science used. The last year I was in college we opened it up and it was an RS/6000 with a 33 MHz processor and one 2 GB hard disk, which was the bomb in the 80s when they bought it. Our first assignment wsa to write a page of text using VI. I swear I was so confused, you type CTRL x-s to save the document and CTRL to switch out of edit mode and use ijkm as your cursor. What the hell? That took some getting used to (I was a pro actually). What was notable is that it took turns compiling C++ programs in the lab. We would type in VI and compile Unix programs on the command line, everyone would have to wait while the queue of compile processes went away. I remember upper division students compiling their work and we would go have a cigarette 4 floors down and walking back into the lab and no one had compiled yet.

    This was great practice on crappy hardware so programming on PII 233 machines in JBuilder was like playing a video game. You could actually type normally wihtout using VI commands. That was such a relief. Now having a 2.2 GHz P4 is like playing with an XBox.
  • Mechanical Computers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @10:11PM (#7800202) Homepage
    My first computer was purely mechanical, no electrons involved. It was a DIGICOMP-1 [zianet.com] from Edmund Scientific. You could program the thing to play NIM and a few other things with the included manual.

    Later on I got a chance to use and program an RCA Spectra-70 in High School. The Spectra-70 was a poorly designed clone of an IBM mainframe. The school board had the computer, and each high school was given a teletype and a 110 baud modem. You could write programs in WATFOR (Waterloo FORTRAN), Dartmouth BASIC and RPG.

    The first electronic computer that I actually owned was a TRS-80 Model 1 with 4K RAM, later upgraded to 16K RAM, and Extended BASIC.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban