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What are your early computer experiences?

I might as well jump on the bandwagon. Adam Kalsey started what he calls "A distributed anthology of early computing experience." He calls it Newly Digital. The idea is to create an anthology of early computer experiences. Since damn near everyone and their dog, and all their other friends, have written something and contributed, I might as well throw something in, too. Click on more to read the rest of this, and leave a comment with your experiences.

The first actual computer at our house (not counting the Apple IIs at school that I played Oregon Trail on for hours) was a Tandy 8088 running the Deskpro "Operating System" on a 5.25 floppy. We upgraded the thing to 640kb of RAM (from 256) and had a hard drive (50 megs) installed so we could run Quickbooks 1.0 for DOS, and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. That thing was a beast. I remembering opening the thing up one time and wondering what all the thousands of little chips did. Granted, a modern processor has 100x the transistors that that entire motherboard probably did, but it was still fascinating to look at, and I think that's what really got me into computers.

We did eventually "upgrade" to a Packard Bell (there's no such thing as an upgrade to a Packard Bell -- it's always a downgrade). The monster had a 486SX, 25-mhz process, 16 megabytes of RAM, a 175 megabyte hard drive (most of which was consumed by the useless crap Packard Bell installed on their PCs), and a video card with a whole 512kb of video RAM (there are PDAs that have more video RAM than that). But here was the key piece of this computer: it had a 2400-baud modem. Once I figured out how it worked, and pirated an old copy of ProComm Plus for DOS from my buddy, I was rolling. Got a list of local bulletin boards from my friend, and joined the wired world. It was pretty much me just finding what I could download, and playing a few games here and there. I even managed to save up and to buy and sucessfully install a 14,000-baud modem. I was pretty damn proud of myself.

The first computer that I saved up for, bought myself, and considered it my own? A Gateway 2000 P5-100. Had a Pentium 100mhz processor, 64 megs of RAM, a 1.6 gig HD, a 2mb Video Card, came with a monitor and printer for right around $2500. I still have the original video card and hard drive from that machine ticking away in the original case (that was modified to house an ATX motherboard) running an internal Web server on my home network. The case is probably heavier than ANYTHING I've ever dealt with, and much more of a pain in the butt to work on and open up than any case, but it was built like a tank (I stood and jumped up and down on it -- how many full towers can you do that with?). I even kept the 15" monitor that came with it and sold it for $40 down the road when I bought my 19" screen.

But the real period of discovery was when I was able to take that system to college and get online for the first time. I bought a network card for $45, and taught myself HTML. My first home page was a page full of links and annoying graphics, large bloated code, and took about 5 minutes to download. Obviously, since then I've figured out what I was doing ;).

So what about you? When did you get digital?

Posted by Jake on 06/02/03 @ 03:37 PM
Posted in Geekdom | Permalink

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