Computers - my how they've grown

Recently ordered a new laptop with 24GB or RAM and a 1TB SDD. Comparing that to my first PC, it has almost 50 thousand times as much memory (compared to 512KB) and a little under 1.5 million times as much disk space (2 x 360KB floppy drives). Crumbs…

My first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000. It came with 2 kilobytes of RAM, but we had the add-on that boosted it to 16K.

In 1998 my first home computer was an IBM Aptiva. A big black monster. It had a 6gb hard drive and I was telling our IT guy at work about it and he said, “there is no possible way that you will ever use that much storage space!”

I joined British Telecommunications in 1973.
I programmed in COBOL and wrote the code on data sheets, which was then typed onto punched cards by typists.
If a small change was required, I used a hole punch machine to type a card or two.
(Those were the days!)

I was also the ‘expert’ in using the George3 operating system on ICT 1900 computers. :nerd_face:

GEORGE (operating system) - Wikipedia
ICT 1900 series - Wikipedia

I can’t remember the size of the operating system - but it was tiny. :wink:

I’ve tried Googling, but no luck - can anybody help me?!

heh in 1995 I had a 1 GB HD and loaded every game I owned and didn’t fill it up … in fact it wasn’t until online games like EverQuest and such that I started filling up hard drives …

On my computer at home, I have a document in which I have listed every hard drive I’ve ever bought (separate from computers, of course) since about 1990 and the cost per gigabyte. I think the first one was a a 340MB drive and the per-gigabyte cost was over a thousand dollars.

And in the late 1990s, I visited a friend in Massachusetts who was an engineer at EMC, which made large storage systems for enterprises. They basically filled an entire rack with 3.5" hard drives and my friend showed us their newest product, which stored an entire terabyte. We were suitably impressed.

I felt that way about the 80MB hard drive on my first PC (back around 1992).

My dad was a high school math teacher, and in the early 80s, at least where we lived, high school computer science departments fell under the math unbrella. In the summer of '82 or so, he brought home a Commodore PET for us to mess around with. We had maybe two video games on a cassette. A couple of years later he brought home a Commodore 64 over the summer. We got our first computer in '86, I think, it was a Commodore 128.

Had a 286 through uni, a horrible Mac Performa through grad school that I wished I could have set on fire (they rolled off the assembly line with defective logic boards, and Apple customer service lied to me repeatedly about there being a recall) through grad school and beyond, and I’ve been using Dells and HP generic home PCS since 1999 or so. The fact that my phone has tens of thousands times as much computing power as what I started with still impresses me; I’m dying to see how powerful computers will be by the time I shuffle off.

I still have my Dad’s Northstar Horizon with dumb terminal. I have fond memories of he and I playing Adventure on it. He also wrote for me a version of Animal, Vegetable, Or Mineral? that learned from its failures.


The first computer that I had all to myself was a C-64. I still have a rather large place in my heart for those.

That was my first computer, too! I had to duct-tape the module to the back of the computer, because it was so bulky and weighed almost as much as the original hardware.

Pretty sure my first computer (Commodore 64) didn’t have enough memory to hold a picture of itself.

Don’t knock the C-64. You could play Radwarrior, The Movie Monster Game, or Tass Times In Tone Town! It was Ultra Touch!

I still remember, I saw somebody selling a Commodore at an antique mart. I thought it was overpriced. They refused to negotiate. As the system was powered and connected, I programmed it to display the message “Don’t buy me! I’m too expensive!”

I am uber leet.

I remember in the run up to one Christmas in the early 80s where the staff in Laskeys (a UK electronics retailer at the time) had a never ending battle with young teenage boys writing rude words with the display models.

This is the one I always think about, not my first computer, but the first multiuser Unix system I used in grad school.

DECStation 5000/125
MIPS R3000 at 25mhz
16MB of RAM (I think)
1GB of storage (or so)

Then I compare it to the MIPS based system I currently use on a daily basis:

TP-Link Archer C7 v2 home router
MIPS 74Kc at 720mhz
128MB of RAM
16MB builtin storage + 8GB USB

We could only dream of having 128mb!

And also, I should be doing more statistical analyses and \LaTeX on my home router, but I doubt it runs Ultrix, though.

Quoting myself from a similar earlier thread:

My first computer (circa 1982) had two 256K 5.25-inch floppy drives and no hard disk. You put the disk for the program you wanted to run in the top drive (A:), and wrote your data to the bottom one (B:).

It was a Kaypro II. Here are its specs:

Released: 1982
Price: US $1595.
Weight: 26 lbs
CPU: Zilog Z80, 2.5 MHz
RAM: 64K
Display: 9" green phosphor screen.
24 X 80 text only
Ports: Serial port
Parallel port
Storage: Two internal 5-1/4"
SS-DD 195K drives

The next one we got had a 10 MB hard drive. We thought, “Ten megabytes? That’s like infinity!”

Years later, in the early 1990s, I worked in the IT department of a major museum, and we bought 1MB (not GB) of RAM for a PC for $1,000!

I got an original IBM PC in 1982. It came with 16KB memory and no diskettes. The head of our compter centre upgraded it to 64K of
ram and one 160 KB diskette drive (and I think he did this privately and at his profit). I also got an 8 or 9 pin dot matrix printer and a 300 baud acoustic modem (you dialed the computer centre and plugged the phone into the modem). The whole cost a bit over 4000 in 1982 $. Later on I upgraded to 256KB of ram and 2 diskette drives of 360 KB each.

That summer, I happened to go to Comdex in Atlantic City and someone was advertising (but not actually selling) a 5 MB hard drive for $1500, made to fit into a diskette slot. Someone else was flogging an incredible record changer type device that could fit over a diskette slot and hold 4 or 5 diskettes that it would automatically insert a named diskette into the slot. It was an incredible kludge and I find it hard to believe he actually sold very many of them. Especially with actual hard drives on the way.

Here’s another amusing story of the early days. My department bought in 1975 a Wang minicomputer. One of my colleagues wrote a textbook on moder

n algebra on it using a BASIC program he wrote. There were no printers but he bought this incredible machine that stood on top of an IBM Selectric and punched the keys under computer control. He had to print each page twice, once with the standard ball then reinsert the page in perfect registration and print it with the symbol ball. Of course, the input text had to be separated into two separate files. He actually sold the book to a publisher, but I don’t think it did very well.

There is a book I cowrote around 1990. It was written in TeX of course and it took over an hour to compile in 1990, another hour to convert to .hp format and over an hour to print, about 450 pages. Recently, I had occasion to revise it somewhat, including adding a new chapter. It is nearly 500 pages and took around 9 seconds to compile directly to .dvi format and ready to print. Although I don’t think printing would be all that much faster, depending on the printer.

I just realized, generations will watch Spaceballs and not know why “Dot Matrix” is funny.

It’s an old-fashioned term, but every modern display, whether on a 4k TV or a smartwatch, is dot matrix display.

The alternative is a vector display, which is well and truly obsolete.

Me too. Plus the cassette deck for storing programs. I think it held 16K and took like ten minutes to load. And half the time it had an error and you had to start over. All so you could play some crappy text based adventure game with a few blocky graphics.

One of our control systems at NASA used a high speed drum with pins placed in holes to operate a sequence of valves or something. It sounded like a table saw when running.