I've had a computer for 20 years now--boy am I old.

I was looking at some custom computers over at www.mini-itx.com and it got me thinking that this month is the 20th aniversary of my acquisition of my first computer. And the first time I was online.

Here’s the specs:
Commodore VIC20, probably 1.0 mhz, 2k (kilobytes) ram, no hard drive, a tape drive, 300bps modem, an Atari joystick. All hooked up to my b&w RCA 12in TV that looked like the Radio Shack TSR-80 monitor.

Online service provided by Compuserve. Used the free HOUR on a long distance call to Pittsburgh that probably cost $15. And decided it was too expensive.

And some random thoughts about the whole thing

-I remember that you were supposed to call the phone company and tell them you had a modem and they would make sure it didn’t screw up the phone system and I think then they would charge you a higher phone rate.

-The modem software was printed in the manual, and you had to start BASIC on the computer and type it in and then save it–the software wasn’t pre-loaded on a tape for you. You dialed the number with your phone, then when you heard the connection noise, you unplugged the hand set from the phone cord then plugged the cord into the modem.

-You stored your software on an audio cassette tape, sequentially. And it was a pain if you stored a program later on the tape since the tape player moved at “real time” speed.

Here’s what the whole thing cost:

VIC-20 $199
Data-cassette $79
Modem $99
Joystic $20
Total: (in 1983 money) $400 (probably close to $800 today)

All without mp3’s, porn, or the SDMB!

you are officially one of the elders of our geek tribe.

venerates guy_from_wpa

If I remember right, you could use the tape counter to mark down the location of the program, then you could fast forward to that spot on the tape. Isn’t that right? It’s been so long since I used a Vic-20 I can’t remember for sure…

I recently found a TRS-80 emulator and played Dungeons of Daggorath again for the first time in 20 years. Oddly satisfying.

Well, you’ve got me beat. I wasn’t online till 1988. But I can claim some special status in that my tenth birthday was two years later.

[Weeze] Back in 'ma day, we didn’t have all these fangled zeroes and ones, we just had to program with ones. And electrcity! Don’t get me started about that rubbish, back in the day we had gerbils - and were damn greatful for them too. It was a great day with the sweet purring of gerbils hard at work - I still remember that day we cried when we lost ‘Fluffy’ to an erratic treadmill…damn best gerbil ever [sniff]

I’ve been using computers since '85 but wasn’t online until 1996.

Shoot, you people using wimpy LITTLE computers. My first computer was an IBM 3033 that I didn’t own. UCLA did. But I used it a LOT, dammit. You had to use an arcane little thing called “Job Control Language” and wordprocessing looked like this:

This is the first sentence of the paragraph.
This is the second.

Like this for all sorts of 20-30 page papers my boss had me wordprocessing. And hey-- Rogue. The original computer dungeon game, for when I wanted to fart around on my job before Arpanet turned into the Internet.


Anyone remember the Commodore 64? We didn’t have one in the house, but the library in which my mother worked had one. We also didn’t have air conditioning, so many a hot summer night we spent playing the game “Amazon” on that computer. It was one of those games where each screen (a still shot) took approximately five years to load. Fun!

Here is my first home computer - sadly, it didn’t have the paper tape punch - but it did connect via a nifty Anderson-Jacobson modem in a walnut box! All at the stupifying speed of 110 baud.

I spent hours playing Adventure on it - took lots of paper.

We had a VIC-20, but that was our 2nd computer. The first was a 1k ZX81; we could never get the tapes to work so we had to type in every (admittedly short) programme on the incredibly annoying “fastkey” keyboard.

We actually got a ZX80 when they came out, but my dad sent it back when he found that it could not do decimals! So 10/3=3. Unbefuckinglievable.

Yup, I got a Vic 20 in about 1980 or so; my parents gave me $500 to spend on a computer, and it was a hard decision on whether to get a TRS 80 and no accessories or software, or a Vic with some games and a tape drive and all that. I got the Vic. I have lots of fond memories of typing in programs from Compute! magazine. So fun!

Yup! My dad bought me one when it first came out. Soon after he also bought us a Spectrum ZX :slight_smile: Oh, and we had an Amstrad with a green monitor. At one point, dad dug out the old pong game he’d kept from when he was a bit younger - and that was fun. :smiley:

I think I’ve inherited/developed a love of all things computing/geeky/proffing things to find out why from my dad, who when I wrote my first program (in BASIC, to make a magic eye picture) said to me, “BASIC? You call that prgramming? All you have to do is type the commands in to the computer. When I wrote my first program, I was using punched cards!” :slight_smile:

I was another one who started on the ZX81; With a massive 16k of memory, via the rampack expansion. Ah! The joys of rampack wobble.

Then I got a 16k Spectrum and spent many a happy hour playing Jetpac, Tranz-am (the first game I ever completed) and all those old Ultimate games.

I also used to buy those magazines with the program listings that you’d type in. They sucked in the early days because you couldn’t bloody read them.

The first computer I ever used was a TRS-80 Model 1 - I don’t remember all the details but I do remember using the cassette player to load programs. :slight_smile:

Some other random memories of later hardware on this and other systems:

  1. A 110 baud acoustic modem - you had to whistle into the phone after dialing to get the other side to start sending and then put the phone in the coupling.

  2. Turning over floppies to get at the data on the other side.

  3. My first hard drive - a huge full height drive that held a whopping 10 MB of data.

  4. Putting all the memory chips in the right places on the motherboard and setting the DIP switches right so the system knew how much was there.

  5. How great everything looked on my new EGA video card.

  6. The amazing sound from an actual sound card - no music from beeps of the system speaker.

Ahh - memories. :slight_smile:

Oh - and my first online experiences were with Compuserve and The Source - later migrated into the BBS world.

I don’t remember the first computer in the house…it belonged to my dad. It had a cassette drive, I know that…we used to play “Missiles of July” on it…sort of like “Battleship.” It wasn’t in MY house, because I didn’t live with my dad.

Sometimes I played “Star Wars” with one of my mom’s co-workers while she was working…using the network on the UNIVAC at her office. We played on printers.

The first computer I had in the HOUSE…was when I moved in with my dad, and we got an Apple IIe.

When he got a second floppy drive, I thought I was in heaven; we could play “Ultima” without switching disks.

He got a hard drive and I didn’t understand it…“You mean we save the game…and then we don’t have to run it any more?” “No, I mean the game is IN THERE.” “But we don’t need the disc any more?” “No…it’s on the hard drive.” “Even when we turn the computer off?” “Yes!” “Woo-o-o-ow.”

Then in early 1985 my dad gave me a couple of phone numbers and showed me how to run the term program.

I’ve had the same handle for 18 years. My handle is old enough to vote. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!

At that time specialized computer magazines would print source code for programs and you had to type it in by hand.

Just imagine typing the source code for Windows or any application today.

First computer: Timex Sinclair ZX81 with a whopping 1k of RAM.

Name: Spectrum ZX81
Released: 1981
CPU Speed: 3.5 mHZ
ROM: 8 kbyte
RAM: 1 kbyte
Colour: 2 bit (b/w)

22 years with a computer in the home this month. We got the zx81 when I was 5. It connected to our small black and white television, and I would bring home books from the library with games in them. I would type them in, line by line, in Basic to get such great games as “J-walker” where you had to (frogger-style) move a letter J across the screen, avoiding the cars, or an ambulance (H I believe) would come and take you away. I heard rumours that you could record all that typing onto a cassette, and then play it back to the computer, but sheesh, how old did they think I was? 4? I wasn’t buying that…

RUN meant gaming heaven was seconds away.

Some flashy gits got “the colour spectrums” a while after, but I wasn’t too worried, we didn’t have a colour telly. They did however convince me that the tape-deck trick was for real. The possibilities of this astounded me…

A while after, our C64 came home to live with us. The colours were astounding, the graphics amazing, it was like having a real arcade game at home. And it had a tape deck…
I started to code a little, I had picked up quite a bit from those years of typing in the games by hand. I made little PIMs and text adventure games and recorded them to tape. Mainly though, I rented games. A tape for a week was 50p, and sometimes, if you were lucky, you could copy the tape with a tape deck. If you couldn’t, there was always the option of swiching the reels with a blank. Games started to come with copy protection, you would get a special decoder ring, or have to look up magic words in the inch-thick manual, or perform other arcane activities.
Cheats became common as the game selection grew. Oh, not todays in-built cheats compliments of the gamemaker, no…
Real cheats… “Smack the left side of the keyboard repeatedly with the flat of your hand to get extra lives”. “Stop the tape half way through (the rainbow coloured loading screen), fastforward a second or two, and then hit play again, you will be invincible”. That last one worked especially well on Midnight Resistance, the player sprite wouldn’t load, but the gun did.
One xmas, my parents managed to get me something I had been obsessed with for an age. They had to send away to england for it, and pick it up barely in time for christmas eve. Domark Softwares 3d Construction Kit. Un. be. lieve. able.

LOAD was now the key command.

Time went on and I grew into an Amiga500 (decked out to 1meg natch) and sold my soul to Delux Paint III, where I made animations and pictures, and traded them with my friends. On the Amiga was also Hunter, one of the most amazing games ever to fit onto one diskette.

Didn’t get my hands on a pc until the mid early 90s, there was a PS2 at school, that we were able to “get to” shall we say. The only computers otherwise available to the students were the BBC micros in the “computer room” as well as some big-ass Apple ][ that we were not allowed to touch. My uncle was a musician, and I seem to remember him telling me he had a HD with something like a Gig of space, and I remember him gesturing to something that looked like an electric heater, stood about hip-high on the floor, but I could be missremembering.

From here on in, it was PCs all the way, my mother has given away my other machines without asking me, and I am not pleased. I hold out hope though, that the ZX81 is still in that box, at the back of the garage… Must check next time I am home…

My very first computer was the Sinclair ZX-80, the precursor to the 81. I spent literally hours writing cheesy programs to do all sorts of things from do math, to drawing crude pictures, to playing games. In fact, I still have a working ZX-81 I picked up a few years ago, just for the giggles. Somehow it was more fun back then, but I still like dragging it out every now and again.

Then I got a Tandy Color Computer II. Whoo hoo! Color! Ah, the good old days.

And yes, I’m such a geek, I started searching around for the power supply for the ZX-81 to go play with it while I was writing this. sigh

Well, I’m clearly a Clueless Online Newbie here, not having got online till 1990 (although I’d owned computers since the mid-80s), but Mr. Butrscotch first got online (such as it was – Arpanet in those days, actually) in 1973 and helped write the TCP/IP tables for the Internet; does HE count?

He waxes nostalgic over Trash-80s; he even found a brand-new, in the box unopened Trash-80 300 baud modem with its $199 price tag still attached at his last place of employment (no location given to protect the guilty, since it’s now in our house). But of course Trash-80s came along after he’d been using computers for years by that point.