|IBM XT from 1983|
My first computer was not the original IBM PC, but a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A computer, released in June 1981. I used this computer for many years, learning to program it not only in BASIC but also Assembly. One of the cool things it had at the time was a speech synthesizer, that produced a robotic voice and at least for me at the time went well with the Styx song, "Mr. Roboto." Eventually, I even used it for word processing with an attached printer. I didn't have a disk drive so everything was loaded, slowly, off of a cassette tape. In many ways, the TI-99/4A was more advanced than other computers on the market at the time. It was the first 16-bit computer on the market.
I also had a Timex Sinclair 1000 computer. This eventually was dissected and carefully studied. It was the first $100 computer. Of course, if I had a wristwatch, it would have more computing power today than this computer. I also wrote programs on this computer. I remember one in particular, where I programed it to draw a rather jagged diagonal line from the top of the screen to the bottom. I spent the rest of the day trying to make the line less jagged, but alas it was hard to do considering how limited the screen resolution was. In 1982, I am not sure that the $100 was worth much of anything apart from being able to say, "I had a computer." I am sure there must have been some people who did something useful with their Timex Sinclair but not me.
The computer I really cut my teeth on was the Compaq Portable my father brought home every Friday night from General Electric where he worked. Essentially from Friday night until Sunday night, the computer was mine to do what I wanted. Back in 1983-84 this was extremely advanced technology. It cost around $4,000 (nearly $9,000 in 2011 adjusted dollars) at the time. It weighed almost 30 pounds, but it was portable. It had word processing and Lotus 1-2-3. It ran a clone of Microsoft DOS. Soon I learned all the ins and outs of the machine and the parts inside. Eventually, I had opportunities with the IBM AT system and other business type machines.
Other stories of 300 baud modems, early days of Windows, beta testing for Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, et al, BBS systems, online services, early days of email, Pipeline Internet, and such could be told... So here's to reflecting on 30 years of personal computing... as I sip my coffee, writing this blog post on my Macbook Pro, with my iPhone and iPad nearby... Let the Post-PC days begin...