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Ask Slashdot: What Was Your First Home Computer? 857

We've recently seen stories about old computers and sys-ops resurrecting 1980s BBS's, but now an anonymous reader has a question for all Slashdot readers: Whenever I meet geeks, there's one question that always gets a reaction: Do you remember your first home computer? This usually provokes a flood of fond memories about primitive specs -- limited RAM, bad graphics, and early versions of long-since-abandoned operating systems. Now I'd like to pose the same question to Slashdot's readers.

Use the comments to share details about your own first home computer. Was it a back-to-school present from your parents? Did it come with a modem? Did you lovingly upgrade its hardware for years to come? Was it a Commodore 64 or a BeBox?

It seems like there should be some good stories, so leave your best answers in the comments. What was your first home computer?
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Ask Slashdot: What Was Your First Home Computer?

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  • A homemade 6809 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig.hogger@gmail.NETBSDcom minus bsd> on Saturday April 15, 2017 @11:53PM (#54242503) Journal
    A wire-wrapped homemade 6809 system, bought from a friend when he got his first IBM PC The thing had 168K of RAM, two floppies and managed to run Unix with 3 users The computer was built aound 1980.
    • A wire-wrapped homemade 6809 system, bought from a friend when he got his first IBM PC

      The thing had 168K of RAM, two floppies and managed to run Unix with 3 users

      Wow, that sounds like a massively cool project! Did your friend document his wonderful adventure?

      • I'm sure you can still find instructions somewhere, and I know that several DIY / wire wrapped computers are extensively photographed online.

        You should read Hackers [infogalactic.com], particularly part 2, for the state of "the scene" in the late 70s. People were forming clubs and starting magazines to pass around schematics and software. By the mid-70s, you could buy proper computers, either in kit form or fully assembled. Making PCBs at home was getting practical too, but wire wrap was still preferred for prototyping.

    • Ah, so I'm not the only person who had that as their first system. In my case it was a 68K done with Vero Speedwire, all 3,000 connections, with an NS455-based video subsystem. I had more fun designing and hacking around with the hardware than anything else, once I got the monitor running on it I kinda lost interest because all the cool stuff had been done.
    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      By Unix you probably mean Microware's OS-9. [wikipedia.org]
  • ZX81 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cyberpunkrocker ( 1649121 ) on Saturday April 15, 2017 @11:59PM (#54242523)
    My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 back in '82. I still have it in the basement... Unfortunately it didn't work any more after an attempt to solder the infamously wobbly 16k RAM pack in place with a ribbon cable.
    • I used to put a bag of ice on top of the computer to prevent thermal expansion from nudging the connectors loose. It drove my parents nuts but it worked great.
  • Apple ][+ (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:00AM (#54242533)

    48KB RAM + 16KB extended, two floppy disk drives, green monochrome CRT display, and a joystick. It was amazing at the time, at least to me.

    My parents bought it for their business, but they never really used it, and it eventually became mine. I learned how to program on that computer using AppleBASIC. I also learned that line numbers suck for programming, and only went to 32767 (one of my bigger projects). I eventually learned why there was such a "strange" limit like that after I learned about binary numbers.

    Favorite games: Choplifter, Wizardry, Karateka, Aztek, and a few adventure games I can't remember the names of.

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      Same. Only mine was later upgraded with a 16KB RAM card (for a total of 64KB, like the later //e), a Mockingboard sound card, an 80-column text board, and I even did a little hack where I connected a line from the shift key to one of the paddle buttons on the motherboard, so that you could use the shift key like it was meant to be used in AppleWriter.

    • Very much the same here if you swap the greenscreen for a TV and add Lode Runner and some Ultima to the list of games.

      I have such a fondness for that old Apple, I've spent the last few weeks writing an emulator.

      • by west ( 39918 )

        Indeed, I spent $1789 of my hard-earned summer job money to buy my Apple ][ in 1979 and was the first person in our residence with a computer in their room.

        A fact I was rewarded for by having people in my room day an night playing Dave's Midnight Magic. I learned to sleep through having three people yelling at the screen in my residence room at 2am.

        I also ended up having to replace the bloody joystick every six months for my entire tenure at university. I still boggle how someone managed to depress one of

  • I used others many other ones my parents had. I purchased a Packard Bell 386 16Mhz, 1MB RAM, 16 MB HDD for $850 from Montgomery Ward. God I'm old.

    • I fished my first x86 out of a dumpster in my late teens. People were upgrading to 386 and the stores were just throwing the 286s in the garbage.
      Just throwing it the garbage! It was insane. Show up at 3am, Free Computer!!1!!!

      Later I got 386s that way too; usually SX though. If it was a DX the store would resell it.

      The modems they would strip the jumpers off to try to foil us, since there was no internet and no manuals, but it only took one weekend to try all the combinations and get an ISA internal modem co

    • Same here. I got mine towards the end of its life cycle apparently, just before TI stopped selling them. In fact I think the price was reduced tremendously because of that. I was around 10 at the time. I did always envy my friend's C64 though. The TI cartridge games were pretty decent for the time, but its BASIC was very limited and slow, so the TI versions of the programs in Compute! magazine were always pretty pitiful compared to the C64 versions.

  • Atari 800.

  • TRS-80 Model 1 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by krelvin ( 771644 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:06AM (#54242579)

    Actually, the first part I bought was an expansion interface. I had access to a model 1 at the store and access to floppy drives, but the expansion interfaces would fly out the door and having a floppy drive was of no use without one.

    So I first bought an expansion interface so that I could keep it at the store, then when I could afford it, I bought the model one, a floppy drive and took it home.

  • Do not Know (Score:4, Interesting)

    by williamyf ( 227051 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:08AM (#54242587)

    My first home computer: A hand-me-down Apple ][ Plus in 1985 (on a loan).

    The first computer in which I did serious work: A Sanyo MBC-555 (WordStar, CalcStar) 1984

    The first Computer I programmed: Commodore 64 (Basic and Logo) 1984-1985.

    The first computer which was my own: A comodore PC-10 1988 (yes, with MS-DOS 3.2 and an 4.77 Mhz 8088 CPU).

  • AMD 486 DX2/66. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bronney ( 638318 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:10AM (#54242607) Homepage

    4MB of ram. Had to buy 4 more at 55 dollars per to run Ultima 8. Being a lab assistant wasn't so bad :)

    Those qemm days amirite?

  • by Allen Akin ( 31718 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:11AM (#54242611)

    With a TV Typewriter II. 4KB SRAM. Audio tape storage. MIKBUG monitor.

    Gradually upgraded to a 6809 with 16KB DRAM. Multitasking OS implemented in a homebrew Algol-68-based programming language.

    Still have the thing in a box in the basement.

  • My first computer was a Tandy MC-10 in 1983 or so, but only for about a week or two. I played around on it and my Dad took it back to Radio Shack for me and got me a Color Computer 2. I did not have a modem for it, but I did get a cassette player that I could save programs onto and use as a tape drive. I also had a little printer that printed on receipt size paper.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A Heathkit H8 with the hexadecimal keypad. Then a TRS-80, I think model 3, then a commodore 128, and then the first PC was an ITT 8086 based machine with DOS and I want to say 5MB hard drive. *BUT* it had the amber monitor instead of green, so it was awesomely cool. Added a color card,and really went nuts.

    • I had one as well. Why you would be modded down for this is incomprehensible.

      I was already using mainframes and minicomputers when I bought it, so it didn't keep my attention very long. It took a long time for home machines to reach a point where I felt it was worth he effort to use them.

    • I had a Heathkit H89 - basically compatible with the H8, but had the terminal built-in. I have a web site dedicated to Heath Computers - http://heathkit.garlanger.com/ [garlanger.com] Information, photos, even a javascript emulator for the H89.
  • Altair 8800A (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oldzoot ( 60984 ) <morton.james@comca[ ]net ['st.' in gap]> on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:12AM (#54242619)

    Bought in March 1976 in Berkely. 2Mhz 8080, and 4K RAM with only the front panel for about 2 months. Then added the Processor technology VDM-1 16X 64 Video card, 3P+S I/O card and a CUTS casette tape interface. When I added the GPM memory board with a 2K byte ROM Monitor, it was actually easy to read a game in from casette and actually use the computer for something. (Target and TREK-80 for the win!) I eventually added some more RAM - 16 K Dynabyte cards and a North Star micro-disk floppy system. The system eventually evolved to a Z-80, CP/M 80, 60K RAM and a Morrow 16 Megabyte Hard disk.

  • Commodore... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by no1nose ( 993082 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:16AM (#54242649)

    ...VIC-20. Purchased at a garage sale for $20. Later I upgraded to the C-64... and even later an Amiga 500. These days, computers can do anything and the primary difference between my current Windows 7 Pro machine and the next PC i buy will be the horrible Windows 10 UI. But back in the 80's and 90's every new computer was different and NEW and EXCITING. I miss that feeling. Much like my first run through Ashron's Call.

  • The first computer in the home was the Commodore 64. Had a tape drive and it hooked up to a small color tv. Used to spend hours typing in programs from I think Byte magazines, but maybe it was called something else.

    Still have 2 C64's and a C128. =)

    • I didn't get in on the game until the C=128 came out. Had the 5-1/4" drive... what was it the 5128? No, that was the power supply... the 1541 was the disk drive.

      But my favorite add-on was the Covox Voicemaster -- it did speech synthesis and voice recognition. Horribly. But it was awesome.

  • paleo (Score:5, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:19AM (#54242665) Journal

    My first home computer was a slide rule.

  • Family's first was an Apple II GS -- came in handy for my high school term papers.

    First I paid my own money for was a Pentium 100 Mhz, 8 Mb of RAM, upgraded to 12 Mb... came with Windows 3.11, upgraded to Win95 shortly after.

  • A Lisa (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chromaexcursion ( 2047080 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:24AM (#54242689)
    yes an Apple Lisa, with an Mac mod chip, for the display. still in my attic.
    Any offers?
    • yes an Apple Lisa, with an Mac mod chip, for the display. still in my attic. Any offers?

      Yes, actually, I'm very interested with a serious offer. We have no place to store our empty luggage, sleeping bags, old photo albums, old family films, boxes of framed photographs and diplomas, mothballed clothes, blankets and flags, a pair of upholstered chairs we're not using, boxes of Christmas ornaments, decorations, lights, and the artificial tree. How about $25 per month?

  • um, jr. I spent a lot of time with Crossfire, Adventures in Math, Gato, and Kings Quest II. I learned to type playing Kings Quest II. My wife doesn't want our son to play video games, but I've already told her he's going to learn to type on Kings Quest games.

  • I still have the box it came in; it holds Christmas ornaments out in the garage.
    A 8086 machine with 640kB RAM, single 5-1/4" floppy drive, CGA graphics adapter.
    When I bought it I was torn between spending extra to upgrade to a 20MB hard drive or getting an EGA graphics card (16 colors!). I went with the 20MB hard drive; a wise choice in hindsight.
    A month or so later I bought a real time clock adapter which came as a socket that plugged in underneath the BIOS ROM (?). It was great not having to set t
  • by lord_mike ( 567148 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:26AM (#54242711)

    ...was a TRS-80 Color Computer at a community programming class. I was hooked! Unfortunately, at the time, there was no way I could afford such a thing on my own. I received the David H. Ahl's BASIC Computer Games books as a Christmas gift, and I would pore over the code pretending to run the programs in my head. I guess those books were the first computer I ever owned. To help ease my computer cravings, I could book time at the local public library on their TRS-80 Model III, which was a lousy computer in all respects, but at least I had some access to it. I had to plan things out carefully, since I only had an hour, and that included cassette loading/saving time. Finally, I was able to get a computer that was affordable enough to acquire, since it was dirt cheap--a clearance sale model Timex Sinclair 1000 (the US version of the ZX81). I think I paid $35 for the computer and another $15 for the 16K RAM pack and some game cassettes. Without color or sound or even an on/off switch, it was certainly a piece of junk, but it was *MY* piece of junk which I could use anytime and any way I wished. Unlike in the UK, the US market had a dearth of software, but we did have a lot of books available, so I programmed as much as I could. I still have it, and it still works (I had to repair the voltage regulator a few years ago), and it still has those same horrid RF interference screen patterns that make it unusable on a modern TV. Fortunately, I have a few old B&W CRT TV's laying around...

    Later on I was able to snag an Atari 1200XL on clearance and was finally able to move onto "real" computing. That Atari was by far my favorite computer, but that lousy Sinclair still holds a special place in my heart. After all, you never forget your first! :-)

  • IBM PC with IBM DOS 1.1 - Upgraded memory (I think to 64kb), 2 Floppy Drives, a dot matrix printer, CGA graphics card with Electrohome CGA Monitor - no support for hard drives at this point, directory structure only had root (no subdirectory).

    Retail Price: $8,400 CAD (with a 20% discount - $6,800).

    Year -- 1981 I think.
    I used TRS-80s at school - but this was the first computer at home.
  • Commodore PET (Score:2, Interesting)

    You spoiled brats with your C64s with floppy drives and your VIC-20s... you had it too easy. The original Commodore PET had 8K of RAM, a 40x25 character display, and storage on a cassette tape.

    Fun memories:

    • * Playing stored program tapes on my cassette player (later on when I got a modem, discovering that the sound was very similar)
    • * Clumsy but workable graphics using the shaped symbols in the upper ASCII set and POKE commands to move them around the screen quickly
    • * Opening the case to explore the motherbo
  • I learned basic and fortran in the late 70s, and worked on them both in school and as a job - but the tech kept improving so rapidly, and I was a cheapskate, so I kept putting it off. Finally my wife told me to just by a damn computer already, so I bought the components and built my own 486-based computer.

    So basically I procrastinated for something like 15 years...

  • Bought it in '79. Figured out how to upgrade it to 64k by way of RAM readily available at work, um, I mean, Radio Shack. Had to fold out a couple pins and solder wires to them but it worked. Also bought a PC board for the expansion interface (disc drives, printer, other stuff), then bought the parts and soldered everything together.

    Learned BASIC and Z-80 assembly, the Z-80 got me a job writing 8080 assembly at work, the rest is history.
  • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:36AM (#54242775)

    My first computer didn't use electronic components, but it was battery powered and had lights to display the next move. I used a cigar box from my grandpa as the case. I made it myself back in the 1950's, and all it could do was play the game of Nim.
    It always won if it got to move second as is the case with a judicious choice of an initial number. Against those who didn't know the game of Nim, it usually won if it took the first move.
    I "won" some coins, less than 50 cents, from the other kids. I think they knew better than to trust me; they just wanted to see it work.

  • I had a Cyrix '200' and it took me DAYS to figure out why i couldn't get it to run at 200 Mhz. In reality it was a 150 Mhz part and the '200' was its 'Performance rating'
  • I am old
  • Commodore 64 (Score:5, Informative)

    by jgotts ( 2785 ) <jgottsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:45AM (#54242837)

    My first computer was a Commodore 64, which my parents gave me for Christmas in 1985 when I was in fifth grade. My grandfather bought me a matching disk drive. I was a lucky kid to get these gifts because my parents were and still are working poor. I now suspect that my grandfather also paid for the computer. In 2017 dollars, it was something like a $1,000 Christmas for me.

    I didn't set aside my gifts after a few months like many kids do. A year and a half later I was published in RUN Magazine and received a royalty check for my efforts at the ripe old age of 12. I spent virtually every dollar I had on programming books and magazines. I managed to get on the Internet with my first post to Usenet in 1992 but otherwise I was isolated from any other programmer. I was and continue to be a self-taught, natural programmer. I took all of the requisite computer science classes at the university, but more often than not they managed to suck out all of the enjoyment I had been experiencing programming since I was a pre-teen.

    More than three decades later, I'm still doing programming. I switched to 100% Linux in 1994, so I've been doing Linux development for almost exactly 23 years. I still remember those early days.

  • The first one we owned at home was an IBM PC Jr.
    The first one I ever used was an Apple I, at school.

  • 256 bytes RAM, hex keypad, 7-segment displays, CDP1802 processor, no OS at all. $106.99 in 1981 as a kit from Quest Electronics. I later got the Super Expansion (adds 4 KB of SRAM and a couple of sort-of-S-100 slots) and finally a 64 KB S-100 DRAM card as a bare board (remember bare boards?).

  • Just looking at the other responses and I just realized that my first "home computer" (ie something that plugged into the TV and you could program and play games on) was actually my third.

    I started with a Sharp PC1211 which was a large BASIC programmable calculator with a QWERTY keyboard, 2k of program memory and a thermal printer base station that allowed you to store programs on cassette: http://www.rskey.org/pc1211 [rskey.org] I think it was purchased in 1979.

    Then went to a CPM computer I designed/wire-wrapped myself: https://slashdot.org/comments.... [slashdot.org]

    And, because games were limited on CPM, mono-chrome text based machines in the early 1980s, I got myself an Atari 400 because it had the most sophisticated graphics and sound at the time (I still have the ANTIC chip manual) which is what you would consider a "home computer".

  • It was good for... well, pretty much nothing, even by the undemanding standards of the time.

  • and a pleasure to program, as it had an advanced BASIC interpreter.

  • Toshiba Satellite 5200, with a Pentium 4-M and I think 512MB RAM At 1600x1200 its higher resolution than my current laptop, and also the monitor I used up until about a year and a half ago. I had it set to 640x480 at all times because the graphics chip was dead, it had about 5 minutes of battery life and could barely run Nesticle. The HDD died after a year and I was too dumb to know to just replace it. Went without a PC for a while until I got a Core 2 Duo with Vista... that's when I switched to Linux, for
  • I put together an Ampro Little Board with 64K of RAM. It ran CP/M and mounted directly on a surplus 5-1/4 inch floppy. I added a second floppy to double the storage and used a surplus HP dumb terminal that had a thermal printer built in and a 300 baud acoustic modem for I/O. It was good enough to run Turbo Pascal and got me through a college CS degree back in the '80's. http://oldcomputers.net/ampro-... [oldcomputers.net] I still have the hardware but haven't booted it in over 30 years, so the drives probably won't fire up an
  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:57AM (#54242895) Homepage

    Looking at people's responses, I'm guessing a "home computer" is one that:
    - Plugs into a TV and could display graphics for games
    - Play Games
    - Could do programming on it

    My first "computer" was a Sharp PC1211 (still have it). 2k BASIC programmable, large format QWERTY keyboard and a printer base unit that allowed programs to be stored on cassette.

    My second was a wire-wrapped Z80 S100 CPM system: https://slashdot.org/comments.... [slashdot.org]

    Which came down to what did I get when I wanted something that I could play games and program: an Atari 400 - the ANTIC chip graphic capabilities were superior to the other competing small systems. I still have the ANTIC manual for it.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Almost the same: Casio FX-702P here. 1680 bytes of usable RAM.
      It could take password protected programs (people sold programs on cassette tape).
      I may have come up with one of the first buffer overflow exploits for a computer: Add a line saying totototototototo... until it would stop accepting input, and hit enter. It would expand each "to" with a space, and overflow the display buffer. Instead of showing the line, it would then show the memory instead, with the first couple of characters being garbage,

  • by kwerle ( 39371 ) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:59AM (#54242909) Homepage Journal

    Having learned some BASIC on II's and II+'s at school in Jr. High, the family bought a IIe for home before high school. I forget if we had one floppy drive or two. 128K RAM. Black and white monitor - but it could be hooked up to the TV for color.

    I'd hack Ultima III save files to give my character better gear/stats - and the mapfiles to change the map contents.

    The programming experiment I remember best was doing mandelbrot on the printer. I ran it over night and got about one really poor line of output before giving up on it.

  • We had an Eagle 8086 with two 5.25" floppy drives. Later it got an upgrade to a hard drive as well. It had a green monochrome display, which would sometimes shrink the image down tiny in the middle, and you'd have to whack the side of the monitor to get it back to normal.
  • I had an Apple II clone. A Franklin Ace 1000 with a Star dot matrix printer which I loved very much.

  • On hindsight, I should have been glad with the cheaper Packard Bell my dad had wanted to get instead of pouting until he gave in. Still, it was a wonderous and life changing experience. Computer City was like a next level toy store for a 12 year old, just couldn't leave.

  • My first home computer was a Commodore 128, though it was a bit disappointing as I'd already used IBM 8088's at school in typing class.

    Truthfully I spent 99% of my time in the C-64 emulation mode as the computer was bought used and almost all the software that came with it was actually for a Commodore 64. It was where I learned to tinker around in BASIC though. Eventually the disk drive broke; for a while after that I would just never turn off the computer so the memory wouldn't clear (until a power outag

  • The original V-tech "learning computer" with membrane keyboard and LCD screen. Did approximately nothing, though playing around with the music creator cartridge was fun.

    Second was a Timex Sinclair 1000 which was just barely usable. I sort of learned to program, but the minuscule membrane keyboard made doing anything beyond painful. At least it had the 16k expansion pack so you could write something more complex than "hello world." The only game I had was subLogic flight simulator, which took forever to load

  • S-100 based system that my dad built; H-19 terminal, 48k of RAM, later updated to 56k. For those of you that have seen WarGames, that's the one.

  • In 1978 I build a copy of a Motorola D2 kit. It had a MC6802 running a 0.6MHz, 128 bytes of RAM, 1KB UVPROM, a 6 digit 7seg display and hex keypad. Drew the PCB designs up with a marker pen and had them etched as single sided PCBs. Hand drilled the PCBs myself and build it up. No other options as a 15 year old can't afford a fancy Altair 8800 and the IBM PC and Commodore 64 were still years away. Programing was done in machine code as an assembler needed another 2K UVPROM and an ASCII terminal, and who
  • TI-99/4A. 1981. The neighbor, who worked at IBM, had one and taught me how to debug the programs printed in the Scholastic books that I bought at school.
  • I paid $3000 for it, happily, because I was going to learn everything about it. It had two (two!) 5 1/4 floppy drives, maybe 64K ram, and a green phosphor monitor. Along the way I upgraded to color graphics (16 colors!), a 10 MB hard drive to replace one of the floppies, and an 8086 CPU which was 10% faster than the 8088 it came with. I added or replaced all the chips myself, borrowing a chip puller and inserter from work. CPU fan? We don't need no stinking CPU fan. Fun times.
  • An Altair 8800 kit with 256 bytes of static RAM which I mail ordered from Southwest Technical Products very soon after the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. I soldered every component of every PC board, plus all the 100 pin sockets on the backplane the multiple 100 wire connections between the backplane sections. I replaced almost every IC socket with Augat gold-plated machined-contact teflon-based sockets for reliability.

    It had a 2 MHz 8080 CPU.

    To boot it, every time after turning it on, you had t

  • Commodore 64 or Windsurfer?? I guessed how many 1 inch cap bolts fit in a Midas Muffler, and won an O'Brien Windsurfer. I debated all winter whether to sell it and buy a Commodore 64, or sail it. In the spring I finally decided to try sailing it. I fell in over and over and couldn't stay up, so I sold it and bought a Commodore 64. It was minor fun for about six months, when I had a serious break in my arm and was off work for two months. During that time, I discovered a Commodore 64 club, and the wonders o
  • The Astrocade game console only had a numeric input keypad. Coding programs was like texting on a feature phone, but without any text prediction, and especially without switch debouncing logic.

    The cartridge itself did have a 1/8" jack so you could possibly save the fruits of your labor onto a cassette tape, with some luck.

    The game console had almost no memory, so BASIC programs were stored in every other bit of the video frame buffer, and palette tricks were used to make the raw program data invisible on th

  • My parents bought it for me to learn how to use a computer and type due to my disabilities when I was like seven years old or so. I was scared of it. And then, I found out it can do computer games since I was a video gamer (Atari 2600 and arcades). And then I totally love computers after that as shown in my http://zimage.com/~ant/antfarm... [zimage.com] history. ;)

  • by BabaChazz ( 917957 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @02:39AM (#54243219)
    Z80 at 2.106MHz to sync up with the horizontal sweep frequency on the TV. The II had 48k of memory (wow!) where the 1 had only 32k. Programs on big cartridges (re-purposed 8-track shells): BASIC, word processor, assembler / editor / debugger... we got the S100 cage (5 slots!) and Micropolis floppy disks - quad density! 330K per disk! - and eventually a 10MB hard drive with a controller that occupied two slots in the S100 cage. Character display, 32 lines of 64 characters (yup), but the character bitmaps for chr$(128) and up were in memory so you could get limited graphics that way.
  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @02:46AM (#54243227)

    Tandy/TRS-80 CoCo 1, full-sized silver sucker with 4K RAM and tape drive. Those were the days!

  • by ip_freely_2000 ( 577249 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @03:17AM (#54243311)
    Dad even splurged on a $600.00 floppy disk drive. I've told him it was the best money he ever spent. Thirty years in IT -- I have no idea what I would be doing today if I had not convinced him to spend the money on that PC. Thanks, Dad.
  • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @04:29AM (#54243467) Homepage

    I was the school sysadmin on a AT&T 3B5 & a bunch of 3B2s for a few years and borrowed Apple IIc's, Apricots (a 386 PC maker back in the day) and then a Mac +.

    For my first personal machine I wasn't going to be using an underpowered Atari or an Amiga or PC with substandard graphics (this was back in the CGA day) & besides I wanted a _real_ Unix.

    The school owed me some serious money for my time and in lieu of payment I wrangled a deal. The school bought a brand new fully kitted out Mac II (16 Mhz 68020 with 4 Mb RAM, a 40Mb hard drive and a 13" 640x480 screen) that they wrote off as non-functional & I picked it up for $1.

    I installed A/UX to it, added a 1/4" QIC drive (so that I could move files easily to/from it) and for years had a faster, more powerful Unix machine at home than the Sun 3's I was administering professionally. A few years later I upgraded the RAM to 8Mb, upgraded the CPU with a 32 Mhz 68030 on a daughterboard that replaced the 68020 & the 68881 MMU and added a L3 cache.

    That Mac II lasted for over a decade as my primary home computer.

  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @06:40AM (#54243777)
    ... Started out with Audio Cassette player to load and save software.

    Then came floppy drive solutions, ending up with a pair of 400/800kb 40/80-track, double-sided, switchable drives in a bridge case that sat over the back of the BBC.

    Then a 6502 Second Processor was added, which made programming in BASIC much more reasonable [more space for code, in any screen mode] and brought me "Second Processor Elite". Wow...

    That gave way to an Acorn Archimedes A440, which had an *actual hard drive* [MFM configuration - even pre-IDE drives]. of 40Mb capacity... That and 4Mb of RAM, in the days when an IBM PC could not handle more than 640kb thanks to design limits... as well as a 4 MIPS 8MHz risc processor [the precursor to the chips that power 90+% of smartphones sold today...]

    Happy days.
  • by gb7djk ( 857694 ) * on Sunday April 16, 2017 @07:48AM (#54243915) Homepage
    At Galdor we had an ICT-1301 in a purpose built building in the back garden of the house we lived in. It was built in 1961 and given the name "Flossie" by the manufacturers. She still exists and is waiting to be restored to working order, for the fourth time, at the National Computing Museum at Bletchley Park.
  • by tbuskey ( 135499 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @08:07AM (#54243977) Journal

    My father had a TI Silent 700 teletype terminal. It had an acoustic coupler modem and used thermal paper. The paper was hard to find, before FAXes were common.

    I lived near Dartmouth College and at school we had a teletype + modem to dial in. We also had accounts at Timeshare corp. I figured out how to use the Silent 700 to connect to Dartmouth's DCTS (or DTSS) and their chat room (conference).

    Later, we got an Apple ][+ (never a modem though). In college I had a Z100 DOS system (not PC compatible), a Z248 80286 and after college I put Minix on it.
    That lead to a Gateway DX486 with Linux SLS and 0.98pl5.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @08:41AM (#54244085) Homepage

    Cromemco Z-2 my father picked it up with a auction lot he bid on and won. Had a single Cromemco serial terminal.
    It's why to this day I favor Unix and it's derivatives as I cut my teeth on Cromix.

  • KIM-1 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ze_foster ( 1888690 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @09:52AM (#54244375)

    In 1975 my father brought home a KIM-1 that had been built by the guy who designed the IMSAI 8080. I eagerly typed in the 6502 instructions included in the HOWTO manual that came with it, and I got an idea of what Turing Complete was all about. Great fun. But at the time there was no way to save the instructions, so you lost everything when the power went down. I got over it: I was 10 years old, and it was a great way to learn about volatility and, as I mentioned, Turing Complete.
    Then in 2005 I was working for a GPS company (which later became Garmin). One day my manager came to me with an SOC data sheet, and he said something like, "This is a really cheap part, but we need to program it to coordinate the 32-bit GPS part with the SSD part, and the USB part." I read the datasheet and about screamed with joy when I saw that it was a 6502 (now owned by ST Micro). Once again, the 6502 taught me in an amazing way: the 6502 was bit-banging (I2C) the NMEA sentences out of the 32-bit part, and control of the SSD part, and was able to control the interface to the USB device. My job: write firmware (YES! FIRMWARE on a 6502! NO MORE POWER OUTAGES) so the high-speed USB part could power things and exchange NMEA sentences; make the SSD hold the ephemeris and almanac for the 32-bit part. That little 6502 certainly did it's job, and I had great fun re-learning the 6502 instruction set.

  • by Tangential ( 266113 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @10:16AM (#54244485) Homepage
    It was maxed out. 48k Ram and (eventually) 4 floppy drives. I thought I had reached nirvana when I reached the point that I could edit, compile, assemble and link 'c' programs without swapping floppies...
  • by ruhri ( 1480067 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @10:29AM (#54244553)
    My first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 16k which I upgraded later to 48k. One of the first things I bought for it was a Pascal and a Forth compiler. Man, Forth rocked. Awesome language.
  • by ve3oat ( 884827 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @10:56AM (#54244665)
    Actually, my first home computer was a slide rule, both at home and at work. But when they became available I bought a Commodore 64 with a floppy disk drive and a printer. Used it for everything, especially word processing (what a relief being able to easily correct my typing mistakes before sending a letter) and even had a little database program for all of my genealogy research. What a big aid to organization that was! On weekends my son used it for games, and for re-writing those games. He already knew BASIC (by absorption I guess) so I learned it too. And I got a cartridge for the C-64 that enabled me to send and receive AMTOR digital signals with my ham radio transceiver.
    Meanwhile, at work, I was doing assembler language (PAL) on a DEC PDP-8 for data acquisition and processing in a small lab. Those were the days!!
    A little later I bought an 80286 for home. Today you can buy three or four computers for what I paid my my '286.
  • Sinclair, then Atari (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @11:32AM (#54244801)

    Technically my first computer was some kind of clunky Sinclair programmable calculator, which met all the requirements of being an actual computer. But just barely. It was, for all intents and purposes, unusable for anything meaningful.

    Next came an Atari 800 with an actual keyboard (not the chicklet keys). Two cartridge slots, two floppy drives (one of which was a "Happy Drive"), and a full 48-fuckin'-K of memory. Whoo hoo!

    It had a 300 baud modem which could be set to *any* baud rate, all the way down to 1 or 2 baud so you could actually see the letters...coming...out...on...the...screen...one...by...one.

    God times.

  • by Invisible Now ( 525401 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @11:45AM (#54244839)

    The first IBM PCs were slow to arrive but the gray ring Binder in a cloth wrapped box was. A treasure trove of info. Great primer on bios and hardware for newbie. Read it cover to cover uncounted times while I waited for the actual hardwareto arrive. IBM deserves kudos for bringing a lot of soon to be engineers up to speed. I also constantly visited the Pc store in downtown SF which became a social hub. For years used to look look at this manual every time I need to check the ASCII code table page... though I suppose the internet has moved us on from that. Great days, Showing off the piano app for my Aunt and Uncle, Mom and dad.

  • February 1978 ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:14PM (#54244945)

    ... on a visit to Radio Shack, the sales guys were setting up this TV typewriter showing some crude blocks of white on black graphics and some all-cap text.

    They "broke" it and I saw:

    10 ... do something
    20 ... do another thing
    30 ... do some more stuff

    Then they fired it up again.

    After 9 years in this man's Navy as an avionics tech working on a 64-8-bit computer with ferrite core and programming a TI calculator, I realized IT WAS A COMPUTER!!!

    I told them to box it up. They said they couldn't because it was a store demo and the only one within 200 hundred miles.

    The manager walked in and told them to sell it to me because, "That's what we do here."

    I took it home, breezed through the manual, had it calculate orbital speeds based on distance from the Sun (some being beneath the surface and exhibiting relativistic speeds).

    It was the TRS-80.

    You can look up the specs.

    I wrote articles for 80 Microcomputing and ordered an A-D converter from Analog Devices and made battery checkers and digital thermometers.

    Saw one at the Smithsonian Institute, many years later, when I visited D.C.

  • 8008 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Sunday April 16, 2017 @12:42PM (#54245037)

    I see no one has mentioned the 8008 yet so I guess I'm the oldest geezer.
    Popular Electronics had plans for an Intel 8008 based computer so I hand wired it on a homebuilt chassis. 256 bytes of memory. Programmed in bare machine code (no stinking assembler crutch). Added an octal keyboard and display which made it much easier to program. Also added a cassette tape interface which could store and read programs... Programmed and ran a few games on it.
    I think I still have it buried under the house somewhere.

Don't sweat it -- it's only ones and zeros. -- P. Skelly