Tuesday, June 07, 2005

PC's I've Used Over Time

I'll play along with John Koziol's post about odd computers that he's owned over time. I'll just list my history instead of claiming anything odd....

TRS-80 Model I/Level II: My first memories of any computer was that of my Dad sitting in the attic of our home with his Level II in the late 70's. Later, I remember him setting it up on our kitchen table so my brother and I could play with it. That was the same computer that I learned BASIC on (in way of typing in programs from various manuals).

What I remember most about it was that programs were loaded off of cassette tapes, with the computer being plugged into a headphone jack (or something similar) on the cassette recorder. Dad had tons of tapes around, with a large portion of them from "80 Micro" magazine, if I recall. Those cassettes came in handy years down the road when I routinely recorded songs off of the radio (and/or needed a tape for one of the Commodores). ;-)

TRS-80 Model III: My Dad's next computer was the Model III. I believe, if I reach back into the part of my memory that I've long since blocked out, that I was responsible for the death of the Level II. The Model III had dual floppy disk drives, and could play Zaxxon and Zork!

TRS-80 Model 100: Can you tell that my Dad was a frequent visitor to Radio Shack??? The Model 100 was a portable that used AA batteries. It had a small LCD display built into the same plane as the keyboard (not a clamshell like today's laptops), and sported a 300 baud modem built in! I remember sneaking this to school in the 6th grade and used it during an oral presentation instead of notebook paper.

Commodore VIC-20: This was my own computer, and I believe that I got it for my 7th or 8th birthday. Maybe it was Christmas... Can't remember, but at first, I only had the computer, and spent many hours typing in programs from COMPUTE! Gazette. I couldn't save the programs, though, so they were lost as soon as power was lost (or the computer locked up).

Then, I think for Christmas (or birthday, whichever was next), I got the Dataset, which was a silent cassette recorder (no speakers) that plugged into a data port. Finally, I could save programs!

TI-99/4A: I didn't actually own this computer, but my neighbor Mike Trumbauer did. He was a great programmer as a 4th/5th grader, and I'm sure he's gone on to become an impressive technologist (he moved away when I was young, and I heard that he went to Purdue). This guy could create from scratch a version of just about any video game, and they were actually fun to play! I remember versions of Missile Command and Donkey Kong for sure, but there were so many more.

Commodore 64: The defining moments of my childhood (and early teenage years) were spent programming this beast. I had the floppy drive, and 1200 baud modem, though that modem got me into a lot of trouble when a $300 phone bill came through. A Seikosha printer rounded the system out.

Three of us at school (Tim, Jon, and myself) shared warez (there, I said it), with some of the best things included were known as "Demos" (kind of a packaged marquee program that the pirate groups would include with the warez to play music and show text). We were also fans of the Infocom adventure games (Zork, Planetfall, Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, etc). But, this all leads to a little story that I think is humorous:

We had heard of these computer viruses that were infecting, well, probably IBM's. So, I told Tim that I had the latest copy of Double Dragon, or something cool like that. I give him the disk, he goes home and then LOAD "*", 8, 1 (something like that), and WHAM! There's a sprite of an evil looking PacMan floating around his screen with words that says "YOU ARE INFECTED WITH A VIRUS".... He promptly calls me sounding freaked out, and I let him in on the fact that I wrote the program the previous afternoon.

IBM Portable: Don't know the model number, but during my first two years of Yearbook Staff, I used this old 45-lb beast of a computer that had floppy drives and a small amber monitor built in.

IBM PS/2: I convinced my teacher that we needed this for Yearbook because it allowed us to run the newer yearbook publisher's software. It was better than the old portable.

386-DX: Just some clone that I picked up in college. I think it had 4MB RAM, a 40MB hard drive, and I put in the 3.5" floppy drive myself. It ran Geoworks just fine (even better than Windows 3.1!).

And then we come to the "modern" platforms with various versions of the Pentium architecture that I won't get into.