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Doug's Mailbag: Stone-Age PC Memories

Here's another batch of early PC thoughts:

We brought up 2000 users on an ERP system running on Vax VMS. We had four 'really fast servers' -- each with an amazing 512 Meg of memory in the early '90s. Each user could have up to four sessions running at once (green screen terminals). Each command issued was expected back with a 'sub-second response time.' Clustering and time share computing engineered by DEC has not been matched even today.

Today my laptop has 3 Gig of memory running Windows XP and has a tough time letting me run 4 MS Office programs at once.

I spent many years with DEC and Compaq before they disappeared. However, their impact lingers on inside HP -- for now anyway. I sent many years in DECUS -- the DEC user group. It was a great organization. I participated in leadership which taught me a lot and I gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience by attending the semi-annual symposiums. It was a great sharing society. Compaq had large contingencies there and we interacted with them on every level. They really gave me my first start with PCs.

I had been using PDP 11 and VAX/VMS systems up until then. I was curious about these strange toys called PCs. My first PC experience was with Compaq. I've owned several over the years and when I started down the Windows patch, I bought Compaq servers. They were the best. HP wisely used the Compaq technology and lines as the basis of their server line after the acquisition. OpenVMS never quite got its fair due because of the rapid decline of Digital. I was involved with a number of people at Digital at the time and saw the implosion from the inside. It was sad that such a great company with so much talent and dedication that destroyed itself from within. Ken Olsen is still one of my heroes in this business. I wish it had ended better for him. He was a true pioneer.

I'm sad to see that HP is ditching the PC business. Printers will be next, and what else will follow? I fear it may be heading down the same path that Digital did -- giving up in key areas and depending on services as its main focus.

Anyway, the times continue to be a changin'.

My actual first, if you put aside the mechanical Frieden calculator, was an IBM 1620 -- punch cards and all.

As for the desktop models, I had an IBM PC at work AND, the answer you've been waiting for, a KAYPRO-II at home, running CPM off a couple of Floppy disks, attached to a fantastic Daisy Wheel printer that always got my cats attention with its rhythmic ticking and head moving back and forth.

My first personal computer was a Commodore Vic-20 and it's what got me started looking at the awesome IBM PC Jr. which, thankfully, I never bought. That uncomplicated Commodore PC spring boarded me to a Radio Shack Tandy 1000a. I managed to miss the business end of the 286 processor excitement and never looked back after my first Intel 386-based clone.

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Posted by Doug Barney on 08/26/2011 at 1:18 PM


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