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Doug's Mailbag: The Good Old Days

Here's another batch of readers' early computer memories:

We were using the Atari 800 to play our text-based games around 1980. We had to type in many of the games and save them to cassette. To play them, you had to play the cassette back in and hope that it didn't error out. Sometimes it would take 20 to 30 minutes to load a game. Some of my favorites were B-2 Bomber and Telengard. I Learned DOS Basic on a TRS-80 in 1983 and in 1985 bought a Tandy 1000, which I upgraded the memory to 640k. It was blazing.

My first PC was purchased for our business around 1981. It was an Altos Z-80 based machine with an 8" floppy and a 10 MB hard disk. It ran M/PM, the multi-user version of C/PM, and we had WordStar, CalcStar and dBase II. We bought a couple of monitors, a Diable 630 daisy wheel printer and 300 bps modem to go with it. The entire package was almost $10,000. I learned to use the programs from the manuals in the three-ring binders that came with the software. It was a great machine and far superior to the IBM PCs and PC-DOS that would appear a few years later.

We started with TRS-80s (called them Trash 80s) in class in the early '80s, then quickly moved to Apple IIs. Used those for all four years of high school.

The first computer I worked on was an IBM 360-30 (mainframe). It was the computer we used at my college (1971). I learned Assembler, RPG and COBOL on it.

The first personal computer I dabbled with was the old Timex/Sinclair 1000, which I think I got in '81 or '82. I remember I had to hook it up to the television for a monitor and I had a cassette tape 'storage system.' Couldn't afford the printer though. Didn't do much with it since it couldn't do much and wasn't easy to use. I didn't touch PCs again until the Packard Bell I bought from Sears in 1992.

I had a Radio Shack TRS-80 Pocket Computer that I programmed with in BASIC. It had a cassette recorder/player for storage and a tiny little thermal printer.

I then got a TRS-80 Color Computer (CoCo), again, with cassette tape storage. This one I programmed with the CoCo Assembler, and BASIC.

My first computer was a TRS-80. I was around 13 or 14 and read all the computer magazines I could find. A friend of my dad's heard that I was interested in computers and had a TRS-80 that didn't work so he gave it to me with printer and desk. Took up most of my room and although I was pretty good a fixing things I never could get it to work.

Another friend of my dad's heard I was interested in computers and gave me a IBM XT. It was in parts and it was a lot of fun to put together. And to my surprise it actually worked (well, at least enough to boot into basic). The hard drive (10MB as I recall) didn't work so I couldn't use it. But every time I started it I was able to get into basic (perhaps it was burnt onto a ROM). Returning to my computer magazines I would spend hours typing in basic programs and then when I switched it off I lost everything.

I saved up some money from doing odd jobs and bought an Atari 130XE with printer and dual floppies -- the works. I don't really recall why I bought an Atari. I think it was because it was the first computer in my price range listed in the classified ads. I lucked out and a friend of my brother's had a lot of Atari software as he had been into Atari computers. I started writing school papers on the computer, learned basic a little better and mostly played games.

My dad started to see that I was interested in computers and it wasn't just a fad. When I was 14 he asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I want to work in computers (wasn't sure what area of computers). So a few years later my dad bought me my first real (and new) computer. A PC with a 486DX-66 processor and 16MB of ram (don't recall HD size). I had specked the machine to do desktop publishing and set out to master CorelDraw 4 (should have picked Adobe). Before long I had just about every issue one could think of and I had fixed most of them myself. Soon I was the neighborhood PC kid helping train users and fix computers. Now, 15 years later, I'm an IT professional and still love what I do.

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Posted by Doug Barney on 08/22/2011 at 1:18 PM


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