What Was Your First Computer?

We spent Christmas 1982 in the Poconos at my sister‘s house. She was newly married and she and her husband lived on Lake Wallenpaupack. The country was in a recession at that time and having graduated a few months before, money was not flowing for the young couple just yet. We knew this as the heat never reached 60°.

My father was in a wheelchair and I think he thought this might be the end of him. It was so dastardly cold that one had to really consider how needy one was before going to the bathroom. We played games with gloves on in the house. Brrr . . . it was cold.

That week was exciting for a number of reasons. It was the only time I ever fired a gun other than an air pistol. As I recall, I was pretty good, plinking a few bottles and cans we had set up. It was the first time I ever drove a manual shift. We fishtailed the truck all around the narrow hardpack. We were to see the Marshall Tucker Band at a bar nearby, but the show was cancelled due to poor sales. I somehow think Commander Cody may have been on the bill too, but I do not recall. And I chopped wood . . . for a little bit until I broke the axe.

Our trip home to South Jersey was via New York City. The $10 parking on 47th Street I thought was going to send my parents into cardiac arrest. But there we were in the Big Apple and headed straight for 47th St. Photo. We were there a long time.

I am pretty certain this is the first time I interacted with Hasidic Jews.

I was not new to the computing world. At the time I was a senior in high school. We used an HP mainframe at my school and during the last year I was there, something known as Apple computers began creeping in. This was still prior to the Mac, but we could do a few more things on the IIe than interrupt the payroll run on the mainframe. Ducky’s passwords were very easy to hack. 🙂

By the end of the day, we had a $2000 Franklin Ace 1000 loaded in our car for the journey home. We had a state-of-the-art system as it had dual floppy drives. That we could boot a program without booting the system was stunning. We still punched the Elephant 5.25s to make them double-density. And the one game we purchased was some sort of helicopter game that used a crappy joystick. I sucked at it and thus never really took to gaming.

We had a monochrome monitor. I believe it was upgraded soon after (although maybe it was the original purchase) to an amber screen. Those were to be so much better for the eyes. Oooooo . . .

As I began trading tapes, I found a need for computers to make the inserts for the cassettes. My friend Bentley wrote a BASIC program to do just that. I was very much amazed that he could do so. I still have a few of those faded blue inserts on some tapes in the basement. Bob’s F$^& Tape was very popular. And that we found a way to capture an image from the Leisure Suit Larry game to place on the insert made me the hit of school. I think it was Steve who indicated that tape was a sure-fire way of setting the mood. 🙂 Glad I could help you out, big guy.

Soon I was off to college and another HP mainframe. Pascal, COBOL, and Fortran were my nemeses. They pretty much secured that I would swear off computers forever . . . or at least until tape trading became a big chore in the early 1990s.

By the time I began teaching in 1994, I had graduated to 486s with stacked drives. And that awesome shell, W1der (or something like that). But I was already hooked on e-mail. It was a far cry from where we are today, but it was also a far cry from that Franklin Ace 1000. Imagine my surprise when I showed up for work and there were Franklin Ace 1000s everywhere. I saw my last one just a couple years ago prior to a colleague’s retirement. She would not part with it.

Also blogged on this date . . .

3 thoughts on “What Was Your First Computer?”

  1. The first computer I used was a TRS-80 during my Sr year of high school (82/83) We actually had a class in BASIC – pretty advanced for our country school. I can remember loading the cassettes to play Blackjack.

    In 1984 my parents loaned me the money (~$1200) to buy an Apple IIc. I took it to college and was basically the laughing stock of my dorm. It just couldn’t do the things those fancy IBMs could.

    Sometime around 1986 I bought a Commodore PC (the model escapes me). It was their version of a IBM compatible. I remember it’s processing speed: 4.77mhz. I also remember buying a used 10mb (yes mb) hard drive for around $300.
    I also thought about the programming route in college, but for some reason never went down that path. Sometimes I wonder if I did, would I be making six figures programming Diablo III, but then I think working in a laboratory, at least no one in India is taking my job (yet).

  2. IBM PCjr. Remember those? I got it for Christmas when I was in 3rd grade, so that would’ve made it… 1983? Yeah, ’83.

    It was a beauty: 1-5.25″ DD floppy drive, 2 cart slots, 128 KB memory. It came with BASIC cart, some version of PC-DOS, and some IBM word processing program.

    Later on I bought another 128 kb memory in a block that screwed onto the side of the beast.
    No hard drive, no modem (my parents were afraid of me having a modem after seeing “War Games.”)

    I’ve had a lot of computers through the years, but it seems for how much I used that one, it probably gave me the most use for the dollar, despite it being over 1500 1983 dollars.

    I knew BASIC inside and out by the time that thing was retired.

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