Stranger Fruit

First computers

Over at Slashdot, there is a story discussing readers’ first computers. The first computer I owned was a ZX-81 with an 8k ROM, 1k RAM and a Z80A cpu (more specs here). I learned to program in BASIC and assembly on it and stored programs on audio tape. That was 1982. In 1984, I got a Commodore 64 – a whooping 64k of memory, great graphics (sprites, anyone?) and sound. I think it was 1990 before I bought a computer that ran Windows. My next machine wont.


  1. #1 coturnix
    February 13, 2006

    My first was ZX-Spectrum, the very next model from Sinclair. I skipped Commodore 64 (my girfriend at the time had it). Next – I don’t remember, but something clunky with DOS.

    There is always a PC and Mac in this house, serving different purposes for different masters.

  2. #2 Mark Paris
    February 13, 2006

    TI-99 here. Yes, basic and sprites. Then an IBM with one floppy and no hard drive. Graduate students can’t afford to buy too much at one time. For a long time I considered Macs toys, but changed over at about the time Windows was introduced. There are only Macs at home, but eventually there will be one with an Intel chip.

  3. #3 Mark Paris
    February 13, 2006

    Oh dog. I Googled the TI-99 and found a site. People are still using them, and possibly emulating them on Windows computers. Someone please help them.

  4. #4 Mr. Upright
    February 13, 2006

    I also had a TI-99. Getting the extended BASIC cartridge (with sprites) greatly improved the programming experience. I only had the tape recorder, though. No printer, no productivity. The speech synthesizer was fun, as were the games (even though the joystick sucked).

    A 16-bit computer in an 8-bit world.

  5. #5 Jim Lippard
    February 13, 2006

    I learned BASIC in the mid-seventies before I had any access to a computer. I would type up short programs on a typewriter at home, and imagine how they would work. A couple years later I got access to a Honeywell GCOS system that I could use from a lineprinting terminal at school, which I did as much as I possibly could. I regularly skipped PE or snuck out of other classes to go use the terminal, which was accessible by those of us in the gifted program. I joined a Honeywell-sponsored Explorers Post, which gave me access to my very own Multics account that I could use at the Tuesday night meetings, then bought a junky gigantic CDC713 CRT terminal and a 300-baud acoustic coupler so I could use the Multics mainframe from home, all weekend and every weekday after 4:30 p.m. until 8 or 9 a.m. each weekday morning. I later upgraded to a Wyse terminal and a faster modem (1200 bps, then 2400 bps). When I finally bought a computer it was a Kaypro 4 running CP/M with a 9600 bps modem I still have–my primary interest was in using it as a terminal to access Multics (where I learned to program in PL/I) and downloading text files. This was a large suitcase “portable” computer with two 5.25″ floppies, no hard drive, and 64K of memory. After that I switched to and stuck with Macintosh (with a bunch of OpenBSD servers on the side), though work makes me use Windows.

  6. #6 John Wilkins
    February 13, 2006

    My first thing was a CPM beast called, if memory serves, a Koala. Then a Commodore 64, a PC, and then a Mac. Thereafter nothing much else mattered. However John, you can run Windows on an Intel Mac… but it takes some work. I can’t now find the article in which two computer mag techies did this, but it can be done.

    See here, here, and here

  7. #7 Mark Paris
    February 14, 2006

    I would get a new Intel Mac if Windows ran without requiring computer mag techies to get it to work. I read that the next version will boot. I wouldn’t bother, but there are Windows-only programs used where I work, and it would be convenient to be able to run them on my own computer when I need to.

  8. #8 sho
    February 14, 2006

    My first computer was not too exciting, but my coworkers at Los Alamos (LANSCE) used to love to one-up each other about their old computers, my mentor always being declared the winner when he brought up that his first computer was made out of wood (one of those card and peg kind of deals). Though, can that really be considered a computer?