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Re: My first computer was...

by blue_cowdawg (Monsignor)
on Aug 23, 2011 at 15:27 UTC ( #921935=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to My first computer was...

Hearing (or reading) the phrase "My first computer was..." brings me to a reverie and a walk down memory lane and makes me feel very nostalgic.

"My first computer" depends on what you'd consider as "my computer." The very first computer I ever used was in High School in 1972. The head of the math department, Ron Gearheart, was very much a visionary when he realized that our generation (meaning my classmates and I) were going to be exposed to computers in a very real way. His logic followed that there was a need for all of us to learn a bit about how to use them. His solution to that was to decree that all students in any math class taught at our high school would have the requirement to write a program in BASIC that would:

  • Take two numbers and add them
  • Take two more numbers and find the difference
and so for for multiply, divide, exponent of two and exponent of 10 and print the results.

This was being done with ASR-33 teletypes (you had to put your program to tape first) and submitted to a Honeywell 1648 time share system that we connected to via acoustic modem and was located in Minneapolis. (We were in a suburb of Boston)

From those humble beginnings I developed a fascination for making computers do my bidding. Since I was an avid model airplane buff and model rocketry hobbyist a lot of the code I wrote in those days (as I built up my skill in BASIC and later FORTRAN) had to do with those two hobbies.

By 1973 I was writing in assembler against a PDP-8 where I discovered how much mischief I could cause. Up until around 1998 I still remembered the boot toggle sequence for the PDP-8. I sorta miss those clunky boxes.

Later on after I joined the US Navy I discovered microprocessors. First was the 8008, then the 8080 and the more sophisticated 8085. My truly first computer of my own was a wire wrapped construction around the 8085 chip that sported a full 64K (!) of RAM and I used FORTH to write programs against it. (Seems I got the FORTH compiler for free somewhere... don't remember where...)

Soon after the 8085 based computer I built a 68000 based system that had a Z80 "helper" attached to it to produce vector graphics on an oscilloscope for a project that I never finished that was to be a video game that would be a clone of the popular asteroids game. I had taken advantage of an "undocumented feature" in the Z80 that allowed me to emulate 16 bit output and drive two digital to analog converters at the same time.

It's all a blur now, but I went with the Sinclair at one point, the VIC-20, Commodore 64, "Hack Shack Trash 80" and a few more home built boxes based on 6805, 6809, 68010 and a few other processors.

There was this application out there called "Windows" that seemed to be creeping in on the scene and while it was neat to be able to run multiple things at once I wasn't too impressed with it at the time. I'd been exposed to X-windows and thought that was a much better deal (as crude as it was back then) and never expected this "Windows thing" to go very far.

Fast forward now, and I'm a Linux bigot of the highest order. I have three desktops at and two laptops at home that all run some variant of Debian or another. Plus I rent around 10 VPSs all running either CentOS or Debian. Still don't think Windows is going to last... it's just a fad... </p.

Peter L. Berghold -- Unix Professional
Peter -at- Berghold -dot- Net; AOL IM redcowdawg Yahoo IM: blue_cowdawg

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