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SmashTheState's avatar

When did you jump on the computer bandwagon?

Asked by SmashTheState (14245points) February 3rd, 2011

Limber up your ePenis, you 0ldsk00l hax0rz, because it’s time to slap them puppies out and determine whose is biggest. How long ago did you recognize the awesomeness and inevitability of computers? What was your first experience with telecommunication? (“I can write with it, create with it, telecommunicate with it, my ______!”—ten quatloos to the first person who can fill in the blank; ten more quatloos to the first person who can tell me what a quatloo is.)

My chops:

- My first home computer was a Coleco Adam.

- My first console was a Telstar Pong.

- My first modem was a 110 baud teletype machine with an acoustic coupler for the bakelite telephone handset, with which I would dial up the local university mainframe and play “Minotaur’s Maze.” If I wanted to do anything else, I had to call them up and ask them to change the reel.

- I am fully qualified in the use of an IBM alphanumeric keypunch. Do not bend, fold, spindle, staple, or mutilate…

- My favourite arcade game as a kid was Taito’s Borderline.

I knew the first time I set eyes on a computer that this was going to be huge, and I’ve been a colossal geek ever since. So how about it, how many of you are 1337 and how many are just l4m3 christmas users? (Ten quatloos to the first person who can tell me what a christmas user is.)

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32 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Hmmmm…our first computer ran on gas and was started with a rip cord. ;)

tinyfaery's avatar

I didn’t have a computer until 1998. Very few computers in the ghetto.

bkcunningham's avatar

Long time ago, what the heck was it a Radio Shack Commodore or something like that.

syz's avatar

My dad bought us a Vic 20 as a kid, but we pretty much only used it to play Pong.

In college, my future husband was responsible for keeping the university computer running (note the singular – it took up the entire basement level, had a raised floor to accommodate the special cooling system required, and had huge reels of magnetic tape). He was a proponent of e-mail back when there were only a few thousand users.

Somehow, I made it through college without taking a single computer course. It’s only in the last 10 years or so that I’ve become attached by umbilical cord to a computer.

bkcunningham's avatar

I think that the “110 baud teletype machine with an acoustic coupler for the bakelite telephone” system may have started in NY. I have a friend in West Virginia, who to this day lives off his stories of back in the day.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Spectrum ZX, followed by an Atari ST, followed by a 486, followed by a pentium 75mhz. I was 4 years old when I got my first one.

When I first got my self a pentium 166mhz with mmx technology I thought I was a made man. It took me a whole season of working at burger king to buy it. 32mb ram, 166mhz cpu, 8mb graphics card and an 800mb hard drive. I was in heaven.

Since then I have lost count.

wundayatta's avatar

My first computer? It cost almost $2000. It was an Osborne I. I think I got it in September of 1981, but it might have been a year later. It was the first true portable computer (if you call carrying around a sewing machine portable).

I learned word processing with Wordstar and dot commands. I learned spreadsheets using Supercalc. I learned databases using Dbase II, I think. Maybe III.

I used that computer for four years—through grad school. But in grad school I learned about IBM computers, and when I graduated, I bought a Leading Edge IBM compatible, again, for around $2000. I bought it together with a modem—maybe a 220, and I started interacting with people all over the world on Fidonet. In many ways, what I was doing then is exactly what I am doing now, on Fluther.

There was already a lot of information on BBSes. I found out how to convert my CPM files on the Osborne to Dos compatible data by hooking into the local CPM society. I met a group that I played ultimate with, and learned about science fiction cons through them, something that changed my life for many years.

I didn’t do any key punching, but I now have need of an inexpensive way of reading data from cards into electronic format. So, @SmashTheState, know of anything? The only place I know costs something like $300 per foot of cards. Or maybe $150. Whatever. It’s prohibitive, given the value of the data.

tranquilsea's avatar

We got our first computer in 1986 and I cannot remember exactly what it was but I am pretty sure it was an IBM. No operating system. We spent a long time typing in \dir at the command prompt and then frantically trying to read all the files as they zipped past. We bought Leisure Suit Larry and it ran fairly well.

wundayatta's avatar

/p, @tranquilsea. Add a /p after your dir command, and the scroll will stop once it has filled the screen, and it won’t go until you hit the space bar.

You poor baby, having to try to read all that as it flashes by. But hey! You can still get a command prompt window. Try it now! I think all the old DOS commands work.

bkcunningham's avatar

Did anyone realize that the supply of Internet addresses ran out today?

Cruiser's avatar

I had this old IBM XT PC 4 on the floor with mag wheels with 64 K RAM thrusters a DOS OS with chrome exhasut….that baby was a Cruisin machine!!

reijinni's avatar

TRS-80 I think. I then moved onto Windows and have been using it since 3.0 and DOS since 4.0.

gasman's avatar

1977, when I soldered together a kit called Imsai 8080. At first you just toggled in binary instructions whose output was a row of LEDs. Then I added keyboard, monitor, and 5.25 floppy disk + North Star OS. Had BASIC interpreter but I preferred 8-bit assembly code.

Actually learned Fortran in 1967 in high school & spent a summer in college writing Fortran for some actual research. Back then you had to wait 48–72 hours between submitting code and receiving a printout of the run.

That all changed in 1977. Now I could have my own computer at home, running new code as fast as could I type it. Exhilarating!

mrentropy's avatar

My first experience with telecommunications was probably the same time as my first experience with a computer. I’m guessing it was a member of the CBM PET 80xx line. After school a couple of friends and I would use the libraries PET to dial into different BBS around the area (if you’re local to Morristown or Boonton, NJ the biggest ones were the Par-Troy Party Line and Compucon).

I had used a few different computers before I got my own, like the Apple ][ and the Timex Sinclair 1000. Although, what probably got me interested in computers and technology in the first place were the Texas Instrument LED watches and Speak and Spell. Evidently I had a relative that worked for Texas Instruments (wish it had gotten me a TI/994A but that didn’t happen).

Anyway, first computer was a VIC-20, followed soon after by an Atari 400.

First console was the venerable Atari VCS which, eventually, was replaced by a Coleco ColecoVision.

First modem was an Atari 835 direct connect. The 830 was cheaper, but we decided to go modern and get the one that didn’t use acoustic couplers or need the 850 interface.

My favorite arcade game would probably end up being William’s Mystic Marathon, a relatively obscure title but I was good at it.

And, yes, I do laugh at people who think a 486/SX is “old school” and I’m continually surprised to find that many co-workers in the IT field that I’ve worked with didn’t start using computers until the 80386 came out.

wilma's avatar

I think it was 1997 I bought a used computer from our school.
I didn’t have a clue….

WasCy's avatar

Ah, I remember this. In 1979 I bought a used Radio Shack TRS-80 computer that ran with a cassette tape drive. That used machine with a 9” black & white monitor cost about as much as a decent laptop that I could buy at any computer store today. (I had taken a class on Fortran IV in college and done the whole terminal / keypunch / drop-the-punchcards-off-for-a-run-on-the-mainframe-at-the-end-of-the-day-and-pick-up-your-printout-tomorrow deal – in 1973.)

My first computer with a modem was built by an independent seller in Wisconsin, and came with a honkin’ 40 megabyte disk drive. “Wow!” people would say to me. ”Forty megabytes! What are you going to do with all of that space?” The drive alone cost more than three of today’s laptops.

Supacase's avatar

It was August 1997. I remember because I got it when my then husband was out on a month of training. We split up on Labor Day weekend, which was just a couple of weeks after he got back.

tranquilsea's avatar

@wundayatta Alas, I know that now lol. Back then there wasn’t much in the way of computer help :-P

Tropical_Willie's avatar

1965 – - I was soldering wires on an “Accounting” machine; IBM 1401 for college class. Been around a while.

jerv's avatar

I’m a little younger. The first computer I actually owned was a Vic-20, complete with tape drive. A few years later, I upgraded to a C-64 with a 1541 floppy drive and a 300-baud modem. And no, I am not a “Christmas user”. Part of that is because I got that Vic-20 for my birthday, not Christmas, and partly because I didn’t get bored with it and shove it in the closet shortly after the festivities like Christmas Users tend to do.

JLeslie's avatar

My first computer was in 98 or 99, not sure? We were behind everyone else I guess. I still don’t have a smart phone, and all of my TV’s are the old kind.

blueiiznh's avatar

well, the first ones I worked on had vacumn tubes and you isolated issue to the donut of the core memory or the wirewrap backplanes. You not only new where and what the chad bucket was, but also knew where the chip bucket was and what devices generated them. KSR and ASR meant something to you. You loaded your program from paper tape and deck on deck of cards. You worked on things that helped get men to the moon. You pondered if this new Intel 8008 or 8080 could really do anything.
I had just turned 5 :D

wundayatta's avatar

@blueiiznh Wire wrapping!!! Just brought back a slew of memories. It was probably 1972. My dad was designing some integrated circuits for a machine he was building. I think he actually drew out the lines on blueprint paper and then they took them to the machine shop where someone actually built the board by hand—engraving and then filling with.. what? Solder?

So he had a couple of these boards and they needed to be hooked up to each other, and at that time the connections were all made by wrapping wires. I spent the summer poring over the wiring diagrams and then connecting each post to the correct other post. I hope it was correct, anyway. I don’t recall my father complaining. Generally, when he was unhappy, it was a memorable event.

So was that summer I spent in the bowels of the physics building.

YARNLADY's avatar

I was a hold out for so many years. My husband, sons, sister in law, daughter in law, and nearly every other relative have been computer literate for years and years. In 2005 I was given a genealogy program and started using the computer. I joined the Beta test of Yahoo Answers, and became addicted.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I wasn’t into them until 1999 when my family got one that could go online. When I got the hang of the whole internet thing, I actually used them regularly.

Not that I’m particularly computer literate now. I just fake it. I really am somewhat clueless. I make my partner do anything complicated for me, like design and code my blog.

gasman's avatar

<More old-timer lore> In 1971 I worked as a summer student at Argonne Labs near Chicago. There was a CDC 3600 that ran the Fortran code I personally key-punched, producing output on a Cal-Comp x-y plotter. In another area my buddies & I explored an idle IBM 740, along with a room full of shelved programs (long decks of Hollerith cards), many mysteriously labeled with song titles, such as “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.”

Once the cards were loaded & execution began, the line printer came to life madly spewing out character-oriented gibberish, adding to our confusion. When we listened to the printer’s frenzy of activity, however, it mad a reasonably well-tuned, recognizable melody with a sound like comb & tissue paper. All programs proved true to their title (somebody had a lot of time on their hands). It was so surprising to us there was a great deal of LOL. Your cold-war tax dollars at work…

SmashTheState's avatar

Back in the 300/1200/2400 baud days, a friend of ours was doing an internship at Bell Northern and swore to us that they had a modem in the lab that ran on ordinary phone lines with speeds literally thousands of times faster than the best 2400 baud modem. We called him a liar of course, but it turns out he was right: they’ve had xDSL since the 70s, but apparently didn’t see any conceivable use for rolling it out to the public. Makes me wonder what else they’ve got sitting in a lab somewhere because the capitalist pricks who rule the world can’t figure out how to turn a profit off it yet.

mrentropy's avatar

I always thought they held off on DSL because they were making a mint on ISDN. If it wasn’t for the cable companies rolling out their high speed networks we’d probably still be paying a mint for ISDN.

Stinley's avatar

I had a Sinclair ZX81 (for Christmas of 1982 I think). It had 1K memory but as a later upgrade i got a 16k add on pack. It ran on Basic. It plugged into a little black and white tv that my nana gave me. No matter as it was only in black and white anyway.

I used to type all the programmes in by hand at first but later on got a cassette player that would screech out the code and upload it via a wire. Sounded even less musical than a fax machine.

I can’t remember anything that it did. There may have been some rudimentary game that I managed to get working.

I never owned another computer until my husband and I bought a new one to replace his old one in 2006. Always just used work ones

WasCy's avatar

I recall – now that I’m thinking about it more – reading about how punch card digital computing worked as a teenager in the early 60s. As I recall, there was an experiment that anyone could do with index cards, a ruler and a paper punch.

The idea was to number the cards in binary from 1 to whatever number of cards you wanted to run up to (I think I did twenty or so). The trick was in spacing the binary digits exactly the same on every card, and using a paper punch to make a slot (open to the top of the card) above the digits “1”, and a hole for “0” digits. Pretty much like this.

I’ve been fascinated by binary computing every since, only the software and hardware have improved a bit.

jerv's avatar

@WasCy Yes, they have. I now hold in my hand a small device that probably has more computing power than was available to the entire planet 50 years ago with more storage than a truckload of punch cards and it cost me less than a weeks pay. If I spent as much on a modern computer as they wanted for a Mac Plus when I was in high school, I could get something that would make a supercomputer from the ‘80s look like a pocket calculator.

And we use much of that computing power not to solve the worlds problems, but to watch Youtube and argue with strangers :/

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