A Trip Down Memory Lane

Story: Living with a Computer--in 1982Total Replies: 16
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Jul 19, 2007
4:13 PM EDT
This is a wonderful article about computers circa 1982. I remember disk drives in the mid-'80's costing $15,000 for one-third of a gig. They were the size of a washing machine.

Jul 19, 2007
4:17 PM EDT
Uphill both ways in the snow.

I remember as far back as 4 megs. RAM and a 107-megabytes hard drive. And silly hacks like Stacker and DriveSpace to cram more onto that poor little drive, at the cost of hammering the 386CPU. That was livin'!

Jul 19, 2007
5:54 PM EDT
I remember trying to scrape together funds for a TRS-80. Not a Model anything, as the first ones were just TRS-80s.

I did finally get to use a Model II when some friends with a little headhunter business bought one, but that was a whole different animal: Motorola 68000 instead of a Z80.

Fun, though, and business friendly.

Jul 19, 2007
9:09 PM EDT
I started off with an 8086 XT with 640K RAM, 5.25" floppy drives and 20 Mb HDD. Cost about $3000 back then.

Jul 20, 2007
1:17 AM EDT
I remember the Drive the size of Washing Machines.

I remember we ran the entire comapany's Sales an Inventory from a single PDP 11/70 with 35 concurrent users + 10 spare ports for long running processes and reports, accessing the machine via a concentrator. During End of Year processing the people in Dunedin and Christchurch could wait up to 10 minutes before a typed character was echoed on their terminal.

I remember our company's first PC, Our senior analyst decided it had to be his baby, he carefully unpacked it - we were allowed to take the packing to the rubbish bin - and assembled it. But I got him back, I stood behind him and when he switched it on I clapped my hands together.

Ah those were the days, before Microsoft, when IBM was the evil empire.

Jul 20, 2007
5:11 AM EDT
For me it was an IMSAI8080 in Highschool. The physics teacher bought the kit and some of the students helped in assembly.

We had to use the switches on the front to boot!

Over the years of high school we added a couple of monitors, keyboards and a Disk drive.

CP/M and Basic.

When I got to college in 1980 and found out about Emacs on a Vax 20, I was in geek heaven.

The first one I owned was an Apple IIe.

Jul 20, 2007
7:44 AM EDT
My first real comp was a Leading Edge 486slc-25 with 4MB RAM and a 120 MB hard disk that they said would "last forever" (hah!). That was back in '93.

We had an Atari 800 for a while at some point early in my childhood.

Yeah, I guess I'm one of the youngsters around here. :)

Jul 20, 2007
8:13 AM EDT
You're all pups. I started with an abacus!

Jul 20, 2007
8:23 AM EDT
Quoting:I started off with an 8086 XT with 640K RAM, 5.25" floppy drives and 20 Mb HDD. Cost about $3000 back then.
Same as mine, sans HDD. I'm a purist, so I forced myself to learn how to use it (DOS) with just floppies before I sprung for the 20 MB HDD. Amstrad PC1?640, Hercules monochrome graphics card, Gem GUI (which never really was actually usable).

I taught myself programming using the Procomm and Telix comm programs connecting to BBSs.

I skipped BASIC and sprung for Mix Power C.

Back then, if you asked someone in the know what computer to buy, all they'd tell you is, "Make sure it's an 80 character wide display."

Holy ancient history, Batman.

Jul 20, 2007
8:27 AM EDT
And to think, these days if a program takes more than 5 seconds to open, people think their comp is too slow and they should run out and buy a new one... No patience anymore I tell ya! :)

Jul 20, 2007
10:13 AM EDT
The first program I ever typed into a computer came out of our new 8th grade algebra books. The year was 1981. I went down to the local Radio Shack and got permission to use the TRS-80 Model III in the store window. It was a very simple BASIC program, that let you type in two numbers and then showed their sum.

So then I said to myself, "Self, I bet if I change that plus sign to a minus sign, it will show the DIFFERENCE of those two numbers!" And a hacker was born.

The first computer I ever owned was a Timex Sinclair 1000 w/ 16K expander, thermal printer, and rubberized keyboard add-on. I wrote a featureful banner program that could print normal or inverted character matrices, using either squares or the characters themselves. It's neat to think I was hacking Sir Clive Sinclair's hacks.


Commodore 64 VMS on VAX 11/750 in college Macintosh 512e Back to Commodore, this time w/ 512K cartridge --w/ a password hack and GEOS pre-loader! then finally a PC for my programming classes and a near-perpetual upgrade cycle

My journey to Linux is a different story...

Jul 20, 2007
12:29 PM EDT
Quoting:Hercules monochrome graphics card, Gem GUI (which never really was actually usable).

Ours was a 4-color CGA screen. It came with MS-DOS 3.23 and MS-Windows 1.31. It's probably the most secure version of Windows ever. All it had was a calculator, a clock, notepad and a very rudamentary way to browse your filesystem. You couldn't even start programs IIRC :-)

My software of choice back then were WordPerfect and PlanPerfect. I taught myself programming in GW-Basic (it still used numbered lines!). Back then, they shipped a full GW-BAsic reference guide in the MS-DOS manual. I still have the floppies somewhere. 2 for DOS and 2 for Windows (single-side, single density). And I have the manuals too.

Jul 20, 2007
12:40 PM EDT
>I skipped BASIC and sprung for Mix Power C.

Oh the flood of memories!!!

I remember my first personally-owned computer: an XT clone with Hercules graphics and mighty 20MB hard drive.

The Hercules card was pretty cool. I even bought a mouse and used (at various times) Turbo Pascal, Let's C, and Mix C for graphics programming. Mix C, by the way, was headquartered just down the road from my Plano, TX home. For that matter, so was Softwarehouse, the original CompUSA.

That was a long way from my very first programming -- using Fortran on an accoustically-coupled dial-in terminal to the IBM 360/90 mainframe at Rutgers.

Jul 20, 2007
3:35 PM EDT
I also remember how I hacked into the 1,1 (Administrator) account on the PDP 11/70.

Jul 20, 2007
4:26 PM EDT
Going back even further to 1968... I gave my husband #1 fits when I flipped the on-off switch on an IBM 1130 several times "to see what would happen". The circuit breakers blew, but the next morning the IBM guy was very nice about turning it all back on again. This was the first time I ever saw a computer so I had no clue this beast wasn't like a light switch! :-)

P.S. I'm still married to husband #1. :-)

Jul 20, 2007
6:24 PM EDT
My Dad got interested in computers in 1948. I have always enjoyed reading his article (at http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1948PASP...60..235I) simply for the comparisons in cpu speed, memory, and permanent storage between then and now. Sadly, after that initial burst of enthusiasm he didn't keep in touch with computer advances so never actually used computers in his own work once they became widely available in the 60's.

My first computer was an IBM 1620 which I was able to access at college in 1968. To compile your source code which you had put onto punched cards with a keypunch, the operator would first load the "PDQ" (Pretty Damn Quick) fortran compiler from punched cards. Then read in your source fortran deck, which the compiler would compile by generating an executable punched card deck. The operator would then read in that executable deck to actually execute your code.

My next computer was an IBM 1130 (later in 1968) which Barbara has already discussed. :-) It was a huge improvement over the 1620 because it actually had a disk drive so manipulation of executable punched card decks was no longer required.

Then on to graduate school with eventually an IBM 370 for general fortran use and a PDP-8e to run a microdensitometer that was important for my research.

After graduate school I shifted to VAX-11 computers but by 1988 the first cheap Unix boxes which were much faster than VAXen were coming out so I switched to Unix then and ultimately to Linux in 1996. That 1996 experience was also my first experience with a PC so that is why I can claim I have never actually had any experience with Microsoft software. :-)

Barbara had her first experience with Linux in 1998. She accessed our home Linux computer with an experimental dumb terminal I had set up for her although I later replaced that by an X-terminal and then by an independent Linux PC for her which she now administers for herself. In part due to her home Linux experiences, she became more and more disgusted with her Microsoft experiences at work. One of the many nice things about her early retirement has been she no longer has to contend with Microsoft software!

Jul 20, 2007
7:45 PM EDT
This user remembers using, in order, 1) some IBM mainframe requiring separate workstations just to run BASIC (before 1982) , 2) some IBM mainframe or IBM minicomputer requiring punchcards to link and compile FORTRAN (in 1982 itself), 3) a DEC VAX that also required workstation sign-on similar to (1) just after 1982, 4) sharing someone else's Mac II personal computer boxes before IBM usurped the name ~mid-1980's, then 5) in the late 1980's actually owning as a first "PC" an Intel 80286 IBM clone with maybe 1MB or just less of RAM, a DOS 3.1 OS, and 10MB of disk space to run DOS CLI commands and WordStar.

Once the 1990's came around, it was a 386 CPU with Windows 3.0, 486/Cyrix CPU's with DOS5-6/Windows 3.1 and OS/2, Pentium/AMDK6 CPU's with Windows95 and Linux kernel 2.2.x, ..... and onwards to the present.

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