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December 23, 2003

You kids have it easy. And missed out on all the fun.

In his column John Paczkowski has collected people's stories about their first computer.

John Schiltz: My first computer, like 600K other Americans, was a Timex Sinclair 1000 : I bought it in the Fall of 1982 and learned basic Basic programming, saving my code onto a tape recorder (sometimes this even worked). It had a bubble keyboard and used the TV for a display. I still have it in it's original box in the garage.

Mine was also a Sinclair. One of my biggest computer thrills ever was when I upgraded it to 16K (K!!!) of RAM. "How will I ever use all that space?" I programmed it in BASIC and Z80 assembly language. I also used it for word processing (!!!). Later I spent alot of time working with a friend's Texas Instruments PC, and another friend's Apple II. Then I got myself a Radio Shack Model 100, my first laptop. In '84 I got my first Mac, and I've had only Macs ever since. Time flies when you're having fun.

[Thanks to Dan Gillmor for the Paczkowski link] [Sinclair pic via Google images]

Posted by jghiii at December 23, 2003 12:44 PM
Posted by: adamg on December 23, 2003 02:38 PM

My first was a TI 99/4A, $50 at Ann & Hope when TI got out of the PC business (I splurged on the 16k expansion module!) - although we'd been using Trash-80s at work (SCRIPSIT, anyone?) I learned enough TI-Basic to write a program to make bar graphs. Then I realized I didn't have anything I needed to graph. And I was sad. Now it's up in the attic, in its original box.

Posted by: RickF on December 23, 2003 03:29 PM

Don't forget the Atari 800 (with "Star Raiders") and the Commodore 64! My first software job was doing Technical Support for Don't Ask Computer Software. (Ironic, huh?) We made a software voice synthesizer (SAM: Software Automatic Mouth) for the Apple II, Atari 800, and Commodore 64, the dominant platforms of the time (1982/1983). SAM ultimately morphed into Macintalk... Remember that?

Posted by: george on December 23, 2003 07:43 PM

I remember that Sinclair when you use to live in Cambridge. My first was the TI 99, then the Model 100 (which I still have), then I got a Mac in 84 and numerous new Macs since, looking forward to a new Mac in 2004. In between I got a PC laptop to run certain business applications, the PC laptop has made a great door stop over the years when not being used.

Posted by: MGA on December 24, 2003 07:32 AM

Good lord, do I remember the Sinclair. That funky little add-on piece in the back that was memory.. what a nightmare!. Type for an hour, wiggle the computer and *CRASH* all your work gone. Not even the decency of a backup system that you could reliably use (Trying to hook it up caused the *CRASH* too). What a relief it was to use George's Mac which was stable.
Now, I'm a IBM Clone / Windows kind of guy. My brother wants a Mac, though. Do I get any kudos points for that?

Posted by: dave on December 24, 2003 12:49 PM

Jack, you turned me on to this machine back in 82'
it is still kicking around some were in a box of stuff, I think it is at the lake, I remeber seeing it once a couple of years back. Also in that box was the plug in box for added memory.
I also remember you taking me to a Sinclair user group meeting some were in Boston that year back when you were with BCS ?

Posted by: sherman on December 24, 2003 02:13 PM

I was living in the Pioneer Valley, and Jack came to visit. He dragged me into this computer store in Northampton and made me check out this new computer with an attachment. The Mac with a mouse. At that point, my experience was with keypunch machines -- I don't even know the right technical term -- at the B&M Railroad. I typed on the keyboard of this piece of machinery and it made punchcards for each railroad car that came into the yard. We'd reshuffle the cards to match what the switching crew was doing in the yard, and send a report onto the next point along the line. So yeah, after using something as old and clunky as that, it was kinda cool to see a monitor and realize I could make the cursor move around with the mouse. But the coolness was over in about 5 minutes and I was ready to go someplace else. Jack wanted to stay in the store and play.

I remember not understanding this at all -- how he could be so excited about a big etch-a-sketch. I think the thing was that I only saw what it was, and Jack saw what it could be.

I've owned three computers in my life: a Mac Plus, a Mac Classic, and now the iMac -- which is so MOM ALERT fucking old that I crash trying to access a lot of websites these days. At work I'm in Windows because that's what the University buys. I like the Macs because they are familiar to me, and they are familiar to me because of Jack.

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