Our challenge this time is all about nostalgia and moving back to the 8-bit past (or maybe even further). We want you to share your memories about your first computer (or a console) ever. What was the model? Did it use CDs, Floppy disk, or maybe even cartridges or cassettes? What was the first software or a game that you used on it? How long ago was it?
Tell us your story from your IT past and receive 150 reputation points! Pictures or even Youtube videos with some retro hardware or software are highly appreciated 🙂
My first computer was a remarkable Commodore 64, which used both cartridges and cassettes (and if you wanted to be sure that game will load you had to use a small screwdriver to set up the cassette in the right way). My parents brought the machine when I was about 4-5 years old and will remember it for the rest of my life - I was so happy watching moving pixels on the TV, that when I was jumping around, I've hit my head and had to go to the hospital. I got a little scar over my eye to this day.
I remember playing some strange pirated version of Mario (that got a giant ant instead of Bowser at the end of the level), spending hours moving rocks in Boulder Dash, and flying and shooting in River Raid. As a kid, I was also creating some pictures in the text editor (and years later I discovered that the proper name for it was "ASCII Art").
As a bonus: Commodore 64 singing a Polish folk song, which was a truly mindblowing experience back in the day (at 1:45).
An old photo of me opening my new birthday present, the Commodore 1541 floppy drive (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_1541) after using cassettes, my excitement about switching to this new update is clearly visible. 170Kb of storage that day really seems like a lot, and the no-rewind upload speed is probably magic at the time. I start to program in BASIC with the attached manual. No BBS, no Internet, not even books on that topic in my language. My cousin was using a ZX Spectrum, which was my first introductory step into this amazing new beginning of the computer age.
After that it cames an old Apple II where i learn to the Logo programming language at school, then it cames a TeleVideo with double diskette drive capable of running the Prince of Persia and Carmen San Diego. That was my first portable computer. The keyboard sits on top of the screen and has a handle for moving it.
You can use a disk drive for the OS and the other for the programs. And it was a lot easier to copy diskettes.
As a child I always wanted a laptop. Every Saturday morning I'd race down stairs to see if my Parents got the Weekend newspaper, and id flip through the pages to the middle section where the Classified Ad's were just hoping someone would list a laptop. One morning as I hastily flipped through the pages there it was, a laptop for sale (I think it was $30) I was so eager to get it, and after convincing my parents to call the number on the ad, I raced upstairs to change. And we were off! Off to get this laptop that I had been so eagerly looking for. Now mind you, I was a kid, I had no idea what I was getting at the time. All I knew is that I could use it on my lap, on a desk on a bed, in a car!
We finally arrived, after getting lost a few times (no MapQuest or GPS back then). My Father completed the transaction and we were heading back home 🙂 This was the gem that we picked up (a similar device):
This beast had Windows 3.0 with a black and white screen along with a J Mouse! There was no CD drive that I recall, only a floppy drive. Once we returned back with the laptop my Mother proceeded to fully test Microsoft Solitaire while I eagerly waited to have a turn.
Flash forward several yeas, still searching in the classified/dollar ads of the local news paper I come across a newly listed laptop for sale! This one was a Panasonic Toughbook with windows 95 and a color screen! Once again we call up the person who listed the laptop, go the address and jumped into the car. When we got home I remember the joy that I had, telling my mom she can play her solitaire on one and I can play another game on the other! I remember how captivated I was that the laptop had a track pad, a color screen, a CD drive that would eject the entire unit and you could put in a Floppy drive in its place. The palm rest would open up and there was the battery and the 16gb Gel encased hard drive! and to top it all off, this laptop had a handle! I remember thinking how I'd look like all the business men that I've seen on TV with their briefcase, but in my case, its a laptop 🙂
Granted, both laptops of my youth were nothing special they battery had the lifespan of 5 mins, Ram and Drive space were nothing compared to the devices now. But I'll never forget how every Saturday morning I'd flip through the newspaper looking for a listed laptop, then try to convince my parents to call the number and pick up the laptop. And how my Mom would always give Solitaire a thorough test daily
Mine was a ZX Spectrum. Like Maciej said, the screwdriver was probably the most important piece, for tweaking the cassette player!
I didn't play games a lot. Lot's of Basic programming, but then I dived directly into Assembly... Developed a whole 48 KB educational program byte by byte, around the Periodical Table. Every little BIT counted. Since it was in Assembly, it was a nightmare to develop: would load the editor, than the program, than write it back, and run it. Everytime it crashed I would be back to home base, with each iteraction consuming at least 15 minutes. It's working like this that I developed my performance skills in the mid 80s 🙂
Did you use the original ZX Spectrum with a rubber keyboard for this, or did you have the "Plus" or "128" series? I cannot imagine writing more than a couple dozen lines of code on the original keyboard. I guess that is why all the BASIC commands were pre-fixed to single or alternate key-strokes there.
My first computer was built from scraps other people had thrown away, Intel 486 SX at 25 MHz, 4 MB ram, two 40 MB IDE drives, a standard VGA card with 256 kB ram, a 256-level grey scale panel designed to be put on a the deck of an overhead projector with a piece of paper taped to the back of it and a 60 watt light bulb behind it so I could see. I had to borrow a friend's floppy drive to do the initial load of DOS on it. I did not have a case for it, so all the parts were spread out on my desk. I was thrilled when I eventually got a mouse so I could do more precise aiming in the original Doom.
The first PC I used was at my dad's workplace, with DOS and Norton Commander. I can still remember that shade of blue 😄 Of course, technical details didn't matter at that time, the most important thing to a little girl was that it had some computer games!
The first one I got was already with Windows 3.1x 🙂
My first PC was my dad's. It was an Olivetti M24, but we called it the 8086. This was back in 1986, I was 8 years old by then and I remember playing Paratrooper. There was no Windows, so it was straight from the DOS command ( .exe or .com to launch). In 1987 my father brought some Sierra games home, this was a game changer. I remember well playing King's Quest and Larry Laffer and I learned so much English with it ( Ken Sent Me). Those first games came on 8 inch floppy disks with a capacity of 720 kb, so you had to change disks all the time. I remember having games that took 20 floppy disks, you were more time changing disks than playing ( example: Dune in 92).
I remember that I totally crashed my dad's PC somewhere in 1994 or 1995 because I so desperately wanted to play "Winter Challenge 1991" (yes seems like I already used to be a cliche Austrian as a lil boy). The game, a floppy game back then, looked like the following:
Yes, ski jumping was my favorite!
I don't know the details but a colleague of my dad (a back then "IT specialist") had to come and totally reset our PC aka "format C:" it. I still don't know how I managed to destroy it just by wrongly starting the game (that's the part I remember) considering that I was a 5-6 year old back then. Yes, my dad obviously loved me for that, not...
The machine was a casual PC with an Intel Pentium I. At least that's what I remember. Will add a photo should I find anything in my parents photo archives (aka piles of unsorted photos).
Great challenge and nice memories! Mine goes like this:
When I was 12, a friend of mine was kind enough to lend me his Sinclair ZX80 for several weeks over summer. It had a Zilog Z80 processor (an Intel 8080 clone), 1k RAM, a 32x24 char display, TV video output and a Basic interpreter in ROM. This ZX80 was accompanied by a Basic manual, and that was all. I had no idea about computers. To me it was a miracle machine, you could create anything you wanted, it seemed limitless - well unless you reached the 1k limit. And I thought I was supposed to write all programs on my own, which was a nice learning experience. My first project was something reminiscent of ELIZA, basically asking the user questions and continuing the conversation based on the answers.
What I did not know though was how to store my programs! I don't quite remember why, maybe that part of the manual was missing or I overread it, but each time I wanted to implement something new or had to switch off the computer, my previous code was gone of course. It took me quite a while to figure out you could connect a cassette tape player via audio cables. So, unfortunately my first code is lost forever!
The ZX80 was a great machine, and affordable at the time. Its successor was the ZX81, which had an improved chip design, hence was cheaper, but basically the same specs otherwise. There was an incredible programming feat achieved by David Horne, namely a functional chess game (1k ZX Chess) in Z80 assembly, which only used up 672 bytes. There was also a version that ran on the ZX80. People tried for decades to squeeze a chess game into less memory, until someone really managed to do so, 33 years later.
672 bytes is so 80s 😉
A quick look on the Internet seems to reveal that the record was smashed to 487 bytes in 2015, and this was what @Arno H. was probably referring to:
But looking at the authors page, it seems it's now at 455 bytes. And you can look at the source-code too:
My first computer was an Atari 800XE. It was a late 80's model of an 8-bit computer, based on and fully backwards compatible with Atari 800 from 1978. At the time I only had an XC12 cassette recorder with it. My friends had ZX Spectrums and one of them had Commodore 64. I think I was the first one in my class to have an Atari, and that was pretty funny.
Here is me loading the game called Alley Cat. The picture was taken around 1988 and scanned recently from a very poor negative film. I was 12 at the time:
But Alley Cat was not the first game I had. This was Starblade from Activision, a relatively less known title, a quite interesting for its time. Still perfectly playable.
Fast forward 20 years.
I am an established IT professional, married, with kids, a house in the suburbs and a mortgage. I have long since moved away from 8-bit machines. My old Atari was given away to my younger cousins and I started to use the PCs, got serious about coding (even some code machine, and simple drivers for DOS) and getting paid for it.
But some sentiment remained, so I decided to buy a really cheap 8-bit Atari, just to play the games I have never had. After all, most of the software is already abandonware and just several clicks away.
Then there was the second computer, ... the third, ... the tenth. I got engaged in the retro demoscene activities and before I realized it, together with a bunch of friends we have a registered society called RetroKomp, I am the president, and we host regular retro computing and gaming events in Gdansk, and about to open a interactive museum in the old town.
It was all great fun. We were all over the news and even the national TV crew came over to my house and interviewed me and my kids about the 8-bit Atari game I have created for them.
The museum eventually turned out to be a flop. But the established friendships and collections are still here.
I promise, one day I will make an inventory of all of my stuff acquired over last 10+ years. Not just computers. The monitors, too. And the drives. And joysticks. And various accessories. And not just for Atari, but also Commodore, ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad, Apple, Sony and Nintendo, 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit. I have my old Atari 800XE and XC12 cassette recorder again. And I am happy about it. And my wife still loves me and supports me in all of this.
This is how my "home office" looks like. Not that much different compared to 1988, right?
My first computer was an Apple Macintosh 512 with a single floppy drive and NO HARDDRIVE, where I used it to publish a dance music magazine distributed worldwide. I used Aldus Pagemaker desktop publishing software and Adobe Illustrator version 1. I quickly maxed out with the single drive and had to add an external floppy drive just to be able to create illustrations. I had to switch floppy disks back and forth while doing tasks like printing and saving. It would grow old after a while but in reflection I miss it. The external hard drive had a sprinkling of cigar ashes as puffs of cigars filled the air during the long hours spent writing and editing. No I never cleaned off the smudge of those ashes as it was part of the charm. Despite the challenges at the time I feel good about the result being able to interview various dance music luminaries and Grammy award nominees who put House on the map worldwide. "Gotta have house ..."
In the middle of 80ies, when I was 12, my father bought me the CP400 Color 2, which was made from a Brazilian company called Prologica.
This computer was 100% compatible with the original TRS80 Color Computer model 2 (also called "Coco") from the american Tandy/Radio Shack.
It was amazing, with a lot of games loaded from audio cassetes and some cartridges too.
And I could get in touch with basic and some assembly programming, omg!
I'd like to thanks everyone to share and enjoy these great memories.
It's amazing to see how different geographies had different "standard machines" not so long ago. It was probably the popularity of PCs that has unified the global markets. So today when we say "I have a computer at home" you likely think of a Windows, Mac or a Linux machine, which are basically the same hardware with different OSes. But back in 80s and 90s this could have been one of a dozen or more standards, equally successful, yet completely incompatible with one another.
I agree... imagine that few years later the "new sensation" in Brazil was the "MSX" Home Computer... and I almost had one (sold by Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, Philips, and from Brazilian companies like Gradiente). Starting the 90ies, I bought my own IBM PC AT 286, starting the "standardization" process.
I remember it briefly, but that was in 1990 when my mother brought my first personal computer - IBM PC. It was released with an x286 processor, two floppy diskette drives drives and a 20 MB hard disk. That's how it looked like - more or less:
I still remember "TURBO" button that increased its power so games run smoother. It had colorful monitor, comparing to what companies had in their offices - black/white or amber, it was really exciting for my whole family. For me, as a 4 years old kid - it was inspirational! Really! And if you think "small" things don't impact on your future - they are! Since that time I knew I wanted to work with computers - and so am I at Dynatrace 🙂
Apart from that - you share also games and programs. For me I remember a couple worth to mention:
- QBASIC in MS DOS ... that served my first snake! I loved "Gorillas" game as well.
- Games like "Golden Axe" (below) and famous "Prince of Persia" to name just a few of my favourites.
- And last but not least, already mentioned Windows 3.11 with first Excel 3. So funny now to take a look how it looked like. I remember those long discussions with my brothers if we want to remove all games from MS DOS to free disk space and install Windows instead. This was 10 1.4 floppy disks installation! It was such a disaster when it occurred that 10th disk was corrupted!
So great memories, thanks for bringing this to community!
My first computer was a Commodore Amiga 500, on which I quickly started to program tiny games in Amiga Basic. I still remember the famous Amiga Workbench OS and how disappointed I was when I first saw the graphical capabilities of an IBM PC and DOS Shell. It was nothing compared to my beloved Amiga system 🙂
It's still a miracle for me how a company with that great a product disappeared that quickly, like Commodore did back in the days.