Thursday, March 02, 2017

Old School Computing

I was visiting my friend's parents the other day and spotted this on a shelf in a storage room. Whoa. Trash-80! The TRS-80 was made by Tandy/Radio Shack starting in the late '70s. I never had one, but I remember playing with them a little.

In college, my first computer was the DEC-10 mainframe. I figured out pretty early on that you could chat with people on other terminals, and there was a text-based game called Adventure (or Colossal Cave) that you could play on it.

Then someone introduced me to the Commodore SuperPETs in the Engineering School, and I learned how to use a word processor. A very primitive one, but way better than typing and retyping papers on a typewriter. Plus, it was in that brief, shining moment when you could tell professors that your paper was late because the printer was broken, and they would be impressed.

In the early '90s I had a notebook computer (now known as a laptop), a Toshiba T100LE. I would take it to a coffee shop and plug it in (the battery wouldn't last more than a hour or so). People would come over and ask me about it. "Wow, is that a computer?!?"

Yes, that's how much it cost, which is about the equivalent of $2,500 today. I used a chunk of my graduate student loan to buy it. It was totally worth it.

You'll notice it didn't have a mouse or trackpad. Those things didn't exist yet. "Back in my day, you whippersnapper, we DIDN'T EVEN HAVE A GODDAMNED MOUSE." Yeah, you had to use arrow keys to navigate around. You also used the arrow keys to play games such as Block Out, which was a bit like Tetris.

I ended up removing Block Out from my computer because I was starting to have dreams about playing it. (As you can tell from my continued Pokemon Go obsession, I have a hard time throttling back, so sometimes cold turkey is the best solution.)

Later I had one of those cute colorful iMacs (lime green!), and today I'm writing this on a Macbook Air, which is a great little machine and unimaginably more powerful than even that mainframe computer I first used that occupied an entire room.

What was your first computer?


  1. My first computer was am Apple 2e. It really was amazing. My kids had flash cards for school that I made out of the cards my husband used on the mainframe.

  2. Those early Apples sure were exciting! They weren't very powerful, but the opened up a world of possibilities.