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On this day 25 years ago, IBM announced the first ever personal computer – the IBM 5150. I read this story over at the BBC website. In the mid to late eighties my dad built a succession of PCs, from the 8086 through to the 486DX. At school, we used BBC Micro Model B computers, later switch to Acorn’s Archimedes.

My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81. I had the optional 4K RAM pack. I have no recollection of playing with this computer although I can remember the loading software via a tape recorder. The screeching tones of the tape used to drive my mother mad I’m sure. Occasionally, the software would fail to load, so I’d have to rewind the tape and repeat the loading method. I think my dad bought me this computer, probably so he could play with it himself.

Whilst most of my friends had Amstrads, Amigas, Atari 512s ST or 1024s or Commodore 64s, we had an bland IBM compatible PC at home, which turned out to be a wise choice in the end. This meant my dad could run Supercalc, a nasty spreadsheet application. The few computer games I can remember playing were King’s Quest and Space Invaders. My dad was addicted to the latter. From what I remember, we used email then too. I think it was mainly for posting to the newsgroups, now archived and run by Google Groups. At some point, my dad purchased and fitted a maths co-processor to the 486. He must have been doing some pretty heavy sums on the PC. Since the Pentium came along, maths co-processors were no longer optional and included in the chip anyway.

I remember playing with Mosaic, the first web browser too and using Gopher, a predecessor of the web now defunct I think. I remember my dad advising me to get a job at Demon Internet way back in 1994. I should have listened. May be I would have been a high-flier by now.

What was your first computer and its killer apps?

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One Comment

  1. I think I was given Sigrún’s old Apple Mac in 1996. That was my first computer, and I only used it to write letters and print them out. Must have been given a printer, then, too:) I felt very independent and cool and productive, as during my (Icelandic / junior) college years (1989-1993) I had to go to others’ houses to type stuff up and print. I can’t believe I did that – how could I even be bothered!! Now I can’t even write a shopping list by hand; has to be done in colour coded spreadsheets and printed on recycled paper.

    I borrowed someone’s super advanced type writer at one point when I was 15 – it stored up to however many words which I could see on a little panel and then edit them, or not. Then I’d hit a button and all the words I’d typed would “come out” in rushing phantom typing fashion onto the paper. I felt like I had a magic tool in my hands, a super computer I ´spose, though I never did master the editing part. I just like to see the rush of activity when I pressed the button:)


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] It is the anniversary of the personal computer first developed by IBM. The story is at BBC website, but I read Nick’s blog and reminisced the time when my first computer was a Sinclair ZX81, as Nick relates. My friend, James Hobbs, introduced me to the world of computers and later I took a couple of classes at the University of Kansas concerning basic language, but never took it farther than that as the world of computer language leaped into the technical world into Windows and other programming language. Computers today will be dinosaurs less than 25 years from now, just as the Sinclair and Commodores of the days of “old” were. Check out Nick’s blog. Published in: […]

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