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Re: What was your first computer?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:57 am

First computer we had in the household was a Commodore VIC-20. I loved that thing, but never was all that good with programming... I've also got hazy memories of using a MicroBee and an Apple IIe at primary school.

For a while, I'm pretty sure my dad had an actual IBM 5150 on loan from work, but I never really got to do anything with that. I did play around a lot with the XT clone we later got, though.

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Re: What was your first computer?

Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:46 pm

I have a vague memory of inputting pages of code from a magazine into a ZX81

At school we had BBC Micro's and in fairness some very keen teachers

I spent many years programming and gaming with my Spectrum 48k and I was one of the few to have a SAM Coupe

In the '90s I bought a 486 PC running windows 3.1 and a Sega megadrive for gaming.

Many windows PC's and game consoles later and I haven't done any programming for many years, mainly because of the simplicity of Windows

The Raspberry sounds like a fun way to get back into programming, i'm in!

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Re: What was your first computer?

Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:57 pm

Our first household computer was an Amstrad PCW8256.  Green screen, 3" (not 3.5") floppy drive right next to it, dot-matrix printer, and it would run a word processor and not much more.  That word processor got a heck of a lot of use though.

About a year later we got a second-hand, reasonably well-upgraded BBC Model B.  I've still got that one, though the keyboard is a little dodgy and it hasn't been plugged in for a while.  It was everything that a fully tricked-out 8-bit micro should be - except that it didn't have a SID.  (At the time, I wasn't even aware that the SID existed.)

Our next computer after that was a RiscPC - brand new.  That really got me off to a good start, as it was sensibly capable of running a C compiler.  Still got that one too, and it is still occasionally useful in it's own right.

My first laptop was another Amstrad - the NC200.  I actually miss that one, as it had a battery life measured in days rather than hours, and it was a supreme example of tight integration so that all the built-in applications could run simultaneously and be switched between with a simple key combination.  It also had a version of BASIC.  It eventually succumbed to the hard knocks of school life.
The key to knowledge is not to rely on people to teach you it.

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Re: What was your first computer?

Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:43 pm

(1984) I started with a Dick Smith VZ-200 (Z80CPU and an attrocious TeleType video chip – no lower-case characters!) which I bought off a schoolmate for $50 (they retailed for $200). I sold my entire Lego collection (which was extensive) to raise the money. They had Apple][ machines at school, though no actual computer program - it was 2-or-3 classes in the year-8 maths program and lunch-time access for anyone interested in more.

(1986) Moved to a C64 a few years later and was with that for quite a while. The relatively primitive BASIC interpreter of the C64 got me into 6502/10 assembly programming as it was the only way to really utilise the hardware properly. I had a cartridge with an assembler, and later got a 5.25" disk drive to run a CP/M-like shell with a C compiler.

(1990) Next, I didn't actually own a computer for a few years, but used a variety of 80286 and 80386 boxes at the computer importer where I had a junior tech position.

(1992) When I went to Uni, I bought a Mac ColorClassic from a Uni ex-stock auction, which I got extra-cheap ($60) as it was broken, but just turned out to need a new fuse in the PSU.

(1995) I was next into the Apple Newton platform heavily with a view to getting into the educational software market for the eMate varient, then Apple canned the platform. My ColorClassic died the final death a few months later.

(1998) While thinking about where to go next — I was peeved with Apple, but unimpressed with Windows – a magazine with an OS I had never heard of on a free disk on the front cover caught my eye at the local newsagency, and a trip to the city for some second-hand parts had me my first Linux box running. That bundle of parts has been repeatedly upgraded part-by-part as my life moved around the world until none of the origionals exist any more, but I haven't technically bought a "new" computer since then.

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Re: What was your first computer?

Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:48 am

Oh man, I remember it like it was only yesterday.

The November 1978 edition of 'Electronics Today International' published the design of the TRITON home computer. This lovely magazine could have spun it out over a 12 month period but in ONE issue devoted 18 pages tightly packed with diagrams, circuits, explanations of every last gate (with No adverts) and I was hooked. It was a thick magazine that month, as well as the usual selection of analog and digital circuits they included the first edition of a new magazine called 'Computing Today' where they reviewed the Nascom 1 as well as a tutorial of the 'Tiny Basic' included with the Triton.

This was a total revelation to me. After pouring over it for a couple of weeks I knew it like the back of my hand and posted off the not inconsiderable sum of £286 plus vat to Transam Components Ltd, Chapel St, London. When it arrived I diligently soldered it all up and powered it up only to find the keyboard did not work! Oh the pain! I arranged to drive from Bristol to London to exchange for a new keyboard the next day rather than wait whole days for the postman. I remember being parked outside the shop waiting for them to open - then exchanged the keyboard and high-tailed it back to Bristol where I plugged it in and.....

Joy it worked!

It Had a 2k Tiny Basic, 1k monitor rom and 3k of ram.

The next day my first program - noughts and crosses.....( after the times tables etc)

That was the beginning of a whole new era of my life - actually life changing.

I interfaced lots of periferals - leds on the front panel to start. I needed hard copy so I acquired a creed teleprinter 7, and with a phototransistor in a brass tube that fitted snuggly over one of the led's on the front panel, wrote some code in machine code to convert asci to baudot - (I learned the hard way why plus and minus 80 volts was required to drive 100 ohm coils with 4k in series to provide the 20ma rather than the 4 volts I started with!!! - think inductance and time constants - rather like stepping motors I found out later). Then I re-wrote the monitor, added lots of extra routines and at last I seemed to have found something that has NEVER lost its attraction.

That led to me getting a CPM disc and building a Z80 CPM machine all designed with knowledge acquired from the Triton (still only used 8080 code tho!) CPM machines cost a mint in those days. Eventually I relented and bought a BBC Model B and - there was Elite! ah happy happy memories. And that was about the time I wanted to share these discoveries with others. I joined a computer club - full of anticipation - but the dozens of members were mostly games players seeking to get free copies of software, not at all interested in what went on inside the machine.

And that is the sad part - electronics designers and programmers seem to be an alien species, and in those days combining the two... Eventually I found a couple and we would meet at each others homes every week and build and hack - in a constructive way into the small hours. Happy days indeed.

Then a succession of PC's and I tried a bit of assember but when I found Qbasic on the DOS disc another whole new era began. And boy I was able to do things I hadn't dreamed of.

Well I hope the 'Pi will get me going again (I havent stopped but I can see whole new range of possibilities with an inexspensive card with hi res graphics and lots of IO ) new doable projects that were just prohibitively expensive before.

Gosh I've run on a bit - its all coming back....

Dave H

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Re: What was your first computer?

Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:00 am

Although I played around with my friend"s father"s PET computer, the first computer I bought myself was the Sinclair ZX81. I was 12 at the time. I taught myself Z80 machine code and spent hours trying to write a chess program in 1K. When I could afford a 16K module I thought I could never fill that up!

My total computer timeline is:

ZX81->ZX Spectrum->VIC20->Commodore64->Atari 520->Amiga500->Amiga600->486DX4/100->Pentium4->Pentium5->AMD->Core2Duo->iMac27"

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Re: What was your first computer?

Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:30 am

Quick summary. Chronological order of acquiring.

C64 2nd Edition with tape drive. Still have

A1200 with that couldn't live without accessory external floppy drive. Still have

K6-2 333 PC I think

Some other PC's.....

Compaq Laptop 975MHz ish

Athon 1.4GHz PC

Various x86 laptops

C64 first Edition. Still have

VIC-20 Still have

Compaq LTE-286 Portable/Luggable. Runs minix Still have

Another amiga. Can't remember what it is. Still have

More x86 laptops.

Mac Powerbook 100, running system 7. Still have, dead I believe

More generic laptops and PC's

Boxes and boxes of C64 and amiga Games, and maybe a 5 1/4" set of very early MS DOS disc's

Moving house soon so I'll know for sure in a few weeks

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Re: What was your first computer?

Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:02 am

My first was an EBKA Familiarizor [sic] which I built from a kit.  The specs were awesome! It ran a 6502 and had 1024 bytes of RAM as well as two I/O ports.  It was a bare board that required a 5V power supply.  I designed and built the power supply.

The Familiarizor was used to run programmed loops.  I connected a capacitor to various points and recorded the "music" thus produced.  The Familiarizor had a hex keypad and a two character hex display.  A ROM monitor allowed the input and execution of programs into the 1K RAM.

Later the board was cut up so the keypad and display could be used in a homebuilt computer.  It cost $229 in 1976.  A month or so later I saw an ad for the first Apple, also a bare board, for $666.  Apple was always pricey.

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Re: What was your first computer?

Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:45 am

When I was around 10 years old I has access to a unix machine via a 300 baud modem and a vt100 terminal. I used it to play early games like adventure and larn. Later I had access to a PC XT and used it for writing reports. Then in high school I had access to a BBC micro and learned some basic programming, spread sheets, databases etc. Around this time I also discovered Borland Pascal 3.0 for the PC and started writing simple games. Then I got an Amiga 500. There was a lot of really cool shareware for the Amiga including a C compiler and editor. Then it was off to university where the predominant system was Sun Solaris and the programming language was Ada. The Amiga ROM kernel manuals were exciting to read around this time. Along the way there were interesting experiments with various Borland products which in many ways were ahead of their time but lost out to other platforms. Then linux came on the scene and it was all C++ and linux. Then Java started getting more popular, the initial versions of Java were pretty bad, but the garbage collectors got better and dynamic inlining got added and it became faster. Then eclipse and their ilk came on the scene and Java became the language of choice. Along the way I tried ruby and ocaml, but each is rather deficient in its own way.

People are now searching for new programming languages that are more productive but they still fall into the old molds of either strong static typing or dynamic typing with neither side being able to subsume the other. It's hard for new systems to beat Eclipse's code navigation and refactoring tools, or the quality and coverage of Java's libraries. Hense I guess the interest in new language that run on the JVM.

I maintained an interest in Smalltalk but each time I tried to get into Squeak it was too alien a world for me. It also seemed that the system was permeated with global variables which are bad (globals are bad ok). Stuff like "5 print." really irks me. It should be "stream print: 5." I liked the arguments around newspeak but it's built on Squeak and Squeak has a lot of dodgy stuff in it.

After being abstracted for so long from the machine I became interested in (with having much time to devote to the interest) operating systems and machine level programming. Partly sparked by Elliot Miranda's work on Cog and also sparked by the Self project (which Elliot talks about very eloquently here http://video.google.com/videop.....06068209 ). After looking at the PC's I became rather disgusted with the amount of cruft that is stuffed into a modern PC not to mention the nastiness of the instruction set. Then I discovered ARM architectures and decided that is what I should spend my scarse time away from work and family on.

I wrote an experimental programming language https://github.com/richcole/RJL (not much more than javascript really) and now want to try writing a very simple operating system in my language.

Looking forward to the release of the Raspberry Pi and in the mean time awaiting the delivery of a Beagle Bone (which is slowly and inexorably making its way by truck across the US to me). Hopefully the Beagle Bone experience and code translate reasonably well to the Pi.

I guess like many I'm also interested in the OpenGL library that comes with the Pi. But like many devices including nvidia and radeon it seems the OpenGL library will be closed source. It doesn't matter much since I'm already well spoilt for choice when it comes to things to learn and play with.

There is so much excitement around the Pi that I think it can do for kids today what the Amiga 500 did for kids in my day. Having the graphics capability will initially attract kids to the games, and then they ask, how can I modify that game or make a game of my own, and then they're into programming or game art or game design.



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Re: What was your first computer?

Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:11 am

An SCCS-85 (designed by a Purdue University student), that ran assembly language for an Intel 8085 computer. 4K RAM, 4K ROM and an S-100 sub-system with 32K RAM (Mostek MK4104) - all wire-wrapped.

Then a JB Ferguson "Big Board" running CP/M. It's bolted to the side of a Shugart SA-801R 8" floppy drive, uses an Apple II (green phosphor) for a screen, and a Cherry keyboard and still runs.

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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:15 am

Hello everybody, this is my first post. Here is a story about what happens to somebody who is encouraged to program from a very early age. The first computer I used was my father's VIC-20, which we had since before I can remember and possibly before I was born. I would type in tiny little programs that would, say, ask you for a number and then double it. Stick a GOTO 10 at the end and it would run forever

I can vividly remember my father showing me how to write a for loop. I was amazed that you could make the computer do something again and again, without having to type it in again! This was probably around 1986 and I would have been 6 years old, but I can remember that moment with absolute clarity. At around the same time, my primary school had a (yes, literally ONE) BBC. We ran Logo on it, but with a real turtle that drove around on a big bit of paper on the floor, dragging a marker pen along with it! Again, I can clearly remember how magical it was to make a square by repeating the same action 4 times, rather than having to type it out longhand. Tweak the angles and the number of iterations and you could make a pentagon, a hexagon... it was magical. This was about the same time as the Big Trak toy was popular, and I remember thinking they were quite similar. Then came a Commodore 64 which I loved for the games. I didn't do much coding on this beyond what I had been doing already on the VIC-20. I moved to middle school where we continued to have lessons in programming on BBCs. In secondary school we had a room full of Acorn Archimedes. We would have lessons in programming BASIC, and then those who "got it" could move on to Pascal, which was much faster because it was compiled. Being compiled had its downsides though; it wouldn't let you run it until you'd fixed all the problems! How unhelpful. Most people preferred BASIC because it'd do a good job of trying to run your code right from the start. Then, after school or at lunchtimes, one of the teachers helped three or four of us to code in ARM assembler. This was jaw-droppingly fast but took no prisoners. I spent most of the time looking over paper printouts of my code looking for errors. At home I had an Amiga 500, and later a 1200. I didn't do much programming on either of these, but I played a lot of games and did a lot of tinkering with other programs (OctaMED, DPaint, Imagine). Joy. Then at university it was Java on a big Sun, or if you preferred, on your PC at home. How clever to have the same code run on different machines! I've had countless PCs from then 'til now but they've all been forgettable beige boxes. I jumped to Linux in about 1999 and loved the return of the creative hacking culture. Since I graduated in 2001 I've worked mostly in the games industry, on practically every machine from the PlayStation 2 onwards. The PlayStation 2 is probably my favourite of the bunch; so far ahead of its time and such a good feeling when you got it to work. Something I really like about games consoles is that if your program works on your dev machine then it'll work on every single retail machine because they're all identical. There is no such guarantee for PC's, which means you spend a huge amount of time tracing obscure problems that only happen on odd hardware. That's something that excites me about the Pi; my program working on my Pi will work on your Pi because they're exactly the same. Looking back; all through my time at school we had lessons in how to program a computer. They wouldn't be every day or even every week, but they would happen from time to time. I understand that doesn't happen so much now, and that students are taught how to use Word and Excel. Those are certainly useful skills but they have nothing at all to do with programming or computer science and must not be seen as a replacement. The only similarity is that you sit in front of a screen. If the Pi helps people to discover the fun of programming then I shall be very happy indeed.

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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:18 am

Well that made a dog's dinner of my formatting

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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:24 pm

peterpi said:

I understand that doesn"t happen so much now, and that students are taught how to use Word and Excel. Those are certainly useful skills but they have nothing at all to do with programming or computer science and must not be seen as a replacement.

Believe it or not, I've known folks who were led to believe that getting a qualification in clicking menus in Microsoft Word meant that they were qualified to work in video game development, and the like…

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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:36 pm

My first home pc was a Sinclair Spectrum 16k, i absolutely loved it.

Then that led onto

Sinclair Spectrum 48k
Sinclair Spectrum +2 with a wafadrive
Atari ST 520
Sam Coupe <- got lost during a house move
Amstrad 1512
Amstrad 1640
486 dx2 66
Nexgen 90 <- very fast for the time just lacked a co processor.
Dual Pentium2 266

Lost track after that

Currently have my trusty core2duo lappy and a HP rx2620.

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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:43 pm

Okay, showing my newbieness now but the first computer that was really 'mine' was a Core Duo Mac Mini I won at the age of 11 in an animation competition. I remember the thrill of connecting it up (to a big old CRT display and beige keyboard/mouse) for the first time. It was the first machine I really got to know, and was the machine that I started programming on (Obj-C, full on OO MVC stuff).

I now have a white 2009 MacBook and am determined to make it last at least two more years. Over time I have had several beigeboxes, usually with some server-oriented linux distro on, but none of them stayed very long.

I also own several Microchip PICs, which I program in assembly. I like to go back to basics every now and again



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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:57 pm

Commodore 64. (version with expansion slot).

i learnt to program in basic. i remember using sprite and sound to make a square block bounce around a larger square and beeping when ever it hit something!

I was 9yrs old.

next computer was an ibm clone ollivete running win 3.0. was fun for a while i then built my own computer when i was 16. i"m 33 now.

i was one of the kids that put:
print "you are f####### up "
goto line 1
in a .bat file and placed it into autoexec.bat on windows 3.11 and # out win.com

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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:20 pm

Being a newbie, my first computer was a Pentium 233MHz, 4GB HDD, 32MB RAM, Windows 95, with dialup internet. Believe me, this was BIG for the time.

Since then I've become a repair technician round where I live and have more computers than I care to mention.

Never managed to break into programming though... I'm hoping the R-Pi will change that and that there will be some really good tutorials/guides for doing this.

pj geerlings
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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:20 pm

SYM-1 6502 single board computer

"Hand assembled" machine language

How times have changed (!)

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Re: What was your first computer?

Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:41 pm

PDP11, mostly playing a text lunar landing game, followed by numerous programmable calculators( Personal Computer World, in the 70's should have been called personal calculator world ) Then apple II at uni. First real computer I bought was a commodore 64 in 1983 followed by an Amstrad 1512 with dual 5 1/4" floppies. Then various windows boxes and the latest is an iMac, soon to be joined by a raspberry pi model B.



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Re: What was your first computer?

Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:10 am

my first pc not inc games concles was IN CHRISTMAS 1995.

It was an amd 166mhz computer with a 3gb hdd,

32 mb ram 1mb graphics card. it came with a 2X cd rom

and an amazing 15 inch COLOUR CRT

and the NEW window 95

total cost in december 1995 was £1300

equle to around £3000 in todays money

the raspberry pi will be atlease 100 time more powerful, may be alot more

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Re: What was your first computer?

Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:38 am

fdufnews said:

My first computer was a TRS80 (from Radio Shack) a good machine. The motherboard was in the keyboard (a real mechanical keyboard).

For owning, it was mine too... It was even upgraded to 8k ram.!!! Joy!!! I did create a video game in basic on it. I had been playing with computers in school since around 3rd grade. I came naturally to computer programming. I'm working on moving into living off my programming.

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Re: What was your first computer?

Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:39 am

VIC 20
LINUX convert since 2003

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Re: What was your first computer?

Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:39 am

VIC 20
LINUX convert since 2003

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Re: What was your first computer?

Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:40 am

My first computer was supplied as a kit by Southwest Technical Products Corp In Texas. I live in Australia and I got one of their 1st kits based on the Motorola 6809 chip. (8 bit). They previously had produced a kit based on the 6800 chip. I suspect only Altair were an older supplier of micro-based computers. Those were great times and I still power up the old machine from time to time. A company called Technical System consultants wrote the Flex disc operating system (fitted in 8k) for it and later Uniflex, a subset of Unix running on an 8 bit micro. All good fun with SWTPc basic (4k), Flex Extended Basic (8k), word processors, editors etc. all initially loaded from cassette tapes at 300 or 1200 baud.

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