|May. 21st, 2009 08:22 am My History With The PC...|
You know, it's been pretty hectic at work, and I haven't had much to say...2 comments - Leave a comment
OK, none of that is true. The truth is that Facebook has made me lazy. It's just too damned easy to write a few lines about my current status, and maybe post the occasional article I find interesting. I'm surprised at how little needs to be done to communicate what is going on with me, and what I am interested in.
The other grab is that, sad as it sounds, I seem to reach a much larger audience there than I do in LJ. And if there is one thing I crave, it's a large audience.
But being on Facebook so much isn't right. I know this. I need to write more. I need to write meaningful things. It's the only thing that will really endure longer than I will. It's also good for the brain.
So, with that being said, I'm going to relate to you something that I've been wanted to share for a while, before I lose all recollection of my past. I want to share with you my history with the PC.
As some of you may know, my first real "Personal Computer" was the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer (Otherwise known as the Trash-80 CoCo). This was back in the mid 80s, when personal computer made their first entrance into the affordable market. My folks saw a pretty good deal on the CoCo at Radioshack, and after I made the case that I could learn so much from it, they relented and bought the computer along with a couple of games. The games were "Madness and The Minotaur" and "Disney's Into The Black Hole". The computer had no operating system and no hard drive. Both games had to be loaded into the computer's 32K memory using a cassette tape drive (The Black Hole Game took close to an hour to load) and the BASIC programming language which was hard-coded into the BIOS. The CoCo came with a really big manual that showed you how to operate the computer with BASIC, and also how to code simple programs.
I played around with this for a few months, and then my friend from down the street decided to one-up me and convinced his folks to get a Commodore 64. While not an amazing machine by today's standards, it was levels ahead of the CoCo I owned. It came with a 5 1/4 floppy disk drive, a real operating system you could load into memory called GeOS (again, no hard drive), and the game possibilities were orders of magnitude greater than the CoCo. They included an Apache helicopter game, a Vegas casino game, and a magical creature labyrinth game. I was pretty much over at his house all the time playing the games with him and a few other guys. I was so green with envy. Being kids, neither of us really noticed or cared much about the other things the computer could do, especially with that GeOS operating system and it's primitive graphical user interface (GUI), office productivity suite, and modem.
I one-uped him eventually by buying the NES. He one-uped me with a Sega Genesis. I one-uped him with the SNES. He one-uped me by buying one of the original black-and-white Macs.
By this time is was the very early 90s and the computer market had changed dramatically since the Commodore 64 and the CoCo. The Mac my friend got was proof of how "sophisticated" they had become. There was a hard drive. There was an pretty decent GUI. There was word processing with all kinds interesting possibilities that no electronic typewriter could even approximate (my folks owned a Brother Electronic Typewriter during the time). There was a modem that, thanks to the movie "Wargames", had convinced me that it could hack into online systems kids shouldn't have access to, like the school's non-existent computerized grade records system. Even more important for us, of course, were the games, and my friend was playing a ton of them on the Mac.
I decided to one-up him again. I convinced my parents that I needed a computer, again. My folks were reluctant at first. They had just bought me a computer a few years ago (in my kid brain it was centuries), and that had been gathering dust in the garage. Why buy a new computer? I needed to show them first hand how having a modern computer would "completely change their lives".
That opportunity came when, not a few blocks from my house, a new fangled store opened up that quickly put the local stationeer shopkeeper out of business. That store was Office Depot. More importantly, they had computers out on display, and ready to be played with. Only one catch, though. They weren't Macs, which at the time was what I thought I really wanted. What they had were Packard Bell IBM-PC compatible i386 computers with MS-DOS, Windows 3.0 and a color monitor. I played around with the i386s on display, and after a while I was realized that the i386 had it's advantages and disadvantages over the Mac, but it one thing it did have in its favor was that I could convince my parents to buy one with a direct demonstration. I was able to do this the next time they went to Office Depot to buy some office supplies. I showed them the possibilities of making their business-related activities much more efficient, the faxing capabilities, how easy it was to use, and how inexpensive it really was (only $1000!). They were convinced, and this was where the technology schism between my friend and I occurred, and to a larger extent this is where I first developed my disdain for all things Mac. I quickly saw how much more was out there for IBM-compatible PCs in terms of software and peripherals. I was also able to, for the first time, "troubleshoot" and upgrade my own computer either through MS-DOS or by actually opening the computer up and replacing parts. My friend was not able to do either of those things. Thanks to the incredibly thick User Manuals that Packard Bell included, I was able to understand a great many things about what my computer could do, including connect to the Prodigy service and a few primitive BBS services using a "powerful" 14.4K modem. It was during this time that I got hooked on SimEarth.
Sadly, my new found knowledge also gave me a better understanding of what my computer could not do. After a couple of years, it was really showing it's age. Also, some of the newer games I bought for my computer ran pretty slow, and I realized that I needed a "CD-ROM", as programs started becoming multi-disk affairs.
And so, we got an i486 computer with Windows 3.11, a CD-ROM, a larger hard drive, and a 28K modem. I had been using the Prodigy service for a while, but didn't really find much of anything interesting on it. The really interesting stuff was in the BBSs, where you could find games you could play, message boards, and even the occasional nudie pic (really horrible quality by today's standards). Even better, my games played really well on this new system, and I was happy.
For a while.
In 1995, after much hoopla, Windows 95 was introduced. I quickly bought a copy and installed it on my PC, only to find that, yes, it was really slow on my machine. So, I went and bought RAM for my computer, and that seemed to help a little. I also upgraded my modem to a 32K (the 56Ks were out, but kind of expensive for my budget), and started dabbling with AOL. During this time, they were selling their service "per hour" and their software ran pretty slow on my machine, so I wasn't really spending any meaningful time on it. I was really into the BBSs and I was pleasantly surprised that the nudie pictures were increasing in resolution and were more...diversified. I was introduced to the World Wide Web through AOL, however, but it was still in its infancy, and there really wasn't all that much there that I was interested in. it was during this time that I got hooked on the "SimCity" series.
As is the way with technology, eventually the i486 really began to show its age. It was now 1996, and my folks decided, per my suggestion, that their hair styling business might benefit from having a computer with a database and spreadsheet on premises. They agreed. Naturally, there would be a need to buy a new computer for the house. And so, once again, a new computer was purchased for the house. It was Pentium computer from Compaq, CD-ROM, 56K modem, Windows 95, lots of hard drive space, and the latest AOL software that ran pretty well. There was also alot more to do on AOL, and the World Wide Web was also exploding with more things to look at. It was also during this time that I really started to have an online presence. I started frequenting chats hosted by AOL, and I got a real email address, though I really didn't do much of anything with it.
By 1997, I had chosen "Phaydor" as my screen name for AOL. It was a name I made up one day out of the blue. I liked it, and it became how I would be know for quite some time until it was supplanted by "JustPlainBryan" in 2002. In 97, the family had 2 computers in its inventory. One was the aging 486 computer at the business. The other was the Pentium Computer at home, which not surprisingly was also showing its age. One day, my dad brought home a "laptop" out of the blue. Apparently someone owed him money, and he was given the laptop in lieu of payment. He asked me if it was any good. I played with it, and it had a much faster processor than the Pentium, had a 56K modem, lots of RAM, and pretty decent hard drive. I told my dad that it was pretty good. He then gave it to me as a birthday gift in advance, which I gratefully accepted. Now I could use the computer in the privacy of my own bedroom! I got more heavily involved in chat, especially after a hard breakup with a girl that year. I became involved with my first online community, called Digital City LA. They were a fun bunch, and they did meet ups every now and then which took up the new found free time I suddenly had. It was through these meet ups that I eventually met my wife.
In time, I installed Windows 98, and then Windows ME (bad decision) onto that laptop. By that time, though, the laptop was pretty old by computer standards, so when Jen and I moved into our present house in 2001, we got a used computer from a friend with Windows 2000 installed. It was a 1 Gigahertz monster with 512 Megs or RAM and a 10 Gig hard drive. That worked for a couple of years, during which time my online presence increased even more thanks to a DSL line we got installed in the house. One day a few years later, the computer simply decided to stop working. So Jen and I decided to make the trek to the local Frys, and we got ourselves a pretty decent Compaq Presario with Windows XP and a CD-RW for a killer price. We bought this new computer not because we wanted to, but because we needed to. The computer had become so ingrained in our daily lives that to do without was something we didn't want to contemplate. It was during this time that I set up my first wireless network at home.
When I started working for the company I work for, it became obvious that I would need to get a laptop. It looked like I would be expected to travel, and having a laptop would allow me to stay in touch with home, and to be more productive for the company on the road. So I went and got me a cheapy laptop with Windows XP and an 80 Gig hard drive. I still have this laptop, and it has proven very useful over the years, and while it is definitely showing it's age, it still does the things I really need it to do very well.
After a few years, the XP machine crapped out on us. Jen was despondent because alot of our lives were in that computer, included pictures, important documents, and the like. Plus, she needed the internet to access our finances, and, finally, both her and I had many friends we wanted to keep in touch with online. So, being the good husband I am, I went out and bought her a new computer. It had Windows Vista on it, 300 Gigs of hard drive space, and really fast processor. I was eventually able to retrieve the info from the old XP machine, and I was even able to repair it, and bring it back to fully functional operation. It currently resides right next to the kitchen. Now we owned three machines.
Two more were given to us over the years, but one is gathering dust in the closet (an old Dell XPS 500 that Jen's mom used to own) and a custom built machine originally used in my dad's warehouse that is 7 years old now. It broke down on him, and I opted to take it to see if I could repair it, when eventually I was able to. It's not a very good machine, though, and I currently use it only to test out new operating systems.
It's amazing how, in the span of 24 years, the PC I've owned have evolved from a glorified programmable calculator with a few games to a necessary part of my life. I can't imagine what computers will look like 24 years from now, but I have no doubts they will continue to become an even more integral part of my life.