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A Stroll Down Computer Memory Lane -- Realizing It's All About the Net

The folks over at Engadget celebrated the 25th anniversary of the IBM PC by remembering their first computers, which got me thinking about my early computers.

My first computer was a Commodore VIC-20, precursor to the Commodore 64. I got my VIC-20 with 5kb of RAM in 1981 for $299 plus tape drive. The VIC-20 (the VIC stood for video interface chip) beat the Apple II to the one million sales mark, although today it’s largely forgotten. I'm told that the VIC-20 was also Linus Torvalds' first computer. My VIC-20 was great for playing and modifying early games. The graphics were crude by today's standards but it was easy to use and was a great platform on which to learn Basic programming.

My second computer (really my mom’s, though she didn’t use it too much) was an Epson QX-10 CP/M machine which ran Valdocs and Peachcalc software. The QX-10 had a Z-80 processor and two (wow!) 5.25” floppy drives.

My first “real” PC was a Compaq Portable with an 8088 chip and, again, two 5.25” floppies. I bought it in 1986 and it ran MS-DOS with WordPerfect, which got me through four years of college (along with MS Flight Simulator version 2). This was the first computer I networked with, using an early text-based Compuserve service to play with travel reservations and online shopping. I had the Compaq for five years, longer than any PC before or since.

Following the Compaq portable were a series of less exciting computers, including a Gateway 386SX, a Zeos 486, an off-brand Pentium, another Gateway (Pentium II), and a series of Dells leading up to my current Dell 8400. Along the way I also had a few laptops, culminating in my current MacBook, which I love.

It's hard to believe it's only been 25 years since the introduction of the IBM PC.  It's also hard to believe that until 1994, when I first started using Mosaic to browse the new web, all I ever used my computers for was word processing, some spreadsheet work, lots of gaming and email (via Prodigy until 1992 when I started using Internet-based email through my Penn State account). In retrospect, the computer was nothing without the net.