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Programming music and travel

Early Computer Memories

I’ve used a computer most of my life. Consequently I have some fun memories and observations of computer use over my lifetime that you may find fun.

  • My first computer was a Commodore 64. Oddly enough I have one now sitting on my desk and running some synthesizer and sequencer applications. My dad got one in 1985 or so, and I started playing around with it as early as I could. I strongly believe that it’s through computers that I learned to read and write.
  • I remember dialing up to BBS systems in the early 1990’s (keep in mind I was born in 1982) with numbers that we’d get out of the back of local computer magazines. Honestly it was hard to get many of them working, as either the phone lines were full often or some setting beyond my comprehension at the time wasn’t right.
  • My Uncle bought me a Nintendo in 1987 I believe. While not really a ‘computer’ it definitely propelled my interests in that direction. I remember trying to figure out how the Light Zapper worked, using the Track and Field running mat at my friend SunAwh’s house, and having a great time.
  • Video game rentals used to be cheap and cool. Since most games weren’t all that in-depth (but often super fun) you could rent a game like Contra, play it for 4 days… and then return it. If you knew you were having a lot of friends over you’d just go rent a few games to try out.
  • I also remember a lot of games simply not making sense, and just seeming to be senseless. Oftentimes these were rentals that had no manuals. Keep in mind that going online and looking up stuff wasn’t really an option at the time.
  • I remember getting my first CD-ROM drive. It was a 2x SCSI drive that came with a SoundBlaster 16 (scsi edition) card that did sound and scsi connections all from a single ISA card. Pretty sweet for the time. It wasn’t cheap either. I think it was around $400-500 at the time. I bought a mega-pack of 20 cheaper CD games to go with it. It felt pretty cool. The first CD drive I had seen was around 1990 at Babages. It was over $1000 at the time.
  • The first CD-R drive I remember seeing wasn’t cheap either. My friend Chris Clearfield got two external 4x SCSI CD-R drives (or rather his dad did for work). Coasters were expensive to make at the time, and we didn’t burn all that much.
  • The backup method of choice in late middle school was on various iOmega media. Zip drives for small stuff, Jaz drives, etc… Tape backup was an option too. Some of these methods took forever, but I remember that we had a collection of an entire 4gb of mp3s that we passed around via tape backup.
  • Prior to the mp3 crazy I remember Real Audio format being much more dominant. I could find all of these super low quality interviews and sound clips online. 8kbps-32kbps was where it was at!
  • Games were hard to get working! Up until Windows 98 even I remember needing a stack of floppies as “boot disks” sitting around that would have a special configuration setup to boot from just optimized for that game. I remember my dad staying up late some nights trying to get my games working for me when they wouldn’t work. We never did get Myst to work well, so we had to return it. Very sad.
  • You could purchase and return games! We didn’t generally use these to pirate games, as copying them took too many floppies and I didn’t have a CD-R until college! We’d just sometimes find that a game sucked hard, or didn’t work well. Specs on the box were useless for telling if a game would like your system or not.
  • Chris and I beta tested some of the first online non-MUD RPGs. Chris got into Meridian 59 and we both got into the Alpha test for The Realm. The Realm was great. Since Chris’s parents had two phone lines we’d try to both dial up and log in to play together. It was pretty awesome at the time.
  • Dialup was slow. I think my first modem was a 1200 baud modem. I’ve actually since gotten my hands on a 300 baud modem when I bought a bunch of vintage stuff. My first 14400 modem felt smoking. 56kps was amazing.
  • I used to bring a Zip drive to school to plug into computers and hide overnight to download large files from FTP sites. They had a high speed connection of some sort and I knew that no one would notice a computer being turned on overnight.I’d either tape over, or unplug the LED that indicated the computer was on and no one was the wiser.
  • We used to try trojan each other’s computers. It was too funny. Of course we thought that we ‘trusted’ each other, so we sent a “patch” or something to try out to the next guy. Wait a week. Do a direct connect via some message service to them to get their IP (or check our website logs), then take control of the other guy’s PC. It was too too funny. All in good fun and we all were had at some point.
  • I have likely owned well in excess of 100 computers. By that I define 100 separate processors. My dad was helpful in this. We’d go to auctions and buy up pallets of computers for $20 or so. I’d take them apart and either make linux boxes or sell them to neighbors as grandma PCs. I’ve probably had 20 that I called “mine” as a person machine
  • I actually built the computers that each of my grandmothers had for years. I know that my Uncle ended up starting to learn to use his before he died. He actually picked it up pretty quickly. I had never thought of him as a technologist, but once you left him alone with it he was totally fine.
  • Protools sucking on PC was the final straw in me hating Windows and buying my first Mac-a G4 PowerMac 1.25 MDD. I loved that machine for years and only recently sold it.
  • I probably cobbled together my first computer from pieces when I was around 7 or 8.
  • I remember seeing an early LCD screen at my Tim Harper’s house (dad’s co-worker). It was monochromoatic purple and had a horrid refresh rate. Even if you had mouse trails turned off, you’d see them. I kinda liked it.
  • Even though my first computer was color-capable, I had many monochromatic screens including a green one and a fun orange one. I’ve always kinda liked them.
  • I never figured out what to do with a Wyse terminal. I finally have a use for it, but no longer have it. Oh well.
  • I had the first color Phillips palmtop computer. My teachers didn’t know what to think of it. I had to convince them it wasn’t a Gameboy. It was actually color and I had a modem on it.
  • I had some early version of Cakewalk (like version 2 or 3) for Windows 3.1 that I used for early sequencing stuff. It was pretty lame but fun anyway.
  • I remember using Linux that we were installing from floppy drive, trying to get it to setup some bootloader that would install from FTP directly. Getting linux working hard around 1996-1997 was hard. Seriously hard and there were often chicken and egg problems.