About

My First Computer

It was June 1984, when I sat on the floor of my home and began to unpack my new IBM PC Jr.  I don’t remember the date, but I do remember it was a Monday night.  The previous Saturday, my 10 year old daughter and I, drove from our home in Braidwood, Ill., to the Sears Computer Store in Bolingbrook to buy a computer.  It was a 45 minute drive, and then we spent several hours at the store trying to decide which computer to buy, IBM or Apple.  I didn’t know much about computers. I knew nothing about Apple.  I did know the name “IBM”, and the name sold me.  I gave the salesperson $1269 for the computer, and then I bought some programs:  Multiplan (a spreadsheet) and Write (what else, a word processor).  My last purchase was an Okidata 9 pin tractor feed printer, and of course the serial cable (I remember paying $75 for this cable!!!).  With tax, I spent close to $2000 dollars.

Now comes the fun part.  I had a sports car.  The car held two people in reasonable comfort, and had a little room in the trunk (with heavy emphasis on “little”).  I pulled the car up to the front of the store, and the salesman rolled my new computer and printer on a cart out of the store’s front door. He then proceeded for about 6 feet, and suddenly stopped.  As I looked at the boxes on his cart, and he looked at my car, simultaneously, we both realized there was no way the computer and peripherals were going to fit in that little car.   The store was getting ready to close, so I could not drive home, get my wife’s car, and come back for my purchase.  I had a commitment on Sunday, so I had no choice but to trek to Bolingbrook, in my wife’s car, after I got off work on Monday, get my computer, and finally bring it home.   Though I did not realize it at the time, the buying process was an omen of things to come as I joined the computer world:  it was going to be a near vertical uphill climb.

Meanwhile, back to that first “Monday” night as a computer owner.  I began opening up boxes, and placed everything  neatly on the front room floor.  I found two small loose-leaf note books in one of the boxes.  One of the manuals discussed DOS, whatever that was, and the other had some assembly instructions.  Following those instructions, I plugged things in.  With a sigh of relief, all that got accomplished fairly quickly.  I plugged in the power cord, and hit the on button on the computer.  The computer began making noises, but nothing on the screen.  I found a power button on the monitor, turned that on, and I got a message to insert some kind of disk.  Needless to say, I did not, as they say, “Get up and running” that night.  In fact, I did not get up and running for several nights.  I did pour through the manuals, written entirely in a new language to me, “Geek-speak”.  I had to translate what I needed from the manuals into English.   I made a number of calls to the store where I bought the pc, and finally the PC Jr.  sprang to life for me and became a very useful tool.  At this point, I realized two things, the Apple lle looked like a real bargain compared to my PC Jr., and if my PC Jr. was going to add any real value to my work experience, then I was going to have to teach myself to use it, and as it turned out, I kept teaching myself to use computers throughout my entire business career.  Something else happened with my experience with the PC Jr.:  I was bitten by the Technology Bug, and I liked it.

As time went on, I learned a lot.  My PC Jr., was replaced by an Epson Computer (an IBM AT clone with an 80286 Intel Processor), – many others, bigger and faster, would follow.  I got fairly good with DOS.  I could write programs in Basic and use Batch Commands. Then I heard about Windows, and resisted.  I liked the command line.  The “C >” was an old friend.  Finally, I caved in, and fired up Windows 3.0 on one of my PCs.  It was OK, but version 3.11 was even better, as it was more network savvy, and so was I.  With the help of my company’s IS Department, we put in a Novelle network in my satellite office.  Oh, the joy of setting the IRQ on the computer network cards. and the trial and error approach to see if those settings worked.  Thank goodness this is now an automated process.  Later, I found Windows NT, then Windows 95.  Unfortunately, I also bought and used Windows ME.  Also, in progression, I used Windows 2000 and XP.  When Vista came out, I got off the boat.  In my opinion, that was a really poor piece of software, and I had had enough of the reliability problems that for me were commonplace with Microsoft’s operating systems.   I needed a more reliable computing experience.

Alongside my use of Windows operating systems, I begain to use Linux.  In 1998, I used a Slackware distro as a file server for a network I put into a sign shop.  Because the rest of the computers were Windows based, I also needed to set up Samba so all the PCs could speak with each other.  This took me back to my PC Jr. experience, configuration and setup for Linux/Samba then were not for the feint of heart.  I kept the install simple, no GUI, just my old pal, the command line.  Once setup and running, it did just that.  It was reliable, used relatively few system resources, and well engineered.  At that time, Linux was not ready for prime time.  The GUI’s had limited features, and were rather clunky.  Install and configuration were also challenging.  Over time, those GUI’s got better, and better, and better.  Today, Gnome and KDE are prime examples of some solid pieces of software.  On Desktops, current versions Linux pretty much install themselves.  How times have changed.

In 2007, I bought an iPod, and finally got in touch with my inner – geek.  I was impressed by the quality of iPod’s build, simple yet elegant design, and ease of use.  In 2008, I made a trip to the Apple store.  I wanted to see the OS X operating system, and how the iMacs looked and performed.  Like my experience with the iPod, I was blown away.  What a beautiful machine.  With its dual core Intel processor, it was plenty fast.  I came home with one.  Setting up the  iMac wasn’t any way near the PC Jr. experience.  I set the computer on my desk, and plugged in the Ethernet cable to my network.  Turned the computer on, entered my log in info, and was ready to go.  Then I wondered, did the iMac find my server?  A click on Finder, and there was the server.  I then clicked the server icon and was prompted for my User Name and Password.  I provided the info, clicked OK, and that was it.  I had total access to my server.  In the 4 years since I have had the iMac, the only real problem I have had with it has been a bad memory chip, – it gave me an excuse to upgrade from 2 gigs to 4, so it wasn’t all bad.  A year ago, I bought a vintage (sounds better than old) Power Mac.  It has dual 1.8 ghtz processors, in a beautiful aluminum case  It came to life in 2004, and I can’t believe how far ahead of the “curve” the computer was for its time.  I’ve upgraded the ram, gave it some more hard drive space, and use it every day, in fact, I am using it right now.  Adding to my Mac-O-Mania, is my iPad 2 (64 gigs of memory).   If I had only bought that Apple IIe in 1984………………

The purpose of this blog is to provide you, the reader, with what I hope is some useful information, some product reviews, and to share some knowledge and information with each other on relevant issues in the technology arena.  At the end of the day, if we haven’t done anything else, I hope we all have had some fun with it.  I look forward to your comments……………

–Larry

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