My introduction to computers came when I was about 6 or 7 years old - I can’t quite remember exactly when… Venu Mammen (my uncle) brought home a terminal from work. It looked like a typewriter, but it had 2 suction-cup-thingys where you could attach a phone headset. (Phone headsets were pretty much all the same shape back then). Venu Mammen issued some magical command and then up on the screen came the most amazing phrase. ADVENTURE v1.0. (Actually, I can’t remember for sure if it was a LED screen or if it was a dot matrix printer output - Do you remember Manu?.) Anyway, I stayed up late that night (read: 9PM) moving around an endless maze without really ever getting anywhere. I always sucked at adventure games… Despite this failure, I was hooked on computers.
Around 1980, my father brought home a Sinclair ZX-80. This computer had a whole 1K of RAM, and if you filled up the RAM - no need to worry. Just hook it up to any handy portable cassette recorder and you could save all the information you’d ever need (well, about 20K or so). I think my brother wrote a ‘number guessing’ program… I was so impressed. He saved the program on a cassette tape and I still remember trying to listen to the tape on the cassette player, half expecting it to speak, “Guess a number from 1 to 100.” No luck, though - programming apparently was a bit more complicated.
Some time later, we moved up to the big time (in my estimation). An Apple IIe with the Apple III monitor, 1 MHz processor, 64K of RAM (which we later upgraded to 256K!!!!), 2 floppy disk drives and AppleWorks software. This computer served me throughout high school. I began to dabble with programming in BASIC and assembly. I think that Apple is still sitting in my parents basement. I’ll have to see if I can load up One-on-One again…
My dad bought a Mac Plus for work when it came out and he let me play on it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. No command line interface. A little arrow that moved in response to my movements on a “mouse”. Folders that you could move around. I was in heaven! I perused all the manuals that came with it trying to learn as much as I could about this new beast. Around this time, my dad asked me to help him computerize the medical testing that his lab does. I fooled around with HyperCard for about a week and wrote my first Macintosh program.
The first couple years of college, I was computerless. My junior year, I decided to splurge and I bought a Mac Classic II - 4 MB RAM, 80 MB HD, 16 MHz 68030 processor. That was 1992, back in the beginning days of the internet. It’s pretty surprising, but this was actually marketed as a business computer. I used that computer faithfully for 5 years. Even after buying a new computer, I kept my old Classic II cuz I just couldn’t bear to sell it (especially since I’d probably only get $20 for it). I finally donated it to Goodwill in June of 1999.
In February 1997, I decided I needed a new computer. Apple was in the middle of their worst year financially - losing over $1 billion. And unfortunately, their line of computers was a reflection of their financial incompetence. Despite this, I still liked the Mac OS platform, so I investigated the Mac Clones which were much more technically sound. I bought a Power Computing PowerCenter 150 MHz PowerPC 604 with 48 MB RAM, 2 gig HD. So far, this has been an ideal computer and I see it being usable for at least another couple years. (and perhaps even longer, now that I’ve installed Linux on it!)
I spent most of 1999 travelling around the country (see my Work page), so I decided I needed a laptop…ok, ok… I wanted a laptop. So, I donated my PowerCenter to my roommate, Gerry, and bought a used PowerBook on eBay. It’s a Wallstreet 2 - 266 MHz PowerPC G3, 192 MB, 4 gig HD, and a DVD. I bought this in July 1999 and it was everything I could have imagined. I’ve extracted all my CD’s into MP3 format and I bought Virtual Game Station, so I could play Playstation games. This computer is now a complete entertainment system - and it only weighs 8 lbs! Now that I have 192 megabytes of RAM, it’s hard to believe that our original ZX80 had only 1 kilobyte of RAM! And even my Classic II had a only a 80 megabyte hard drive! That’s less than half the amount of RAM I have now… The way things are going, this computer should last at least a few weeks!
Wow, it’s been a while since I updated this page. Around the time I wrote that last paragraph, I was beginning to get interested in Linux, so I bought a cheap AMD-K6 processor and put together a little Linux playground. After trying out a few other distros, I finally installed to run Debian GNU/Linux and it’s provided me a wide-open window into the world of Free Software (I’m associate member #1088). I’m not coming back :-).
My Wallstreet finally died in the fall of 2002 and I mercilessly sold it for the value of its parts. I bought an eMac because it appealed to my sense of “bang for the buck”, but I missed the portability of my laptop. So, I sold the eMac to Sung’s parents and bought the 12-inch Powerbook in the Spring of 2003. I miss the beautiful, expansive screen of the eMac, but I really love this new toy. The most lovable part of the Mac is the new operating system, OS X. It combines the stability and geekiness of UNIX with the beauty and don’t-make-me-think usability of the Mac.