Tuesday, 5 April 2016

My earliest computers

Gerald Weinberg recently posted about his earliest computers and some of the early influences that got him into computing. Check his post out here:


That got me thinking about how I arrived here, at a 16+ year long career in software testing. Now clearly I arrived a bit later than Gerald so I can tell you I have never and no doubt will never use a slide rule. In truth I doubt I even know what one is really.

Being amazed by a calculator aside and the amazing things you could do with that (2318008) the earliest computing thing I remember was getting an Oric Atmos. I can't even recall how it was programmed. I do remember plugging it in and nothing appearing on screen. Then discovering we had to tune in the portable TV my Mum had bought me to see the stunning output this thing could generate.

Oric Atmos

The next marvel I encountered in junior school, the world changing ZX81. How many of you remember those things? My two friend Chris Duignan and Shweb Ali formed the CAD computer club and blasted our way through many lunch times typing in the printed programmes we got from computer magazines. The problem was they were copies of printouts done on thermal paper. Consequently, they never worked first time. A ; or : is very hard to see on copied thermal printouts! Larger programmes went onto the 48K RAM pack, so long as it didn't move accidently and lose all your work. 

Sinclair ZX81

Now at this point the home computing market started to introduce serious competition. Vying for attention at the same time where the Amstrad Commodore CPC464, Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64 if I remember correctly. My friends and I switched to the Spectrum camp pretty solidly.

Mine was a Spectrum 64 with those dandy rubber keys, so special.
Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64 

I also recall at some point getting my hands on a VIC 20. Can't remember what I ever did with this one though!

Vic 20

From here on it was all "IBM" PC's as they used to get called. That was the way forward. Many a DOS disc load after and productivity was sky high. The time of course being spent on my first video game: Alone in the Dark

Ah, those were the days. I'm just glad they're over and I can hardly remember what I ever did with these things or used them for. Give me my Win 7 and 10 boxes, MS tech and Office with ethernet connection any day!