Saturday, August 1, 2009

A brief history of computers in my family

I grew up with computers practically all my life. Which during the early part of my lifetime was not common. I would not be surprised if my family was the first one on the block to have a computer. This was back in 1977, the day we got out first home computer.

It was the Netronics ELF II kit computer. Initially it was a motherboard with a few other plugin boards, a 17 key keypad, and a LED numeric display, and you had to put it together yourself, hence the name "kit computer." When finally assembled, it had 2K of memory, and no OS. Later on, my dad salvaged some parts from his work to expand the computer to something closer to what we call a home computer, such as a keyboard. Then he adapted and old black & white TV to use as a monitor, adapted an old cassette tape recorder to use as data drive, and purchased a BASIC language ROM. Now we had a home computer!

A few years later, my dad decided to get a computer that was a little less primitive and a lot less hassle to use. He purchased the Commodore VIC-20. It had more than double the memory (5K,) it had color graphics, had sound, and could play video games! The first game we had was Cosmic Cruncher, a Pac-Man clone. Picture the Commodore logo eating dots, and that's the game. Best of all, it used the same joysticks as the Atari VCS game systems, so if you had an Atari VCS (which I did, but that's another blog,) you're covered!

But my dad wanted something more subtatial (and so did I,) so my dad purchased the Commodore 128. Yep, he didn't go to the Commodore 64, although I tried to persuade him. But the Commodore 128 had something for everyone. It could run in a Commodore 64 mode, so I can have my video game fun. And my dad can make his own programs in 80 column text in 128 mode.
And we had some nice hardware for it too: 2 floppy drives, cartridge port expander, dot matrix printer, an early OkiData color printer, and a video capture device.

But my dad wanted something more professional. So his next computer was the PC. At first, it was somewhat of a step backwards in some respects, but it had some good computing power. And it was upgradable. He upgraded the computer whenever he could. He went from monochrome to CGA to VGA. He went from 5 1/4" floppies to 3 1/2" floppies. He added a trackball device (he hates mice, as do I), better keyboard, better processors, expand the memory, and basically staying current with the technology. My dad is in his eighties, and he still has a computer to this day!

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