What Was Your First Computer? [Reader Feedback]

apple IIe

Over on Google+, Kevin Rose recently asked his users a simple question: what was your first computer? Since the 40Tech demographics might skew a bit older than the San Francisco startup scene, that got me wondering how the 40Tech community would answer that same question. So I’ll ask it – what was your first computer?

Photo from Howard Dickins.

For me, it depends on how you define “first computer.” Does the family computer purchased by my parents for the family count? I’ll argue that it does, since the only reason they bought it was because I nagged for it, and pushed for a “family computer fund” that we put money into each week. I also was about the only member of the family who used it.

So, if that counts, my first computer was an Apple IIe. If I had to guess, we got that around 1984 or so. If that doesn’t count, the first computer that I bought with my own money was a Compaq Presario in 1998 or 1999. Prior to that, I did have a few computers I used at home, but they were work computers.

How about you? What was your first computer?

Evan Kline

Hello, I'm Evan. I write about tech from my perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. You can also find me on Twitter and at my real-life job as a lawyer.    MORE ABOUT ME.

34 Comments:

  1. TRS-80 Model 1

  2. Atari 400

  3. Timex Sinclair followed by the Atari 800 XL.

  4. Atari 400 in about 1980, then 800XL, then ST, then Amiga, then it gets boring till I started buy Macs 10 years ago

  5. Commodore 64.

  6. You’re going to be stunned that my first computer wasn’t an Apple product.

    While I’ve used Apple computers since 4th grade (83-84 year), I never owned a computer of my own until my senior year of college.

    I was a first generation college student from a working class background, working (and borrowing) my way through college. Finally, I moved off campus and no longer had easy access to the computer labs in the dorms.

    So I bought a Commodore 64 and used it to connect to the campus Unix network for email, web browsing (how about a shout out for those of you who used Lynx?), IRC, etc.

    This was late ’96 / early ’96.

    It sounds ridiculous, but it was certainly better than running back to campus to check email … and my I certainly couldn’t afford anything more expensive. I was subsisting on Ramen noodles and 80% lean hamburger as it was …

    About a year later, I bought my first “modern” computer, a Mac 6500.

    • Now that is a classic. I had a friend who had one of those, back after they came out. Did they hook up to a TV? I have vague memories of sitting in front of his family TV, sticking in cartridges and playing a very rudimentary game. At the time, it was awesome. Then I’d go home and play on my Pong console.

      • Yeah, I hooked it up to the 13″ TV I had. The 13″ (purchased for $25 through the classifieds) was my only TV at the time :)

        Of course, I didn’t have cable, so choosing between computer and TV wasn’t that big of a hardship.

        (I mentioned this whole “poor” thing before, right?)

  7. IBM XT

    In 1983 it was a wonderful machine for a fresh out of school accountant!

  8. I don’t even know what my first PC was. I knew it ran IBM DOS (and MS DOS) and I used it to type in Wordstar and play Test Drive in the late 80s. It had a “Turbo” button and a key lock. It was probably an IBM PC clone but I don’t know if it was 286 or 386.

  9. An Atari 520ST

  10. Got my first PC in 1988 – an Opus PC V AT compatible: 20MB hard disk, 1MB memory. Wrote a post about it here:

    http://www.techandlife.com/2010/03/a-generation-of-change-in-pcs/

  11. Smith and Corona word processor…then a Gateway 486.

  12. Commodore VIC 20

  13. It was the Atari 800. Looking back, I don’t see how we were able to afford it at the time. I’ll have to ask my sister, I hope my mother didn’t do anything illegal for it. LOL… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_8-bit_family

    Man, I’m getting old…..

  14. Mine was the Interact 8080a, seen here:
    http://www.nausicaa.net/~lgreenf/otherpag.htm

    It used a TV as a display, 17×12 characters,
    112×178 resolution, 8 colors, 256 possible sounds, 16K RAM, 2MHz processor. That was in 1981. I had the only word processor in college, so I made a lot of friends.

  15. Well, My first computer was Apple too. I do not remember the exact model number, but it was the good ‘ol half eaten apple. :)
    I consider myself fortunate enough to have entered University of Washington.

  16. My first computer was the one I built in 1999-ish. I really wanted one so that I could play games and use that internet thing to download music from that Napster thing I’d heard so much about. I had a really (REALLY) cheap girlfriend — it was practically a psychosis — and she was so insistent that I shop around rather than just impulse buy with my shiny new credit card that she was willing to search for deals for me. I relented and started looking around, discovering that it would be cheaper and better to build my own.

    This was actually the turning point that sent me into crazy computer-geeky-land. I started talking to techs at computer shops, asking them endless questions, and really getting interested in the entire process of what worked best with what, and all of the different configurations I could play with. It was awesome!

    Bear in mind, I had played with friends computers before (Tandy 1000 baby), and had already tried my hand at building a game or six in Hypercard on the Mac Classic/Plus/II or whatever one my jr. high computer lab had. I even remember playing with an Apple IIe and playing Loadrunner and DigDug and doing commands in BASIC. And there was the ColecoVision, SNES, and Pong consoles from my wee days… but my first real computer? That was the one I built myself.

    • I developed a blackjack game with Hypercard back in high school. Awful graphics but it still played pretty well. Damn thing always managed to beat me, in spite of the fact that I knew exactly how it was making decisions.

      Around the same time, I developed a projectile motion program for my physics project. The science teacher was really impressed, even though it was pretty basic. I just threw down a grid with labels, then selected the paintbrush tool and plotted each point in the curve (the dots appeared to be a line because they were very close to each other.

  17. My first at home computer was the Commodore VIC-20.

    There were many hours spent on that machine, popping cartridges in and out of the back slot (Radar Rat Race anyone?) and I learned how to program in basic on that machine as I needed a dice roller back then and saving to tape was so much fun.

    It was the only non-PC machine I’ve ever owned, unless you want to count the 3GS that I carry now which has way more power than that first system.

  18. Commodore64 in August 82′, the reign of ‘peek&poke’

  19. It was back in 1998 I was young and didn’t touch a computer till then. Loved it from the start. It had a 2GB HDD and 18 SDRAM memory. Pretty cool. In 4 years or so I had to buy a new one.

  20. It was 1986. We got a used Apple III computer with 128 MB of RAM. It was THE business machine at the time. We even had a second floppy drive, but we could not afford the 5 MB hard drive! It was fun(?) cutting open the parallel cable and re-wiring it so it would print on a regular dot matrix (i.e. – non-Apple) printer.

  21. Parent-bought family computer: Commodore Plus/4 (1985 from Montgomery Wards. About 10 minutes later it was discontinued.)
    First self-bought computer: Atari 600XL (Used, 1986)
    Ahhh….memories….

  22. its really nice to see vintage computers. sane here my first computer is also Atari 400.

  23. Wow, some really interesting ones here – including stuff I’ve never heard of. I think I might be too mainstream.

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