Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

The first computer I used was a TRS-80 back in grade school. They had a dozen of them at the local science center where I took classes after school. I learned to program in BASIC and store my inventions on a cassette tape.

The first machine I owned was an Apple IIe. I remember my neighbor was jealous because, unlike his Apple II, my computer could handle lower case letters :-) Fancy! I learned to do basic graphics programming using the Apple IIe's awesome palette of six colors, one of which was spandex magenta. I was also exposed to computer porn when my friend got his hands on an ultra secret copy of "sex olympics". In six colors, it was all very... abstract, but its easy to get excited when you are thirteen.

After a brief affair with an
Apple IIGS, I moved on to the
Amiga. The Amiga was absolutely amazing for the time. It could display 4096 colors and had advanced sound capabilities. The fact I could use the "SAY" command in AmigaBASIC to get the computer to talk was a never ending source of excitement. I used a program called Deluxe Paint to do everything from digital paintings to designing self contained ecosystems (a long running obsession dating back to junior high - I was a weird kid.) The Amiga was the first computer I used to compose music. I used a MIDI interface to connect my Korg T1 keyboard. I lost quite a few hours in the basement writing music with this setup. I convinced many of my friends and parent's friends to bet on the Amiga as the computing platform of the future. Oops! How was I to know? It was so friggen cool!

Here is the full progression of computers I've used going back to grade school:

TRS-80 -> Apple IIe -> Apple IIgs -> Amiga 2000 -> Amiga 3000 -> Various Macs -> PowerWave (Power Computing's Mac clone) -> Various Intel Boxes Running Windows -> MacBook Pro (today)

What was your first computer? How about your first programming language?

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Comment by sally on September 30, 2009 at 12:41pm
Scelbi & Mark-8 Altair & IBM 5100 Computers. Last time I saw this was at the Microsoft Muslim in Redmond, WA. I remember we used to play with the computer at Microsoft however all our computes at work were Apple 1 when we were shipping Windows 1.0. There were limited personal with a actual MS DOS system.
Comment by Jim Thompson on September 23, 2009 at 2:11am
PDP-8? We used those at the newspaper in 'vegas. Pure assembly.

First computer ('real' computer) was a DEC-10, followed by an 11/780, followed by 3 11/750s, all in 'C'.

Started in 1978 on a Harris H800, so David beat me, but I'm still under 50. :-)
Comment by Ken Berkun on September 3, 2009 at 6:17pm
Hey I programmed (and was a sysop for) a B6700 (serial # 2, it started life as a B5500). This was at UC Davis. Those were great computers!
Comment by Courtney Harrington on September 3, 2009 at 5:51pm
My first computer was a Burroughs B500. Then B2500, B3500, B5500, IBM 360 and the list goes on.
First programming language was Machine Language. 14 bit and I still remember it.
I beat David. This started in 1967.
Comment by GB Hajim on August 9, 2009 at 2:51pm
The Altair. One of my friends and I pooled our money. Bought the kit and assembled our first home computer. I'll never forget when the LEDs came on. OMG, we actually made it work!
Comment by Terrance Young on May 1, 2009 at 10:27am
My First introduction and what became my first computer was a IMSAI 8080 shown to me by my Uncle who worked for UH, he later gave it to me the next year I think it was in 1979 or so. I really didn't know how to use it or do anything much other than run the cassette tape to load "Life" on to it and watch it go. I later gave it back to my uncle (wish I had kept it) who later trashed it. Fast forward the first computer I actually paid for was a Clone PC which had 512k of RAM and two 5.25" floppy drives which I got from a computer store where HPU is it came with a Panasonic 1080 printer I believe which cost me $1400 at the time no hard drive until later when I purchased a 10 Mb Hard Card.

Comment by Ken Berkun on April 13, 2009 at 6:37pm
I'm another old fart who started with punched cards (on a Burroughs B6700 at U.C. Davis). In 1975 my roommate built an Altair (and we knew the guy with Altair serial number 2!) and I programmed it. He also refurbished an ASR 33 teletype with paper tape reader and that was our I/O unit. Later he sold the Altair and bought an IMSAI which was more reliable. In early 1978 I built my first computer (Z80) from scratch but it wasn't very reliable. I then built a Cromemco Z80 with double density 8 inches floppies. I still have this all packed up and in storage. It was built like a tank and I bet it would still work were I to power it on!

At Boeing I programmed a CDC with 6 bit bytes. Ha I bet you never knew that bytes didn't always have 8 bits! Then I moved to an HP3000 which is really a mini computer version of the Burroughs system I used in college (both with a very interesting architecture). I pretty much skipped over the whole Apple, Commodore, Radio Shack, Atari thing, sticking with S100 8080 family processors (CPM, MSDOS, Unix in various flavor and avoiding Windows until NT came out).

I was fortunate to be born at just the right time and got to play with the whole gamut of systems. And yes, I even programmed JCL on punched cards on IBM 360 class machines. Our high school had a pair of PDP 8's (an 8E and an 8S), which could be programmed in Focal. So I suppose that's where I started, but really I didn't use them that much so I don't like to count it. But even more fun: my father's cousin was a teacher at Bronx Science High School and he and his students built a computer out of old telephone relays. I wrote my first program on that machine - to generate Fibonacci numbers.

Comment by Paul Graydon on April 10, 2009 at 9:08am
Started out (briefly) on the Sinclair Z81 : before moving on to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum with it's whopping 48k of memory. Eventually graduated on to the Sinclair Spectrum +2A with it's stunning 128k of RAM and integrated tape player. I had to keep a screwdriver nearby so that I could adjust the tape heads in the player. I had to do that at least once or twice a week to keep them in alignment and make sure it could actually read the tape.
Comment by Joe Segal on March 18, 2009 at 3:56pm
Vic20 and commodore 64
Comment by Don Couch on March 18, 2009 at 3:11pm
My first computer that I ever worked on/programmed was an IBM 360/30 (1976 - Fortran, COBOL and some RPG). I then went to work for a company that had a "new" type of computer - a "mini" computer that was new to the market - an HP3000 with a whopping 64K memory, tape drive and a 5MB disc (HP called them disc vs disk) drive. It was the size of two 4-drawer file cabinets side-by-side (a little taller). We were stoked when we upgraded to 128K and a 15MB hard drive (in its own cabinet - about the size of a 2-drawer file cabinet and cost $50,000). I programmed in Basic & RPG on that machine. Moved on to a different company and programmed in COBOL and SPL. My first computer that I bought for my personal use was an Atari 800 with the Star Raiders video game. I dabbled a bit with an IBM PC-Jr. before getting into a Leading Edge PC-AT clone. The rest is history. I blew it by not taking a year off and leaving Maui to become a COBOL savior during the Y2K scare - could have made a lot of bucks, I think.


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