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Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Computer

Miriam over at AnceStories 2: Stories of Me for My Descendants has a great prompt this week - My Computer!

Tell about your first experiences with a computer? Did you take a computer class in school or college, or perhaps as a part of work training? What kind of computer did you train on? What was the purpose of your learning or training?

The first computer I ever encountered was an early version of the IBM PC in 1984. I had just graduated from college and was working for the US Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC. One day, my supervisor came to my desk, plopped this huge machine on my desk and said, "This is a computer. I need you to learn how it works and then teach everyone else in the department." This is why I often call myself the "Accidental Trainer."

If you use computers at work, tell about the various types you've worked with.

Oh gosh. Does an abacus count? I've used the IBM PC in all its iterations, a publishing system known as Atex, HP systems, Dell desktops and laptops, the Tandy TRS-80 (aka Trash 80) which used 12" floppy disks, and more than I could ever remember.

What was the first computer you ever owned (brand)? What type of operating system did it have? How much RAM did it have? How big was the hard drive and processor? Do you remember what type of backup it had (floppy disks, etc.)?

The first computer I owned outright was a Dell desktop. It had Windows 95 as the operating system (OS) and I believe it had 256k RAM. The hard drive was about 1GB. It had a 3.5" floppy drive as well as a 5.5" floppy drive.

What about its peripherals? What type of monitor (brand, pixels, size) did you have? What about the keyboard and mouse? Did it have speakers?

The monitor was some huge monstrosity but it did have color. I had a mouse but it didn't have a track-ball like mine today. It did not have speakers or a printer.

Did you have a printer? What kind of ink did it use? Did it print on single sheets or use continuous feed?

As I've said before, I take a very "green" approach to computing. For years I never had a printer and didn't find a need for one. If I had to print, I'd place the item on a floppy disk and print it at work. Today I have a HP 1200c all-in-one but I only print less than 10 pages a month. All my work is usually stored in PDF and I download all my bills from vendors in PDF format.

Tell about your first internet experience. Unless you've recently joined the technology age, you started out with dialup (and may still use it, depending upon what is available and affordable in your community). What was the first speed of dialup that you used? Who was/were your provider(s)? Do you use broadband now? What type (cable, DSL, etc.)?

Actually I was pre-Internet in that I dialed into many Bulletin Boards (remember them) with the 1200 baud Hayes modem. There was no "provider" instead you just dialed in from your phone line.

Then for years I used AT&T dial-up until I moved to Chicago. I now use COVAD which is based in Santa Clara, California. I've been happy with their DSL service and it is very reliable. I need reliability since I work from home every day.

For what did you mainly use your first computer?

I actually used it for genealogy!

What did you love about your first computer? What did you dislike? What about each of your consecutive computers?

Well the first computer was just an amazing machine in my eyes but to be honest I can't remember much about it.

Tell about any crashes or hard drive failures you have experienced.

Almost never on my home computer (can one type with fingers crossed?) but several times on the Dell D600 laptop that my office provides. So now I back up all my data to my external hard drive.

A few years ago I would receive the Blue Screen of Death sometimes on my home PC. It was fun to call up Microsoft support and they would get all snotty when I used the term Blue Screen of Death. They would immediately correct me and call it a General Protection Fault. Yeah, whatever

How did you discard former computers?

In San Francisco where I lived until 2004, a local group ran a drop-off point down in the Financial District. You could drop off the machine, pay a small fee of about $10, and they would later send you a receipt for tax purposes plus a certificate stating that they had wiped the hard drive clean of any data.

Share the progression of your first computer and internet experiences through your present ones. Compare and contrast.

Well there is no comparison with the Dark Ages back in the 1980s. Do you remember items such as Dot Matrix printers? A software program called Sideways and what it was used for? How we had to format diskettes before being able to use them? Products like Lotus 1,2,3 or Symphony?

What is on your wish list for your current computer situation? Is it a whole new system? Some jazzy peripherals?

I have a pretty smokin' setup right now: 20" wide screen flat panel monitor, 250GB external hard drive, iPod Nano, 80GB internal hard drive, 2GB Ram, etc. The only thing I might want is more memory.


Miriam said...

Thomas, I had to laugh when I saw the photo of that first computer! Thanks for the trip down memory brought up a few more memories of my own, and I'm looking forward to writing about them myself.