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What Are Your Favorite Computing Memories?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the memory-lane dept.

Networking 230

aussersterne asks: "Every now and then while reading Slashdot comments, I realize that most people have no idea that -the network was the computer- for decades before Amazon.com and Google ever appeared, taking for granted the rather boring state of commodity computing that dominates the marketplace today. Unix and dial-up shell users remember bang-paths, 110 baud BBSing, 'luggable' computers, UUCP, DC600 OS media, VT100s connected to dumb terminals, and 1152x900 8-bit color web browsing before most PC users had even shelled out for their first copy of Windows 3.x and the free 'serial mouse' it included. Middle-aged geeks, what are your favorite recollections from from the '80s and '90s computing, network, and hardware world, as full of platforms and innovation as it was? Which computer system is still 'your baby' all these years later? Anybody still have a running Sun2? A running FHL UniQuad? Anybody still use KA9Q?"

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230 comments

Woof, Woof! (4, Interesting)

dave-tx (684169) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127106)

Fidonet! [wikipedia.org] And to a lesser extent, the Fido and Opus BBS software.

I thought this was a very clever way to propagate messages between BBS's. I guess I graduated from Fidonet to Usenet around 1990...if one considers that graduating, and not simply moving in to The Project.

Re:Woof, Woof! (2, Interesting)

Salus Victus (801649) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127559)

Put me down for Fidonet, too. It was the first thing I thought of while reading the base post.

A friend of mine ran a Fidonet node, and I remember being so completely impressed with automated, scheduled dialing between nodes to transfer batched messages. What a great concept!

Farther back (and not related to networking) ... disk drives used to be a high-powered upgrade on personal computers. I remember the days of the Apple computer, where system calls (including printing) were handled by a vector table. I was blown away when I found out the Apple DOS installed itself on a machine by replacing the original "print" system call vector with a pointer to the disk operating system! (Apple DOS looked for ^D as a flag character, and intercepted anything following the ^D as a disk command: ^DLOAD, ^DSAVE, etc.)

C64 (3, Insightful)

rmjohnso (891555) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127118)

Though I'm not middle aged, I do have tons of fond memories of sitting in front of my Commodore 64 with my dad, learning to load programs and playing games with him. The two I remember the most are Threshold and Falcon Patrol.

Re:C64 (1)

MacBrave (247640) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127347)

Some of my fond memories are also of the C64, specifically loading and playing a game called 'Forbidden Forest' from a cassette drive (!) for the first time. Of course that cassette drive was replaced with a 1541 disk drive shortly thereafter.....

Apple II+ (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127803)

Playing Sea Wolf on the Apple II+, at the age of 4. That ugly orange controller and the two buttons.

Re:Apple II+ (1)

lpcustom (579886) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128024)

Oregon Trail was my fave for the Apple II

Re:Apple II+ (1)

nocomment (239368) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128346)

I always liked oregon trail but my favorite was some mystery game where you were stuck in a museum of some sort. I don't remember much about it except their was a part you had to figure out a password for. I STILL remember it; babylon.

C64 BBS'es with CCGMS (2, Interesting)

schon (31600) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128563)

I remember when I got my first modem for me C64 - a 300 baud manual-dial manual-answer... I visited a number of local BBS'es before stumbling upon one running Color-64... the first time I saw the login screen in /color/, I thought I was in heaven.

It wasn't long before I bought a 1200 bps (which was blazing fast at the time) and started my own BBS.

Re:C64 BBS'es with CCGMS (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128702)

Man, that was fun. My roommate and I ran a BBS from our dorm room on a C-64 and a 1741 floppy drive. It really was exciting...until I left it running over a holiday break. When I returned, I found that something about the disk drive wasn't working correctly: The drive ended up spinning for days on end with the drive head eventually scoring a hole through the floppy media. Damaged the head beyond repair...

I joined Quantum Link and eas able to communicate nation-wide...in color...at 300 baud! Very cool!

Good old high school. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13127140)

Joystick ports, bang paths and gender changers. Ah, the fading of youth :).

~~~

PDP-10 (2, Interesting)

klossner (733867) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127159)

(The VT100 was a slightly smart terminal. You connected it to a computer, not to a dumb terminal.)

We middle-aged geeks go back earlier than the '80s and '90s. My baby was the PDP-10 running TOPS-10, then TENEX, and occasionally ITS. My first gonzo gaming experience was playing Zork on a 300 baud hardcopy terminal in California connected through a local TIP to MIT. Still a hard game to top.

Re:PDP-10 (1)

Ken Hall (40554) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127382)

You can still do this. Pick up a copy of the simh emulator, and TOPS10 from Paul Allen's web site. I set up a system at home, opened a port to telnet, and gave an old friend a nice nostalgia present.

Re:PDP-10 (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128580)

I cut my teeth in school on a PDP-11 and then managed Dec MicroVAXen. Nothing better, my friend, nothing better.

Discovering the BBS (3, Interesting)

Dolly_Llama (267016) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127173)

This is entirely age dependendent I suppose, but the great Eureka moment for me was discovering the BBS circa 1990 from a friend, then on my own figuring out how to connect.

This might not seem like much, but it was my first independent project with a PC and I was 13.

btw, that first bbs was "Saimin" in Hawaii, and I to this day I still use the same handle.

Re:Discovering the BBS (3, Interesting)

Pengo (28814) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127281)


Yup, I remember the first time I realized there was other people that where as fanatical about communicating with others as I was. The world of BBS opened up my eyes to shareware and other tools that I had no idea existed as well.

Door games anyone?

The local Eau Claire, WI BBSUG was a bunch of old Hams. I made friends that I will remember for the rest of my life through that community.

The BBS community played a large role in to decide that computer programming and networking was definately where I wanted to be as I got older, and I can say with confidence that the BBS world changed who I am today to a large scale what I am doing and have been able to achieve.

I look back on those BBS years with the fondest memories of learning and exploration.

Re:Discovering the BBS (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128814)

My first real BBS was a Major BBS (yes, 12 phone lines to one BBS allowing realtime chat in 1988!) called Main Street (I think), in the Twin Cities. After that it was mostly WWIV's and Citadels (The Hub, and Confusion Central mostly, but also Ed's Board(I think) and a few old C64 boards).

That's part of what I think disillusions me about computing lately. The sense of learning and exploration are lacking.

Pr0n! (5, Funny)

linzeal (197905) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127772)

My fondest memory of BBS was the upgrade from 2400 to 14.4 for me that made surfing 20-30k porn images of scanned magazines (this is before porn sites) 'real time' which meant I could view one Jpeg while downloading the other and switch between them without losing my er concentration.

EDO (1)

name773 (696972) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127187)

my favourite computing memory is the 8mb (2Mx32) stick of edo i use as a keychain

Re:EDO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13127270)

Being actually middle-aged, I recall fondly the four tubes of dram chips I had to insert into their little sockets on my 4 meg ISA extended(/expanded?) memory card. ;)

Re:EDO (2, Interesting)

lanswitch (705539) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127507)

i must be getting old... my first memory of memory was that on my trusty old zx81. the 16k memory expansion module never sat good in its socket, so the poor thing would reboot whenever i smashed the keys too hard, or when i moved it too wildly while playing defender (or some game like that, at my age the memory fades quickly).

Turing (1)

BioCS.Nerd (847372) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127198)

I'm relatively new to the whole computer scene even though I've been using them since my family first inherited a 286 when I was 12 (which I promptly disassembled). When I turned 16 I took a programming class in high school where they taught us a terrible language called Turing. I remember one day where the teacher approached me and asked me to show a student some technique because he, the teacher, didn't understand it as well as I did. It was a good day :)

Re:Turing (1)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128624)

where they taught us a terrible language called Turing

Turing wasn't a terrible language, at least the Pascal like one with the same name wasn't! Clean syntax, higher level, great debugger (on Sun, don't know about elsewhere), decent range of types, fairly OK at OO, and really quick to get going. Beat Java and C++ hands down when I learned them subsequently to learning Turing. Now I mainly use Python (the odd bit of VBA as my glue as working in finance I'm constrained to Windows - there are no decent data providors on other platforms), but Turing was pretty decent. Surely better than the pile of crud I was made to shovel with something called Haskell - program an interpreter for a functional language in Haskell - yeah that's really worth while - my interpreter passed its instructions directly to the Haskell interpreter, the lecturer was not impressed with my smartass-ness.

learning assembler on an Atari ST... (2)

doofusclam (528746) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127218)

... I finally bought a copy of the Motorola 68000 developers handbook, complete with exact timings for each instruction, and was thoroughly disappointed when this 'monster fast' machine managed to vertically scroll a background about 20 times a second.

I was expecting to be incredibly fast and silky smooth on the screen, it was around then I learnt the habit of optimising the bejesus out of my code :)

I knew I had to start going out and meeting girls when the answer to a problem i'd had for weeks came to me in a dream. I'd written a fast replacement driver for the operating systems built in text output api. Some canadian bloke then started selling a version which was nearly twice as fast. I was well pissed off and couldn't work out how he'd done it. Then this dream came and told me about using 'Move.P' instead of the 'Move.W' instruction. I had one of those Eureka moments and immediately started coding.

Oh, and spending the only quality time I spent with my mum at the time playing Space Invaders on the Atari 2600 with her. The score wrapped around at 9999, so we'd spot each other and keep tabs on how many times our score had wrapped around :D

ah, memories... (1)

Rick Franchuk (1324) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127223)

I'm torn between spending hours on IRC where I met my wife, or playing Zork on a TRS-80 Model I.

Re:ah, memories... (1)

RealityMogul (663835) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127442)

No, no, no. If you're serious - you can't just say that you met your wife over IRC and then don't tell the story.

Re:ah, memories... (1)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127588)

I remember a couple who met on IRC several years ago (though it wasnt just IRC, it was the IRC network for the game Planetarion). She was from england, he was from canada but somewhere in there they got together, I remember sometime when he was in london (maybe he stayed with her on a trip because it was free and they fell for each other) and they were chatting together and then later she came to canada and they got married.

Re:ah, memories... (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128967)

In the days when IRC was more chat than warez trading, I knew a rather sizable # of people who met and got married via EFNet.

I miss those days. Most of my IRC channels are pretty dead now.

DEC Minicomputers (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127240)

Running my very first assembly language program on a PDP 8/l. Running a text-mode lunar lander written in FOCAL on a PDP 8 then patching it to change the lunar gravity and fuel available.

Playing lunar lander on a GT-40 (PDP 11/05 with graphics adapter) in graphics mode in 1973.

Building my own ADM-3 terminal from a kit.

Booting CP/M successfully using my own custom BIOS. Buying my first pair of floppy drives (360k, $200 each). Buying my first hard drive (5meg, $250).

Building my own PC from a bare printed circuit board and a bunch of parts

Successfully booting MS/DOS with a BIOS I had completely written myself.

Watching my employee successfully boot Linux on a custom ARM9 board that we designed.

The day I got my 2400 baud modem... (3, Interesting)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127241)

...was my happiest computer moment. One megabyte took 77 minutes to download. My second-happiest moment was after I had bought MegaTraveller 1 for the PC, took it home, and discovered it required a hard drive. My Tandy 1000 (8088, 4MHz, 640k RAM, 2x5.25 LD drives) didn't have a hard drive, so through trial and error I had to put the required files on four floppy disks and insert them at appropriate moments (disk 1 to start up, disk 2 for the first four planet systems, disk 3 when I enter the spaceport, disk 4 for the last four planet systems). Getting around that hard drive problem was absolutely thrilling for me.

14,400bps (1)

YetAnotherAnonymousC (594097) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128077)

I remember the day I got my mail order Boca 14.4Kbps modem for a *mere* $200!! (to replace a Hayes 2400). I would have personally hugged every employee of Rockwell responsible for their wonderful cheap chipset.

Mine would have to be... (1)

PhilippeT (697931) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127266)

...playing Red Storm Rising on my 286, shoot a torpedo and flix the turbo so I don't have to wait 2 hours for it to find the enemy sub. That was the last good sub game I played.

Re:Mine would have to be... (1)

syrinx (106469) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127405)

ah, RSR. One of my favorites, still. Sid Meier was a genius.

RSR can be found at Home of the Underdogs, and works under DOSBox, by the way. (At least this was true about a year ago.)

Ah, the memories... (2, Interesting)

Mad_Rain (674268) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127279)

First - rewriting a bit of code from a BASIC program, written in a magazine, for my Commodore64, so I could change the way a ball bounces on a screen. Really simple, and I haven't improved much, but damn if it wasn't cool at the time. :)

Second - The numerous times I had to format and reformat the hard disk (a 40 MB drive! w00t!) and write and rewrite the config.sys and autoexec.bat after I crashed or did something bad to the family's 386.

Third - Getting a 486, and tweaking those config.sys files to run Ultima VII. Installing a SoundBlaster card in there and hearing Wing Commander speak to me. :)

Fourth - Setting up my own BBS (TAG anybody?) and getting online.

Getting to college in '95, pirating Windows and pwning n00bs in Doom (and later Counter-Strike).

The year 2000 - started using Linux. Yay!

I remember... (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127283)

  • Seeing Gopher for the first time, and saying "NOW the Internet is really going to take off!"
  • Using the original web browser to try to find some software, back when you had to telnet to CERN, and saying "This stupid thing is never going to be useful."
  • Building my first PC and seeing it boot up.
  • Various points where pieces of code suddenly gelled into an application.
  • Getting a printer to work on Linux for the first time. Of course that was just a couple of years ago, thanks to CUPS -- someday I hope to get the Conexant USB modem to work!

First color printer (1)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127304)

We got one around 1983. I looked at a print out with a maginifying glass and saw that the colors were genereated by closely placed but not blended dots of the primary colors. That and learning how to cheat at Wizardry.

Re:First color printer (1)

cei (107343) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127427)

Cheating. yeah. Using a Beagle Bros. hex editor, IIRC, to modify my Ultima IV save files...

Fond memory (1)

ScUmM_BoY (17825) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127318)

One of my fondest memories is playing Zork on the family C64 and having Grues scare my younger brother :)

Tandy 286 (2, Interesting)

fwice (841569) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127327)

1989. I was four. My father brought home a new tandy running deskmate. The tandy had this moderately functional drawing program that seems like a really antiquated version of mspaint. So, after using the program for a while, my father tells me to get off the computer and find my older brother so he can use it. in my typical four year old sense, i just start calling for him from where i was at the computer. unbeknownst to me, my father was recording me on the tandy with a microphone. boy, did i get a kick out of hearing myself on the computer.

i still have that wav file. and i still listen to it now, 16 years later.

and i still have that tandy. it went through a ton, and still works. my brother used to do his finances on taxes on it all the way up through his 2nd year in college(~2000). after that, i pretty much turned it into a dedicated machine for playing civilization, since it would run on the tandy wonderfully.

maybe i'll go dust it off this afternoon :]

Re:Tandy 286 (1)

kv9 (697238) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128312)

The tandy had this moderately functional drawing program that seems like a really antiquated version of mspaint.

and speaking of which, i remember `Artstudio' on the zx spectrum, which really kicked the pants off any current mspaint in coolness. it even had a `mouse' cursor, which you could move around with the keys. you could make fonts and stuff. i remember i used to draw sprites all the time with that thing. hardcore pixelart. good times.

Tee hee (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127328)

The first time I worked out my dad's adult BBS password. Ham Radio operators aren't typically very good at choosing non-obvious passwords. ;)

when DOS wasn't something evil... (1)

whobutdrew (889171) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127369)

I'm not middle aged, but I remember connecting to Prodigy (remember them?) over 1200 baud in DOS... forget the version though. And my dad buying a 100MB hard drive... and thinking it was huge.

Re:when DOS wasn't something evil... (2, Interesting)

wed128 (722152) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128706)

Prodigy...Ah yes. Played plenty of that slow ass 3d maze game on 1200 baud myself. That and the National Geographic page. The early nineties were a fun time.

Re:when DOS wasn't something evil... (1)

whobutdrew (889171) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128970)

MadMaze! Damn, so many hours wasted playing that... I don't think I ever beat it, though. Ah well.

#1: The smell of my ORIC-1 .. (3, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127389)

.. as I unpacked it for the first time from its happy foam box, plugged it into the telly, and proceeded to clik-clik away on its beautiful little chiclet keys. oh, how i love that oric-1 [old-computers.com], even still today.. trips back home to the family wouldn't be the same without a quick crank of the treasurebox in the attic, a "10 PING; ZAP; SHOOT; EXPLODE; GOTO 10" or two ..

#2: Then, a few years later, the same smell (only much, much, much more intense) when I unpacked my first MIPS Magnum [wikipedia.org] pizzabox, placed it on my desk, watched it boot, and prepared to port my code to it .. oh my, how the raw power of me, professional C programmer, felt that day.

#3: Booting Yggdrasil-Linux on my ol' 386 about 2 years after the Magnum experience .. [linuxjournal.com]


#4: booting new hardware i had a small hand in developing for the first time [virus.info].

Apple //e (3, Insightful)

molo (94384) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127402)

300 baud pulse dialing modem on my Apple //e.. that only worked with a 40-column text all-caps terminal program.. no ansi, no vt100 emulation, just a dumb terminal. What joy.. and I was so behind the times..everyone had 2400 baud modems. Hah!

-molo

ZX81 (1)

samjam (256347) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127406)

Too poor to buy Toni Bakers book on Z80 machine code I taught myself from other peoples assembly listings and the nmemonics at the back of the ZX81 manual.

I had a ram pack which didn't work unless I removed a zener diode then it didn't work on my next zx81 unless I put it back.

I then rewrote to cool tools which gave read,data and restore to ZX81 basic and one which played sound out of the TV speaker. I also wrote one which decoded morse code tapped out on the keuboard.

Then I moved on to the TRS-80 with two disk drives that school kicked out.
They were the days when 5.25 inch floppy disks costs at least £1 each single sided and folk had special tools to "doube-side" them.

Sam

Amiga 500 DOS (1)

DamienMcKenna (181101) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127428)

My "oh deity, this stuff is awesome" moment was when I started to learn AmigaDOS way back when on an Amiga 500. We'd had a C64 for years before but I never did anything other than games on it. The Amiga was the same for me for a year, then Commodore User (or Commodore Amiga User as it renamed itself as later) started running AmigaDOS tutorials, and I was hooked.

BBSes were another great one, though the phonebills were a shock.

Damien

Robot Battle (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127472)

I played it for 6 years. The game is still alive and well, I just don't have much time for it anymore. It's Windows-only, but it's open source under the MPL if anyone wants to port the engine and build a new interface around it.

One of my big ones.. (1)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127476)


Hooking up a new 10 MB Sunol Systems hard disk to my Apple ][+ for my BBS in ~1985. Cost me a fortune. I remember seeing that 9.x megabytes of free space and thinking "I'll never need more." Heh, my wee iPod shuffle has 512 MB.

Poorly designed computer rooms... (3, Interesting)

Undertaker43017 (586306) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127484)

I used to work for a company that forgot to include their computer room air handlers when they spec'd their generator load, so whenever we had a power failure it was a mad dash to the computer room to shut the VAX's down before they "fired".

I was reminded of this years later, when working for a different company, I walked in one day and the doors to the computer room were wide open! One of the mainframe system guys saw me and literally went white, he said "Oh... we had an air handler failure and forgot to call you. I hope the HP's are OK" I said well they should be, I checked them out, sure enough they had sensed the high temperature and shut themselves down (of course it did expose that my alerting system was not working correctly, in all situations). The mainframe had not faired as well, not sure what they fired, but it was expensive, as I remember. ;)

My fondest memory... (4, Funny)

drakaan (688386) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127489)

Doing this to all the PET's and CBM's in the computer lab (my syntax is a bit rusty, so forgive obvious bugs):
10 POKE 144,88
20 ? CHR((INT(RND(1))*255)+1)
30 GOTO 20

Good ol' "POKE 144,88" disables the "run stop" key on PET, CBM, VIC-20, C-64, and C-128 computers...not sure if it works on the various emulators out there.

Re:My fondest memory... (2, Interesting)

sootman (158191) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128885)

I used to hit every Apple ][ in the lab with
10 flash
20 print " (40 spaces) "
30 goto 20

For those that don't know, flash:basic::blink:netscape. Basically, it made every screen in the lab (a dozen computers arranged in a 'u' so you could see them all at once) alternate between all black and all white at about 1Hz... and all out of sync, of course.

One of many favorite memories. Another was making the computers nonfunctional. To simulate a prompt that actually does nothing:
10 input "]"a$
20 print
30 goto 10

result: would print
]_ (cursor)
take whatever input they wanted
print a blank line
and draw another prompt. until you say 'run' and nothing happens, you won't know it's ignoring you. :-) (No, I never cost anyone hours of work this way. Most people would do an output-producing command pretty quick, then control-C would kill the fake prompt.)

Re:My fondest memory... (1)

BaudKarma (868193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13129056)

I think you wanted a ";" after your print command to suppress the CrLf. Maybe not.

I remember playing Micro Warrior on an old chiclet-key PET when I was going to college. Amazing what they could fit into 8K of memory.

A Passage to India (2, Interesting)

DisasterDoctor (775095) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127531)

Typing in the program from a magazine for 'A Passage to India' on my Commodore 64 and then spending endless hours playing it with my dad.

Definitely BBSing (2, Interesting)

Momoru (837801) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127537)

BBSing and IRC...how i spent my high school years.... some people's high school memories are track and football, mine are mostly Legend of the Red Dragon and DalNet. Oh and maybe playing Syndicate, that game gives me good summer memories.

Re:Definitely BBSing (1)

OpMindFck (204177) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128216)

omg. L.O.R.D sucked up all my time back in high school. It limited you to the number of turns you could take each day, but when every BBS in the area code is running it...
I forced my parents to upgrade their phone service after They realized their original plan considered towns 20 miles away long distance. :-D

6502 assembly on my Atari 400 (1)

MrRobahtsu (8620) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127586)

My dad and I hacked a real keyboard onto the 16k model I could afford.

The rush of writing a display list interrupt to change the color pallette in the middle of the screen refresh just can't be beat.

Well, until I started playing with Linux.

my bio (1)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127589)

Born 1972 1976 : Commodore green LED pocket calculator : quickly understood +-*, but failed to grasp / and especially the % key. 1981 : Casio PB-100 + Cassette deck : solving linear systems of three equations, and computing pi wirh Buffon's needle...an early exposure to numerics thanks to the manual and absence of decent games or anything else to do with it ! 1983 : Ti-30 LCD (PB100 considered too precious to carry to school...) 1983 : Commodore 64 + color monitor + cassette deck...Cauldron and Ghostbusters, my own function drawing program in HiRes (where I had not noticed that the Y axis is inverted vs the mathematical one, the math teacher was surprised by the fact that I was the only one in class with all the curves correct in the slightest details, only reversed upside down...) 1988 : Atari 1024 STE + Printer+ monochrome monitor (and color monitor from C64). Discovering modern typesetting (Signum), Carrier Command, GFA Basic with my own 3D drawing programs (no hidden lines however). I rendered a horse stable for my father, saying it would be ugly. My father said I must be wrong. Once built, the stable turned out to be ugly. Also computing all the possible finite groups of order 6 to solve a stupid exercise, computing intersections of a sphere and a cylinder to save on ink technical drawing time... 1989 : HP-28B, symbolic computing, getting top marks in analysis and matrix algebra ! PC-AT at school : differential equations, linear algebra programs in Pascal 1991 : Sun 0S/Solaris at school : discovering Unix and Usenet (alt.binaries.pictures.erotica already) I remember trying mosaic and finding it useless since the pages would'nt display if all the images weren't ready, and there always was one missing. Xarchie and Xnetlib were much more convincing to my eyes. 1995 : whitebox Pentium 75 with HP printer : DukeNukem3D, Civilization, Linux 1.2, the WWW (14.4 modem) with Netscape 1.0 this time. access to Cray T3E/IBM SP2 : parallel computing ! HP-UX workstations at work : OpenGL ! 1999 : Compaq 366 MHz laptop : GTA1&2, Midtown Madness Self made Beowulf cluster 84 processors should I stop here ?

Frustrating lessons (3, Insightful)

chh1 (847723) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127626)

Oddly enough, I found that my favorite memories of computing are from the many times I had to figure out exactly what went wrong with Windows 95/98.

While I realize that this shows me to be far younger than many Slashdotters, as well as much less technically skilled, I think I ended up learning a lot about how to fix many basic computer problems. I may not be a "computer guru" or even a "133t h4x0r", but it did get me up to what would probably be considered a modest level of understanding.

It may have been extremely frustrating, but I look back upon it kindly for allowing me to learn.

Many (2, Insightful)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127667)

In no particular order...

Saving, borrowing, and going in together with my roommate to put together the $2,000 (that was lots more then than it is now) to buy an IBM PC. The beast came complete with no drives (that's right, NONE - we wrote things via the embedded "cassette-basic" and could save the programs to a cassette tape recorder), 16kB RAM and a monochrome non-graphical display.

The San Francisco computer shows of the early 80s. Those were fun shows. I saw the Osborne I when it was first shown there and went on buying sprees to buy chips (yes, young-ones, individual chips) to plug in and get my RAM up to 64kB, as well as expansion cards (everything was optional back then) to get a clock, printer port, serial port, and finally 640kB of RAM (expansion card and lots and lots of chips to plug in). Everything was outrageously expensive by today's standards so there were lots of cobbled together add-ons. A favorite was a photocell gizmo that clipped onto the print-head of an Epson dot-matrix printer which along with some software made it work as a scanner.

I remember buying DOS 1.0 and a third-party 320k double-sided floppy drive (IBM was only shipping 160 single-sided drives at the time). You had to patch DOS to get it to use both sides of the disk and at $15 for a floppy this was important. The alternative was to buy one of those punches that cut a notch in the opposite side of the disk so you could flip it over and use it as two single-sided floppy disks. When we went to add a second drive we had to figure out how they had wired the drives and found out that all OEM drives were jumpered as "drive b" and the cable between the two was twisted to swap the first and second drive signals. We cut the jumpers and got everything working.

Later, we bought a modem (Cermatek 300/1200: $600) and had to convince the powers that be at UC Berkeley to upgrade the modem bank. The head of the computer-center finally told me that they were now buying 1200 BPS modems because they were the "wave of the future".

I remember having lots of aha's about how computers really work when we learned assembly on DEC computers. The first assignments required us to toggle in the programs at the front-panel of PDP-8 machines. Octal was great for that because the PDP had the switches grouped in threes so you got really fast at using the middle three fingers to toggle in the octal instructions.

Finally, I remember a little cardboard computer we used in one class. I still have it somewhere but can't remember the its name. It had sliders for the registers, a card with small holes for memory registers and little "bugs" to use as a memory and instruction pointers. You filled in the memory cells and registers in pencil and "executed" the "programs" manually by erasing and rewriting memory, sliding the register stack sliders, etc. One day I'll photograph it and put it up on the web.

Re:Many (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13129060)

The CARDIAC

RSTS/E (1)

jfb3 (25523) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127686)

Hcked across the local community college PDP-11 running RSTS/E back in 1977. (From the terminal at my high school!)

80's, 90's, bah, young kids.

Favorite memory... (1)

jasonmicron (807603) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127714)

Not middle-aged. So sue me.

Back in the early 90's I had some of my most memorable moments on the PC. I was only 7 at the time:

BBS'ing using the ultra-fast 9600 modem
Beating people up in the arena in Ambrosia
Being scared for the first time by a computer game (Doom)

Ehh, that's mine.

The Day I Became Elite (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127801)

The Day I Became Elite [proweb.co.uk]

oh and falling alseep while on CompuServe and waking up 40 quid poorer

Re:The Day I Became Elite (1)

nocomment (239368) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128260)

I remember back in the day (early 90's) you could sign on to AOL, go into a free area, then launch netscape or mosaic and browse the internet for free. Man what a time. I used to go click occassionaly on something in the free area so they wouldn't jsut see "14 hours on page X" in their logs.

Graphics modes (1)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127869)


Nothing like writing a small program to display lines in each of the 256 colors in mode 13, and then playing with the palette.

I remember firing up 1024x768x16, and wondering who on earth could see those tiny pixels, and being amazed at how slow the moveto() lineto() in QuickC were.

multi-processing on a pc! (1)

yetanothertechie (699283) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127871)

I started as a mainframe programmer in the mid-eighties, but moved to pc-based programming within a couple of years. I'll always remember my excitement at being able to install a multi-processing os on a pc!

It was QNX, which was also my introduction to a (quasi) unix-like environment. It was here that I started learning C, and here I am 20 years later still doing Unix and C programming, (yes, among other more recent platforms and languages).

My favorite particular memory was in 1987, designing, implementing, and installing a warehouse automation system for an Air Force base in CA, running it on a 386 "PCs Limited" pc, ("PCs Limited" was run by Michael Dell, later becoming Dell computers). The system communicated with about a dozen pallet stations in two warehouses, and directed several wire-guided automated vehicles throughout, tracking them as far as load status, destination, and battery power. It even had a screen showing a real-time display of where all the vehicles were!

I went to the base for several weeks for installation and testing. I'll never forget the feeling I had when I started one of the early tests, starting up the system and looking at my watch saying to myself, "ok, in about 30 seconds the system should tell these two vehicles to leave here, go to the other building, and pick up loads". 30 seconds later the vehicles both start beeping and moving out...it was really cool :-)

As far as I know, the system was used from 1987 until the base closed down about 10 years later. Get this, it wasn't even an industrialized pc, and it was installed in one of the non-air conditioned warehouses. Wish they still built them this tough!

Running my own BBS (1)

Winterblink (575267) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127911)

Probably going to be a common one for this crowd. I ran my own in the area I live in for several years, it was the only anime board in the area. Had files, games, you name it. I was one of the first people in the city to get a 14.4k modem at the time, the 9600 baud users were happy to be getting the max utilization out of their hardware.

I worked up a copy of Waffle BBS to execute as a door program from the main system, and had a UUCP feed come in nightly complete with email. I believe I was the first board in town to offer that kind of thing publicly for no charge.

The whole board ran on OS/2 from a command prompt using a Rexx script. The script handled all the mail transfers with Fidonet and other such message nets, as well as the nightly game maintenance (VGA Planets, BRE and SRE, OOII, LORD, etc) and such. The system got profiled in the Computer Shopper Magazine BBS section once, still have that copy lying around. :)

SPARCstations (1)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127928)

The first computer I got to program was a TRS-80, but my favorite "classic" environment was probably my first Sun SPARCstation 1. Really nice environment and documentation.

Of course, now that Sun has burned through all of their credibility and good will, I wouldn't touch their stuff with a stick...

Mike

BBS Door Games (1)

Surye (580125) | more than 8 years ago | (#13127963)

I may only be 19, but I remember getting home from elementry school, dragging the phone cable from the kitchen, and grabbing the latest ComputerEdge's BBS listing and playing LORD(Legend of the Red Dragon) and talking to others via realtime chat (as in, seeing as they type, mistakes and all) on my old 9600baud modem. Not quite as old as the submission's memories, but still fond.

Self booting PC stand out the most! (1)

MichaelMarch (686675) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128056)

Not my earliest by far, but the largest event that effected me was when I saw my friends computer boot up with out using a boot disk. I was totally floored at the idea a computer didn't need a boot disk to load. The machine was a luggable 286 that was Orange and Black monitor. At the time I had a Tandy 1000, with a total of 256k of memory. I kept that machine until I made my first PC. 486 DLC 40...

memories.... (1)

dpoulson (132871) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128066)

Typing in 100's of lines of C64 Basic out of INPUT magazines (Still got all 52 in the binders!), only to find that it didn't work! (well before my typing speed was anything more than 1 word a minute!)

Or maybe that fateful day when I said to the resident geek in the computer labs at Uni; "So what is this linux thing anyway?"

Saving up £300 for a 16Mb simm, then seeing the price half within a few months of buying it!

Time-lapse recollections (2)

blincoln (592401) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128157)

- Going to the local Apple dealer with my mom and dad to pick up an original IIe with a green monochrome display.

- Convincing my dad to let me have the "Fly the unfriendly skies" Skyfox t-shirt.

- Buying the Neuromancer videogame with birthday money, and through it finding out about the novel by Gibson.

- Wasteland.

- Hacking the Bard's Tale III characters with a hex editor.

- Getting an Amiga 500 and a genlock, and using it to add primitive effects to home movies.

- Connecting to local GremCit boards with a 300 baud modem from my Amiga.

- Getting a hacked account on a local ISP from a friend, and liking it so much that I paid for a legitimate one.

- IRC and Usenet before the advent of the web.

- Watching as the world realized the potential of the global network.

- Meeting young people today who have grown up in a world where they're always connected to their friends and a vast resource of information.

PC in Hollywood (2, Interesting)

Sundroid (777083) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128159)

And I don't mean "political correctness" either. In the early 80s when I started out in Tinseltown, I was fortunate enough to work for a boss who was into computers, and we got the state-of-the-art Apple IIe!!! People like actress Kim Cattral (a youngster then) would widen her eyes with admiration as she passed by my desk.

I myself spent $300 on an NBC portable computer (PC-8201A) with a whopping, get this, 16k built-in memory. Not 16 gig, not 16 meg, but 16k! I actually wrote 2 screenplays with that beauty. I'd write six or seven pages and the memory would be full, then I had to download the pages to a cassette tape as a backup memory.

Flash forward, now in 2005, I'm writing on my blog (http://sunandfun.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]) about Hollywood and the state of cinema, without ever having to worry about running out of memory.

Prime Hack (1)

IPFreely (47576) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128200)

Back in the late 80's I was an operator at a retail company running Prime mini-computers. They were in the middle of a quarter million dollar upgrade when they hit a wall. One of their key applications ran in a business basic package called BP99. BP99 was licensed by system model. It would detect the model and only run in the type of system is was licensed for. Well, BP99 was out of business, we had a new model, and the old one was already out and downstairs in the basement before they figured out what happened.

At this point everyone is sitting around stairing dazed at each other wondering what the hell they were going to do. After everyone else was out of options, I piped in with "Let me try!". They said "Don't break it." In less than half an hour I had it running like a dream.

Basically, BP99 called a system API for model identification. I wrote a DLL (called an EPF on Prime) that immulated the system call but returned the expected model type. I then edited the application binary to call my API rather than the system API for that call. I fired it up and it called my library, got the expected model, and ran fine. I saved them buko bucks on that one and didn't get much more than "Good, now we can continue" for it. But who cares, it was fun.

Low level hard disk formats (1)

dheltzel (558802) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128320)

I remember using the DOS debug command to perform a low level format of a hard drive. I bought a Western Digital RLL controller and a 40MB MFM hard dive. Using the low level format, I was able to format that drive with RLL encoding to get 65MB of drive space out of my 40MB drive.

I didn't think I could ever use that much space.

Re:Low level hard disk formats (1)

toygeek (473120) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128498)

Ah yes, I remember those days. Run debug and type

g=c800:5

or something really glose to that. Those were the days! I was doing great getting 65MB out of my 40MB drive too.

Timesharing! (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128396)

We had a TTY 33 (actually two of them in a soundproof booth) at my high school in Hopkins, Minnesota (Lindbergh Flyers!), and each of them used a 110 baud accoustic modem to connect to various timesharing systems.

MERITSS. T.I.E.S. MIRJE. But by far the most entertaining one we could dial into (at least without getting into trouble) was the MECC Timesharing System, or MTS.

During my high school years between 1978 and 1981, I was introduced to such concepts as:

* E-mail between people located in geographically diverse areas (well, as far north as Hibbing and Duluth MN and as far sound as Rochester MN).

* Real-time chat programs with multiple channels, and some of them with fanciness like built-in dice rollers for RPG use.

* COMBAT!! MU,COMBAT,USMK001 or MU,CCOMBAT,USMK031 brought you into a world where everyone was piloting a ship with a single laser and a pair of missle tubes, and where folks would type in arcane commands like "L2000 M2 M2", peer at the scrolling yellow paper, and check their stopwatches for the magic time when the missles reloaded and the laser was cool enough to fire again.

* Karnath! Multiuser dungeoning at its best.

* Programming! BASIC, Fortran (MUMNF), and other fun things.

What a blast. My introduction to the BBS world and Fido/RIME/I'Link a decade or so later was a lot of fun as well, but timesharing systems are where I really began to appreciate the things that could be done with computer systems...
>>>PWANG<<< MISSILE HIT FROM SHIP #2 ON SHIELD #2 CAUSED 17% DAMAGE.
>>>PWANG<<< MISSILE HIT FROM SHIP #2 ON SHIELD #2 CAUSED 34% DAMAGE.
***BLAM*** LASER HIT FROM SHIP #2 ON SHIELD #2 CAUSED 49% DAMAGE.
YOUR SHIP HAS BEEN DESTROYED.

READY.

Old BBS's, (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128475)

I remember dialing into "chats" on different bulletin board systems. You could upload / download files, send messages to other people. It was pretty cool. All text stuff.

Commodore, Packet Radio, and VAXen (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128534)

Modding a Commodore VIC-20...
  • adding on custom expansion slots, 80-column boards and switch-selectable cartridges
  • bending, riveting, and painting sheet metal to create a case enclosure to protect everything
  • wondering why one of the exposed boards fried when it touched the metal enclosure
It was an EXCELLENT computer...way ahead of its time.

Being active in the Commodore 64 world...
  • running a BBS from my Dorm during evening hours
  • being very active with GEOS
  • connecting to Quantum Link to communicate with fellow GEOS users
  • download a 70 page GEOS Technical Mmanual at 300 baud, and printing it on a Dot Matrix printer
Thanks to Frodo for the Palm, I can now have a Commodore 64 in my hand!

Getting my Ham Radio license...
  • not to talk to anyone, but to access remote connected computers using packet radio at 1200 baud
  • connecting to the University of Hawaii via nodes and throuch a "wormhole" connection
  • running a local KA9Q Packet Node
Unfortunatly, the Internet pretty much killed Packet Radio.

Managing a Digital Equipment Corporation VAX installation...
  • enamored with DCL
  • loved centralized management simplicity
Those were the days when users really respected system admins.

USENET/email (2, Interesting)

marcus (1916) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128578)

Sitting in the basement at Rice University ~1983 sometime after midnight communicating in near real-time with a professional astronomer in Australia.

Very cool.

Playing Zork with my girlfriend in college (2, Funny)

jbarr (2233) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128638)

Sure, they were geeky dates, but she's now my wife of almost 16 years, so it was worth it.

We would spend countless hours working our way through Zork I, II, and III on a Commodore 64. We'd map out the rooms on paper and try all sorts of wacky commands to try to get through. That was when computer gaming really took thought instead of quick reaction time.

Cutting class and getting credit... (4, Interesting)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128758)

It all started for me in 2nd grade, when our teacher (good ole Mr. Cunningham) would bring in his TRS-80 and let kids play with the computer, based on their in-class performance. If you did well on a test or quiz, you got a sticker which could be turned in for computer time, which was a real novelty at the time (1979).

One day, he had us type in a BASIC program out of a magazine (BYTE? Softside? can't recall) to display a digital clock on the screen - each kid would do a couple lines, then the next would take his turn as class continued on. When it came to my turn, I just kept on trucking, and the teacher didn't say anything. We broke for recess, and after coming back in, I went straight to the computer and kept chugging away, as the teacher resumed class. Once I finished the program, I tried to RUN it, but there were typo's which then proceeded to fix using the line editor (I had seen Mr. C do this before), until I got the thing working. It was probably one of the best school days I ever had, and it was all thanks to his "letting the line out" and giving me the room to explore.

At the next parent/teacher conference he told my parents about the experience, and that he hadn't seen a kid that age with that level of focus to finish and debug the program for such a long time (boy, has that changed over the years). My grandmother got me a computer for Xmas that year (Atari 400), and things pretty much changed forever from that point forward. It was a pivotal moment for me, and I'll always have to give credit to a great teacher (public school, btw) for providing that opportunity.

TI-58 Calculator (1)

Ann Elk (668880) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128864)

This device, more than any other, ignited my life-long interest in programming (nearly 30 years ago).

So cool. (1)

azav (469988) | more than 8 years ago | (#13128881)

- Being on the first 3 Shockwave teams.
- Creating the first software based MP3 player ever.
- Working on Lotus 123 Mac right out of college and being reason 3 for why it shipped. :D Then getting laid off. :(
- Being on the Director team at Macromedia. Too bad it almost killed me.
- Creating technology that was not market successful but kept us employed during the dot bomb.
- Writing my first shareware manual for the Vax/VMS TPU Editor.
- Talking to a a person in Berlin over IRC days before anybody knew the Berlin Wall was going down.
- Programming in Basic on the Apple II.
- Using Videoworks Interactive on 4 Meg Mac II's with 256 colors.
- Right now, helping to develop 3ivx Crush.

BBSes and games (1)

Sir Robin (9082) | more than 8 years ago | (#13129029)

  • FidoNet. A Florida board called The Ark Tangent. (Hi, Wes!)
  • Nordevald Software, another Florida board. (Hi, Cassi!)
  • Meeting Wes, and later Cassi, and finding them nothing like I'd imagined them (appearance-wise, I mean).
  • A fairly stupid game called Tradewars, initially written (so they said) in Basic and translated in one long hacking run by a blind programmer into Turbo Pascal. It had a fixed universe of 200 nodes, which were fairly easy to map out in 2D on paper, and was a lot of fun to play.
  • Writing a Tradewars clone, 'cause the original code was such a steaming pile of crap. Writing a "universe generator" for it, and then writing something to verify that the 200 - 1000 random nodes were, in fact, fully connected, i.e. that you could get from any node to any other node. "Discovering" breadth-first search, and convincing myself that it worked, and really would find the shortest path between any two nodes in the network. Hearing several people who actually played the game insist to me that the random universes were four dimensional, when any idiot could see that they were only three. (But then, maybe they were only bitching about the relative difficulty of mapping the universes.) My "universe" was more complex, but I don't think my game was more fun to play. But I really enjoyed writing it. :)

Old memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13129041)

Getting 120 digits of instructions on a single 80 column punch card for the IBM 1620, which was a decimal machine. Instructions had to start on even locations but could overlap. The card read into memory and executed from the card buffer.

Rewiring instructions on a UNIVAC SS90, which had a 17,000 RPM drum for main memory (50,000 digits!) and a vacuum tube power supply. The Solid State (thus the name) circuit cards each had a couple of circuits, AND OR etc, and the bay was hinged to open up for access, about 7 feet tall. That's where we rewired the cards to make more interesting instructions. The 90 in the name came from using different punches for the Hollerith cards; same size as the 80 column cards everyone else used, but round holes instead of square, and 45 across. But they used 6 bit characters instead of the weirder Hollerith encoding, so got 90 characters per card.

Writing a program for the CDC 6400 which died with all three possible errors (infinite operand, indefinite operand, and out of range, I think), all memory zeroed, all registers zeroed. Only the PC was non-zero, to get the out of range error.

Writing a modem transfer program from scratch, learning everything the hard way, including deadly embrace, timeoust, etc, for 300 baud modems.

Firmware! Can't beat firmware, any kind of firmware, for sheer satisfaction.

Nowadays it's mostly web sites and networking. Not nearly as exciting, but a lot easier to do from home.
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