Scott Hanselman

10 Awesome Things I Remember About Computers

March 05, 2009 Comment on this post [124] Posted in Musings
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imageGreat fun on Twitter today as I asked when folks went online for the first time in their lives. The answers were marked with the #goonline hashtag. Mostly just random reminiscing but it got me remembering the fun we had "suffering" in the olden days.

The best part, of course, is that my "olden days" aren't yours. Maybe you learned with punch cards or maybe your first machine was a *gulp* Pentium. Either way, it was different and now it's a part of you.

Here's a totally random, completely useless collection of things I remember doing/accomplishing/working on while I was "coming up" in computers.

What's your list? Is it a list of suffering? Of joy? Of great fun? Of accomplishment?

What's 10 Awesome Things You Remember About Computers?

QEMM Using QEMM to rearrange all the TSRs in upper and extended memory. Then getting better than QEMM and using intuition to get better results.

sc0003b3d4 Stacker'ing a 40 meg MFM hard drive. Upgrading to DR-DOS and getting compression for free.

808019844_b1946eab8e Running a multi-node WildCAT! BBS under DesqView. Later running it under OS/2, then OS/2 Warp.

s_PC1553-2 Upgrading my PC/XT by meticulously adding dozens of DIPs to an QUADBOARD expansion.

200px-Squareholepunch Using a standard paper hole punch to punch another write-protect notch in a 5 1/4" floppy to make it double-sided.

mus_128 Telling everyone to be quiet so the acoustic coupler on a 300 baud modem could do its thing.

tape Using a regular cassette tape to play games on a Commodore Vic 20. LOAD "*", 1, 1

asciiart Printing out 40+ page or more giant-posters of Mr. Spock created entirely in ASCII on a TSR-80 and a 9-pin dot matrix printer. It took hours.

compute Typing in games from the back of COMPUTE! magazine. I ended up hiring kids from down street to read the long list of HEX values and CRC codes to me.

pclip_compute_feb86 Buying a printer to work with PaperClip and having to type the printer's control codes directly into the application.

What's yours, Dear Reader?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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March 05, 2009 11:32
wow lots of memories there!

similar with vic20 and tape drive.
others would be coding in basic then 6502 assembler of c64. Once took over the 1541 disk drives CPU to use a a "coprocessor" to do 3d calcs.
another making my own bootsector OS for 386 that was 32 bit.
Messing with Himem, Qemm, etc is a memory, but not fun.
Reading a Peter Norton book on x86 assembler, i was blown away that x86 has a multiplication opcode.
typing in stuff from oldschool mags were great also
Dialing overseas BBSs to download demoscene productions.
March 05, 2009 11:40
Running around my Dad's offices after hours with a boot disc getting the Win95 desktops to boot in DOS with network drivers and enough free low memory to run Command and Conquer, so that me and four friends could play. No soundcards on corporate 486s though :(

Or perhaps waking my parents by having BBSes return-dialling me for security confirmations.
March 05, 2009 11:44
Ben - Dude! I totally forgot the 2am return-dials. Awesome. Also, trying to figure out what card is on what IRQ... DMA 220, IRQ 5...;)
March 05, 2009 11:47
Did you know I wrote the very first file copy program for the C64 that would let you read in multiple files before swapping disks? It also used every available byte of memory on the computer to buffer files. Before that you had to swap disks with every file!

Ooh I remember writing the first disk copy program that would let you copy an entire 160K floppy in only SIX SWAPS!!! It took like 17 minutes to copy an entire disk. Previous software took like 20 swaps and nearly an hour to do the copy!

I also remember snooping through the roms on VIC20 and C64 game cartridges looking for easter eggs! Ah, those were the days!
March 05, 2009 11:50
Typing in the code for a game on a TRS80 only to have the tape storage fail when persisting to storage.

Re-naming command.sys in a vain, last-ditch effort to get X-wing to run on my 486SX25 (The first/last time I took a computer to a repair shop)

Playing the Styx MUD from dumb-terminals at the White Sands Missile Range while working graveyard to put myself through school (They weren't too happy when they found out, but we did helpe them discover a few security holes ;-)

9-Track tape errors during full backup's of 80's era BBN mainframes (3 reel backups took ~120 mintues and a tape error on the last reel meant you had start from the beginning)

Finding it cool to love Netscape over ("evil empire") Explorer until I actually had to code HTML - and then promptly inverting that sentiment.

Mac-Labs where sad faces meant "repeat the last three hours work" - only this time save every 5 minutes.

Cutting my teeth on tech support during the era of Packard Bell Navigator and Compaq desktops with telephone answering machine features - nastaaaay.

Amazed when I read Kevin Mitnick could actually vocalize telephone exchange tones.
March 05, 2009 11:52
So many memories of my dad's original IBM PC:

- Writing programs in machine code (and I don't mean assembly language.)

- Getting an assembler.

- Upgrading from 64K memory to 128K memory, and using the extra 64K as a RAM drive.

- Writing my own printer drivers for WordStar.

- Reading the ROM BIOS listing in the IBM Technical Reference Manual

- Writing my own text editor.

- Writing a shareware program and making like $50 from it.
March 05, 2009 11:54
I remember programming the Mandelbrot set on an XT with my colleague Per. Then we let the HP Pen Plotter (7550A I think) at work print it out over the weekend. When we came back Monday it had printed an entire cm of Mandelbrot set on an A4 sheet. We hadn't anticipated how long it would take to select a pen, make a dot, then select another pen (possibly the same) and do another dot. We later got it to work by some common sense optimizations.
March 05, 2009 11:58
Playing Black Cauldron on my amega for hours on end...
March 05, 2009 12:01
Five stick in my mind:

1. Playing Choplifter for the first time on an Apple ][ "borrowed" from my dad's work, with the analog joystick
2. Plugging a microcontroller board together and "programming" it with some dip switches. That was also borrowed from my dad's work in the 70s (he worked for a government organization that helped train people who were out of work; they had loads of cool stuff like this).
3. LOAD "sidea" on the Spectrum... Thro the wall would soon come into my life...
4. Writing "Space Invaders", in BASIC, on the Spectrum one morning.
5. Gettting a sprite animating around while a tune played, in Z80 assembler, on the Spectrum, despite having been wierded-out by the memory layout for the screen.

Z80 and 68000 assembler made my brain big-endian. This is a significant burden in the world of Intel!
March 05, 2009 12:07
I remember having 10's of 3 1/4 disks all with slightly different config.sys / autoexec.bat files, attempting to lh the mouse drivers, or indeed remove them completely - just so I could eek out that last extra kb from the base memory...

640K was *never* enough :)
March 05, 2009 12:25
Writing a low-level disk copier in Z80 machine code on the Spectrum using a BASIC program to poke the hand-converted opcodes into memory and failing to adjust the jump address when it hit the last sector on track 39 resulting in one dead disk drive several clicks later.

And being at school unable to buy a replacement. I had to spend a whole summer outside.

March 05, 2009 12:33
I got some...

1. Guru meditation codes on the amiga.
2. The little bombs that would appear during a crash on the original mac and atari st.
3. Getting your compuserve bill back when they were charging like $0.10/minute for chatrooms.
4. Duke Nukem 3D (come get some!)
5. Telnet'ing to your isp so you can use archie, gopher, veronica and wais to find what you need.
6. Using pine for email and lynx for the web.
7. SLIP and PPP connections to your ISP
8.* :-)
March 05, 2009 12:37
He, he, he. Memories.... entering basic programs on a teletype machine, thank God I moved quickly to punch tapes.
Hard to explain people today why ed was designed the way it is unless you worked on a teletype.
March 05, 2009 13:17
1. typing BASIC code for hours to try some of those games
4. having to kick my 8086 to get the 20mb hard drive running (yeah I mean kick hard with my foot)
2. working hours to install my first cd-rom trying every possible IRQ/DMA/Base-Address setting
3. allways looking for the smallest mouse driver and best himem.sys - config to run all those fancy games ;)
4. the beginnings of the internet and WWW - hype (1200 BAUD ... any questions?)
5. learning C++ and the MFC without knowing C (oh these nasty strings)
6. figuring out how those pesky viruses work and staying up all night to get my own .COM fun virus working (after this proof of concept I lost all intrest in this - .EXE files were just to much work - and of course it never left my system - but I could infect your windows and greet you before starting it up ;)
7. first seeing LISP ... man I had no clue what this is all about
8. playing a lot with my own mandelbrot generator - proud to have understood the math behind it - it's still one of the first things I write when trying to find my way in a new language or framework
9. Learning database basics - SQL looked nice back then - now I want to run out screaming when I have to do another data-layer - it gets boring
10. rediscovery of FP
11. seeing your blog entry ;)
March 05, 2009 13:17
This post made me to find a way to transmit 200+ cassettes left from my daddy to see what he was really working on a few decades ago. Planning to create images to share them with nostalgic heads. Any gagdet recommandations to tranfer digital tapes over USB?
March 05, 2009 13:23
I remember my IBM PC AT

- Wrinting a 'Tax Calculator' program and a small program that plays "Happy B'day...' in Qbasic.
- Playing Cat, Prince of persia etc was fun.
- Making Text banners using "Banner" and then print them using a dot-matrix printer.
- Wordstar, Dbase III Plus was one of the essentials those days.
- Few boxes of 5.25" Floppy Disks and collection of small programs.
March 05, 2009 13:42
Nudging MEMMAKER and rearranging my autoexec.bat / config.sys to fit as many processes as possible in the high memory area and achieve highest possible amount of free conventional memory!

I remember Cannon Fodder requiring some 612KB of free conventional RAM to run in DOS. I recall the pride feeling, when I managed to have a crazy 625KB free conventional RAM - with DOSKEY, Danish keyboard-layout and MSCDEX... This was almost as much fun as the actual games themselves.


Oh, and the day I got an email from Al Lowe! (who thought my Leisure Suit Larry website was pretty cool..)
March 05, 2009 13:46
What memories these bring back.

Not forgetting the ZX Spectrum, which I will have at home in the loft.
March 05, 2009 13:49
Isn't LOAD "*",8,1 the statement to load a program from disk, not tape?

Speaking of Commodore disk drives: I remember replacing some of the 1541's chips with custom chips made by "Dolphin DOS" in order to make the disk drive about as fast as... Apple II's disk drive. Commodore really screwed up with their disk drive interface.

A good explanation of the reasons for this (and other) mistakes can be found in the book "On The Edge: the spectacular rise and fall of Commodore". It's a great book for all people who started their "career" on Commodore machines (VIC20/C64/Amiga).

March 05, 2009 13:51
Ah ... learning my craft on a BBC Micro at school, when my Maths teacher would only allow us to play computer games if we could first write one in BASIC ourselves - thus obtaining our "computer license". I owe that man a great deal. We used to have a great workbook called DataLog (which the BBC must have published I think) which taught us how to write BASIC. That and some magazine for hobbyists that I forget now - Bytes, Early Personal Computer World maybe? Which used to list games and other programs in Basic to retype.

My brother had a Commodore Plus 4 (yup, not a C64), and I have many happy memories of using it to play FireAnt and Treasure Island, loading from a cassette deck. Having to play the entire game map backwards with long john silver running after you to win - got the heart going when you were 8 years old!

My parents got me my own BBC Master Compact (the one with the 3.5" harddrive! revolutionary for a BBC), and a Dot Matrix printer that I needed to ask a local electronics shop to craft a special cable for me to hook them both up. God bless my parents for buying me all this stuff they had no idea about, but which made me happy. I remember buying my first ugly mouse to go with it and the Paint program which came on a ROM to install.

I got my first PC as a Gateway 2000 486 DX2/66 and installed a Sound Blaster 16 and 4x CD ROM in it myself as my first foray into the exciting world of tinkering with PC hardware. Encarta was cool back in the day. Windows 3.1. X Wing, Doom, Wolfenstein ("Mein Laben!!") Eventually installed a new GraphicsStar graphics card from VideoLogic whose big selling point was the ability to scale AVI files - just in time for Weezer and the Porsche 911 clips on the Windows 95 CD!

Fond memories of visiting a local internet cafe (at the time a novelty for the UK) to download my own copy of Netscape and take it home on floppies to look at pages I cobbled together in HTML locally. Eventually got my own 28kbps Modem and connected up to the Gateway 2000 BBS's before moving over to DemonNet and the wonderful world of the web :)

School had a network of RM PCs (must have been 486's?), and some older 386 and 286 machines with monochrome screens that were abandonned which some friends and I cobbled a LAN together to play multiplayer Doom at lunchtimes :)

That same network also had a handheld Logitech scanner on one machine, and I still remember dragging that thing over photos and being really impressed that my photo was on screen in an early version of PaintShopPro!

Happy memories for a UK geek!
March 05, 2009 14:01
Some that come to mind:-
1. Dropping by the local hypermarket on the way home to play with the Commodores and Ataris they has on display (too expensive to buy my own in South Africa)
2. Loading Wordstar 2 on the computers in the lab at Uni to enter code for the 8088 developer kits at which point it was time to go get a coffee, these were Intel Series I machines running off 2x8" floppies and 6 terminals per unit
3. Sitting up in the same lab till 3am in morning typing in 8051 assembler for the cross-compiler trying to get my final year robot to work
4. Seeing Transylvania running for the first time on my friend's Apple ][ clone, and waiting for each screen to draw (and waiting, and waiting)
5. Buying my first XT clone when I started work, and then clubbing together with a bunch of guys from work to buy NEC V20s so we could upgrade our processors from 8088s to 80186 equivalents
5. Playing Space Quest I till all hours on floppy disk on the XT
6. Getting my 1st taste of Turbo Pascal during my post-grad course, what a relevation it was !
7. Seeing a Mac for the first time when a friend brought one
8. Getting an ADA compiler at work, complete with a full length ISA card with 4Mb of additional memory in order to run
9. Getting a 5 1/2" full height 10Mb hard disk for the XT
10. Compuserve!

And many more.....
March 05, 2009 15:44
1. Completing "Maniac Mansion" and "Zak McKracken and the alien Mindbenders" with (almost) no help
2. Using the Albatros ( ) joystick on my Commodore64. BEST, JOYSTICK, EVER.
3. Adapting the same Albatros joystick for my PC
4. Buying an arcade joystick and playing MAME

Mmmm... are all my awesome moments related to gaming? Yep :)
March 05, 2009 16:13
1. Spending days trying to come up with decent 8x8 bitmap hebrew fonts, to be loaded into ZX-SPECTRUM's memory space
2. Then spending days writing stuff all over the screen so my parents can show off to the neighbours

@@ @@@ @@ @@ @ @ @@ @@@@
@ @ @ @ @@ @ @ @ @
@ @ @@ @ @ @ @ @
@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @
@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @

(that's how my name is spelled in hebrew)
3. Cassete-recorder cleaners
4. When I was about 7, having friends over to play with my Space Invaders clone on the ZX-Spectrum, however game breaks with various bugs soon enough.
5. Staying home trying to fix the bugs while the friends went out to play hide-and-seek etc.
6. However somehow keep being friends with them (until today actually)
7. Hating Einstein word processor, then getting a copy of QText, then the floppy gets all bad sectors, then programming a WP in Turbo C 2.0
8. Learning how to program from Borland's Turbo Pascal help menu
9. Writing a data-driven application in Turbo Pascal 5.5, storing all data in text files, never hearing that there was something called SQL
10. re-formatting my floppies million times over using Norton-Format (NF.exe) to 'reduce' the number of bad sectors
11. Writing autoexec.bat files to show menus on PC boot, so friends' parents would think that "Word Processor" is what their kids use, while adding hidden options to CD into D:\WeirdCode\Games
12. FDisk.exe
13. Dancing to the sound of dot-printers
14. Tournament: How will spin a 5-1/4 floppys on one finger faster
15. Tournament: All-day-long Celtics vs. Lakers NBA games. Larry bird never misses from the corner, Kareem never misses.
16. Memorizing all 89' playoffs scores, as these was the basis for the game's startup question
March 05, 2009 16:40
How did I forget Larry and Police quest?

March 05, 2009 16:47
The #1 that makes me smile was the fact that the Danish National Radio transmitted C64 public domain apps on the Radio during nighttime when no programs was aired. So you'd wait until the presenter said "Now we're airing Paint" and you'd hit record on the cassette :-)
March 05, 2009 16:51
...oh and how could I forget "Sex games" for C64 :-D
March 05, 2009 17:03
A few memories...
1. first computer - my dad's green screen BBC micro
2. discovering that you could "hack" computer games to give yourself extra lives
3. spending hours typing in games from magazines and then countless more trying to find where the mistake was
4. discovering that "hard disk" didn't mean a 3.5" floppy disk
5. being distinctly unimpressed by my first go on a PC - where's the BASIC programming interface gone?
6. buying shareware by mail order
7. playing my first ever 3D game - Wolfenstein - found myself backing away from the screen in fear as guards came towards me
8. discovering minesweeper and losing all track of time
9. my first go on the world-wide web in 94 (using Mosaic) - reading everything of interest, and deciding I would check again in a months time to see if there was anything new
10. installing extra RAM on my soundcard
March 05, 2009 17:14
Making my first computer program on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer and saving it on a tape casette. Playing River Raid until my dad turned me off.
The TOS operating system on an Atari 520ST computer and bulding my own shooter. Playing Lotus 3 with friends.
Changing all the error messages in so that it looks cooler. Playing Monopoly on the computer with 10 other friends. Ultima Underworld!
Creating a computer virus in under 200 bytes in the DOS Debug application. Being asked 5 months later to clean a computer of viruses and find my own there.
Turbo Pascal. Building a fire simulator in it. Building my first ANN in it. Creating a video compression algorithm for 256 color videos that was better than MPG and then getting screwed by SVGA.
The Fidonet BBS I ran and the interface in Mex. Late night chats with all the sleepless people entering the BBS.
My first CD-ROM 1x with a big plastic+metal case to put the CD in.
March 05, 2009 17:15
Word Perfect 5 and the high school magazine!
Ah, I give up! too many memories overflow...
March 05, 2009 17:22
One game: LOAD RUNNER -- I remember playing on both my Apple IIc and my friends IBM. We spent weeks making our own levels.

March 05, 2009 17:27
Testing with openId data filled in -- ignore or delete.
March 05, 2009 17:50
- Having the Fortran "heat transfer" program run successfully on the first time without making another trip to the punch-card room to wait for an available card-punch machine.
- Adding a board to the Apple II Plus to allow lower-case fonts with "true descenders".
- Playing first color game on Apple II Plus, "Swashbuckler".
- Hacking an adapter plug so that the Apple IIc could successfully fire up in the car but not really being able to do anything with it since there was no display.
- Playing "Defenders of the Crown" on the Amiga 1000.
- Programming a talking grade-book on the Amiga 1000 that would speak what was typed for no-look validation.
- Programming a hurricane tracking chart in Windows 3 that sold a fair number of shareware copies.
- Compuserve online accounts from the early 80's.
- Building a DVR out of an old computer.
- Having customers "ooh" and "ahh" at your creation when they first see the program.
March 05, 2009 18:17
1) Solving the babelfish. That was when multiplayer gaming meant a bunch of buddies huddled around the keyboard trying all kinds of crazy stuff to solve that puzzle. The joy of the moment still stays with me.

2) I remember playing StarTrek on Honeywell mainframe computers where we would submit orders on punch cards. We have a bunch of premade punch cards that represented each basic set of orders. I think we had to mix & match based on where we were on the grid. The best part was the permanent record of you missions (i.e. the huge roll of paper that had the printout of your game session). I would take that home and pour over it in my bed a night to devise new strategies!
March 05, 2009 18:31
Wow, Scott, I did every one of these things! I "blossomed" in the early- to mid-80's with my Commodore 64 and furiously typed programs in from various computer magazines. To see the results on-screen, especially when they generated those awesome "sprites". Fun, fun! I spent a major amount of time playing the Ultima series, too. Those were the days! Thanks for bringing it all back.
March 05, 2009 18:48
Great stuff -- the post and the comments brought back tons of memories!

Last summer I found my QEMM / Desqview/X floppies -and- my WildCat BBS floppies as well. Running a multi-line BBS was so damned fun just for all the tinkering opportunities :-) I was half-tempted to build it all back up in VM, but why... *sigh*

Remember the great old BBS door games? Legend of the Red Dragon? Global War? Tradewars 2k?

Anyone remember the DOS game version of 8 Ball Deluxe? That was probably the most pirated download to frequently cross my BBS.
March 05, 2009 18:57
Where to start:

1. Taking the punch card 'chads' and putting them in the frat brother pockets as a prank. Worked great as they would still be coming out of the laundry for months/years.
2. Figuring out the chat program in the computer lab and ask girls out for dates.
3. Jumpman on the C64.
4. Building a Timex/Synclair then 'typing' in a program.
5. Deleting that damn '.' and '..' files on my first PC.
6. Hooking up the shortwave radio to the modem to get programs.
7. Jumpman on the C64.
8. Programming the PDP 11-20 with switches.
9. Taking the COBOL final under the influence and scoring 104 (with extra credit, not just in my mind).
10 Tweaking the Commodore disk drive to have two connected at once.
11. Computer Club swap meets with the latest protection cracks.
March 05, 2009 19:07
I remember buying a module expansion slot for the TI 99/4A to allow more than one module to be plugged in at the same time. Then there was some code being passed around that would steal the games from one module and copy them to a blank module on the other port. Early Piracy.
March 05, 2009 19:39
Does all this reminiscing make anybody else a touch uneasy about their current work? I'm currently re-writing some AccuTerm 97 stuff and can't help but realize how quaint VS2008/MVC/L2S will be in just a couple years. I like keeping on the bleeding edge with this stuff (and spent lawn-mowing money for our Delphi 10 hour plan), but suddenly realize even a Surface-enabled app with a Azure backend will soon be just a big-ass-table. Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Or maybe I just need some more coffee this am =)
March 05, 2009 20:33
LOAD "*" ,8,1 .. that's a floppy disk load from the C64. Cassette would be LOAD "*" (no ,8,1), or LOAD "*" ,1. I think.. ?

I had a dirty Law of the West floppy that worked 20% of the times (at random) that I rebooted the C64 and entered LOAD "*",8,1. My neighborhood friends used to come over and we would--I kid you not--pray for it to work, over and over, until it did. That C64 got me on my knees as a 10-year-old.
March 05, 2009 20:46
Writing boot menu's in autoexec.bat that loaded different drivers depending on what I wanted to do, even so far as having specific menu options for specific games that I wanted to play. thank god I don't have to do that anymore!
March 05, 2009 20:50
One of my best memories from the good 'ol days is getting my new Tandy 1000A to replace my TRS-80 CoCo and finding a bug with the GW Basic interpreter that shipped with it.

Being pretty young (8-9 IIRC), I didn't really know what to do. So, I got my parents to drive me an hour to the nearest Radio Shack with a "Tandy Computer Center" and reported it there. At the time, I assumed these people working at Tandy must be computer gods and could inform the correct parties with a nod or their head. Of course, they were actually just sales associates who didn't know or care anything about programming languages.

March 05, 2009 21:08
I haven't heard the mention of WildCAT in years. I use to run one and L.O.R.D. (Legend of the Red Dragon) was and additively fun game that was hosted on it. I also remember when compression became a part of DOS and you could instantly double your space. The compression cause me so many problems with loosing data that it was a constant battle - but hey, I could install twice as many games on my 286.
March 05, 2009 21:28
I started on an HP-85 a "portable" computer with a 5-inch CRT monitor, data tape cartridge and a built in 5-inch thermal printer. It was like a cash register receipt and i would print code listings on it!.

I later moved "up" to a VIC-20 and then Commodore-64 (I adore my 64, my Commodore - 64)

Epyx Fast Load Cartridge - thank you Epyx

I still have a few issues of Compute! and Compute's Gazette stashed away somewhere.

Good times.
March 05, 2009 22:02
Writing basic code to do ASCII animations on the PET.
Cassette drives (and how that 1541 changed my life).
CompuServe at 1200 baud.
Getting my Mom to read to me from Compute while I typed.
Restoring the escape sequences in 7 bit ASCII text to get the Japanese character encoding to work (to read about anime on BITNET)
Epic Summer Games
March 05, 2009 22:06
When the technical lead on my first real job proudly told me, "We don't have use card decks to execute our (COBOL) programs anymore. We use 'psuedo card decks.'" Translation: fixed-width 80 character text files.
March 05, 2009 22:25
1. Loading games on my Z80-based MSX using cassette tape
2. My first ISP had a whole section of adult pictures accessible to anyone
3. Hacking my MSX joystick controller with extra electronics to cheat on Decathlon
4. Asking my printer's manufacturer for windows drivers and receive a blank stare
5. Installing Turbo C++ from 14 diskettes
6. Editing Gorillas.bas for extra fun
7. Dr Sbaitso
8. Using Turbo Pascal and BGI calls to draw 3D shapes
9. Configuring dip switches on the motherboard (for IRQ? not sure anymore)
10. Funny characters on the BBS chat when the phone line was noisy
March 05, 2009 23:11
Clipper and meeting the late, great Tommy Rettig at a Clipper developer conference.

Concentric Data Systems R&R Report Writer. What a great product at the time.

AST memory boards

Compaq 286 Deskpro! look at how fast the directly listing scrolls buy!

Buying a very early PC XT with a 5mb harddrive. DOS 2.0 wasn't yet available. I vividly remember the salesperson saying, "Don't worry. You don't need it. The only thing it adds is directories."

Dan Bricklin's Software Garden. He had a great little product that drove PostScript for printed output.


Peter Norton Utilities. Who could live without 'em?

March 05, 2009 23:11
One word:


(on the BBC B Micro, and then the Atati ST/FM).

And yes Scott, I too remember QEMM, Stacker and paying 120 UKP for a 108meg HD while in college for a DX25 (you have a DX?! wow!)
March 05, 2009 23:13
Wow..that brings back memories...Stacker. I what fun. I remember taking 3 1/2 inch disks in piles of 10 and drilling them to make them high capacity.
March 05, 2009 23:35
Apple ][+ with Z80 board and CP/M
Beagle Brothers software
Nibble magazine
Turbo Pascal
300 Baud to BBS systems
TRS-80 with 8 inch floppies and a power switch at knee level
Olivetti computer with a 40 char x 2 line display and a built-in thermal printer
IBM XT with 10 MB hard drive
Drooling over the Osborne 1 luggable
March 05, 2009 23:37
OMG....pretty much everything everyone has listed I had some exposure to....

Watching the 'demos' that the European warez community included with all the game cracks.

Feeling really old now....
March 05, 2009 23:38
Learning octal on a PDP-8J (3K memory, 2 tele-types, 2 paper tape punch r/w) - creating ribbons out of the paper tapes for holidays, etc & punching char(255) over and over (line 10 - prt char(255), line 20 - goto line 10) to have confetti for the football games.

Writing my first multilanguage app on that PDP-8J in BASIC. Converted the numbers 0-999,999 to Roman Numeral.
Writing a sub search (10x10x10) game
(These were tough as we only had 1.5K of memory left after boot strapping the machine)

Seeing/palying on my first networked machine at Western Washington University - playing Star Trek of course (just like sub search - only better)

Building a Z80 computer and writing an extremely basic OS to make it behave as a controller for lighting an intersection (class lab)

My first Kaypro computer - what a luggable!

Skipping right past the acoustic modem to the 96 baud RS232 modem.

Working on Citadel BBS code (later TurboCit, TwitCit, MavenCit, Centauri's Citadel, etc) - (a lot of my best friends from that time are listed here). Also running a Citadel derivative BBS called the BBI (Buckaroo Banzai Institute)

And this just gets me towards the end of the 80s...
March 06, 2009 0:00
1. Green monitor- still get nostalgic about the it and the XT keyboard
2. Dancing to the tune of novell netware loading on diskless nodes
3. Creating Ram drive of 64 KB and loading applications into them
4. Programming on Z80 using Mnemonics, with no "F1" to help when stuck
5. Writing code in Norton editor and then crossing fingers to see the errors churned out by the compiler.
6. Using 123 to load my spreadsheet
7. Harvard Graphics for creating presentation
8. Getting awed by Digital Research' s (Dr. Dos) to be able to use mouse
9. Creating POS application in dbaseIII
10. Installing external Hayes Modem
March 06, 2009 0:52
1. Discovering a CP/M manual (back when OS manuals were big, thick, and packed with technical details). That was the only documentation I had for the CP/M system abandoned in the school library; that and some old copies of BYTE magazine and listings. It was heaven.

2. Typing

20 GOTO 10

for the first time.

3. My first boot sector virus infection. I was less worried about the results of the infection than I was impressed by the author, and immediately wanted to write my own.

4. Using POKE to cheat at games.

5. Compiling my first .exe executable, a floppy disk duplicator. Once I had a .exe on disk and it ran successfully, I pretty much knew that I was going to be a programmer. I loved that program. I pimped it out with ANSI colors, ASCII art, progress bars, and just about every bell and whistle you could have in DOS console apps.

6. Trashing my partition table while installing Linux, the first of very many such occurrences. This taught me the value of secondary data hard drives and backups.

7. Downloading WinZip with 2400bps modem from a long-distance BBS. Was my first online file transfer. What a rush....My parents were less enthusiastic of the concept, as the phone bill was a few hundred dollars in the first month that I discovered BBS's.

8. Waiting ages for a game to load from tape, only to have it fail, my brother having recorded some music over it in revenge.

March 06, 2009 0:53
I had a blog post about this last year:

Remember when...

...PDAs used regular batteries (AAs usually)?
...BASIC had line numbers? magazines published type-in programs?
...a box of floppy disks cost $20?
...Atari made computers?
...2400 baud was high speed?
...going online meant dialing up a local BBS?
...hard drives were an optional accessory?
...printer paper came with tractor feed holes?
...computers only ran one program at a time?
March 06, 2009 1:00
Writing FORTRAN programs on "mark sense" cards with a soft pencil, that were sent 100 miles to the nearest computer, batch processed, and getting the printout a week later that showed which card had not been read correctly.

Dropping a stack of punch cards!

Sending a network chat message via VAX 750 to a colleague on another Tektronix screen to ruin his graphical display that was taking minutes to draw.

Writing a thesis on a Commodore PET with a daisy wheel printer, and adding all the non-ASCII characters by hand with a technical drawing ink pen.
March 06, 2009 1:02
BTW, you can get some of the articles from the old COMPUTE (and other) magazines at the Classic Computer Magazine Archive
March 06, 2009 1:16
Omg! I wanted to respond with a "those were before my time" comment, but I would be lying. My first computer was a Commodore VIC-20 and I remember a lot of those same things.. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
March 06, 2009 2:22
Dude - Best Post (comments) Ever. I've been coming back all day long and can't wipe the smile from my face.

- changing the code for 'breakout' on the original apple II on THE high school Apple II to impress all my friends with extra lives, new colors
- starving myself and my new family for a couple months to buy my very own apple II
- oh, loadrunner you wasted so many hours of my youth
- hand assembling my own 6502 programs (what's an assembler?)
- my very first XT and very first (5mb?) hard drive.
- asking my buddy what he meant by 'downloading files'
- Getting a 2nd telephone line just for my BBS habit, and hosting my first BBS (yay Fidonet!)
- BBS 'Doors'
- desqview as first multi-tasking environment - "I just want to play games while downloading files!!!"
- being amazed that 'email' could get a message to someone in europe in a matter of minutes when it would take fidoMail a couple days sometimes.
- staring at my monitor in utter amazement when I discovered Lynx.
- Mosaic!!!
- OS2 - so pretty!
- rebuilding machines from bits and pieces left over with every upgrade. I don't think I bought a whole computer for like 15 years.
- 'healing' literally hundreds of infected floppy disks on one dark and lonely night.

Man, I could go on all day. Love it.
March 06, 2009 2:29
Paying $2000 for a 40 MB hard drive for my Mac Plus.

Well, it was an "awesome" price. Just not in a good way. :-(
March 06, 2009 2:29
... waiting minutes for an XXX gif to be downloaded from a BBS :))
March 06, 2009 2:31
... waiting minutes for an XXX gif to be downloaded from a BBS :))
March 06, 2009 3:15
slapout - thanks for that link. I loved looking at all the Compute's Gazette magazine covers. I remember back in high school that I could not wait for the latest issue to arrive in the mail. I would take it school with me and read it cover to cover. I wouldn't do school work but I would salivate over CG! Pr0n for high school computer geeks (before it was cool to be one!)
March 06, 2009 3:57
1) Playing Star Trek, of course! (for the C# version, see
2) Discovering the first remote desktop, a program called Co/Session, which cut my support calls from 2 hours down to 10 minutes.
3) Compute Gazette and the C-64, those were the days...
4) Zork I, II and III, plus Hitchiker's Guide (I'll have some No Tea, please)
5) Novell 3.11, the best network OS ever
6) I was a 386Max guy (3 reboots to get the right configuration!)
7) The *original* MSN (my email address dates to the beta version circa 1994, believe it or not)
March 06, 2009 4:24
Oh man, what memories and experiences - awesome!

Rearranging people’s punch card "decks" when they weren't looking at college too many years ago. It got so bad that people had their decks wrapped with elastic bands and stuffed down their pants. We always wondered why the girls were looking at us ;-)
March 06, 2009 4:26
Thinking that people would always need to know Basic to get anything done.
March 06, 2009 5:04
-Remember using accoustic 300 baud modem to connect from my Color Computer I to his TRS-80 Model I all day on Sundays and typing LBASIC (for LDOS) for our own BBS.

-Eventually upgrading to a 300 baud Hayes modem and the wonderful AT command set!

-Using CompuServ and Chatroom and watching Whiz Kid on TV!

-Writing BBS code on a Model IV with 64K extendeded memory and two 5.25" single-sided floppy drives

-Buying my first Amiga 1000 when I saw school host their PBS using it and a Toaster; and of course having a 3.5" floppy drive

-Upgrading to an IBM XT AT 4.77MHz box with 1MB of memory

-In 1990-1991 learning/reading "Teach Yourself C" by Herbert Schildt and using Borland Turbo C to write my own DOS programs.

-Earning my highly appreciated Novell CNE and not failing any of the 7 tests! I believe our company was rolling out Windows NT 3.1 around 1993-94 to replace our Novell servers. NetWare 3.1 ruled! I remember folks appreciated looking at the "number of days online" in Novell without a reboot.

-Learning Borland's TASM - Turbo Assembler and loving Tom Swan's "Mastering Turbo Assembelr" and "Mastering Turbo Debugger" books!

-Upgrading to 386SX and going to Montgomery Wards about 10 times (varoius stores) in one week swapping out a crappy Packard Bell computer that had an awful mouse bizerk
behavior when trying to use a mouse in Turbo C. Funny thing was that I returned the PC and got another of the same model and the inside was slightly different on almost every one of them. I eventually just got a refund because I couldn't take the mouse issue any more.

-Around 1995 re-certifying for Novell CNE 4.0 and learning NDS.

-Upgrading to 486DX, Pentium (when Intel stopped naming their processors by number due to AMD), Penitum II, Pentium III, Pentium IV, Pentium IV with Hyper-threading, Core 2 Duo, and finally now a Quad Core with 8GB of RAM and 7TB of storage!!!

-Around 1998 earning my NT 4.0 certification and later later Windows 2000 learning Active Directory.

-Somewhere along the way, I upgraded from 300 baud, 1200, 2400, 9600, USR14.4, USR38.8, and USR56K modems and using PCPLUS and Qmodem for file transfers! I think around 1997-1998 when I finally got Cox broadband in my house and could throw away the dialups!

-Around 2000 using VMware workstation 1 or 2 to run a M(Mumps) banking application on Linux for sales folks and basically running a full end of day for multiple banks on the box; effectively doign the same thing we paid millions of dollars for for an IBM RS/6000.

-Around 1997 installing SQL Server 6.0 on an NT 3.5 system. Yeah, I hated having to rebuild a database that you made larger over time. You had to keep track of how big you made it each time in order to restore a backup to a new database. Fun Fun Fun

-Around 1997 moving all our banking clients from Bisync transmissions of work to FTP and developing a mechanism for files to be sent to us FTP and server converting transmission to bisync to mainframe. This allowed customers to use new technology and we could continue to receive bisync to mainframe.

-Yeah, I miss those days and if I could do half the stuff I can do today back then, I'd probably be a millionaire by now. God I wish ASP.NET and SQL was around in 1995!

-Appreciating the whole Y2K phenomina as it finally force our cheap banking customers to upgrade their old IBM XT based machines with 20MB HD to newer machines that actually had more capacaity and we didn't have to resend a 4-5 hour bisync transmission of reports back to them the following day because their HD was full!

-Getting tired of the whole certification and recertification scenerio since it seemed it was only good for about 2 years and quickly lost its importance. I use it today as a baseline for comptency for my folks more so than they're a master of anything.

-OK, I've been around. Things are way better than before, but I seriously wish Microsoft and the rest of the world woudl take about 8 years and stop developing and just improve on their existing products and make them more stable. I'm tired of the constant change and as soon as something starts to work or becomes useful, something better comes along and the trial-and-error process starts all over again... Very frustrating. Heck, Windows 95 was cool!
March 06, 2009 5:24
I had an 8088, dual floppy (no hard drive) with EGA graphics card. That graphics adapter made my rig a beast. Too bad my monitor was CGA. I used to spend hours just issuing dos commands and playing California games.
March 06, 2009 5:51
@visualJ: Funny reminder about the punch card "chad" dirty tricks. Besides putting them in pockets, pranksters would create a snowstorm in your dorm room with about a million of them. You would be finding "hanging chads" everywhere for months.

@David White: Yes, dropping those big stacks of punch cards could be a revolting development. I found a stack in the attic a few years ago and it had a diagonal pencil line down the side, kind of a manual way to resort them!

The mention of the VAX also brought back some memories. To get a graphic output it meant waiting minutes for the Versatec machine to print out its nasty monochrome output.
March 06, 2009 7:01
What do I remember and miss most?

The fact that when you used to get a new computer, there was a whole new class of things you could do with it:

1) Z80 computers - Wow! A computer! I can play games and type and have a calculator and program!
2) IBM PC - Wow! I can finally do some serious word processing and exchange disks with other people at the office!
3) 286's - Wow! EGA graphics! It's almost arcadelike! And with this newfangled 20 MEGABYTE drive I don't have to wait for my disks! Hey, wow, what's this BBS thing?
3) 386's - Hey neat! VGA! 256 colors! I just downloaded some naughty pictures from that Warez/nudie BBS!
4) 486's - Look at this "Windows" thing! It actually runs pretty good now. I can use this. Hey, wow, my documents look just like the way they'll print on my laser (ha, you know you had a dot matrix) printer!
5) Pentium - Hey wow! I can download naughty little movies over this new Internet thing that I dialed up to.
6) Pentium II/III - Wow, the World Wide Web! Awesome! Hey, and some of these games are not sucking so much with this newfangled 3dfx graphics card!
7) Pentium 4/Core2/i7 - Hmm. More of the same. A lot faster than my old P2/P3. Hey, at least my JIT compiler is working acceptably.

As an aside, I think that the ability to do NEW CLASSES of things is what is making Apple so successful now. Never mind that you can do most of the stuff on a PC that you can do on a Mac, but not so seamlessly or effectively. Now you aren't limited by your CPU or RAM, you truly are limited only by your software. Apple knows this, and when they sell computers, they're selling you iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand, and knocking your socks off with them in the showroom. They're selling how well their lifestyle products integrate with their platform. Microsoft is selling an Operating System.
March 06, 2009 7:09
Paying $200 for the first 2x CD-ROM drives
Paying $1499 for a Pentium 133(Mhz), 1 MB Video Ram, 4x CD-ROM Drive, and 14" Monitor, 64 MB Ram, 14.4 Data/Fax modem
Staying up late-night mastering Pirates!, Lesure Suite Larry, Ultima, F-117A Stealth Fighter
Watching Star Wars at High School Video Production class on an huge Video CD Disc (over 12")
Not admitting guilt for frequently crashing the family computer.
Being amazed by the quality of graphics in the 1980s, and 1990s, now considered pixelated.
Creating microscopic cheat sheets for History Class on a HP Laser Printer 3P.
Including cheap Word Art that filled up an entire page, for my English essays.
March 06, 2009 9:16
Apple II -> Sinclair ZX81 (1 week) -> BBC Micro -> BBC Master -> Olivetti M24 -> many self-builds...

First computing memory was playing AppleTrek (Klarnons etc) :) After than got into basic & 6502 assembler, then C, Z80 assembler, C++, x86 assembler, FoxPro, Delphi, COM & C#...

Most immoral thing... Writing a background keyboard capture utility to find out my school teacher's password (BBC Micro)...

Coolest BBC Micro thing... Wrote loads of utility ROMs; loved using my eprom writer (& eraser) to burn them and put in 'puter (or in cartridge on Master)... Cleaning dirty eprom pins with isopropyl... Yum!

Earliest commercial project... Biscuit / cookie counting and time recording utility for Ryvita (BBC Micro again with some weird thing in the analog port).

Every new programming language learned, always wrote same "bank balance" app for my dad (like MS Money) :)
March 06, 2009 15:05
Duh... Re-formatting my 20 Mb MFM drive to get 30 Mb using RLL.
March 06, 2009 19:49
Getting my first Apple II
Writing my first program in Applesoft
Storing and loading said program via cassette player
Thinking I had plenty of room with the 16K of RAM it had
Being completely syched when I got 2 x 5 1/2" floppies for it...for $500 eachGetting my first Compaq luggable PC, complete with carrying handle, small orange screen, and 2 floppy drives
Thinking AMI Pro was the best word processor on the planet
Writing dos programs for 640K, and loving life when I discovered dos extenders
Loving my new 32K modem...hating modems
Being in heaven with my first 40MB hard drive
Composing music on my Atari using SMPTE Pro
March 06, 2009 20:07
My first "real" computer a PORTABLE - Kaypro II. I had a few of your items(Stacker, Qemm, DesqView, DR-DOS, AST-Premium 286 with a RAM expansion board)

Now I feel old.
March 06, 2009 20:24
Saving up for and modding Wayne Bell's WWIV BBS software....oh TradeWars....sigh.
March 06, 2009 21:04
I remember when usenet newsgroups were kinda like the Facebook groups of today.
March 06, 2009 21:47
Coding in Machine Language and BASIC on the Commodore 64

Sending my programs by the post (on 5.25 in disks, no less!) to Compute magazine.

They got published too :)
March 06, 2009 23:05
I remember those days as well. I was poor and couldn't afford the hold punch though so I used my dads drill press. Worked great and made it easy to handle stacks of 3.5" disks as well.

Regarding your image at the top of the article, is GOGO (line 200) a BASIC command I missed? Maybe it is GOTO but faster? :)
March 06, 2009 23:18
My gosh!!! My first time using computers was with Win98, as far as I remember. I used cassete tapes to listen music, didn't know it was ever used for games. =P
March 07, 2009 0:48
1. Pocket Knife to cut out the Write protect area on 5 -1/4 in floppies.
2. Command to format a 720K disk in 1.44MB drive: Format A: /T:80 /N:9
3. Using Turbo Pascal to write a TSR program to put the time in the upper right hand corner of the screen in DOS.
4. Instead of using QEMM, I used to hand tune EMM386 and mem commands in the Config.sys and Autoexec.bat to get better Memory usage than QEMM was capable of when loading NDIS and Netware drivers (dual stack) under DOS and Windows 3.1 Somewhat trial and error until you got each PC with enough memory under 1 MB to work correctly.
5. Entering Debug and issue the command to a Western Digital HDD controller to run the firmware to partition and format the attach 10MB drive.
I will save a few for the rest of the fans. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
March 07, 2009 1:23
Memories, memories, memories..........

I've done at least something from every one's post and they all put a smile on my face.
March 07, 2009 14:47
I remember those days that

1. It took me an hour or so, and both sides of a tape, to save just a single program of mine on a Commodore 64...
2. I was playing with so-called "sprites" on Commodore 128 to develop my first moving object...
3. I was investigating "Simon Basic"...
4. Wishing to have an Amiga instead of C64...
5. Developing some TSR programs on my first (and last) 80386 machine...
6. Buying my first co-processor...
7. Installing my first 1x CD-ROM Drive and it's associated ISA sound card that was actually useless in MS Encarta...
8. ...

Yeah, I remember those amazing days...
March 07, 2009 20:21
I never a c64 or c128 neither an Oric or a ZX81, but a Thomson TO7/70 cause I'm French, and at these times, in France either you had a Thomson or an Amstrad CPC.
But my first real attempts at programming were using Borland Turbo C 2.0 on my Amstrad PC1512 (MS-DOS 3.2, DR-DOS 4? and GEM Desktop; 512Kb RAM - upgraded to 640 and later on - revolution! - added a Filecard hard disk which was 20 Mb).
I was 13yo the 1st time my
printf("Bonjour Monde");
worked. What a joy!
March 08, 2009 0:41
I miss the gals hiding in all the levels of FantasyLand that we played on my Remote Access BBS.
March 08, 2009 0:49
Dang, I also miss spending tons on blenders and toasters and the like to make video stream. A couple years later (mid 90's) we used a ==> get this ==> wireless link <== to broadcast live streaming video of a state's Supreme Court hearing on three sun sparc servers and blew the busses on two of them when more than 1k 56k modems tried to connect to the feed within 3 minutes of each other (off dual T1's no less). Hilarious stuff looking back.

I also miss collecting "rent" from my downstream nodes that I called to deliver FidoNet mail. Remember now, it was call "plus" fees. :-) Man we had it made.
March 08, 2009 1:06
My fond memories:

- My first TI99/4a with the Extended Basic cartridge and that little black cable to plug into your tape record (all of which had to be purchased separately...$300 for the TI in 1982 as I recall).
- Discovering Sprite graphics on the TI99 (CALL CHAR "995A3C3C2424" drew a little stick figure I used in all the games I wrote)
- The very LOAD "*",8,1 command you mentioned on my Commodore 64
- Playing Pirate Adventure on the TI (say yoho!)
- Modifying the source code on Quest for the Holy Grail on the Apple ][e to make my character's likeability, gold, hit points, etc. have many, many zeroes after them...
- Playing Castlevania on the Apple ][e (Halt schweinhund!!!)
- Thumbing through BYTE magazines in the library looking for game source code to type in (and then spending hours trying to figure out what I screwed up)
- The first time someone brought a copy of Doom into work ("graphics don't need to get any better than this")
- Fiddling wiht IRQ's and HIMEM and lsl, 3c509, odi, this fancy new thing called ndis and every .ini file known to man trying to get the netware stack to load
- Meeting one of the scientists on a flight to Hawaii 15 or 20 years ago from the team who built Univac (he noticed I was reading the book for my (xinu) operating system theory class and tapped me on the shoulder) and listening to him talk about how 10k of memory took up an entire room and they cooled it with an old airplane propeller

March 08, 2009 6:39
Paying $1 per baud for my first modem.

(1982; 300 baud)
March 08, 2009 12:51
- 1984 - Breaking into my school one night, just to tap some lines of Basic into an Apple IIe
- 1985 - Failed to save up for a Macintosh and settled for a Commodore 64 (no regrets, still have it).
- Programming music "apps" on the C64 using the 3-voice SID synthesizer, and playing around with voice using S.A.M. (Software Automatic Mouth)
- "Hacking" the Star Trek game so I'd never die.
- Using Di-Sector to recover my dad's important document after a crash (C64 power supply overheating problem)... my introduction to HEX.
- Using a bucket of ice to prevent aforementioned overheating issue.
- Cracking open the power supply only to find all electronics sealed in hard blue epoxy, impossible to remove!
- Finding and reading my dad's old BYTE magazines from the 70's.
- Using my C64 monitor all through university for watching TV. Great great monitor.
- 2009 - Still saving up for a Mac. One day.
March 09, 2009 8:07
Messing around with CGA Emulators to get the games running on my Hercules Graphics Card.
Trying to solve Zak McKracken on monochrome, when all you had to do was following that blue line through the labyrinth...
March 09, 2009 17:32
Playing Star Trek on a 10x10 grid full of asterisks and K's, trying to survive.


"You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike"
March 09, 2009 19:57

You need to get Milind to read this entry and post.

I remember a game programmed in Basic called 'Desert Racer', where you'd use keys to move an object to pick up food and you'd have to hitting some obstructions and losing lives. Other classic games were 'Brick' and a Basic version of 'Hangman'.

In high school, I used a program called 'Speedscript' to write and print out lab reports. I'd run into problems because if a line of text started with a period or a dash then it would be an indicator of how big margins should be. So I had to be careful with my formatting.

Milind and I made a 'trade' which gave me possession of his Commodore 64. I ran into a problem though because some of the keys got busted in shipping. I fixed this by placing some rubber bands below the keys so that when they'd be depressed, there would be contact with the bottom of the keyboard and the letters would appear on screen.

Boy, what memories. At the same time, it really makes me feel old :-(.

March 09, 2009 20:00
I remember when the Ctrl key on standard keyboards was above the Shift key. - Ah the good ole days!
March 09, 2009 20:11
1. Making my first game with Commodore PET 2001
2. Destroying joysticks with Olympic Games
3. Discovering graphics with Simons' Basic
4. Amazed how fast a 2400bps modem was, after 1200bps
5. Ultima IV for C64 (lost 2 years for it, until found out on what sector the stats were)
6. Buying MC68010 for Amiga 500 to make it faster (no help)
7. My first ST506 MFM HDD - 28ms access time and plenty of noise, but 20MB.. wow
8. Lattice C compiler - almost integrated editor and compiler (better than Manx)
9. Guru Mediation
10. Sleepless nights while trying to make PC Support, Netware and Windows coexist

(and lots of more)
March 10, 2009 1:18
Tying up my parent's phone line for days so I can download Windows 3.0 from my local pirate BBS. And suffering while I had to wait to play Food Fight while the download chugged on my awesome SOTA 9600 baud modem.


I was in technical nirvana when I was finally able to run XFree86 on my $3000 486 and play netrek over 2400bps SLIP connection.
March 10, 2009 4:28
I'm a real dinosaur:

1. Writing my first program in BINARY for god's sake for a 1401 IBM mainframe. It was part of a class and we rapidly advanced to assembler.
2. Translating IBM1401 Autocoder into COBOL. Not nice!
3. Writing what amounted to re-entrant code in IBM360 Basic Assembler Language; had to fit into the 32K "executable" partition on the IBM 360. We used a lot of NOP's - self modifying code, if anyone remembers what that was. Almost impossible to debug.
4. Reading Hex (Hexadecimal, base 16 numbering system used in old IBM machines) in coredumps as easily as decimal.
5. Getting one of the early PDP-11/45s. Toggling in the bootstrap loader in octal.
6. Writing a bitching letter to the DEC sales manager, complaining about the service letters addressed to "Dear Sir". Explained I wasn't a "Sir". Suggested alternatives, not including "Madam". Received response from a VP and subsequent letters addressed to "Dear Customer".
7. Seeing early PCs and wondering what in the world anyone would do with one.
8. Getting an "under the table" copy of UNIX from Bell Labs in 1975 and going nuts.
9. Learning C from Kernahan and Ritchie
10. Being delighted that nearly everyone in the "developed" countries is computer literate. Never thought it would happen.

March 10, 2009 8:25
Paying $600/- for 16MB RAM is not awesome. I can't seem to forget (erase) this memory.
March 10, 2009 10:20
Hmm, a few similar but I missed on earlier posts. I remember hanging out at a friend's workplace to play green-screen star trek too, but here are a few other gems:

1.The TI-99 4/a, which was going to take over the world because it was a 16-bit machine in a time of whimpy 8-bit boxes.

2. My Timex-Sinclair 1000, and the big Z80 assembly language book I bought for it that baffled me for the longest time. I can't believe I typed on that chiclet keyboard. at least I havd the 16k RAM expansion though!

3. Like many of you, typing in games by hand. It wasn't until some time after that I realized all the POKES were actually often inserting assembly code.

4. my Poor-boy's journey through commodore. Several VIC-20's, several C=64, to C-128 (& CP/M!) to my A500.

5. PC Pursuit! (the real precursor to the internet IMHO)

6. The entire circus of piracy around the C=64, and reverse engineering copy protection schemes. Some assembler with the name Wizard in it?

7. The SnapShot cartridge for the C64, and the first time I heard the Peter Gabriel pan flute on the amiga - video and sound on that machine was light-years ahead of everything else.
8. the major upgrade from 300bps to 1200bps.
9. Running CNET bbs's trying to keep up with much beefier IBM clones running stuff like WildCat.

And I'll throw one in from my PC-clone era:

10. Norton Desktop! (come to think of it, why don't we have a Norton Desktop for Vista?)

March 10, 2009 19:01
I have been using Norton Commander for a few years in the past and I am still using the idea (Total Commander). It will almost 18 years. Some things will never grow old :)
March 10, 2009 21:51
Running (literally, because I didn’t have a drivers license yet) down to the corner convenience store for a bag of Doritos and a two-liter of Pepsi while “Flying Saucers” took six minutes to load onto the TRS-80 from a cassette tape.

Finding two pencils that were both about the same length and each had a good, clean, sturdy eraser on it in order to code BASIC on a Commodore Pet that had those silly keyboards that seemed like they were for a calculator.

Getting an assignment back in a Pascal class and finding I lost points because the floppy that I had turned in had a “virus”!


Liesure Suit Larry.

Seeing the animation of the disc doctor dry-humping the hard disk on the early Mac version of the Norton Utilities while it was running the disc check.

Seeing the face of my insufferable co-worker restarting Tango (an old electronics CAD program) on the single ‘286 that we had in the lab only to find that none of his changes to the options that he had spent almost half of his time on the machine changing remained, because he liked to change all of the customizable settings such as the colors of the different layers of the PC board being designed, which confused other users like me, and I liked to set the read-only flag on the settings.ini file so options would remain default.

Drawing the logo of the San Jose Sharks in Windows Paint (on 3.1) on a VGA monitor completely by hand.
March 10, 2009 22:54
"10. Norton Desktop! (come to think of it, why don't we have a Norton Desktop for Vista?)"

Norton desktop! man that was an awesome bit of software. Folders on your main desktop in win 3.1 days? fantastic!

I often wondered what happened to them after windows 95. It looked *very* similar and I always hoped Microsoft either bought the product or Nhad some kind of ip protection/licensing for their stuff.

But yeah - what a memory, takes me right back to university days - which also reminded me of buying Borland's C++ / OWL (I forget the version) on like 13 floppies from Blackwell book store in oxford. Student version was 35UKP from one of the most amazing book stores ever that has rooms running under trinity college. OWL was awesome, you can still spot applications written in it - they have the big green tick and red x on the ok/cancel buttons!
March 10, 2009 22:54
1. Trying to program a graphic/text adventure game on my first computer, an MC-10, in BASIC, and having to stop after a couple of rooms due to running out of the 4KB RAM that little toy was packing.
2. As previously noted, spending hours typing in hex codes from Compute magazines.
3. Using a freeware C64 D&D character generator (which I can�t remember the name of) that included a great equipment purchase module I�ve never yet seen the equal of, even in equivalent modern programs (free ones, anyway).
4. Computer games packaged in Ziplock bags.
5. Two words: Babel fish.
6. Three words: Gold Box series.
7. Creating fonts for the C64 GEOS system, based on Goudy Old Style, and the lettering on Pink Floyd�s The Wall album.
8. Luxuriating in the massive storage space on my first hard drive, a 10 MB Amiga drive.
9. Watching the C64 and Amiga sections at Babbage�s dwindle down, until there was nothing left but PC and Mac.
10. The friends made on GEnie�s Writer�s Ink Roundtable.
March 10, 2009 23:35
How come nobody has mentions the ingenious "Turbo" button?
The salesman told me that is used to speed-up my 14MHz XT computer :)

My second PC was 486DX (!) running at 40MHz with 200 megs of hard drive. All my friends told me I was crazy to spend so much money on hard disk space I will never be able to fill up.

March 11, 2009 0:10
Ages ago...

- Remember playing music with your C-64 Disk drive?
- Type In Programs
- Peek and Poke...
- The 1st "online" phone bill (I am from Germany, we had no free local calls... I was almost killed)
- And my favorite... Finally saving up for that incredible 1-MB RAM upgrade, and when I finally got home, I realized that i needed 2 Sticks of memory
March 11, 2009 1:07
This post really took me back. Heres my 10.
1. Tuning the tapehead on the C64 casetteplayer when games failed to load at the very end after reading from tape for ages.
2. Playing the 3d vector game Elite days on end on the C64? It was sooo cool.
3. Typing on those rubber keys on the Spectrum.
4. Using a small (crt) television as screen for the C64/128/A500. The crispness, and clarity!
5. The first Voodoo 3D-cards. Awesome.
6. Seeing the raytracing demo for the Amiga 1000 and being in complete awe!
7. @Niels: In Sweden too the public radio broadcast software over the air.
8. @Vlad: those turbo buttons were amazing :)
9. Using a 1x cd-rom recorder at work that cost a fortune.
10. Learning to program basic in school on an the Swedish made ABC80 with a Z80 cpu and 16kb ram (

March 13, 2009 1:03
Adjusting heads of tape recorder to load games to my Russian-made BK-0010 computer.
Making a config.sys with like 5 options and the migrating to QEMM
Using like 20 floppy disks to install Command & Conquer
Downloading tons of music videos at my first job (and first high-speed internet connection) which eventually led to traffic rationing for everyone
Using 270 Meg hard drive instead of load of floppies to copy stuff and accidentially dropping it.
Overclocking my P-133 to P-150 with jumpers.
Creating animations by throwing a bunch of trigonometric functions together
Staying up at night to connect to BBS's with my 14400 modem
March 13, 2009 21:04
Mine would be writing a game in basic for the Atari 1200XL similar to Zork. The game easily had something like 1000 goto's LOL. Not to mention I could probably write the same game now in VB.NET with about 1000K lines instead of the 6, 5 1/4 floppies it took to store the 10K+ lines of code...
March 15, 2009 5:01
MIne would be :
1.- Being in awe when I saw and touched my first computer ever and using Edlin.
2.- Drawing a Monster truck in QBasic.
3.- Playing electric guitar along with a series of arpeggios written in QBasic
4.- Writting a tic-tac-toe game in dbase III.
5.- Trying to figure out how to make and control windows in dBase IV after seeing win 3.11 on a x486 system.
6.- Using 80% of the total lines of my programs to create a pretty interfases with dbase III and IV, loved the buttons and
progress bars or counters.
7.- Wire-framing buildings and bridges with ms paint (win 3.1) for days to simulate 3-D views.
8.- Converting bmps to Icons with a program written in QBasic.
9.- The move from dbase/foxpro in ms-dos to vb 5.0, and from win 3.1 to win 9x.
10.- Moving from dBase/foxpro to ms access, and then to SQL Server 6.5, the pains of DAO
10+1.- Building my first home system with these unheard specs (PII 400 Mhz, 128 Mb Ram, 23 Gb HDD, Graphics card with 8 Mb of
vram) when not even the server of the company I was working for had NT3.5 with 64Mb in Ram, and yes, 2x 4 Gb SCSI HDs.

This has been a memory trip!!

March 16, 2009 9:26
I remember getting a disk utility published in Compute's Gazette and they had a typo in the printed listing. That typo would write garbage into a C64 disk disk directory. I was so disappointed. But it did pay for a bunch of Amiga peripherals so it wasn't all bad.
March 16, 2009 10:59
I did 7,8,9...
March 16, 2009 12:06
I recall we would bend a paper clip just the right way and use it to short-circuit two pins on the back of the C64 to cause a quick reset of the machine.
March 16, 2009 14:26
How about hand-assembling 6502 Op Codes because your system didn't have an assembler? Why do this? Because my OSI SuperBoard II didn't have a built-in line editor, and I was jealous of a friend's TRS-80, which did.
March 18, 2009 17:29
- The early years of COMDEX and other trade shows, before it became completely corporate. In the secondary venues you'd find tons of booths with some guy selling his invention. Most of them you *knew* had no chance, but a few were *very* cool.
March 18, 2009 21:05
repairing the membrane on my rubber-keyed ZX Spectrum with a scalpel and small pieces of foil
March 20, 2009 1:07
Assembling and adjusting ZX Spectrum by hands.
Adjusting cassete recorder magnetic head with screwdriver to improve program loading from tape :)
March 26, 2009 22:26
Here's my memories...

Formatting dual-sided 5 1/4" floppy disks on my dad's Apple IIe and labeling them up, ready to store my invention of a computer program that held a conversation with you... but was only limited to 5 questions!!

Spending hours using drawing detailed pictures in "Dr. Halo" on a brand new PC sporting an 8086 processer and black/orange monitor that used *a mouse!*

Having to re-write my fruit machine (aka one-armed bandit) games (aka one-armed bandit) in BASIC on a Toshiba MSX 64K each weekend, as the external tape drive broke months ago.

Having to use a floppy boot disk armed with SimCGA-2 on a IBM-PC compatible and having to play around with memory configurations just to play "Defender of the Crown" on a orange/black monitor. (I can still remember the theme tune in my head for that one that blurted out through a PC speaker!)

Unpicking the RAM chips from one graphics card to boost the RAM on another graphics card, bringing the total up to 4 Megabytes on my 386 machine!

Weren't the mid-80's to early 90's fun...?
April 01, 2009 23:52
- writing Z80 assembler on a Timex-Sinclair to access an A/D converter card made by a friend, wrapping it in basic to make a digital oscilloscope
- buying my first PC clone (leading edge) to start my first consulting business, and being told by the salesman about this thing his son was involved with - the WELL
- writing my first FORTRAN program on punch cards, waiting hours in university data centers for line printer output
- writing FORTH code running under DOS to send MIDI commands to an MPU-401 interface
April 02, 2009 7:07
Yep. First machine was a Franklin Ace 1000 (an apple ][+ clone) though I'd used the pdp-8 long before that.

Running phone cable around the outside of the roof of our house and in to my bedroom so I could get "online" (to local BBS systems) on 300 baud after I was "in bed."

xModem/yModem and ZModem :-)

Boot tracing copy protection schemes, irregular disc formats and hacker group splash screens.

Those were the days ;-)

And no, we weren't thankful. It sucked. But it sure was fun.
April 15, 2009 0:43
1. Playing Moon Lander on a punch-tape equipped Teletype connected to a PDP 11
2. Debugging COBOL programs by reading printed hex dumps
3. Realizing that the RPG class was doing "the airplane problem" because we had to cancel a lot of infinite-loop jobs
4. Watching the tech manager write "Hire" on my resume after I'd been the first candidate our programming school cattle call that was able to tell him the capacity of the multi-platter disc packs (50Mb).
5. Deliberately working to forget everything I knew about RPG (I still remember that it's column-sensitive...)
6. Lode Runner on the original Macintosh
7. Golf, with 8 color graphics, on the office's brand-new PC-AT
8. Upgrading to 14.4 kbps
9. Trying to convince a co-worker that he didn't have to write an event-listener loop in VB 3
10. "The secret to Windows 95 is: when in doubt, right click"
April 17, 2009 20:22
1. My first Atari 800XL
2. Thinking Infocom games were awesome
3. Inputting escape codes for my Epson Dot Matrix in Paperclip and thinking I was cool.
4. My first Atari 520ST
5. Seeing onscreen markup on WordwriterST. THAT was really cool.
6. Getting a 300 baud modem.
7. Getting a 1200 baud modem and delighted that I couldn't keep up wiht the scroll speed.
8. Buying Dungeon Master from an Atari Federated store I found driving through Texas.
9. My first 30mb exteranl MFM drive. (chirp chirp chirp)
10. Finding an Atari 800XL emulator for the Atari ST and thinking "Boy, those were the days".
April 17, 2009 20:27
...almost forgot.

11. Having all that stuff still in the back of my closet ready to be set up and used.
April 22, 2009 1:34
1) Using (one of the best programs that MS ever wrote) to remove boot sector and partition table viruses using BIOS int 13h calls
2) Compiling my programs with Turbo C++ 1.0 using on a dual 5 1/4" machine. The compiler went on one floppy and the programs on another
3) Being thrilled at being able to install the compiler on a XT machine's hard drive, thereby making it significantly faster
4) Writing a TSR to be able to terminate digger.exe (which took over the keyboard and timer interrupt) using a neat little trick
April 24, 2009 4:17
writing a space invader type game on a one line 20 character casio FX-xxx programmable calculator in '84 (can't remember the model, d'oh). That gave me something interesting to do during Accounting class. Well it was a boys only school, nothing else to distract us. That's so sad!
May 01, 2009 18:56
Started on a Commodore SuperPet, so B1 Bomber via cassette loader was my introduction... but graduated shortly to the ViC20 and c64... BUT... the Zork series on the IBM XT rocked!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.