My earliest memory of using a computer

Gizmodo asked this weekend about earliest computer memories, and illustrated it with a computer that sported a 3.5″ floppy drive. Young whippersnappers.

My first memory was in 1981 or 1982. Dad went to see one of his coworkers in his home, and brought me along. He had a son a few years older than me, probably about 12 years old, and there in the living room was something I’d never seen before, connected to a television and sitting on a desk. “What’s that?” I asked.

“This is a computer,” he said. Then he inserted a Choplifter cartridge and taught me how to play.

We probably played video games for half an hour, maybe an hour, on this wondrous machine. I’m pretty sure the computer must have been a Commodore VIC-20. I seem to remember him having a tape drive, but all of the games we played were on cartridges.

There wasn’t a lot that you could do with those simple machines in those days, and software was scarce, but the games were more complex than an Atari console could manage.

From that day forward, I wanted one. We got our first computer a couple of years later, after the home computer market stabilized a little. The grade schools I attended in 1982 and 1983 had a small number of computers, so I learned about them there in the meantime. They weren’t elaborate setups, but 30 years ago, any computer was a mysterious and exciting thing.

I became obsessed with the machines, which most of my classmates thought was strange, but by the time I was in high school, I was learning how to build and repair the machines while many of my peers were struggling to learn to use a word processor. I made enough money in college building and repairing computers that I finished college with no debt and a positive bank account balance.

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