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A History Lesson in Computers

A History Lesson in Computers

In the summer of 1980 I had been hearing and reading about all this computer stuff, and decided I would get a little taste of it myself. There was a company in town, which was owned by a friend of mine, which had a computer. He and his borther went together and paid $7,500 for the two-floppy drive (no hard drive) system. Now when I say floppy drive, I’m talking about those huge 8 inch floppy diskettes! What we would call a Drive A and Drive B today, back then we called them Drive 0 and Drive 1, with the program on Drive 0 and the data stored on Drive 1. The computer was made by DataPoint.

Anyway, I called my friend, and asked if he and his brother could teach me computers. He said they could, and the charge would be $15 per hour! Hey,I was only taking home about $400 every two weeks at the ambulance service. Some 2 week periods I only took home around $325. Putting in 90 hours a week, meant my hourly pay rate was $2 to $3 per hour. But I did take some computer lessons for several months, a couple times a week. I learned a lot during that summer, and even developed a part-time business that Fall using a program they made for me which made me over a $1,000 per month. I stopped the part-time business about a year later even though I had over 60 businesses in the area subscribing to my monthly service. Not bad for a beginner. So, I guess the computer instruction paid off. I probably should have stayed with that part-time business!

My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 which I bought for $99.95 in March 1982. You will see how small it was comparing it to the quarter at the bottom. The Sinclair microcomputers were manufactured by Sinclair Research, Ltd., in Nashua, NH. It came as a kit, and you had to solder all these little transistors and things before using it. After you put it together, it hooked to a TV screen for a monitor. It was called a microcomputer. It had 8K RAM but I paid another $99.95 to bring it up to 16K of RAM. I wanted to rock and roll. I still have that ZX81 and all the assembly instructions, manuals, newsletters, program adds, and other information in a box. Guess it will be antique someday. Or maybe it is already! lol

Next I bought a Commodore 64 with two disk drives. Yes, two disk drives! I was really uptown. I would connect my Commodore 64 to a TV which served as a monitor. I still have that Commodore 64 and the software I collected. I did sell one disk drive a few years ago.

Finally in 1986 I decided to go for broke and bought an IBM compatible XT computer. It had all of the best features, 30meg MFM hard drive, a 360k floppy, 1meg of RAM, turbo, amber monitor, and a dot matix printer. I got the whole system for $1,465.58 just 10 days before Christmas back in 1986. I did finally sell that old XT for $250 in 1992. It was like losing an old friend. I had many hours learning on that XT. All this took place when DOS was king (before Microsoft Windows).