Hardware

Photo memories of 18 first computers

Franklin Ace 2000 series

We asked TechRepublic members (via our Forums and our Facebook page) if they remembered their first computers. Many do, and quite fondly. Here is a photo walk down memory lane, featuring comments from members about their first computers. (All photos are from Oldcomputers.net.)

TechRepublic member Tink! shares this memory about the Franklin Ace 2000: "I was 5 years old and it was the family computer. My dad taught me how to do simple math calculations on it and I learned how to type using a 5" floppy disk game called MasterType. (When I say "type" I mean real "touch typing". I was typing 60-90 wpm by the time I was in grade school.)"

Related Geekend post: Dust off that dinosaur computer.

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353 comments
ianl
ianl

The first computer I ever used was an Elliot 803 at Exeter Uni, 1963. Valves!! The first near-desktop I used was a SPD (Stored Program Display) - a terminal with memory and programmable at the Australian Tax Office in late 1974. It used a cassette player to load programs and also hung off a Honeywell mainframe. The first 'modern one' was an NCR PC with enormous floppy disks. Maybe '79. The first I actually owned was a B21, the Burroughs machine running CTOS systems. I picked up a few of the later versions mid-80s. I picked up my very own PC and Windows 3.0 1990. I now run on a Mac with several Windows and linux VMs on an external drive. It's been a fun trip. 

laplanca
laplanca

I am an accountant (CPA) from  Montreal Canada.

My first interest in computers raised in the years 1974-5-6+. I first had a Commodore 64 to learn a little bit of programming. After that, I had the chance to try a Commodore PET with a (simple) accounting software; it was the revelation of a new world.

I then (1977+) bought a new Osborne 1 that came with CPM, Worstar, Supercal and Basic as softwares. This was absolutely wonderful! I bought accounting softwares from Rocky Mountain System Software and here we go! That Osborne was fully integrated (two disc drives 51/4, wide screen(!) 5 inches and after a year I could do all my work (accounting, reporting, tax calculations, etc with the small machine! I of course add a printer...

I updated after with the new Osborne Executive: a real "Cadillac" with its 8 inches screen! I have programmed many utilities using then DbaseII (Work-in-process to invoice customers, etc). I pluged it to a haddisk (20 megs, 2,300 $...) and I was able to have all my customers files on the disk . My accountant office was on its way!

Only after 2 other years did I switch to IBM and compatibles, using DOS. I could still use the accountant softwares of  Rocky Montain System Software, for many years. I used Wordstar and Supercal until end of 90'. And I still use my Dbase Work-in-process today (but only up  to Window Vista...). I swiched Wordstar to Word and Supercal to Excel.

But truly, I created all my life work (I am retiring now, at 70...) with the Osborne 1 and Executive. These were the first systems fullfilling all the material and softwares (for 1,795 $) that could be used by ordinary people to replace paper, handwriting, complex calculations trouble and so many errors that were common things in old fashion accounting offices. I still believe Osborne was a revolution!

François Laplante CPA, CA

  


the_angler
the_angler

All of the computers shown above are all modern in comparison to mine, which was a Nascom 2 that I built in 1978!!!!

I believe most of the above are 80's models.....

But I worked on main frames before that, from 1973 onwards in fact.

regards

Andy

simcon
simcon

My first personal computer was an Abacus. That must really date me moving those beads across.

merton
merton

How about the Exidy sorcerer. An amazing computer, one of my early ones.

I started building mine from a kit

Nascom1 and Nascom2

Chris Carey sold them to me (radio Caroline /nova fame RIP). When I built the first one and it worked he convinced me I needed the Second model, and he threw in a free "BASIC" to go with it.


Oh those were the days. Now it is all Server 2012 :-(



dhernandez
dhernandez

No one remembers ZX80 and Sinclair QL?



syhprum
syhprum

the first genuine computer I worked with was a then obsolete Siemens R30 in 1980 which I believe was more or less a copy of an IBM360 fridge sized with 32K memory, 8" floppy's and washing machine sized 256Mb drives.

I had done a 8080 night school course in 1978 and was delighted to get my hands on a "real" system. 

ehuttner
ehuttner

dunk01, Yes, I was Software Support Specialist in Buenos Aires Argentina  for IBM1130 since  Nov. 1966, It was a great machine, the first asinchronus computer driven by interrupts like the IBM360, it was a challege to write billing programs in assembler language with only 4k core memory of 16 bits.

SIObserver
SIObserver

My first computer was a TRS-80 Color Computer with an entire 4K of memory. I had it upgraded to 32K not too long after the original purchase. I wrote several interesting programs in what I believe they called Color Basic. I wish I had that code now but sadly the code and the computer are histoire. Nicknamed "CoCo" if nothing else it provided me with the desire to learn coding which has made me a few shekels through the years and at the time caused me a lot of sleepless nights staying up writing code.

shawnja
shawnja

Firsts were TRS 80 cassette, Apple IIe and a Macintosh - but the one that spiraled me into my professional career was the Macintosh SE with a Big Picture Display, 4 mgb RAM, 40 mgb HD brand new in 1988 for a mere $12,000.

dunk01
dunk01

what, nobody had an IBM 360 model 20 or an IBM 1130????

lincoln
lincoln

My first was the Franklin Ace 1000 - had two floppy drives and 64k - I added a Starcard so I could run Wordstar on CP/M.

DGIM
DGIM

And does anyone remember Titan (Atlas II), Myriad, Elliot, KDF 9, LEO?

DGIM
DGIM

Why no mention of the BBC - or was that only in the UK?

Tickey36
Tickey36

My first computers in order by date I addled in them not their historical date order:-

1969 Univac 1004 plugboard computer with core memory - Full Airline interline ticket accounting memory 961 bytes (that is not a typo). http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/univac/1004/photos/1004_1.jpg


RCA  301 badged as ICL1500 reel to reel tape - banking systems http://www.feb-patrimoine.com/projet/gamma30/rca301_system.jpg writing Assembler, FAS and a dabble in Fortran

ICL electro mechanical tabulator

Power-Samas Mechanical Tabulator http://www.computermuseum.org.uk/pictures/pstabulator_small.jpg the card punch was on rails!

1971 ICL 1900 series computers developing accounting systems in Cobol.

1973 Commadore 64 dabbling

Perkin Elmer Interdata Computers accounting, stock control and production planning

1979 Data General - various including Nova, CS and Eclipse  MV8000

1986 IBM PCs

Honeywell computers

1988 Programming in Unix on various laptops and PCs and in Cyberscreen and Cyberquery.

Today supporting Windows server and PCs.



lannie1
lannie1

My 1st computer was a Martin. It came out at about the same time as the Scelbi.

My company sent me to the IMSAI factory to see if General Dynamics might want to use their

computer to do some F16 system simulation studies. I also visited the Processor Tech

plant in Oakland. We did purchase several of those for various Lab studies. A friend and I

started the North Texas Computer Hobbyist Group in the DGW metroplex area and met at

UTA in ARlington. One of our members created the impetus for the TRS80 at Radio Shack.

Once the Apple, TRS80,Pet, etc. became a reality, we had so many special interest groups

that we closed down the club. My 1st useful home computing had to wait until I got my 1st asciii

teletype, (NOT Baudot, 5 level). It had paper and paper tape reader/punch. I had been

programming since the IBM701,704,7090,Both octal mainframes. The IBM360 switched us to 

Hexidecimal. Then came the MInis; the Honeywells and  DEC PDPs and VAXes and Burroughs D86

and the SUN  Dec and Zilog workstations. Also mixed in were the INTEL 8008,808o,8085 CPU's and

MDS development stations, cross assemblers and cross compilers and some that I can't remember.

jaimerubio
jaimerubio

Thats all personal computers,  maybe notcomputers. Before them the were hundreds off models of big computers, faster and bigger that these IBM, WANG, DEC, HP, and more PLease be exact.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I still have my C-64 and SX64, my Kaypro and Leading Edge systems. I hope to setup a place to display them and use them again someday.  I do not miss the Frankiln but I do miss my Amiga 2000! It was a fantastic computer and way ahead of it's time. had CPM caught on we would not be using Micr***t today and programs would be far superior IMHO. 


Computers could have evolved in a far better direction but marketing was what propelled inferior products and killed superior ones. i.e. BetaMax vs. VHS, Commodore over Microsoft or now even Linux over MS. Bill Gates built and empire on junk but he was a marketing genius! 

IvanGastaldo
IvanGastaldo

Good old times.... Timex Sinclair 1000 with a 16K module and a cassette player.... those were the days! ;-)

Then upgraded to a Commodore 64 with a 1541 disk drive...., it was heaven on earth!! Best computer ever!

ken
ken

The first computer I ever used I also programmed on, a PDP-11 with an 8" floppy drive and multi-user basic.  I still remember typing "r mubas" on the console terminal after booting the machine. That was my senior year of HS in 1981.

Next was starting my CS degree in the school of engineering at UConn and programming in PL/C on an IBM 370 with punch cards! Next was an Osborne with 1 or 2 5 1/4" drives running CP-M.  I wanted to use a word processor and one of my dad's co-workers had this machine in his lab at the pharmaceutical company they worked for.  I'd only ever seen a BASIC prompt on a PC before so Wordstar confused the hell out of me!  I bet lots of you still remember the "Wordstar control diamond" for machines without arrow keys: ^s, ^d ^a, ^f, ^c, etc for moving he cursor left, right, left word, right word, down a page, etc.  Hey ^q^c for end of doc!  I was psyched when I got Turbo Pascal 3.0 and it used the same keystrokes!  Who needs arrow keys?

The first PC I owned for myself was an IBM clone by Sanyo that had been modified by the genius teenaged son of one of my computer science professors.  He'd reworked the DOS I/O and the "Super Sanyo" sported double-sided quad-density floppy drives that also read/wrote every other format at the time - even the goofy format of the DEC Rainbow!  If you ever opened up the boot sector of the DOS diskette you could see a long msg that he'd stuffed in there.

fwidlak
fwidlak

I had a Digi-Comp I to play with, but in 1962 at work I used a Bendix G-15 with punched paper tape (from a teletype machine) for the data input and storage.  My first PC was a Kaypro (Darth Vader's lunchbox), followed by an Apple IIc, an original Mac, and an original Compaq.  Those were the days!

ChiefEngr
ChiefEngr

After reviewing the pictures, (being ashamed at just how many of those units *I* owned, and even more ashamed at home many I still have in the basement), I've decided that Tony-the-Tiger's uberlong TI-99/4a has gotta win some kind of prize. I had the TI, but not the banquet-table add-ons.  Holy cr@p!!


Tony, I hope you had a chair on wheels for when you needed to swap flops!


mwitthaus
mwitthaus

Mine was a PCjr and I bought a 300 baud internal modem that heated up so quickly I had to keep a small household fan pointed at it. 

tjoyce23
tjoyce23

I had the same one.  Sinclair was more than a gas station chain!

dcollins
dcollins

Apple 2e and the Atari 400, followed by a 286SX/12Mhz (with the math co-processor - because that's how I roll)  ;)

acforbes
acforbes

Commodore 64 followed by a Commodor 128D (built-in drive!).

kent.heard
kent.heard

My first computer was built from the plans provides by Popular Electronics and called the COSMAC Elf.  1802 processor and 256 bytes of memory.  I expanded the memory to 1024 bytes of RAM and 1024 bytes of ROM later in its life.  I still have it squirreled away in a box someplace in the garage.

mrmiata7
mrmiata7

My first computers were the Atari 400 followed by the Atari 800 series. Loved that basic language.

Gonzalo34
Gonzalo34

My dad bought me my first computer, a Commodore 64, when I was 15. Anytime my parents were out home, I used to open the case and look the circuitry inside. I remember clearly trying to control a junk step motor through the modem port, sending those great 'poke' commands to toogle the pin voltages. Next day, with an angry dad barking me to explain the technician how I blew up the C64, I was amazed at how they replaced the dead IC and brought the computer back to life in just minutes. Decades later, there must be quite a few kids out there, blowing things up on their hobby circuits designed by me. The loop is closed.

pulpkult
pulpkult

Comm64.. What a beauty..I did an entire "Scarab 38ft" boat costing (575 separate parts) on one of these.Slow but got there in the end...

mikwilly16
mikwilly16

This was my first! I was s suprized when I saw the pic. I didn't think anyone else ever owned one of these. Bought from radio shack around christmas "84. It was top of the line having 2 Floppy drives. It was an apple compatible computer and I primarily used it for word processing. My roommates were glad I had it too. Sold it about "92 to someone who just needed a word processors. I included my 9 pin dot matrix printer. It got me through school.

bkaplanr
bkaplanr

I learned to use a computer on the Apple II, at Genesis Club in the early '90s, and jumped at the chance. I'd been fascinated with computers ever since they came on the market (late '80s). Although I couldn't really say I'm a geek - am very technically challenged: attracted to technology, but don't have the ability.

hmcm
hmcm

In the early 70's I used the IBM 1130, IBM 360 and PDP-8 computers at San Diego State. I had to carry boxes of cards from my classroom to drop off at SDSU. In 1973 my SD Community College classroom received a Wang 600 programmable (http://www.oldcalculatormuseum.com/wang600.html) calculator so we could program right in the classroom. The term microcomputer or personal computer had not yet been invented, but we used the Wang 600 to teach scientific and commercial programming. In addition to the 2K memory, we had the cassette tape drive for data and program storage. We also had a drum printer and an IBM Selectric typewriter for I/O. We used machine code to program everything. A few years later, the school bought a locally manufactured computer based on the Motorola 6800 chip that could address 64k of memory. BASIC in ROM was placed at the 32k boundary because who would ever need more than 32k? It had a TTY with paper tape for I/O. The first pc that I owned personally was one manufactured in Texas that had 3 processor cards - Z80, Motorola 6800 and 6502. Depending on boot choice, we could run CPM, DOS, MDOS, Unix or Apple programs. My second pc was a 1986 Radio Shack IBM PC compatible. I still have both. I booted them up after the year 2000 and both had no trouble with the Y2K problem, unlike some of my later devices. Great memories!

fiosdave
fiosdave

What about the Altair 8800, 8800b, 680b, Imsai and the Ferguson Big Board???

jsargent
jsargent

@simcon Yeah and floating point overflows are a real bum those too.

simcon
simcon

@merton 

Exidy Socerer amazing computer with '8 track' ROM cartidges. Brings a fond tear to my eye. My first Apple 2 . £1400 ($2000) I x 360k floppy drive and 8" Hitachi monitor. Favourite game Bruce Jenner decathalon.

jsargent
jsargent

@dhernandez I had a lot of friends who had the ZX80. Unfortunately the QL needed a bit more cash and also shortly after there were much more worthy systems that came out that were worth buying.

Ernesto.Guiterman
Ernesto.Guiterman

@ehuttnerHello Huttner: I entered into the market a few years after (1970), initially with Bull (french brand) and then moved to IBM 360 & 370.
It's amazing to think that we did salaries calculation, balances and many other "applications" with only 5 or 8 K bytes machines (and my first one was a card-only computer) !  Aclaracion: eso fue en Buenos Aires donde sigo viviendo.

simcon
simcon

@dunk01 

Yes worked as an IBM operator on 360 model 25. Then got promoted and became a Cobol programmer.

simcon
simcon

@jaimerubio I programmed Datapoint minicomputers for many years. They competed directly with Wang if my memory is correct.

Ernesto.Guiterman
Ernesto.Guiterman

@IvanGastaldothis was exactly my journey, on "home computers", by then I have had more than 10 years on mainframes. Good old times !!!

brett2010
brett2010

Wang 2200 series (straddling the prog calculator and a computer); the Altos range (running Unix); the Datapoint machines with the very first networking connection AND the first VLSI (the RIM chip, Resource Interface Module; the networking part of the computer). They are company who sold Intel the 8008 instruction set and Intel eventually squeezed it onto a chip. And the rest is history ...

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

With my first real job, one that I got myself, parents did not help at all. I used my second paycheck with my savings to buy and Atari 800 computer. Half the price of an Apple and I already owned an Atari 2600 Video game. Then after playing only games or writing Atari Basic (very much like HP Basic) I started to use the 4 joystick ports as two 8bit I/O ports. After having them switch on/off red LED's (the only color in 1982). I hooked them to 8bit Digital to Analog converters to move motors to angle mirrors to aim laser beams like at the Laser Light shows. The audio input was from the cassette tape data recorder, it was only a 1 bit sampler but it input the beat rate of the music to change the mirrors (two angles) to aim the beams of red lasers. Later for a blue Krypton 5 watt beam that we aimed at the moon and could see at night. They had yet to make an affordable green laser so we could not do RGB full color.

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

I remember back in 1977 helping author Rescue from the Death Star. Our TTY text adventure went over the 256K the HP time sharing system allowed each school to have for storage. We to store and backup programs had to use the 7bit Ticker tape to keep copies of programs. Over time the game got so popular we were given our own member area of a huge 512K. Over time it became 37 programs with 54 data files holding maps and data. In time with compacting and pruning the code we used 362K with 442 rooms and could have 63 people playing at the same time. The game got removed from the system in 1981 because it was using to much of the time sharing time slots. The problems of making a program be so much fun.

simcon
simcon

@fiosdave Didn't Bill Gates write a Basic interpreter for Altair 8800 in his Dads' garage.

ehuttner
ehuttner

@Ernesto.Guiterman @ehuttner Ernesto, vivo en Florida, Vicente Lopez, en la aceitera Ybarra hubo por 1964 una Bull con tambor magnetico, un tablerito con algunos cables tipo tabuladora y memoria con octetos, gabinete similar a una PDP11, esa computadora estaba mezclada con equipos IBM convencionales , o sea tabuladora,etc que tiempos aquellos, programando con overlays recargando memoria, eso funcionó en Blaistein en Mataderos, facturando al publico y haciendo control de stock para despachar los camiones, tod en uno.

Ernesto.Guiterman
Ernesto.Guiterman

@simcon@dunk01ahha, but the "20"  was quite a different machine than de 25 or greater model numbers.  The control key and the Operating system were different (eg the "20" was "DPS"? and the 30, etc were "DOS")  Nice nostalgia