Brad Feld wrote a couple of days ago about his first computer, which was an Apple II, with a whopping 64K of RAM. Kind of brought back memories for me…
The first computer I worked on was a Commodore VIC-20. How I did it I can’t remember…but when I was 14-ish years old (1983 or so?), I managed to score myself a job writing educational games for the VIC. I remember my mom would drop me off at this company’s office on the way to work, and I’d toil away filling up the 3.5K of RAM. These were the days when you wrote in BASIC, and when you ran out of memory you started to go through and change your variable names from “num” to “n” to save two bytes. :-)
As I recall, I made $100 for each game that was completed and accepted, which was to me a whopping boatload of money. I wrote three games over the summer, and bought a bike.
My next computer was a Texas Instruments 99/4A, which I believe had 16K of RAM. Oh, how I would torment my poor VIC-20 friends with my expansive wasteland of unused memory. Pretty sure I had to sell my Atari 2600 game console to afford this guy – but whew!
I remember writing a “Frogger” game on the TI-99/4A, which was (relatively speaking) a piece of cake because the TI had a sprite engine, which let you make an object and tell it to move (as opposed to calculating new positions on a timer). Wow…the world was my oyster with this baby.
After I wrote the frogger game (which probably took a week or two), I was so excited I wanted to send it to one of my friends, who also had a TI. Now, back in this day, the high-tech storage was cassette tapes, and it was actually a modulated audio recording that was written to tape. So I get this great idea…I called my friend, told him to hold his cassette microphone up to the phone receiver, and I’d play the recording to him over the phone. I mean, we don’t need no stinkin’ modem, right?
Well, wrong, as it turns out…that didn’t work nearly as well as I’d hoped. Like, not at all. Oh well, just had to beg mom to drive me over there with a copy of the tape. :-)
My next computer was a Franklin. I forget the model number, but it was an Apple II clone with 64K of RAM. And it had a floppy disk drive, which would hold something like 160K. Omigosh!
From there, I went to a 80286-based system from CompuAdd, and the rest is basically a history of Intel processors. But the fond memories – the ones that I look back on and see my future career starting from – are the ones of the VIC-20 and the TI-99/4A!