I hate to call myself a ‘self-taught man’ but it is mostly true. I do have a degree in computer programming, but I am self-taught in the world of personal computers.
Like many computer enthusiasts of my age, my first encounter with a computer was in high school using a Teletype machine connected to a mainframe at the school district’s headquarters, via a 150 baud modem. Using this Teletype machine, and many rolls of paper punch tape, I learned BASIC, usually the first computer language taught in school. During my graduating year, the high school got a Tandy TRS-80, yes I’m that old, and I immediately fell in love with the frustrating contraption.
I then went off to college to learn computer programming on a PDP 11/70 mainframe. This was fun and interesting, but it was a mainframe, not a ‘personal’ computer. After graduating, I bought myself an Atari 400 with a cassette recorder, setting me back over $500. This was quite a sum for me back then, but it got me a color computer. It didn’t have a real keyboard, only 16k (not megs or gigs) of RAM, and used cassette tapes for storage. I was hooked.
After college, I worked a few odd jobs and finally started working at a small photo shop chain (well three stores could be a chain). Photography was another of my hobbies so getting a job in a camera shop/mini lab was fun. I helped set up and run their Tandy 1000 computer with an off-the-shelf Accounts Receivables program. Soon they hired office staff and I started working on the floor selling cameras and developing photos. I worked there for 19 years.
After the Atari 400 came an 800. At the time, this computer was pretty amazing. It was quite powerful and expandable. Maybe not as much as the Apple II with its multiple card slots, but it had plenty of peripherals available that connected in a similar way to USB. After playing plenty of games I started learning how to program the 800 in BASIC, Machine Language, and OSS Action! (a new language for Atari, similar to C or Pascal that compiled to tight machine code – great for games).
After the 800 I stuck with Atari and got one of their new ST computers. This was an inexpensive ‘Mac’ like PC with a mouse and GUI. The 1040ST had 1 MB of RAM and was under $1000, a first in the industry. The ST used the same processor as the Mac, the Motorola 68000, and used the GEM graphical user interface. This was still a floppy drive based system, 3.5-inch floppy disks, no hard drive yet.
Next came an opportunity to get one of the new Apple PowerBook 100 laptops for a super low price, thanks to educational discount pricing. Other than the Atari 800, this was my favorite computer ever. It had 4 MB of RAM and a huge 20MB (not Gig) hard drive. Still, this was an amazing laptop and I still think that the Mac PowerBook line definitely altered all subsequent laptops that came after them.
Although I’d rather use a Mac for most all of my computing needs, I do own, use, build, upgrade, and repair Windows PCs. I still see computers as tool and you need to use the best tool for the job. If that is a Mac, then use a Mac. If it’s a PC, then use a PC.
Ever since the PB 100 I have been a Mac fanatic. I have used and owned many since then: Centris 610, Radius 81/110, various PowerBooks, Umax C600, Umax J700, PowerMac 6100, G4 Sawtooth, G4 Quicksilver, G5 iMac, Intel Mac mini, and now a unibody MacBook Pro 15 and Apple iPad. It amazes me how much more powerful the Apple iPad is compared to my first Mac, the PowerBook 100.
I now work at a newspaper chain in the IT department where I oversee many Macs and Windows PCs and all that goes with them.