My First Computer Was...



Carlie Fairchild is the publisher of Linux Journal.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

BBC B Micro with 32K RAM

Adrian's picture

The BBC was made by Acorn Computers, I think every school in the UK had a least one in the mid 80s. I was really lucky though, my dad got hold of a 5 1/4" floppy drive for it so I didn't have to wait half an hour to load programs from tape. It was a cool machine to program, BBC basic was innovative when compared with it's peers, none of this mucking about with GOSUB to call a subroutine instead you wrote procedures which where called by simply calling PROC foo, very cool for it's time.

I have fond memories of p***ing of the ICT teacher during sixth form when a group of us hacked into the server for the schools network of BBCs and locking him out of his account. Now I use my powers for good :)

A Sinclair ZX-81 8K ROM

Anonymous's picture

A Sinclair ZX-81
8K ROM Basic load

Those where the days when you wrote 'tight' code...!


Dave Donaldson's picture

MOS Technology created the 6500/6502/65xx line of processors, not Standard Microsystems.

The trainer was a Signetics Instructor 50, and it looks like it has 512 bytes of RAM instead of 1024 as previously stated.

Photos and info can be found at

My first PC was a Signetics 2650 Trainer - the year was 1976!

Dave Donaldson's picture

from my rusty memory...Shortly after the Intel 8080 debuted in 1975, Motorola, Standard Microsystems and Signetics all promoted their 6800, 6500 (later the 6502 was used in the Apple II) and the 2650 respectively. There were others too.

I selected the Signetics (Phillips) 2650 because it sold for $26.50 unit one (Intel wanted $158 for the 8080), plus it ran out-of-the-box, meaning it didn't require a timing generator, two buffer chips, a programmable interrupt controller and three voltages like the 8080.

While nowhere near as powerful I guess, the 2650 required only 5-volts, had a serial port, maskable and non-maskable interrupts and was static. It made a great low-cost process controller, and I used it in CCTV switchers and long-distance pan & tilt controllers.

The trainer was a prototyping and learning tool that sold for around $500. I still have it (somewhere around here), and I think it still works. It has 1024 bytes of static RAM, an eight-digit LED display, a hex keypad, 8-bits of I/O on LEDs and toggle switches and a cassette interface which worked. I bought a Teletype ASR 33 (110 baud) with a punch tape and hand coded that sucker. I still have that too.

Such a deal!

Amiga 500

Linuxrebel's picture

I call this one my first because it's the first one I could really do anything on. Technically my first was a Sinclair. But until I owned the Amiga, I didn't do much as an owner. God how I miss that box too.

Cosmic Elf

Dana Wellen's picture

My first computer was a kit called a Cosmic elf which used the RCA
processor (forgot the processor number) but it was a very early
8 bit Cmos processor. This was around 1978 or so. This computer
was a real kit where all components were soldered onto bare circuit
boards. It had a hex keypad to enter machine code into a whopping
256 Bytes of static ram. By the time I traded this system in for
a Apple ][ I had added 4 Kbytes of ram, a keyboard terminal (seperate
from the computer and talked to the computer by way of a serial port
and handled the video 40x24 on a portable TV), and a pretty case.
Computers sure have coma a long way, this computer ran in the Khz
range of speed and could heat a room from the static ram.

My first computer was...

Pedro's picture

... the born-dead Apple ///.

My parents chose the computer over the car.
16-color was NOT available using the Apple ][ emulation that I used everyday (that was a big disappointment by the way).
I remember writing my own adventure game and learning english with "Time Zone" (~4 months to solve it, without any previous knowledge of english, patience and a dictionary) and Dark Crystal.,_Inc.html

Long live the Atari!

groovemaneuver's picture

My first system was an Atari Mega STe that I bought used off the 'Net in the early 1990s for a few hundred bucks. It was a modest box, but it booted in 10 seconds, ran Emagic Logic flawlessly, and enabled me to become a better composer. A fews years later, something on the MoBo shorted and it went up in smoke, nearly catching my apartment on fire. Good times.

Commodore VIC-20

Mike Roberts's picture

The VIC 20 was pretty hot stuff at the time, at least in my neck of the woods. I got the proprietary cassette recorder and even the RS-232 interface. One of my first real programs was a hack so I could connect to a trouble ticketing system for work via a 1200 baud modem(flick the switch when you hear the phone line squeal). It was better than using a TI Silent 700 with an acoustic coupler. Well, maybe just faster and more colorful but it was fun.

Mike Roberts is a bewildered Linux Journal Reader Advisory Panelist.

Had the VIC-20 too. The tape

Anonymous's picture

Had the VIC-20 too. The tape drive was just too slow, even then. Sprang for the C64 with floppy drive and modem at a whopping 300 baud. The best part - I still have it and it all still works!

What, Do You Think We're Geeks or Something?

Shawn Powers's picture

Because, yeah, we are...

My first computer was a TI-99/4A. My grandfather bought it for me. I even had a cassette drive to save/load software.

I typed in more BASIC code on that thing, staring at my 9" black and white TV, than most 7 year olds ever type.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

Yup, TI-99/4A

Gene YumaAZ's picture

I was a bit older than you at 29 years old, and bought mine new for $149.00, and of course soon after learned one of those truths about computers and obsolescence, as it was on the market a year later as a clearance item for as low as $39. I brought it home, hooked it up, and stayed at the keyboard for the next 13 hours straight.. and another 14 the next day. Not sure if I ate or any of that petty stuff, but learned to program over the next week in basic.,and soon after acquired the Extended Basic module.. and was taking advantage of the added features.. such as sprites and that to build games and such as that.. I built a lot of card games {with graphics of the cards} and such as that. Later I built an Adventure Game Compiler. Hangman with crude graphics and etc. Remember waiting for 13 minutes for the data for an adventure game to save to the 300 baud cassette, and then another 13 minutes to reload to continue the next day. That is when I think I started eating again... the next machine was an Osborne I with 64K memory and a blazingly fast Z80A 4MHZ processor, and two dual double sided, dual density at I think it was 180K storage each.. couldn't imagine needing anything bigger at the time.. or more main memory either.. oh and CPM 2.2 OPERATING SYSTEM {Wordstar,Personal Pearl DB, SuperCalc} life was good... but was on a Compaq DeskPro by 1982 or '83 and had a 20Meg hard drive... and life was in the fast lane.. I still have the Osborne I and yes it still works.. no fans -- no noise except when the drives activate.. ahh.. The TI was totally silent.. and one other thing about the TI.. and the basic that came with it.. The documentation set a standard that I have never seen matched by anyone. I later bought a TI Lisp product for 8086 that was the same way.. magnificent docs. Sorry they got out of the personal computing game. That TI Chip and the auxiliary video chip was amazingly powerful, for running at 1 MHZ. I wish I hadn't lost it along the way, about 8 moves later.


Carlie Fairchild's picture

I just read your comment aloud (still at Drupal Meetup, you can see how productive it is tonight, sigh...) and Katherine yelled out, "Me too!". She then threatened to post a photo or something of her first TI-99. Stay tuned...

Carlie Fairchild is the publisher of Linux Journal.

I wish I had photos of the real thing...

Webmistress's picture

I too had the TI-99/4A. I spent about equal time on Basic as Parsec, and I was fairly skilled with both at the time. :) I used to make interactive quizes about very fun girl things like cute boys and such.

And who can forget Bill Cosby's contribution?

I never did get the speech synthesizer, but wanted it really badly.

Katherine Druckman is webmistress at You might find her on Twitter or at the Southwest Drupal Summit

OMG I loved the TI

Mark Irgang's picture

I also had that Texas Instrument, I would play chess on that for hours at a time and the space invader knock off was better than the real thing. Code as today, was still foreign to me...

Mark Irgang is Associate Publisher at Linux Journal

Commodore Vic 20

richgroeneveld's picture

I used to sit at my commodore vic 20 and later at my commodore 64 for hours and type in these games in basic. Then I would adjust them to the way I liked them.