Happy 1234567890! Let’s Reminisce about the Past!

Happy 1234567890 Day! Yes, as I mentioned last week the Unix Time will roll over 1234567890 exactly at 6:31.30 PM Eastern Standard Time today! Yup! It totally calls for a celebration of some sort!

Anyone planning to attend a roll-over party of some sort tonight? Quietly celebrating with few geek friends? Or perhaps you don’t have anyone to celebrate this occasion with? Either way, I want you to stop whatever you are doing at 6:31 today and just reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime moment for few seconds. Remember, the timestamp will never be 1234567890 again. Oh and don’t be a spoilsport and tell me that it’s always a once-in-a-lifetime thing with unix time. I know that, but it doesn’t make today any less awesome.

I figured that this is as good occasion as ever to reminisce a bit about the past, and the role technology played in your life up until now. Yup, in this thread we wax nostalgic about the long forgotten hardware and software we used ages ago.

The first computer I used in my life was the venerable Commodore 64. My friend somehow managed to convince his parents that a personal computer is something he totally needs to like get smart and stuff. So they bought him a C64 which at the time was getting to be quite popular, and affordable. It was a thing of beauty:

c64.jpg

Alright, I guess it was ugly as hell by today standards. Nevertheless I was instantly captivated and fascinated by that little box. It had a 1MHz CPU and 64KB of memory and it totally rocked. I knew I had to have one, but my parents were not as progressive (or affluent) so I actually had to wait few more years before I got my own personal computer. In the meantime I spent unhealthy amounts of time at my friends house tinkering with his machine. We hardly used it for anything but games. Games, which of course were loaded off of magnetic tape using the magnificent Datasette device:

datassette.jpg

It was especially fun when you spent 5 minutes loading a particularly large game from tape, only to see the thing instantly throw a fatal error because your head alignment was off and the data was read improperly. So you would spend another 5 minutes adjusting the alignment using a small Philips screwdriver and then try again until you succeed or figured out you have a defective tape. Still, it was a blast.

The first computer that I owned Amiga 600. As I said, I had to wait few years before my parents got me a first computer and the technology moved forward. A600 was light years ahead the C64 with it’s beefy 7MHz CPU and a whooping 1MB of RAM.

a600.jpg

Arguably, this was the worst the Amiga line had to offer, but I loved it anyway. I still used it mostly for gaming mainly because A600 shipped without a hard drive. Most games were shipped on bootable floppies and thus, I didn’t really have that many reasons to boot into the OS. Btw, Amiga Workbench 2.0 was the shit! It had an amazingly functional and intuitive graphical user interface long before these type of things became standard:

wb_20.png

I literally spent hours just customizing the desktop, changing the icons around and messing around with the settings and apps that shipped with it and writing silly shell scripts. The shell was rather limited though – and I pretty much had to discover it by trial and error because my manual was written in German, French and English – none of which I understood at the time.

The app that I used the most in these days was probably xcopy:

xcopypro.gif

As you can probably figure out, it was used to make a copy of your floppy! Also, the screenshot above clearly illustrates the prevalence of GUI interfaces in the Amiga ecosystem. We didn’t really need to fuck around on the command line unless we wanted to.

My first introduction to the x86 family was in the newfangled “Information Technology” course that got introduced to the curriculum when I was in 7th or 8th grade. At the time most people were still using DOS with Norton Commander file manager. So what you saw on the screen most of the time looked a bit like this:

norton_commander.png

You can imagine how this must have felt for me. I was used to an advanced, GUI driven OS only to be learning this anachronistic, backwards system at school. Still, perhaps because of it’s backwards, it cryptic nature, I found it fascinating. Soon after that I discovered recursion: I made autoexec.bat call itself ad infinitum… On every computer in the computer lab… Fun times!

The rest, is as they say history. Since Commodore went belly up, I begrudgingly became a full fledged PC user and grew accustomed to Windows. I started tinkering with C on my own in high school, using a bootleg bordland compiler. Later I took several programming classes and was hooked. When I started college, I switched to Java (which I liked more than C) and discovered Linux. In fact, my first steps as a Linux user were chronicled on this very blog.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me about the memorable hardware and/or software from the past. What was the first computer you ever used? What hooked you onto technology? What OS or application do you remember most fondly from your childhood/adolescence? Let me know in the comments!

And enjoy the timestamp day!

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11 Responses to Happy 1234567890! Let’s Reminisce about the Past!

  1. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Happy 1234567890 to you too! :D

    I started on PCs quite late, when I was 14. At that time, the sheetzz was a spanking 486 66Mhz capable of running Windows 3.1. My first PC was donated by my dad’s boss, a 386 8MHz machine which has a physical “turbo” button on the front to boost it to 25MHz. Naturally, it was left on all the time. My first overclock! :P

    Had fun times with that. Discovered Civilization, Raptor, Star Control 2, and other Apogee shareware games. My PC gaming lust was born that day.

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  2. naum UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS Terminalist says:

    The first computer I tinkered with was a DEC VAX, and I cut my teeth on programming, coding in FORTRAN and Pascal. Later, COBOL, C and Lisp were added to my language repertoire.

    My first “professional” position entailed writing and maintaining steel mill scheduling and production tracking programs. My first boss did not know how to use a text editor but could compute randomizing algorithm in his head. I worked on IBM mainframes there, but the first system I worked with was an old Burroughs system that had no text editor, but I could port source code and binaries from another machine to it. And there was a utility that “simulated” a punch card interface and you could “patch” a program by changing a number of lines in the source code. Yes, it was the age of computing dinosaurs.

    Did not own my first PC until 1990, as there without a decent modem, there really was no reason to plunge for an expensive toy. With it, I could connect to Prodigy and GEnie. Early gaming attractions were SimCity and MS Flight Simulator. But used to play a Star Trek game on the old DEC computers in the Steel Mill. And we all wrote various games on the work mainframes to amuse ourselves while waiting for code to compile and batch jobs to execute.

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  3. Wikke BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    We were always far behind on our neighbours with the computers.

    When they had an old DOS box, we had nothing.
    When they had some WIndows 3.1 machine, we finally, after a lot of nagging, had an old DOS box :) aah the games i played on it. It had a 60Mb harddisk, 2Mb of RAM, and the processor, I belief it was an 8086…
    The Blues Brother, Dangerous Dave, …

    Then came the Windows 3.1. I remember that I clicked through every window, every option, every folder and file, to find out how it worked.
    I even once renamed every executable in the Windows folder to its Dutch alternative, because I liked it better that way :P
    My uncle had a few fun hours repairing it :D

    Later came the Windows 98 box (233Mhz, 64Mb RAM (whoa!) and a friggin 12Gb HD), then the internets (back in 1999 with a 56K modem, teh bomb!). I also clicked through every menu option, setting, file and folder, thereby breaking it multiple times, harder than the 3.1 and customized it to hell. Literally.

    Then came the Pentium3, 800Mhz. I’ve upgraded the RAM to about 384Mb or so…
    For college, I buyed a AMD XP2400, which now serves as a Home Theater PC. It was replaced for a laptop (Acer 8200), on which I’m typing this wall of text right now.

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  4. Nick UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Gentoo Linux says:

    Actually Luke, I think it’s 6:31:30 pm EST.

    pillin@turd ~ $ php -r 'echo date("c", 1234567890), "\n";'
    2009-02-13T18:31:30-05:00
    
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  5. BobCFC UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Linux says:

    Haha X-copy brings back a few memories *wink*

    Funny, I just saw an article the other day about Deluxe Paint… remember that weired floating eye logo they always used to show off 4096 colours in AGA mode?

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  6. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux Terminalist says:

    I spent the occasion on ##1234567890 having fun spamming :D

    Windows 3.1 was the last great Windows :PI really enjoyed the marvels of Empipe and Asteroids, but it was a second hand PC and it died in less than a year :(

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Nick: You are correct sir! I fixed the dates in the post. Sigh, when I moved to US I totally forgot how to read what the yanks call “military time” and the rest of the world calls 24 hour format.

    @BobCFC: Doesn’t ring a bell. It probably should but I can’t recall the floating eye. Screenshot?

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  8. James Heaver UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    Bizzarely, I was reminising about first computers just an hour ago.

    My first computer was an Archemides A3000 (http://www.old-computers.com/MUSEUM/computer.asp?c=697). The games I remember on it are SWIV, Chuck Rock and Mad Professor Moriati, oh and Lemmings of course. It didnt have a hard drive and everything ran on floppies. I do remember managing to get a ram disk working on it (not that this was much use).

    You used to have to manually reassign ram by the k if you’d used the computer for more than a couple of hours. It had an absolutely beautiful GUI, and a BBC Micro esque (for obv reasons) CLI that would roll up from the bottom of the screen.

    It was bought from a lovely little store called Beebug in Hemel Hempstead which only sold Acrorn kit. It was a wonderful shop staffed by people who actually knew computers. I’ve just searched and they still have a website. http://www.beebugnetworking.co.uk. Although it doesnt seem to have been updated since 2006.

    I may have to dig out some of the old games now, they had better be on the interwebs somewhere. There was also a demo of a platform game that onvolved squashing hamsters with a large hammer, that was excellent, but I never saw it released is a full game.

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  9. copperfish Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    First computer I touched was a BBC Micro which my school had bought in 1982 – there were about 6 of them and we were taught to program in Logo. A couple of years later we had a few Apple IIe machines and those we were supposed to work on, but we spent ages playing Taipan and Swashbuckler.

    My first personal machine was a ZX Spectrum 48k (it seemed you were either a C64 or a ZX Spectrum owner back then). Of course the only thing I ever did with it was play games. And the tape alignment thing was always frustrating. 5 minutes to load 48k – the kids these days they’d never believe you :)

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  10. Dan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I honestly had computers around me as a baby. My father was in the industry so I was lucky. I remember monochrome systems and the evolution to CGA EGA and then VGA and XVGA.

    Now, about copying that floppy. I need you to see this below before you consider that …

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Xfqkdh5Js4

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  11. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Dan: So if I copy that floppy my computer will badly rap at me? :P

    Also, classic LOL.

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