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My Life with Computers

Apr 2, 2007

Not counting the side-projects and toy computer purchases, the time line of my computer usage is fairly simple:

PET -> C64 -> ProLinea -> Borg -> ALR 6×6 -> G4 -> G5 -> MacBook

Commodore PET
Commodore Pet
My first exposure to the world of computation happened probably at the age of 6. My mother worked at a dispatch center at Fort Meade in Maryland, and at times she would have to work on weekends and thus drag me along with her. Although these excursions were completely boring, I managed to occupy myself with banging on the keyboard of one of the Commodore PETs located in the office. I’m pretty sure that it was a PET because the unique design still sticks in my head. While the computer was NEVER turned on, the seeds of computation were sown into my brain.

Commodore 64
commodore64.jpg c64refguide.jpg Commodore64.jpg
My first (and most used) computer was the classic Commodore 64 computer. I was the first kid on my block to have a computer and was for a time the most popular… until the girls across the street got a go cart. Undeterred, I tore through the Programmer’s Reference Guide it seemed a dozen times. I had all kinds of smiling sprite faces bouncing to and fro and all over the damn place. It was a blast. I owned that computer for 10 years, and did everything imaginable on it. Some of the products of my experience include: Baseball statistics trackers and calculators, hundreds of cracked games, a dozen 20+ level Gold Box characters, D&D NPC/PC generators, and finally my college application essay. To this day I will occassionally fire up the VICE emulator to try and relive some of the magic.

Compaq ProLinea 486 SX/25 + Cyrix 686
Compaq Prolinea
My first PeeCee was the immor(t)al Compaq ProLinea. There were a number of interesting firsts for me; namely first Linux install, huge RAM, and huge hard drive space. This was my high school graduation present and lasted through my first 3 years of college. However, the guts of the system were ripped out and replaced with a Cyrix 686 based system. There is not much to say about this computer except that it afforded me my first attempt at installing Linux. I vividly remember downloading the entire A set of Slackware floppy disks with my 2400 baud modem. It was painful to say the least. However, after an enormous floppy juggling effort, I had a base install of Slackware installed on a 20MB partition. The Frankenstein project that this computer eventually became died of overheating one summer at school and the remaining salvageable parts were donated to the Charles Sutton Painted Shoes Computer Fund.

The Borg Machine
The Borg Machine
The Borg machine was essentially a dual Pentium 3 1Ghz Asus motherboard jammed into the big black cube case sold by ServerCase. I loved this machine. I had it running multiple flavors of *nix on various partitions with a smear of Windows 2000 thrown in for good measure. It had RAID 0 to start until a drive failure blew up my installs, after which RAID 1 was the way to go. Did I mention that I loved that machine? To this day I am not sure why I got rid of it.

ALR 6×6
Oh yeah… I got rid of the Borg Machine because I got a wild hair about the ALR 6×6 machine. While living in DC I came across someone wanting to trade their busted server for a functional machine. Since the Borg machine’s brain was getting a bit old, I decided to remove one of the hard drives, and trade it straight up. One may think it unwise to trade a functional machine, semi-modern, machine for one that relies on the Pentium Pro processor, but that simplistic view did not describe the allure of the 6×6. In a nutshell picture this: LCD access panel, 6-way symmetric processors, power requirements out the wazoo. The motherboard was a huge piece of real estate that took 6 Pentium Pro processors, which at that time were available for peanuts. My rent at the time included electrical costs, so I couldn’t resist making the trade. Luckily for me, the machine was salvageable and needed only an obscure voltage regulator module in order to work. However, the road to making that discovery was long, winding, educational, and at times tedious. I used that machine for a solid 6 months before giving it up as more trouble than it was worth, but for a while there it was a blast.

PowerMac G4
I had been playing with older Macs purchased through my company and/or Ebay for a while before finally taking the plunge and buying a brand new (err… refurbished) G4. This shiney piece of eye candy was a pretty sweet ride (dual 500Mhz G4 CPUs plus 1GB RAM), and gave me my first true departure from the x86 architecture since the C64 days.

PowerMac G5
I loved the G4 so much that I bought the G5. Until I got around to plunking down the cash for this bad boy, OSX had never truly had a chance to shine. This machine drove my love for that most excellent operating system. The machine was a powerhouse with its 2 GB of RAM, and dual 2GHz G5 CPUs. However, my home processing needs had already begun to wain even prior to this purchase. I no longer desire a machine to crunch Folding@Home packets, and all of my processor intensive software builds were occurring at my job, not to mention that I was now paying for my own electricity. Therefore, I could not bear to constrain that system to processing internets traffic… and it was sold.

With the proceeds for the G5 sale and one or two employee referral bonuses I bought my first laptop (aside from toy purchases). I have been using the MacBook for a year now and am quite happy with its performance and general feel. I can see myself sticking with it at least for another year or two, although OSX upgrades will determine the feasibility of that.

Who knows what the future holds as far as my next computer purchase goes. I have always liked to keep my home computer on a different hardware than my work computer. In addition, my home vs. work processing requirements are still heavily skewed toward the latter. That being the case, it appears that the future may point to Linux once again (as my work machine is now the MacPro with OSX) for my home. I like having a laptop as well, so if I had to choose right now a new machine I would say a Sony Vaio running Ubuntu. We shall see.

(Note: This post inspired by MedHead)

One Comment, Comment or Ping

  1. It was nice to know about all of these computers used by the author.I have also used various computers as I keep upgrading my computer in every 4 years.

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