Computers!

NOTE, I do NOT collect computers anymore - I had to get rid of all of them when I moved out of state in 2014.

Well, it is about time I wrote some rumblings on another subject dear to my heart. That is of course COMPUTERS!

I started working with computers in a way when I got my first programmable calculator. That was about 1975. It was a Texas Instruments Model ?? and had a form of Basic that started my interest in programming.

The thrill of the calculator wore off in a while and I wanted more. The Apple was around then and CP/M computers were being used by the various agencies I worked with on my job. It was about 1981 and the Commodore Vic-20 came out. Finally a computer I could afford!

I bought one of the first ones that our local Target store had. If I remember I paid about $300.00 for the computer and another $75.00 for the tape drive. It was not much but it was fun! I spent a lot of time learning Commodore Basic. I also tried my hand at ML programming as there were many books on the subject and I had a great cartridge called the HES-MON (I still have that little box.)

I bought a second Vic-20 when they dropped to under $100.00 and added a floppy drive when they came under $200.00 each. For $199.00 in 1983 dollars (probably $1,000.00 in 1996 money) I got 180 K-bytes of storage space. Speed was more that ten times a fast as tape and more reliable too. I remember buying bulk 5 1/4" floppies for about fifty cents each and thinking what a great deal I made.

I never could figure how to network the two Vic-20's and by that time the Commodore 64 was down to under $200.00 and I had to have one. Target again got my money for a 64 and I gave one of my Vic-20's to my son. I sold my other Vic-20 for about $50.00 if I remember right.

The Commodore 64 was a super computer (compared to a Vic 20.) I loved that little gray box with keys. I perfected my skill at basic and did some more ML too. I really wanted a Osborne* at that time but $2000.00 was way too much. I also looked at the Kaypro as a very solid computer for a serious user like myself. I did not pay a whole lot of attention to IBM's first personal computer at the first. I thought, "hey if IBM built it it must be about as user friendly as Greek."

At my job I did help one of the department heads to buy the very first IBM PC the County I work for purchased. I was in the Engineering department at the time and not MIS. What we had to do to get the computer was almost more trouble than it was worth. The County surveyor was the department head who needed the computer and the County Auditor controlled all computers at that time. They were the predecessor of our MIS department. What they did not want was to allow just anyone to have a computer. I guess they were afraid they might not have a job if those little PCs were allowed to multiply.

We found the PC we wanted down in Bloomington MN (200 miles away) and the price for a 8088 dual floppy drive with Quadram board and math co-processor, mono monitor and a Epson wide carriage dot matrix printer came to $10,500.00. That little math co-processor was about $1,500.00 if I remember right. The computer itself was over $5,000.00. Things like the cable from the monitor to the computer was like $100.00 and the printer cable was almost $75.00. Oh I almost forgot it had a whole 512 K of RAM ($1,800.00 extra.) Do you remember?

This was 1983 or 1984 and for what we paid for that first PC we could by a Pentium computers for fifty people with today's money.

About a year later I helped purchase the first PC for our own Engineering division and that meant I would have to have a better home computer too. I bought a Commodore 128 and 1571 disk drive because it could read and write IBM disks. I used the IBM at work but I still liked Commodore better. The 128 also had CP/M something I always thought was what real computer users always did everything in.

I played with the 128 for about a year and then we got hard drives in our computers at work and that was the beginning of the end for me and Commodore. It looked like the hard drives for the 128 would never be a reality so about 1986 I put my first Clone together.

I bought the case and keyboard from CompuAdd in Texas and then ordered the hard disk from Bentley computers also of Texas. A funny thing happened when I received the orders. The sales slips looked like they were printed together and the invoice numbers were consecutive from one company to the other. It was like Bentley sold disk drives at a loss and made the money on computers while CompuAdd mad the money on disk drives. I saved $100.00 by buying from the same company in two different advertisements.

I did not know it at the time but I was preparing myself for my future vocation. I had discovered a secret about the computer industry. If you think you got a good deal look around and you will find you were ripped off in spite of looking at every advertisement in the Computer Shopper for three months. I now just buy when the price looks good and I can afford it and never look back. The money you spend today will always buy more tomorrow so just accept that fact and get on with your life.

I will not bore you with the up-grades that followed, I am sure you have all "been there, done that" so lets just back up a bit.

In the past few years I am finally getting to purchase and inherit something that I always wanted. I now have three Osborne computers. I can't say I use them much but they are where I can pull them out and play with them. I seem to have at least one very oddball. The last one I picked up at a surplus store has a Intel 8088 chip on a sub-board with Kaypro etched on it. It appears to be a 8088 conversion adapter and that is about all I know about it. I would appreciate any help on that little thing. It does not appear to function but then I don't know exactly what it was supposed to do. It also has a board where the external monitor hooks up and appears to be for a higher resolution than the original Osborne had.

I recently found a complete Kaypro set-up that my own brother had been used many years ago. I traded an old DOS computer I had to him for it. It came with a daisy-wheel printer and dual floppy drive. It included the manuals and WordStar along with DBASE II. It is all pretty much the way it left Kaypro about 1984 or 1985.

CP/M is where DOS came from and I guess that it came from Unix in the first place. I also kick myself for not buying a still shrink wrapped copy of CP/M-86 I saw in Michigan a few years ago. Oh well I was on vacation and did not want to spend the $40.00 the guy wanted. Now I look but can't find anywhere.

I will leave this rambling at this point for now and wait for comments and I may possibly add some photos of my Osbornes here soon.


NEW - From September 1990 Byte magazine - history of Bits and Bytes and other things from 1975 (beginning of Byte) to 1990 - very interesting reading!

I have also posted a Dell Computer Catalog from 1987 here.


* Adam Osborne the founder of the Osborne Computer company passed away on March 18, 2003.
Click here for more information on this man.



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