Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Trip down Memory Lane

While working at a client site the other day, one of the people I was talking with had a memo from 10/13/1988 hanging up at his desk. This memo concerned how to use the office lighting system (which must not have changed since then), and was yellowed with age, but still readable. I joked with him about the memo and we got into a discussion of the days when "there was one modem for every 10 people". That reminded me of my first PC.....

....to tell the entire story, my parents purchased a Tandy 1000HX system in November 1987. I don't remember much about that computer, but we only had it for a while before my dad traded it in for a Tandy 1000SX. We bought it at a Radio Shack store in their "Tandy Computer Center". It had a 40 MB hard drive, 512 KB of Ram, and 5.25" and 3.5" floppy drives. It ran MS-DOS and my brother and I had a bad habit of just turning it off, which caused the hard drive to crash, thus we got a hard scolding to type C:\PARK to park the heads before shutting it down. We used this computer for years for games and general Word Perfect 5.1 applications and with work and high school I didn't use it for a long time until I got my own computer.

It was a Packard Bell desktop purchased from WalMart for $1399 in 1996. It had a 15" screen and a blazing-fast Pentium 75 with a whole 8 MB of ram and a 640 MB of hard drive. I saved up my own money and purchased a Canon BBJ-4100, one of the first color bubblejet printers for a cool sum of $318 after taxes. I still have both of the receipts, but I recall that printer cost an entire week of work. When I arrived at college shortly thereafter, I discovered that all my dorm mates loved the printer and cartridges rarely lasted a month, and no one could afford to chip in to replace it. I also realized that Packard Bell wasn't so hot, and by summer of 1998 I sold it for $350.

My next machine was a step back, but really a step forward. It was a used 486DX/66 that my dad bought at a garage sale. I loaded it with a cool 20 MB of ram, a 4.3 GB hard drive (which seemed entirely huge at the time), and a decent video card. The only thing it didn't do well was play games but it was remakably snappy for being a 486. Being at the university I had accesss to 10 Base T ethernet and enjoyed the web in high speed.

In spring 1999 I built a new machine using my mothers' credit card (thanks, Mom although I know you weren't happy at the time). It was a Celeron 300A with 128 MB Ram and an actual legal copy of Windows 98. If you remember, the 300A was the unlocked processor that was highly sought after for builders, and I picked one up cheap. I was able to get it to run at 550 Mhz at one point, but I generally kept it at 450 Mhz using my Abit BH7 motherboard. Throw in a 10 GB hard drive and a 17" flat CRT monitor (pretty good size for that time), and I was computing in style.

That computer lasted until 2002 when, after multiple hard drive crashes (now I know why OEM drives were so cheap online), I purchased a Dell Dimension 8200 desktop with Windows XP home edition. It was a P4 2.53 with 256 MB of RAMBUS ram. The computer was a great deal ($750 incl 17" CRT) but only because Dell was trying to liquidate their RAMBUS ram because it was so expensive and DDR had just come out as a competing technology. I paid $200 just to put 512 MB of ram in the computer, but by the time I sold it in 2007 for $350 I had added a 19" LCD (again, when I bought it that was HUGE and rare), a super nice 4xAGP 256 MB Radeon video card, and a 160 GB hard drive. That was the last (and best) desktop I owned and now I'm only using laptops.

In 2003 I picked up a Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop, Celeron 2.0Ghz, 512 MB ram, 40 GB HD, Intel 945 graphics card. It was cheap ($800) but had a 15" screen (1024x768). I could never get used to the screen resolution as everything was too big, and the computer was a beast, but worked well and survived two years of being totally abused in my backpack being trucked to work and back. Somehow I was able to avoid the problems that plauged that lineup (especially the 5100 and 5500) models that used full Pentium chips, somehow the CPU cooling ducts were on the bottom and would suck in dust and clog up baking the CPU. I never had any issues, and the computer worked great until the day I sold it.

In 2005 I picked up a Dell Inspiron 9300 P-M 2.0, Windows XP pro, 1 GB ram, Nvidia 6800 256MB, and 80 GB HD. This is the computer you will still see my using often as it has proven to be a true workhorse. It was one of the first 17" laptops on the market and I'm very thankful to have it, as it's been worth every penny and them some. I just used it today to do a client presentation. The only complaint I have is that the screen resolution is only 1440x900, but starting with the 9300 Dell discontinued the anti-glare HD screen and if you're read this blog before you know my opinions on that matter. I've been watching ebay and I can pick up a matte HD screen for around $200 but it doesn't seem worth it.

I won't even write about the mistake of an HP laptop purchase in 2008, but I also purchased the Apple MacBook Pro 17 in 2008. This is by far the nicest and best spec'ed out machine I've every owned, although it will be hard pressed to beat the Dell 9300 overall. It has a C2D 2.0, 4 GB ram, 320 GB HD, Nvidia 8400 GS 256 MB, and HD matte screen. I'm not crazy about the apple software, accessories, or fashion statement component that came with the purchase, but it's hard to argue with the form and design of the machine. We'll see how long I keep this one, but so far I think it was a good deal overall.

Well, that's about it for my trip down memory lane, now it's time to get back to work. Hope you enjoyed it and think about how you got started, comment on it below. Let's see who has the oldest rig still in daily service. (2005 here)

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