Saturday, November 11, 2006

A brief history


This post contains many much boring facts about a particular history in my life that many readers may have no interest in whatsoever. I apologize in advance to those disinterested folks.

Hopefully this isn’t my last post. I’m about to do something that some may consider to be tremendously stupid. My computer works ok right now, but I imagine sometime in the near future, that will not be the case. My problem stems from the fact that the hard drive containing the OS is tiny by today’s standards. It’s only a 20 GB (really 18.6, but that’s one of the fun lies you can get away with in technology) hard drive.

The stupid plan is as follows: I will clone my tiny little hard drive onto a nice, new 160 GB hard drive and hopefully never have to worry about this again. I store all my pictures and videos and music and word documents and other such stuff on a separate storage drive. Last time my OS drive crashed and I lost all of my programs, I wasn’t that mad because most things of value were on the storage drive, which was fine. I’m about to embark on my first hard drive cloning experience. I hope it’s a good one.

Before I go ruin my computer though, I thought I’d remind myself and all my readers of my family’s computing history. I remember our first computer. It was a keyboard inside a wooden box. My greatest regret is that I don’t have a picture of it. I’m a little shaky on the specs, but I remember it had no hard drive. It operated solely off of the floppy drive. And they really were floppies back then. Sometimes I miss those delicate, 5 ¼” floppies… The other notable factor was that it was built by my father out of a kit I believe he bought at radio shack. I’m not entirely sure about that because I was probably about 10 at the time, but I remember being very excited about learning things on that little wooden box. I learned my first dos commands on that machine. I once wrote a very simple program consisting mainly of IF commands wherein my sisters would input their birthdays and the computer would spit back their names. My 4 and 5 year old sisters were very impressed by that magic box.

After that, I have vague memories of playing terrible text only, chose your own adventure games on the commodore 64. There was the football game where I had all of 6 plays I could run. Three running plays and 3 passing plays. Just like the NFL. I think I could punt too, but when you’re playing a video game, is punting ever really an option? That machine hung out for awhile, but again, no actual hard drive, only a floppy.

When the commodore 64 became obsolete (I’m not sure, but I think that happened about 2 weeks before it was actually released), we started in with the PC. First a 286, then a 386, and I vividly remember the day we upgraded to our 486 66 mhz DX. It had an amazing 8 mb of ram, a fancy new 3 1/2 “ floppy drive and a 350 mb hard drive. I remember my dad and I joking about how with 350 megabytes, the storage possibilities were virtually limitless!! (I think this would be the equivalent of showing up at a formula one race today and bragging about your new .5 horse power lawn mower engine powered go cart.) We couldn’t fathom ever needing another hard drive again. It was just too much space! We had previously had a 50 megabyte hard drive that we hadn’t yet filled up. Yes, we were on the cutting edge.

Soon we hooked up a 1200 baud modem and were exploring the exciting world of BBSs… It would only take an average of 5 minutes for the computers to make their handshake and start talking. Lightning quick!! And whisper quiet too! (ok, that was a bit of a lie… anyone in the dialup community knows the horrific sound of a modem connecting.) The internet was a bit more text based back then and a much more intimate, peer to peer sort of thing.

We hung on to the 486 for quite some time. In fact, I believe it’s still in use in some far off, linux only, quarantined corner of the house. After a bit of a break, the computer upgrades started happening again. I think my mom wanted her own, so she got a nice new machine with a 500 mhz processor and a mind numbing 64 mb of ram. In ’98 when I went away to college, I decided I need a computer to take with me but that a desktop wasn’t practical, so I bought my first laptop. A 200 mhz processor with 32 mb of ram and a gargantuan 4 gigabyte hard drive. I still have that laptop, but it’s a bit of a glorified calculator. It can’t handle much more than one program at a time, and then not for very long. The battery is pretty fried, so it has to be plugged in almost all the time.

After that, I came home from college and built my own computer. It started off with a 20 gigabyte hard drive that I’m still currently using. All the other parts have changed so many times in the past 7 years it’s hard to say exactly how many computers I’ve had. I’ve been through a handful of motherboards, video cards, towers and power supplies. Gone from 64 megabytes of ram all the way up to the 1.5 gigs I have now. It never really stops. I’m finally going to replace that old 20 gb hard drive and possibly ruin the computer in the process. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some equipment to break…


Anonymous said...

The original computer was made by Ohio Scientific. It had a 6502 processor (like an Apple Computer) and everything was on a single printed circuit board. You did not get a case back then, so thats why I put it in a wooden box. I think it cost about $500.

This was not really a PC; those were not yet available. It did not have a floppy drive either. You stored programs on a cassette tape. It took about 5 minutes to load or save a typical program. There was no monitor, it was connected to an old B&W TV. The screen had 40 columns and 20 rows of text characters. There were also some graphics characters you could use.

The standard Ohio Scientific came with 4 KB (that`s Kilobytes) of RAM. I went wild and got the 4 KB upgrade for a total of 8 KB.

That computer was the first one available with floating point BASIC, which is why I got it. It was lost in the Great Garage Purge some years back. Too bad. It might be worth something today as an antique...

Radioactive Jam said...

Jon, if your cloning activity works out okay, I'd like to send you something else to clone if you don't mind. But first, can you give me some idea just how much human dna you'd need, and will hair "samples" be okay?

Also I'm not at liberty to say who provided the samples, and please don't ask if they were taken without permission.

omar said...

Our family's first computer was an Apple IIc back in 1984. It was pretty awesome. 128KB of RAM. There were some pretty sweet games for it (including my first EA Sports experience, Julius Erving vs. Larry Bird one-on-one basketball).

Good luck with the cloning.

cadiz12 said...

our first computer was this huge box that had a briefcase handle on it. it must have been around 1984. on one of the short ends was a tiny monitor (think portable tv screens from about ten years ago) and a keyboard that popped off and was connected by a spiral cord. my dad loved carrying around that thing and then opening it up and "upgrading" it.

i think all i used it for was "pong."

hope you got humpty dumpty together again.