Thanks for the IBM PC, Dad

You spent $4,500 on the IBM PCs we have at home? The one you brought home one sunny evening as I was causing great amounts of stress for one of our baby-sitters?

I vividly recall the sun beginning to make it’s downward journey to the horizon, casting a pink glow on the clouds as you walked the gray and blue IBM box up the hill to our front steps.

A humble thank you for having lugged that model 5150 home and teaching me EasyWriter, how to use a BBS, and attempting to teach me Pascal and Assembly.

If you ever said to yourself, “Someday, he’ll thank me for this,” you were right.

Thank you.

That would have been the price with every option and all the software. I did not get the $600 Epson printer, nor even the last 16 B of memory. I got it with 48 KB and bought the last 16 KB through mail order. I didn’t get the UCSD operating system nor its Pascal, FORTRAN, etc.

It was around $2,800, I guess. I still have the paperwork, if you want to check.

IBM PCDad brought home the first IBM PC (model 5150) in 1981. We got two such machines, even though the schools were outfitted with Apple II machines. This had something to do with the fact that my father is an IBM employee, and at that time IBM inspired great amounts of company loyalty.

It didn’t matter much that we had IBM machines at home and Apple II machines at school; LOGO and BASIC used the same commands, and the programs I wrote at school ran just fine at home.

We ended up hot-rodding those machines to just about the greatest extent that anyone could.

My brother’s machine was the one we bought as the family computer, and it had TV video support, 640KB of RAM, a full-height 5.25″ drive, a half-height 5.25″ drive, and a half-height 3.5″ drive, with a game card that my Dad added a clock to and a CGA video card. (We never did do EGA, and Dad added the clock simply because we got tired of setting the time every time we booted.) It started life with 48 B and a regular monochrome card. The TV video support was a third party option my father obtained by mail-order.

Mine had one full height 5.25″, a half height 5.25″, and a 10 MB hard disk, which was added after I had stopped using it full time. It had the Hercules monochrome graphics adapter as well as a CGA adapter, 640 KB, and joysticks on an “AST 6-pack” – clock, game, memory, plus one parallel and two serial ports.

We still have both computers.

Just as 3.5″ floppies went from 400K to 800K on the Macintosh, the original 3.5″ PC floppy disks started at 720K and then went to 1.4 MB.

I have various models of PS/2 machines, the machine IBM introduced with the Micro Channel Adapter card standard, which clone manufacturers rejected due to the high licensing fee and no perceived need for a 32-bit bus at that time. Micro Channel isn’t entirely dead, however. It lives on in every machine equipped with a PCI card. IBM designed the heck out of the connector for Micro Channel, and when the PCI Special Interest Group formed, IBM agreed to let PCI use the connector and other parts of Micro Channel in the new standard.

During this time I had occasionally used Macs but never owned one. The screens were small, they weren’t made by IBM, and they didn’t feel like real computers. The only time in my formative years when I ever considered a Macintosh as remotely cool was when Computer Shopper ran an article on how to build your own Macintosh. Computer Shopper used to be a publication for “wires and pliers” hackers. It has since dissolved into a publication I find uncompelling.

I now use a heterogeneous network at home consisting of a few IBM laptops, a G4, an iMac, and an x86 Linux box, with AirPort for the laptops, but I never would have got to this point if it hadn’t been for that late summer day when Dad brought home the first IBM Personal Computer.

Thanks, Dad.Want to share your own My First Mac story? Visit our My First Mac forum and let us know!

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