Your First Computer


CNET asked a number of computer professionals what their first computer was. Jean Bartik’s was an ENIAC—now that’s cool. As I recall my parents got mine—a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A—for me when I was in grade school, after I had pestered them to get a computer (my dad had let me play with the new Macintoshes at work).

With 3MHz and 16K RAM, it had less processing power than some of my current kitchen appliances. But it came with a cartridge for the BASIC programming language, which changed my life. I used an accompanying book to learn BASIC, even following complicated instructions for creating a crude video game.

I remember two peripheral devices: one was a “drive”; basically a modified tape player that would record files to an ordinary audio cassette. The other was a voice synthesizer, which as I recall didn’t do much worse than the Festival speech synthesizer on my current Linux box. TI was ahead of its time in many ways.

What computer was your first?


  1. The closest thing I had to a first computer was a Radio Shack Tandy Color Computer that my grandfather owned and I used often when I went to his house. I remember the sound of the cassette tapes we used to save our “programs…”

    I longed for a computer of my own, but in the early 1980s, my family didn’t even own a TV set to hook it up to.

    I think I’ve made up for it today, though… :-)

  2. You’ve got me wondering whether that TI-99/4A is still up in our attic somewhere.

    In the early ’80s, my dissertation was keyboarded on a Murrow, which had an operating sysem incompatible with everything else in the world. But that was far too complicated a job for me to do myself. Out of the kindness of their hearts, my sister-in-law Darlene typed the manuscript and my brother George did the formatting.

    I remember when BJU got its first Macs in 1984, something user-friendly enough for me to handle. I even remember the first question I asked in the computer lab, “How do you get that blinking line to come over here?”

  3. I think our first computer was a TRS-80 (complete with tape deck peripheral). I don’t remember getting much use out of it. Life changed forever when my dad brought home a MacPlus with 1MB of RAM and a 10GB zero footprint hard drive. I think the whole setup put him back about $4k.

    Hope you and Melita are doing well–not sure exactly how I ended up on your blog, but it’s great to hear how you-all are doing.

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