Your first computer?

Lifehacker asked the interesting question: when did you get your first computer? My “first” depends on your definition.

The first computer we had at home was an old Packard Bell purchased in 1989 or 1990. It was a glorious 286 running at 12MHz with 1MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. Due to the limitations of MS-DOS 3.32, the drive was split into a 32MB and 8MB partition. It included a fancy VGA video card and monitor capable of 640×480 in 256 colors. Later, it had an 8-bit Sound Blaster knock-off and 3-button mouse added to it.

The first PC that was mine was a hand-me-down from my grandfather around 1992. It was still a 286 but running at a speedy 20MHz. It had a solid 10MB of RAM (2MB in 30-pin SIMMs, 8MB on an expansion card) and a pair of 40MB hard drives on the archaic ST-506 interface. The video card was only EGA, and the monitor probably came close to giving me cancer. He even threw in an old Diablo daisywheel printer that shook the entire desk during a print. It eventually got a 16-bit Turtle Beach Monte Carlo and a blisteringly-fast quad-speed CD-ROM drive.

The first one I finally built myself recycled a bunch of pieces from the old 286 around 1994. I upgraded to a 486 running at 75MHz with an IBM Blue Lightning motherboard. I started with 8MB of RAM and later expanded to a mind-boggling 40MB. The hard drive was updated to a huge 200MB drive I purchased on my own for $220 on a CompUSA special, and a Tseng ET4000 VLB video card rounded out the graphics. My crowning achievement was booting the rig into MS-DOS 6.22 with 634K of free conventional memory with sound, VESA, mouse, and CD-ROM support. Duke Nukem and TIE Fighter would really fly.

While I’ve built and rebuilt a number of boxes since then, those first ones hold a special place for me. What about you? Do you remember your first PC?

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1 Response

  1. Ogrepete says:

    Our families first computer was an IBM PC-XT with a full-height 5 MB hard drive – we later upgraded it to a half-height 10 MB hard drive. DOS limited you to 640K of RAM back then, but we didn’t even have that. I can’t remember what the graphics capabilities were back then, but I definitely do remember replacing the file once with one from a floppy drive. Yep, I was trying to get a game to run… 🙂

    It took Dad a while to figure out how to get the computer back on its feet after that.

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