For me it all started with this one:
…standing in the corner of the mathematics classroom. I was 13 and we’re talking the early 80’s of the previous century. Yes, quite a while ago.
I spent hours and hours after school sitting in that classroom with a friend. Loading programs that were supplied on the tapes and trying to figure out what this things called ‘BASIC’ is. We build small programs:
10 print "Erwin" 20 goto 10
Those programs grew a bit, but never that much. I mean, there was a whopping 3.5 KB free memory, and this keyboard didn’t really invite to long typing sessions:
But wow… what an exciting world I stepped in. It made me the master of machine. It did what I wanted it to do. That felt amazing.
Me and my friend spent so much time after school in that room that in the end they gave us the keys to the school. We could go in and out when we wanted. The fact that I had to do a 30 minute bike ride to get to the school never stopped me either.
My parents realized pretty fast that there was something going on between and that computer. That I felt connected to it.
#8 bits One Saturday they told me to join them into town. We came home with this:
Pretty much the same machine as the PET 2001, without the built-in tape deck and you had to hook it up to a TV instead.
Hours, days, weeks I was sitting behind it. I bought magazines which had code in it for games. E.g. you typed in lines and lines of hexadecimal values and when done you ended up with a very basic game. And then when I was done playing and turned off the computer, it was all gone. As I didn’t have this one yet:
The one came a few months later. A world opened itself. I was able to save my programs, and continue with them a day later! Mind-blowing :-)
Hooked up to a black and white TV, I spent 2 years building useless programs that bleeped, did things with colors and played games.
It was time to do an upgrade. The most natural choice was to go for the Commodore 64, but instead I ended up with
and after a while with it’s bigger brother, the 800XL which had 64KB of internal memory instead of 16KB.
My programs became more complex, using more advanced techniques, but I was still coding in BASIC. Lots of
A diskdrive came into play and made it much easier to share programs with friends. My world expanded a bit as through classified ads magazines I came in touch with fellow owners of the Atari (remember, the internet wasn’t really there for us consumers).
#16 bits I outgrew the 800XL after a while and moved up in the Atari range to
To me at the time a revolutionary machine. Graphical UI, mouse, MIDI connections. Wow.
It’s with the Atari ST that I got in touch with a more mature version of Basic: GfA Basic. Rich, structured and no more line numbers! It compiled into a binary, and suddenly it was much easier to distribute your programs. I bought a modem (I had a side job filling up shelves at the local supermarket) and found out about the world of BBSes. I build a program that allowed you to graphically create a navigational structure for something called QuickBBS. Until then you had to manually edit the menu structure in text files but with my tool one could graphically edit the structure. It wasn’t popular ;-)
Then I ran into FidoNet (we are talking 1988/1989 now) Okay, this was it. I saw my future online. I ended up with my own address (see the wiki article on how FidoNet worked). Suddenly I was able to write messages to people on the other side of the world and those messages would arrive in days! (yes, days… due to the store and forward system of FidoNet it could take some time again for a message to arrive at the designated node, read the article).
I sticked with the Atari ST for quite some time. I hooked it up to a (musical) keyboard with MIDI, and started to use things like Steinberg Pro24 to make music.
#32 bits Like a few years after that I moved professionally into IT, bought a PC, and never looked back at the Atari ST. But the older I’m getting the more I miss that ‘feeling’ you had with those machines. Somehow you connected more to them than to a PC nowadays. Maybe it just me being nostalgic.
Music I still make with my computer. I upgraded my equipment, moved to Cubase on the PC, and I bought those synthesizers that I always wanted as a teenager but could never afford.