March 3, 2002
6:50 AM   Subscribe

If you're an old geek like me, you'll enjoy a nostalgic browse through the collection at OLD-COMPUTERS.COM. If you're a young geek, you can laugh at all the boxen that we used to think were cutting edge 20 years ago. What system currently in use today will be the Intertec Superbrain of 2020?
posted by MrBaliHai (24 comments total)
Oooers, this takes me back. I remember learning Basic in 11th grade on a TRS-80 Model III and using an Apple IIe in the school library. My high school boyfriend had an Atari 800, and he once set up a little program to make the screen cycle through different colors so we could turn off the lights to create a sorta disco feel while we danced in his room. What a perfect little geek nostalgia trip this site is!
posted by apollonia6 at 7:30 AM on March 3, 2002

I worked for Cray Research back in the mid-80s. We used Superbrains to simulate the boolean states of the Cray-2 floating-multiply unit for assembly language instructions. It took 45 minutes for each operation. Even back then we called them "Stuporbrains" because they were so sluggish. They also ate floppy disks at an alarming rate, a fact noted on the website to my great amusement. When I moved on to Cray Computer Corp in Colorado to work on the Gallium Arsenide version of the Cray-3 5 years later, we upgraded to Apples; they only took 10 minutes to do the same simulations.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:38 AM on March 3, 2002

Great link, MrBaliHai. I remembered why I never did get that NeXT Cube - $6500 it cost, back in 1988! If you factored in inflation(i.e.knew, unlike me, how to do it)there's probably no single super-duper personal computer you could buy today for all that money...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:05 AM on March 3, 2002

My first: the TI 99/4A. I was about 11, and had been introduced to BASIC in school. I wrote a program that drew a tennis court (in some sort of extended ascii) and simulated a ball bouncing from one court to the other. My grandmother was impressed.
posted by jpoulos at 8:42 AM on March 3, 2002

Miguel: $9725.27, as of 2001. Thanks and a tip o' the hat to the Inflation Calculator. That's actually not bad. Inflation in the US has been under decent control for the past decade, unlike the 70's. Yes, you could buy a pretty sweet PC for almost $10K, though. Add some RAID, a couple of CPU's and a motherboard that can use them, a nice large monitor or three... ah, I think I could burn through it. Oh, and my first PC was an Apple //c, in 1985 if memory serves. First software: Zork! First program: a Mandelbrot set generator. Can you imagine how slowly it ran on a 65c02 at 1Mhz?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:50 AM on March 3, 2002

My first PC was a ZX Spectrum with 48k. I remember spending 2 days typing in a game from a book (I think it was a Pacman clone), only to spend another week and a half debugging it.

The computer I really wanted at the time was an Amstrad CPC 464 because it had proper keys, a built in tape deck, and, if you were really rich, you could buy a monitor for it.
posted by crustygeek at 9:34 AM on March 3, 2002

One more thing this thread has brought back to my mind:

"It is very dark. If you continue you are likely to be eaten by a grue."
posted by apollonia6 at 9:46 AM on March 3, 2002

I'm using my first-ever computer, a 400MHz Dell Dimension, but I'm anticipating the day when it and stuff like it (Storage devices with moving parts, a display unit consisting of a huge tank of vacuum that requires the user to stare at it) is considered low-tech and amusingly quaint.
posted by alumshubby at 10:12 AM on March 3, 2002

The first portable has disk drives bigger than the screen!
posted by rschram at 10:16 AM on March 3, 2002

Ah!...back before every stupid little minor app and utility (and OS) pissed all over gobs of RAM.
posted by HTuttle at 10:25 AM on March 3, 2002

Try not to make y'all feel old, but our first computer was a 286. Remember the first game i played was some AD&D game. And RAM used to cost more than the PC itself. Even for a youngen like me, those were the days sitting in IRC with those amazing 2400 baud when people actually had to know what they were doing.
posted by jmd82 at 11:06 AM on March 3, 2002

Try not to make y'all feel old, but our first computer was a 286. Remember the first game i played was some AD&D game. And RAM used to cost more than the PC itself. Even for a youngen like me, those were the days sitting in IRC with those amazing 2400 baud modems when people actually had to know what they were doing.
posted by jmd82 at 11:06 AM on March 3, 2002

I have an XT motherboard hanging on my wall.
posted by Apoch at 11:29 AM on March 3, 2002

I have my EX mother-in-law hanging on the wall!
posted by HTuttle at 11:30 AM on March 3, 2002

I still have my BBC Master (which I've had since I was about 8 or so!) at home gathering dust... it still works, so every now and again I dig it out so I can play the original version of 'Elite'. It's all good. Nifty site - I particulary like that it links to emulators of the various different computers.
posted by jzed at 11:33 AM on March 3, 2002

Timex Sinclair 1000 (with 16K memory add-on). Membrane keyboard. For storage you used a portable cassette player.

That Osborn really brings back memories. I remember reading the computer magazines and seeing this touted as a "portable computer." Look at the thing! It's huge (and yet the screen is the size of a camcorder screen)!
posted by pardonyou? at 11:36 AM on March 3, 2002

What, no Ontel Amigo? (The most obscure computer ever?) They also don't, quite, have the first computer I ever owned, a Zenith Z-100. Good to see they have a Pet, though.
posted by rodii at 11:40 AM on March 3, 2002

That Osborn really brings back memories.

I was at a party a couple of years ago and the host dragged an Osborne out of his closet. The screen area was actually smaller than the raster projected by the CRT! You had to manueuver the raster around with the cursor in order to see the entire screen. We imagined a world where everyone on an airplane would haul their Osborne out of the overhead bin (all 25-lbs of it) and work on their spreadsheets while wearing giant magnifying glasses so they could read that tiny screen. Very "Brazil".
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:20 PM on March 3, 2002

My first computer was a Macintosh SE. It was very good. And I still have a fifty-pound ApplePrinter, which cost about $1000, scrunched anything you fed it and woke the dead while it ate - with seven two-mile ink cartridges, still in their bleak white packaging, if anyone's interested...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:04 PM on March 3, 2002

There's my first computer and there's my favourite computer.

In a way it's a shame that there are no new machines listed after 1994. Even if new ones came out I reckon they must be pretty obscure. We wont see that kind of explosion of ingenuity in our toys for a while. But there are some genuinely good machines there (if you forgive their quirks) - things like the old QL were really really cool for the time/money. And what with the whole mess that Amiga turned into...
posted by jackiemcghee at 3:12 PM on March 3, 2002

It warmed my heart to see my first machine here. I flung newspapers from my bike for a 8 months to buy that thing when I was 11, then another 6 months to get the cassette deck to save my programs(what can I say, the folks on my route were lousy tippers).
I learned BASIC on that thing, I remember reading in Discover magazine that a buncha scientists had cooked up a new equation to measure the prowess of baseball players.
So I sat down with my Vic-20 manual and stack of 1980 Topps and cooked up a program which I sent into Compute! magazine(how's that for geek nostalgia?). They sent it back to me with a form letter, my first introduction to the vagaries of the adult world.
posted by jonmc at 5:36 PM on March 3, 2002

Aw, darn. I was *so* hoping to see an Ontel OP-1. That was my first word-processing system and it was better by far than anything I've used since. I used it till it died and I still mourn its loss. RIP Ontel OP-1.

(The reason their word program was so good was that every secretary at Ontel had the system on her desk and anytime she found anything that didn't work right by her standards, she collared the nearest programmer, explained what she needed the program to do, and he'd fix it.)
posted by realjanetkagan at 7:15 PM on March 3, 2002

Oh look! It's the first computer my family ever had! The first computer I had that was just mine was the TI 99/4A.

My heart just about broke when I learned that my father gave both of those computers away in 1995.
posted by eilatan at 7:17 PM on March 3, 2002

My fist PC was a DigiComp, from Edmund Scientific... (him too)...scroll a bit

Then a long void until finding a discarded Compaq portable(!) in a Manhattan alley which worked fine after carefully cleaning off all the alley dirt and adding a used keyboard. Learned C on that sucker!
posted by HTuttle at 7:42 PM on March 3, 2002

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