My First Computer...

I was listening to a podcast today and it made me think about my very first days of programming.  My first computer was a Commodore 64.  It was an 8-bit processor with integrated color and sound boards which made it great for running computer games and doing simple programming.  I got the Commodore 64 as a Christmas present in December of 1982.  

I remember they bought it at Service Merchandise in Gastonia, NC.  Service Merchandise had a catalog showroom which meant you got to shop around with an order form and tiny pencil.  Once you had finished your shopping you would go to the service desk and hope that they had the goods in house.  Once the order was placed you went to a long hallway and got to watch your order come out on a conveyer belt.   When I was a kid I thought this was the coolest thing in the world, now that I am an adult I would find it annoying. ;-)

Anyway the Commodore 64 cost almost $300 USD.  Since we didn’t have much money it was a BIG deal that my parents forked out that much money.  So I knew if I took it home and let it collect dust my butt would get tanned.  

I can still remember opening up the box.  It had that strange “electronics” smell that used to permeate from old school TVs, CB radios and recording devices.  I remember it was swaddled in a custom fit styrofoam clam shell container.  This was the old school styrofoam that used to make your fingers feel funny and make a distinct crackling noise when you would break it apart. 

Since the Commodore 64 worked with an RF modulator I could hook it up in just a few seconds.  I just needed to swap the cable to my Atari 2800 with the cable to the Commodore 64.  Plug in the Commodore to the power adapter and hit the on button.

I can remember being really disappointed when I turned it on.  Up came a blue screen with a little white box blinking.  I swear it was blinking F.U. in morse code.  Actually this was the Commodore BASIC 2.0 environment which loaded up by default.  I can remember typing HELLO and the computer replying with some sort of error message.  What a BUMMER!

Anyway I dug into the BASIC manual and started writing some simple games.  Sadly I did not have a cassette recorder so I could save my programs off to physical media.  This meant that as soon as I turned off the computer I lost all my work.  :-(  I remember my uncle hacked together a small converter box that let me connect a standard tape recorder to the C64 cassette connector.  The hack only worked about half the time because of the crappy tape recorder we had at the time. :-\

One of my favorite places to get BASIC programs and inspiration was the oldBYTE magazine.  

When I think of BYTE magazine I think of the issue where they covered the Macintosh.  I remember the magazine was as thick as a modern day GQ magazine.  Just packed with ads, product reviews and code samples.  The BASIC code samples where what I wanted.  I sort of remember writing a program that would allow me to simulate flying a hot air ballon with varying wind currents.  That program was a lot of fun to build. 

Anyway thanks for taking this trip with me down memory lane.  

So, what was your first computer?