What was the first computer you used?

Discussion in 'Computer Science & Culture' started by Zillion, Mar 31, 2018.

  1. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

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    I want a Loki 7281. I will reach a meeting of the minds with it.
     
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  3. TheFrogger Registered Senior Member

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    Amstrad complete with tape deck. Programable though. That was the best thing about it.
     
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I'm like Someguy. With me it was an IBM 1620 running Fortran. Programs were decks of punchcards that I would submit at the counter and wait to get my (inevitable and incomprehensible) error messages back maybe a day later.

    I found the whole experience so horrendous it put me off computers for the rest of my life.
     
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  7. Dr_Toad It's green! Valued Senior Member

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    Hey, at least it wasn't LISP....
     
  8. Xelor Registered Senior Member

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    • First computer of any sort: I have no idea what kind of computer it was. I know only that it was whatever computer my school had installed and to which we students were given "dumb terminal" access so we could write BASIC programs. At the time, computer programming was part of the pre-calculus curriculum. It was 1975, and I was a 10th grader. I have no idea of whether the image below is the exact one we used, but it's what they looked like.

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    • First personal computing device of any sort: probably a 1970s era calculator. I had a TI calculator that looked something like this:

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    • First personal computer: an early 1980s Commodore. I used it to play text-based game called "Adventure."

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      Eat food. LOL

      I don't recall that I did anything else with that computer.
     
  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I had a similar experience to Yazata. The first experience of a computer was a university machine that used Fortran on punched cards. One would hand in a stack of cards at the hatch and the following morning get a notice saying there had been an error so it wouldn't run. Often it was something like a semicolon instead of a colon. Soul-destroying. That would have been about 1975.

    (We had a calculator in the Physical Chemstry Lab - one - that was screwed down, so it couldn't be stolen. The rest of us used mechanical calculating machines, if we needed more precision than a slide rule, the latter sufficing for most purposes. A good slide rule was a badge of a proper scientist when I was in the 6th form. I've still got mine. So if Putin brings down all our IT systems, I can still calculate to 3 sig. figs.

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    )

    After that I left computers alone until we got a personal computer in the Dubai office of Shell, a decade later. I ran spreadsheets in something called Multiplan, which worked rather well. I had my own PC for the first time in the London office, in 1987, when email was just starting to replace telex.
     
  10. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    My first computer that I bought was when SLI was relatively new. I was running an AMD chip 4 gigs of ram and two top of line video cards.

    Some horror stories that I read here would have melted next to that one. Right now I'm thinking to get a PC good enough for VR.
     
  11. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    So that would have been about 2000, I suppose.
     
  12. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    Around 2007.
     
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I remember it being a little competitive with slide rules among the science and engineering students back in the day (kind of like kids and cell-phones today I guess). The better slide rule a science or engineering student had, the cooler they were (in that nerdy subculture). Some carried their slide rules in holster-like cases that hung from their belts, suggesting that they were ready for anything, always ready to calculate. I think that I still have my slide rule somewhere, in a box in the basement or something.

    I think that I understood the fundamentals of computer programming well enough, but there were always little typing and syntax errors in my keypunching that screwed everything up when I tried to run my programs. (I wasn't as familiar with a keyboard as I am now.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, at school the hypercool thing was a cylindrical (spiral) slide rule! The longer scale was supposed to give you 4 sig figs instead the standard 3 with a linear one. But frankly, one almost never needed more than 3 sig fig accuracy for anything we did, so it was a bit of a poseur's tool.

    Something in me still thinks, absurdly, that a real scientist should have a slide rule, even now!.......
     
  15. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Ah OK.
     
  16. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I remember seeing pictures of the cylindrical ones, but don't remember any of our students or professors using one. Circular slide rules were the exotics for us. But whatever slide rule it was, it had to be big with lots of scales on both sides (even if we rarely used most of them). There were white and yellow ones, mine was yellow metal with a leather case, but I never wore it as a fashion accessory hanging from my belt. (I was a biology student and white lab coats were our fashion statement.)
     
  18. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Mine is just single-sided and white plastic but it (still, I've just checked) slides smoothly, with no stick-slip, which is the most critical thing. It has x, x^2, log x e^x, e^0.1x, sin, sintan and tan. And that was quite enough for a 4yr chemistry degree including quantum chemistry supplementary subject and a research year. Not sure I can remember how to use all those options now!

    P.S. Although calculators are of course far easier and more flexible to use, one thing I slightly regret is the loss of the instinct I developed for assessing orders of magnitude. These are of course not calculated by a slide rule, so one reduced everything to "standard form" (p.qr x 10^n) and did the orders of magnitude oneself.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
  19. mmatt9876 Registered Senior Member

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    My first computer was a HP laptop with Windows Vista that I got back in 2008 while I was in college. My parents had both a Mac and a Windows desktop computer sometime back in the 90s when I was a kid but I do not remember the model names or operating systems. I believe those two computers were my parents first computers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Exchemist's remarks have gotten me interested in slide rules again (after a 40+ year hiatus). Poking around the internet...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slide_rule

    Here's a page from the University of Utah about how slide rules work. (It's all about logarithms.) I'd forgotten many of these scales, since I never used them. And I never did most of the more complex operations described here. But it shows what the old slip-stick jockeys could do with them.

    https://www.math.utah.edu/~pa/sliderules/

    It begins: "There was a time when electronic calculators did not yet exist. This did not stop us from doing complicated things, like going to the moon, figuring out the double helix, or designing the Boeing 747. In those days, when we needed to compute things, we used slide rules which were marvelous and beautiful instruments!"

    It's true! Before cell phones, personal computers and pocket calculators, scientists and engineers weren't just grunting and hitting rocks together. (Though many did do that.)

    Since the 17th century they were using these beautiful manual analog computers, which came in many specialized variants. And they are beautiful! In order to work they had to be precise, and that precision is obvious on their face and kind of defined an entire engineering aesthetic that reached its culmination in the 1960's. It's what sent men to the Moon! And as Exchemist suggests, it wasn't just a matter of punching keys on a calculator. The nature of the thing kind of forced people to understand a little of what they were doing.

    People collect slide rules. There's actually an organization of slide rule collectors and slide rule historians, the Oughtred Society (in Britain, naturally). It's named for William Oughtred who in 1622, soon after John Napier's discovery of logarithms, inscribed them on rulers and used them for calculation, thus inventing the slide rule. (He also invented the 'x' symbol for multiplication, and some of the terminology for trigonometry.)

    http://www.oughtred.org/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Oughtred

    They have a beginners' guide to collecting slide rules.

    http://www.oughtred.org/books/BeginnersGuideToCollectingSlideRules131022.pdf

    Exchemist might be interested in this article from the Journal of the Oughtred Society on specialized chemistry slide rules.

    http://www.oughtred.org/jos/articles/V21.2_p08-15.pdf

    Here's what my old slide rule looks like. (This one isn't mine, I got the photo off Amazon where somebody is selling his.) Apparently people are getting hundreds of dollars/pounds/euros for them now. (They aren't junk any longer and have become historical relics, engineering antiques.) Mine is an old Pickett in mint condition, very similar to this one, so it might be worth something.

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    Last edited: Apr 23, 2018
  21. Dr_Toad It's green! Valued Senior Member

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    I have a K&E Log Log Duplex Decitrig, model 4081-3, and used it for years. The poor thing has yellowed with age, but I take it apart every couple of years to clean it and refamiliarize myself with using it.
     
  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    This is a picture I found of the same model as mine (left hand end): http://www.petergh.f2s.com/instruments/thornton-02.jpg

    I forgot to mention that of course it also had a 1/x (CI) scale. Quite useful.

    But no K scale for cube roots. Suppose for those I'd have resorted to taking the log, dividing by 3 and taking the antilog again. I've just checked with 27 and I do get 3 after a bit of manipulation with the slide rule, though as the log x scale only goes up 1.0 (i.e. 10) one has to reduce to standard form again and add 1 or 2 etc to get the powers of ten right. Golly! Yeah, you did need to know a bit of maths to use these things.

    Fancy roots were not that common, though they did crop up with things like specific heats of gases and adiabatic gas laws.
     
  23. Janus58 Valued Senior Member

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    HP9830A

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    It was the computer we used in my programming class during my senior year of high school. We had just one which the whole class had to share. Single line 32 character display, BASIC programmable with 16k of memory. The thermal printer shown here was an optional accessory.

    The first computer I ever owned was a TRS-80 pocket computer.

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