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Personal Computers

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    Personal Computers

    I thought it was really telling the way a board like this doesn't have any PC threads (unless I've overlooked them, but I did do a search). It's not difficult to figure out why, PCs have not changed very much in recent years. I'm hammering on a 9 year old HP with most of the letters worn off the keys.

    But I remember the 80s, 1980 specifically. That was the year I met my first wife (who later became the Home of the 3rd Fleet), a blonde from Napa with massive breasts. It's exactly what an east coaster wanted back then. I was stationed in Alameda and she was living with relatives in San Rafael, a short trip across the bridge. So I offered to buy the groceries on base (cheaper) and pay for utilities if I could move in while I was in training. </tangent>

    Her uncle was into ham radio (y-A-wn) but he had a TRS-80 4K computer and had taught it to interpret Morse code and convert the keyboard to Morse as well. So he had and over-the-air chat room with a bunch of other long-haired nerds. I think it's why I hung around networked chat rooms for decades. I learned a lot about programming in a short time. I was also converting programs from Fortran to Basic.

    After I left the Navy I got a Commodore 64 thinking I was going to make it rich in video games, in 1983. Then I got a job with DEC repairing the PDP-11 minicomputer (8" floppy drives, Winchester 20-20 hard drive, 256K RAM, 1024K PROM bank (for fixed-in-place software like banking and other stuff you don't want copied).

    Then came the IBM PC and hundreds of cheap Taiwan clones. All of them running Microsoft DOS. I knew about TRS-DOS from the Radio Shack days and RT-11 from DEC, so DOS 2.11 was easy to figure out. By 1985 I was selling computers and software in 3 states to every kind of business from a saw mill to dozens of liquor stores. I never owned a genuine IBM PC, only a series of cheap clones. But I think this is why I learned so much. There were so many compatibility issues and programmers had to be as generic as possible to ensure it ran on an IBM, Zenith, Kaypro, Data General, Victor and a variety of cheap clones.

    I had a colleague from DEC who went to work for Tandy and was my first exposure to their take on IBM compatibility. They made an odd AT called the 2000 that used the 80186 processor 720K floppy drives (5.25") and EGA graphics. It was the biggest mistake they could have made because it was not 100% compatible with the IBM. In the later 80s they finally made a PC compatible called the 1000EX that was an 8088 with a 5.25 floppy and 256K out of the box. But it also had onboard sound, 16 color CGA video and game ports already included. Features that added $500 to a regular IBM compatible, or an actual IBM. The next year they created a 286-based PC that only had an 8 bit bus called the 1000TX.

    Tandy's were overpriced in many ways, and upgrades were slim. But some of the cheaper 8-bit boards could be shoehorned into a Tandy, like a cheap Xebec 10MB hard drive controller. I was still selling higher end Kaypro 2000 and DG1 laptops to disgustingly wealthy Atlanta lawyers and financial geniuses. I sold 36 laptops to a company that made office walls before the term cubicle was common. I used my commission to buy into an Audi 5000 turbo, a car I loved dearly. And the car loved me to0! Because it fucked me every chance it could. I had a sideline business repairing the DEC LA-120 printer which became the favorite of anyone printing on pinfeed paper in 4 part forms. I also sold a board that converted the 600 baud LA-36 into a 1200 baud!!!

    What I figured out about Tandy though was that they were very durable computers. They didn't break often or even at all. Which is why they beat Apple repeatedly for the sales to school systems. Tandy had an army of specialists who could customize systems for a city's schools down to the youngest kid and oldest cafeteria worker. But they also had a department that made fantastic school management software. I know this because they defeated me many times going after schools. I did pretty well with smaller private schools, a market Tandy didn't care about. Tandy computers were in schools for nearly 20 years.

    I did not shed a tear when they bankrupted except for the fond memories of buying shit from them like 8 tracks, CB Radios and fuses. And I guess Tandy launched my computer career. It helped me move up in the Navy. Till I burned out and craved freedom.


      Since 2000 I have primarily used a major name laptop. I had a desktop clone until around 2005, when I started going back to HF/ Since about 2007 I don't notice more than incremental changes to the experience as opposed to the throughput technology. It's the same with cars. Put a Nissan, Toyota and a BMW beside each other. They all look like a used bar of soap. The money went primarily to the aesthetics while pushed by 19th century wildly inefficient reciprocating engines.

      If cars weren't a rolling fashion show, would they maybe be getting 50 miles per gallon?

      Every port on my HP is doing something. One of the USB ports is for a bluetooth because this antique doesn't have it onboard. I have to use it because my audio port was destroyed when a dog yanked my headphones in some weird way. I have an HDMI port and a VGA port, so I have 3 screens without affecting performance enough to worry about. I do wish I had more RAM though.

      Something I really hate is the way software is heading toward subscription-only access. I HATE that kind of shit.