My Computer History

My very first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000 that my parents won in some kind of mail order contest back in 1982. This beast was about 10″ x 8″ and about an inch think. It connected to my portable black & white television, had an expansion slot in the back, hookups for a tape player to store data on, and was the only computer I ever owned that could be run off of a 9 volt battery. It sucked but I loved it.

It came with a few games on cassette and I spent months modifying the games and personalizing them for me and my brother. It came with a catalog of external devices you could hook up to it like crappy little thermal printers, 16k memory expansion cards, etc. What I really wanted was the 300 baud modem for $50 but my dad refused to let me buy it even after I managed to save up enough money for it. “What the heck would you connect to?” he’d ask. I didn’t know, I just wanted one – I didn’t even know that BBSes existed then. I think he was a little worried about my infatuation with the movie Wargames and the fact that I watched it every single time it came on HBO.

My 2nd computer wasn’t mine, but I’m pretty sure that I spent more time on it than anyone else ever did – it was the public library’s Apple IIe. I don’t even remember what I did on it all day, I just know that my Timex Sinclair wasn’t cutting it anymore so I’d spend all day after school on the library’s Apple and sometimes I’d even skip my lunch at school to run across the street to the library and sit in front of the Apple for 20 minutes.

In 1984, I think it was, I got my TRS-80 Color Computer from Radio Shack as a Christmas or birthday present (I can’t remember). 64k of memory, tape deck storage, game cartridges and a whopping 8 color video if I hooked it up to my color television. It didn’t get any better than this. I eventually blew $150.00 for a 5 1/4″ disk drive and, as usual, my dad wouldn’t allow me to buy an acoustic coupler modem for this one either. I still played around on the Apple IIe constantly at the library and in the junior high’s computer lab, but when I happened to be home, I spent all my time on the TRS-80. This computer lasted me until about 1989.

I’d purchased so many expansion cartridges for the TRS-80 that I had to buy a 4 port cartridge adapter, which let me switch between my most-used cartridges. There was one for the 5 1/4″ drive, one for the speech card, one for the sound card, then various game cartridges. I couldn’t use all of this stuff at once. I think the most memorable thing I did with the TRS-80 was make a pizza ordering program to prank Domino’s with. It had all the common phrases for ordering a pizza on a menu. I just had to press the appropriate number to say things like “thin crust” or “extra cheese.” Eventually I had several programs like this made, for prank calling different people and locations.

In 1989, at age 16, I’m working at the local movie theater and the theater decides (and this is really stupid) that they’re going to “upgrade” by getting rid of their computers & modems entirely and buying fax machines instead. I guess they figured that the old “computer revolution fad” was over and faxes were the wave of the future. After talking with the manager, I found out they were selling the old Tandy 1000EX so I got to buy it for $300, monochrome monitor and internal 1200 baud modem included!

After I got it set up I called up Plato’s computer shop in Wood River and asked the guy if there was anything in the area that I could dial into with a modem. He gave me the store’s BBS number and from there on I because a BBS addict. My first login name was VanHalenFan because I was heavily into Van Halen at the time. After I got settled into the BBS world, I decided to pick the name Jane’s Addiction but found out it had already been taken by my girlfriend who’d bought the computer and modem from the other movie theater. So I picked RedHotChiliPepper instead and eventually upgraded to RedBoxChiliPepper when I learned about red boxing.

My next computer came about a year later – it was a 286, color VGA monitor, 1 meg of RAM and a 40 meg hard drive. I immediately set up a BBS called Hotel California which stayed up for about a year. When I left home and moved to Texas, I left the BBS running and it stayed up for about a week until my parents noticed it and turned it off. In Texas I used my old Tandy 1000EX and the computer lab at the community college.

Right before the summer of 1992 I bought another computer to replace my Tandy which was a 286 laptop with no hard drive, just an LCD screen and a couple of 3 1/2″ drives. It wasn’t much of an upgrade but it was portable enough to take to South Carolina with me to play games on and dial into BBSes with. This computer lasted me until I reached Los Angeles in 1993 and it finally died. It was great for a year of traveling, though

I went computerless for an entire year, aside from my frequent visits to the college computer labs, until late 1994 when I bought a 486 laptop with 4 megs of RAM, 100 meg hard drive , color VGA screen and a PCMCIA 250 meg removable drive. This one lasted me about 3 years until I bartered it away for a 486 100MHz motherboard and some cash. I used the motherboard to upgrade the old 386 we had.

Today (2007) I’m using a VPX Matrix which has a 2.7 GHz processor, 512 megs of RAM, 100 gig hard drive, another 120 gig hard drive, DVD burner, video in/out, 3 video cards/monitors and all kinds of firewire and USB hookups. I’ve got a VCR hooked to the input and the output for watching/importing video tapes and then exporting some projects to videotape.

My current laptop is an 850MHz Pentium. It’s got a 40 gig hard drive, DVD-ROM drive (that’s broken) and 384 megs of RAM.


  • its kind of spooky being here seeing this place so empty, reading all your stories from the 80’s and thinking about how long ago it was and a feeling of loneliness. dont ask… lol.

  • Interesting history.

    All this was before my time being born in 83. I am glad what I grew up with was a bit faster but it is almost impossible to stay current in technology. I’ve tried it and failed. Or just overspent. Thanks for sharing.

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