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Compuers - RonO's Ramblings

Jan. 13th, 2007 03:47 am Compuers

A conversation I had with my (technically ex-) brother-in-law this evening got me thinking about the computers I've owned or at least lived with. So I'm going to share my walk down memory lane:

The first computer my family owned was an early version of the IBM-PC. We got this in 1983, or possibly in 1982. I know that it was old enough that it didn't have enough memory on the mother board to allow us to upgrade it to the full 640k, but new enough that it actually had a double sided floppy when we bought it. Initially it had a CGA card, but we connected it to a composite monochrome (green) monitor. Later we replaced the monochrome monitor with a color monitor, added additional memory -- at one point we had so much spare memory that we could run a virtual disk -- and a second floppy drive.

I wrote my high school term paper on this computer. More than a year before hand, I also used it to cheat on my algebra homework. Since my Algebra II teacher had taught me to program in BASIC several years before, I regularly wrote BASIC programs that would do the entire homework assignment since most of the assignments were collections of identical problems with different numbers and unknowns, but the same work needed in each case. While the teacher was teaching I would turn in my output and the code listing. However, when he had a student teacher during the spring semester, I was a bit more cautious and copied the answers off of the screen.

Our second computer was an Epson XT clone. We got this in 1986 or 1987. At the time I was working for Database Marketing (dbm) as their system administrator and programmer -- dbm was a firm that did customer satisfaction calls for car dealerships, and some other directed marketing -- and had been regularly dealing with one of the Albuquerque computer stores buying the same Epson machines. So when we wanted a new computer, we worked with the people I'd been working with and good a good deal.

A year or two later, I got my own first computer. My brother was working for a different computer store, and they started carrying Amstrad portable computers. These were XT clones that lacked a hard drive, but had a full keyboard and a small pop-up LCD screen. I used this computer for much of my last year in college -- although I did my homework for Advanced Calculus on the Macs in one of the UNM computer labs since they had all of the needed fonts. This was also the computer I owned when I moved to Illinois and I used it regularly for a couple of years.

My last, or second to last, summer in Albuquerque we had a friend of my sister's staying with us for several weeks while they were getting ready for the national valuating competition. During this time he acquired an Amiga 2000, which I really liked. Then, after moving to Illinois, I one of my friends (who doesn't appear to be a lj user, although his wife, rmeidaking, is -- or if he is, I just don't recognize his username) had an Amiga 500 which was almost as nice. So, when I found an affordable Amiga 500 at Montgomery Wards -- a store that a long-standing family prejudice usually kept me out of -- I bought it. I got it in 1990 or 1991.

I loved my Amiga. I used it as my primary computer for several years, and put a number of upgrades onto it. However, it suffered due to the ill fortunes of the Amiga line and Commodore. By 1993 or 1994, I was forced to supplement my beloved Amiga with my first MS-Windows based computer.

This was a Packard-Bell machine that I bought at Best Buy inexpensively since it was a floor model. I had this computer for a few years. I regularly loaded Linux onto it, and for a time it would only boot DOS/Windows from a bernoli drive (I have a knack for buying into dying technology). In 1995 I shipped this computer to Seattle where I was scheduled to spend six weeks. From there I shipped it to my parents since I was expecting to leave for Arizona just a few weeks later. They held onto it for about two months before I finally made it to Arizona and reclaimed it.

This was the first computer that I actually had to name. Originally, my computer naming plan was to name computers after types of Oak trees -- when I worked for dbm, I was actually a contractor and sometimes officially did business as Oak Tree Software. So this computer was named "Scrub."

In Arizona I had lots of free time, and my "mythical travel bonus" -- the effect of being paid a full salary while being able to expense your meals and gas -- so I bought the parts to make a new computer. If I recall, I was looking for a place where I could get an additional bernoli disk, and found a place that had parts. This new computer was also a DOS/Windows and Linux machine -- although later in life, Linux kept getting removed due to a lack of disk space -- and was given the name "Gamble" Later I was informed that scrub oak and gamble oak are actually the same species of tree.

After getting Gamble working, I shipped Scrub to my older sister.

Gamble was my main computer for more than 5 years.

My next computer was purchased in 1999. After returning to work for Motorola, I had a sign on bonus and some other sources of spare funds. I was also getting ready to travel to Dallas for 6 weeks of training. So I purchased a Sanyo laptop. Originally this computer was named "Ronolaptop." But a year or two later I was visiting my parents and got tired of typing that long name when trying to share stuff. So I renamed it to fit into their computer network. Their computers were all named for cats (except for Hidie, which had that name when my parents got it), mostly cats who had died. So this computer got named "Oliver" for the cat of mine who had died a year or two before.

Oliver (the computer, not the cat) served me well for 6 years. After about four years, I upgraded the memory and got it a much bigger hard drive. For the last year or so I had it, Linux was its primary operating system. In the early summer of 2005, it quit working.

In 2001, Gamble was starting to show its age. One day it suffered a hard drive crash, and I decided that it was going to be cheaper to buy a whole new computer than to replace the hard drive. After some consideration -- including the fact that I had more money in my checking account than I could put on a credit card (my only card at that time having a low limit) -- I ordered a Gateway business machine. I went with a business machine because that was the only way to get a machine with Windows 2000 loaded, and I knew that Milinium edition (which I had briefly loaded onto Oliver) was uselessly unstable.

Now married, I consulted with my wife what to name my new computer. This resulted in finally scrapping the tree scheme -- which had been mostly scrapped with the naming of Oliver. Instead the new scheme was to name the computers after fictional spaceships. Thus this new machine (occasionally referred to as "The Cow" in reference to its manufacturer) was "Moya" the main ship in Farscape.

I happily used Moya for several years. For most of that time, it dual booted between Linux and Windows 2000. Moya was the first machine that I used Bryce on, and many of my early Bryce pieces were created on it. In fact if it wasn't for something else that happened in 2001, Moya might still be my primary machine.

In 2003, I decided that Derrick really needed his own computer. After pricing computers for him, I reached the conclusion that the best approach would be to buy myself a new computer and give him my old one. So I ordered a computer from a company recommended by my friends, and after it was set up to my liking, reconfigured Moya for Derrick. Now Moya runs Windows XP -- but rarely. Derrick hasn't taken to wanting to play with his computer very often.

My new computer was given the name Serenity, after the ship in Firefly (I had the computer before the movie came out). For a year or so Serenity dual-booted Windows XP and Linux. Eventually, it became a windows only machine -- because I got another machine as a full-time Linux server. Over the years I've added a TV Tuner card (during the 2004 Olympics, so I could watch the Olympics and do homework at the same time) and upgraded the video card to support two monitors. Unfortunately, the mother board has a problem with its AGP drivers or port, and occasionally it suffers annoying graphics related problems. It also has an allergy to some database related windows component which causes problems with a number of applications, including MS-Access and roxio CD burning software. But, for the most part, I'm happy with the computer if not the OS it runs.

My next computer was the second computer I built -- actually the third. In 2005 I decided to get a full-time Linux server. I ordered parts for a Shuttle case computer from Tiger. However, the mother board they sent was bad, and I couldn't get it to work. For logistical reasons, I returned it to the Naperville outlet, and replaced it with a full sized computer that was otherwise very similar. As a shuttle case computer, I intended to name it Puddlejumper after the ships on Stargate Atlantis, but that name wasn't appropriate for a full sized computer. Instead I named it Defiant after the starship on Star Trek: Deep Space 9.

It wouldn't be long, however, before I needed the name Puddlejumper. Within weeks of getting Defiant up and working, Oliver (the computer) died -- about as suddenly and unexpectedly as the cat it was named after. By this time I knew that I didn't want to live without a personal laptop for non-work travel, including our upcoming trip to the UK. So I ordered a low end laptop from Dell using my corporate discount. This machine was quickly reconfigured to dual boot Linux and Windows XP, and has been my primary e-mail and travel machine since. Since it also has dual monitor support (when in Windows) I used it last year to run Easy Worship at the church's Men's retreat. It also served as the DVD player for the same event.

To be complete, in the time that we've been married, Tara has had two Macs. She had a Power Mac when we got married, but in 2001 she upgraded to a Tibook, which has been named Talyn after the other spaceship in Farscape. At this point in time Talyn's only problem is a lack of disk space, which I may have solved by giving Tara an external hard drive for it this year at Christmas (Since Tara knows I'm not good at picking out gifts, she's reasonably happy with practical gifts).

At this moment we also have Tara's mom's ibook in the house. I'm supposed to be upgrading it to run OS X, but I've run into a problem. Someone at Compusa set a password for it, which nobody knows. I may be forced to do a complete reinstall just to get around that problem.

After my recent conversation, I'm tempted to dig the Amiga out of the garage and see if it will still boot up. After that, I don't know what I'll do with it. But my brother-in-law might be willing to take it off my hands.

3 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Next Entry


Date:January 14th, 2007 01:45 am (UTC)
Heh. The think I remember most about your first computer is that you were able to hook it up to your family's TV so that two of us David's could watch whatever was going on on the computer from the living room while the other David looked over your shoulder. ...I can't remember for the life of me if we were watching a computer game, or just impressed by some other program...
Date:January 14th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
I remember doing that a couple of times over the years. I think I did it with the flight simulator, and possibly some other games. I also think we did it once with the computer version of Diplomacy (but only when we wern't entering in our orders).
Date:January 14th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
Yep, it was Diplomacy :) Wow, I had almost forgotten about that... I even had a copy of that version of Diplomacy after I moved to Denver, but couldn't entice the friends I made up here to play it :/