Geekery, Life

A Geekish Tribute to my Computers: Part 2

Classic Atari Computer Setup

Long long ago, in a blog post far away, I started paying tribute to some of my early family members of the silicon and capacitor nature. We left off with my 486-DX/40 machine that I upgraded to have 5MB of RAM and was my mainstay through high school.


But alas, high school was rapidly coming to an end and I had known pretty early on in the game (after seeing and owning that first TI 99-4/A machine) I was destined to get into computers and programming and all sorts of geekry. But moving on to college, I was going to need a new computer that could handle the craziness of Windows95 PPP connections and playing the original X-Wing on the 12 floppy discs was filling up the hard drive.


With the help of an old computer buddy, I pulled out a recent Computer Shopper magazine [and a hand towel to wipe up the drool] and went “surfing” the magazine pages. Now ya gotta remember here, this was the day where the Computer Shopper was essentially an 800 page phone book of hardware and software goodness. There were great articles in the magazine, including a C coding article or two, and it was chalked full of full page ads by various vendors selling parts or complete systems. I can’t tell you how many computer systems I dreamed up through there. I was fortunate enough to have some inheritance money from my grandparents, so I put a modest $3500 [Flippin’ Karmit! I can built full gamer rigs for half that price now!] down on a brand new Quantex Pentium 90, 16MB of RAM, 100MB hard drive machine that included a 17 inch CRT monitor. I could have easily skimped a smidge or dropped a whole lot more, but this was the perfect balance. I even had a christening party when the machine arrived, to which about half a dozen friend humored me by showing up at my house (probably the free Doritos and Soda) to watch me pull it out of the boxes and boot it up. I affectionately named the box “Fester” after the Space Quest III shop keeper, Fester Blatz.


Fester was good enough to me to allow me to beat the original X-Wing game on a puny, non-flight control oriented, two button joystick. It was one of the few games I’ve actually completed and I still remember fondly dropping those proton torpedos, taking out the Death Star, with no shields, no engine power, and a rather beat up space fighter. Technically the ship blew up with the death star, but I wager I glided far enough out of range so that the auto eject put me into safety to make it to the cut sequence. 8^D


Fester treated me well for a couple of years and a motherboard replacement. But we were rapidly hitting the era where processing power was going up exponentially just as prices were going down exponentially. I had an internship at Tandem/Compaq/HP (depending on how you look at it during the acquisition phase) and I scored a great deal on a PII/450 desktop machine that my buddy Calvin and I had plenty of hours Podracing against each other and having Angband tournaments until the sun came up. Sadly enough I never did name this machine. It spend many years in my care until I passed it along to my brother-in-law, who used it for several more. The only downside to the machine was that it had a proprietary power cable for the motherboard, which caused a problem when I went to upgrade the system as part of the massive Aquinas build.


But the Aquinas build is deserves it’s own post, so we’ll save that chapter for next time.


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