How my Interest in Computers Started

Many people have asked me how I got into Information Technology.  This blog post recounts where my interest in computers started.

In 1983, at the age of 11, I received my first computer as a gift from my Uncle.  The computer was a Sinclair ZX80 which had a 3.25MHz Z80 CPU and 1KB of memory.  I used a small black and white television to tune the computer’s UHF video signal.  I studied the manual on the syntax of Sinclair BASIC and typed in programs from the ZX Computing magazine I bought from the local news-agency.  The computer did not have a storage device, so any programs I typed in could not be saved.  It was this computer that sparked my interest in computers and reading various computer magazines about the advances in new computer systems and the latest software being released inspired me to learn more.

Sinclair ZX80

Sinclair ZX80

In 1984, I got my first job as a paperboy delivering the The Herald newspaper after school.  I saved up $449 to buy an Amstrad CPC464 which had a 4Mhz Z80 CPU, 64KB of memory, a built-in cassette tape desk, and a green screen monitor.  I studied the manual on the syntax of Locomotive BASIC and typed in programs from the magazine The Amstrad User.  More excitingly at the time, I purchased many games on tapes – including the titles Boulder Dash, Commando and Sorcery.

Amstrad CPC464

Amstrad CPC464

In 1985, I commenced High School which had a computer laboratory containing four Apple IIe computers.  The Apple IIe had a 1MHz 6502 CPU, 64KB of memory, an external 5.25 inch floppy disk drive, and a color monitor.  Me and two friends gained the trust of the school janitor and obtained after hours access to the computer laboratory where I self taught myself to program using DOS 3.3 and created several graphical demos.  The ability to save programs on disk made it significantly easier to learn to program.  I even convinced my English teacher to allow me to write my English papers in the computer laboratory, though my intent was to write my papers quickly and spend the rest of the time playing games.  I also made friends with a senior student who had an Apple IIe at home and he would lend me games – including the titles Aztec, Hard Hat Mack, and Wizardry.

Apple IIe

Apple IIe

In 1986, I sold off my Amstrad CPC464 to buy the improved Amstrad CPC6128 which had a 4Mhz Z80 CPU, 128KB of memory, a built-in 3 inch floppy disk drive, and a color monitor.  My familiarity with Locomotive BASIC and the ease of saving and loading programs on disk got me really interested in developing software.  I sketched out several game concepts on paper and drew game sprites using graph paper.  I ended up developing an arcade isometric maze game and a turn-based 3D dungeon game.  I also played some great games – including the the titles Barbarian, Elite, and Ikari Warriors.

Amstrad CPC6128

Amstrad CPC6128

In 1988, I got a summer job working at the local toy-shop assembling bicycles for Christmas.  I saved up $999 to buy a Commodore Amiga 500 which had a 7.1MHz 68000 CPU, 512MB of memory, and a built-in 3.5 inch floppy disk drive.  Whereas the previous computers were all 8-bit computers, the Amiga was a 16-bit computer that had dedicated chips for graphics and sound.  I never really learnt how to program the Amiga, as the availability and quality of software was incredible, including the titles Bards Tale, Bubble Bobble, Fusion Paint, Kindwords Word Processor, and Test Drive.  The Amiga was the first computer I bought additional hardware peripherals for, including a memory expansion card and a dot-matrix printer.

Commodore Amiga 500

Commodore Amiga 500

It was not until I finished High School and went to university to study computing that I got further into developing software, and it has been for the IBM PC platform ever since.  If you are interested in home computing from the 1980s I recommend reading the UK magazine Retro Gamer.

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One Response to “How my Interest in Computers Started”

  1. Border_7 Says:

    Awesome story. There are a lot of us with similar stories! If you want some more nostaligia, try this site:

    http://cpcwiki.eu/index.php/The_Amstrad_User

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