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IBM PC fanatic here...

Introduce yourself. Tell people why you are interested in vintage computers and what (if anything) you've got.

IBM PC fanatic here...

by bert » Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:48 pm

Greetings from Wellington,

Tezza believes it is worth introducing myself here - personally I find it a little conceited - but hey why not. This material may still be around when its time to write my eulogy, and may help to explain why I was not a successful businessman - I instead spent too much time working on old computers or fixing something that is not worth the effort.

A good family friend of ours in Hawkes Bay introduced me to computers around my 8th birthday. He built me an IBM XT out of spare parts from the Polytechnic (now EIT Hawkes Bay) where he worked. I was absolutely fascinated with this thing that you could entertain yourself playing BASIC games, Jack Nickalus Golf and Prince of Persia. I soon taught myself BASIC, computer housekeeping (to this day I still think useful utility programs and things like the old Norton utilities, ChecckIT & XTree are more useful than Facebook) and how to scrounge around for an mix and match parts to add memory and replace a faulty Hercules graphics card to my machine.

I maintained an interest in IBM and Acron computers throughout primary and secondary school. My parents were not particularly well off at the time so I had to beg and borrow for parts - they did buy a second hand 386 with 5MB memory but it wasn't up to playing many games, and while the screen was VGA its blue tube gun was shot so colours weren't right. It was a while before I had a machine good enough that could play Doom and Wolfenstein 3D among other games, so I just kept playing BASIC games and others I was familiar with on the XT (plus a friend's Sega Master System). At least they loaded quicker now. I subsequently parted with my XT so someone else could use it as a word processor for their polytech assignments. I had a machine with VGA and a Sound Blaster now so the incredibly slow black and white hulk of a computer was welcome to a new home.

It wasn't till around my 14th birthday when the old man - who believed computers were useless as they could not dig holes (he is a civil engineer) - bought some ridiculously overpriced brand new Compaq Deskpro 2000 P133 machine with 8MB RAM as part of his work's computer system upgrade package. Instead of Win95 he had it loaded with Win3.11 because "that was what work had" and while it came with a modem, getting "the Internet thing and email" was too expensive so out of the question. At least it had a modem, and it was around this time that I discovered bulletin board's and started meeting people who ran them and discovered there was a lot more to "computers" than IBM compatible PC's and Acorns. By this time I had quite a collection of parts and so I could help friends with even slower, dying or dead machines out by assembling them better machines out of what we could scrounge together. I enjoyed the feeling of getting something working out of a pile of parts for next to nothing. A few jobs here and there meant I had some money to get a better graphics card or another hard drive, so with the same philosophy of our family I was happy to hand down any spare parts I had.

I kept my 386 machines up until my 16th birthday when the folks finally gave up on hoping I would have a career outside computers or electronics, and bought me a brand new computer. I was allowed to spec and get quotes from various shops round Napier. I eventually purchased a brand new Win 98 P3 450 machine from PC Central in Taradale. This worked out well because a couple of weeks later I asked the owners for a job and were happy to take me on for a few weeks over the summer after school and holidays. (This was after telling them I had reformatted the new machine to get rid of all the junk they loaded on and told them what BIOS settings I changed to score a few more points in the benchmark programs on my nVidia RIVA TNT2 VGA card. I may have struck a chord?).

Still without internet at home (school & work access only) I taught myself other computer languages, leant a lot working for PC Central and access to cheaper but new parts. I put myself through Uni working in the semester breaks and summer holidays until about 2003 when I decided to stay in Wellington and started a contract gig with a friend I had re-met here whom I knew from high school in Napier. Those were the days of "everything going on the web" and work was reasonably plentiful while I completed my studies. I am now self-employed with a small office in the Wellington CBD with a small portfolio of clients, and my parents have accepted that computing will be my career.

I consider myself as an engineer at heart, with my biggest self criticism being I took economics and accounting as subjects at school instead of electronics. Perhaps I am too harsh. Those subjects are incredibly useful and should be as mandatory in the curriculum as Te Reo Maori should be. To this day I am often surprised at the lack of knowledge and in-depth understanding many "system engineers" in the work force (both from people I worked with at PC Central and today in my company) have about the history of the PC/workstation and what they're generally working on and servicing on their client's desks. The same can be said about programming (web, database, applications) and networking. Having said that I have met a few who are remarkable individuals who have taught themselves a lot in a very short time through Uni or Tech and are smart and knowledgeable in their own way and great to work with. Somehow the industry stumbles along. Business drives it. It's just a bit different from selling a 286 Compaq for $12000 and collecting a $4000 commission on.

In my lifetime (currently all 29 years of it) the microcomputer has fundamentally changed human society. I think of myself as quite privileged in being a part of one of the the younger "sciences" - though I consider writing programs as more of an art form than a science - and that I grew up in a time where the computer was a useful tool as well as an entertainment medium. While it still is, I feel the possibilities of computing and the science as a whole has been somewhat cut off at the knees by the proliferation of "Web 2.0" and the generation of a lot of "dumb content" on the web. A lot of "Gen Y" has little appreciation for how things work, and they grew up learning it is easier to throw something broken away and just replace it with the newest gadget currently being shoved in our faces by Apple, Samsung etc. I suspect I will never be an incredibly successful individual because I spend more time trying to fix something that's broken, rather than create something new. (It may be worth noting that there is more money to be made selling your users personal data to a marketing company than in the actual sale of an App on the Apple Store or Andriod Market place). Again, that's business for you. Privacy and piracy was so much easier 10 years ago. :) I find the sheer ignorance of most modern "computer users" astounding and concerning. They will part with their hard earned cash without first taking a close look at what they are really buying. But yet again, that is business for you.

That all said I have quite a selection of modern gadgets on my desks, play modern games and spend too much time surfing the internet. That's how I came across this website and messageboard :)

Well this is enough about me. If there is anything you ever remember from this 10 minutes of your life you'll never have back, the only shameless advertisement/memory I would like you to remember is that I could be a good home to any old IBM or BBC/Acorn gear anyone may have, and am happy to pay reasonable prices for it. If anyone can suggest any "gold mines" around Wellington or Hawkes Bay, please drop me a line.

Regards,
Bert
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Re: IBM PC fanatic here...

by Carcenomy » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:29 pm

Well Bert, welcome to the boards! We're of similar background, I just had more time with Commodores rather than going straight onto the IBM hardware :)
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Re: IBM PC fanatic here...

by tezza » Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:49 am

Welcome to the forums Bert. It's good to see (relatively) young people also interested in classic computers of yesteryear.

You mention the XT, which explains the IBM fondness but where did the interest in Acorn machines come from?
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Re: IBM PC fanatic here...

by bert » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:15 pm

Carcenomy wrote:Well Bert, welcome to the boards! We're of similar background, I just had more time with Commodores rather than going straight onto the IBM hardware :)


Thanks Carcenomy,

A cousin of mine in Hawkes Bay had an Amiga 500 (which I believe to be somehow related to Commodore?), and my brother and I loved going to see him because we could play some great games in full colour with some decent (of the day) graphics and sound effects :) Gods, Lemmings, Silkworm and North vs. South were favourites.

IBMs were more "office workhorse" computers I guess, probably influencing why I learned to program rather than play game after game.
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Re: IBM PC fanatic here...

by bert » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:48 pm

tezza wrote:Welcome to the forums Bert. It's good to see (relatively) young people also interested in classic computers of yesteryear.

You mention the XT, which explains the IBM fondness but where did the interest in Acorn machines come from?


Hi Tezza,

While I had an IBM at home, school introduced me to Acorns. From the "Standard Three" level of Primary school we had 2-3 Acorn Archimedes A3000 machines for our senior classrooms. I'm not sure if it was a nationwide thing, but both Primary and Intermediate schools had BBC Acorns rather than any other "flavour" of microcomputer. Just a couple of ROMS with RiscOS 2, a few applications and a 3.5" floppy to save our work. I guess you couldn't accidentally format the hard drive (there wasn't one) so they were "childproof" in many ways. :) In fact my primary school didn't have enough for one for each class, they were shared around the 3-4 senior classes (standards 3 & 4) and as such were supposed to be for educational purposes. They had a few select programs loaded in the ROMS; Pendown was the word processor and we would each get to write an assignment in it and submit it to the teacher, and a there were a few games - though the only ones to remain in my memory was Solitaire and Lander, where you had to fly a "spaceship" around the world, slowly and carefully touching down at particular points to refuel. You did this until it basically ran out of fuel and you crashed and blew up. A suitably short game for the number of us younglings with simple minds who wanted to have a go on the classroom computer.

The Acorns also had a rudimentary BASIC interpreter, though no save your program to disk function (that I could find). I would grab the programming books from the public libraries that had BASIC games in them, and would meticulously type them out then cross my fingers and hope they would run, subsequently impressing my classmates. While being very rudimentray, there was a great sense of accomplishment when I modified the games somehow to cheat :D

While the XT had BASIC where i cut my teeth, programming didn't stick with me until a little later on in life when my first 386 had an MS DOS 5 QucikBASIC interpreter. This would have been aroumd mid high school, 1995 ish. Having hard drives meant I could save my work as I went, so naturally I found DOS a better platform for programming.

One summer, after my mother had worked at the primary school for 6 months or so, the principal let her take one of the machines home for a few weeks for me to play on it. I was now at Intermediate school, second year from memory. I think because the machine didn't cost us anything the old man wasn't too fussed. There was an Acorn service shop in Napier that supported the schools and sold me Gods and Lemmings for RISC OS 2-3 so did play those all summer long. I now had a couple of games that looked almost as good as on my cousin's Amiga! (mentioned above). I recall my mum asking my cousin to come and check the computer when she picked it up, and explain to her how it worked. We had a couple of more powerful Acorn A5000 or A6000 machines in the Intermediate library (one even had a CD ROM!), and A4000's in the classrooms. I learnt spreadsheeting on the A5000's - can't remember the name of the program - but couldnt help thinking this machine is far far superior to the IBM PC in many ways. RISC OS was fantastic because it was a graphical interface, and thus were a lot simpler to use than a command prompt. The RISC OS interface was extremely simple - more so than Windows today. I never had experience with Windows prior to 3.1, but RISC OS was still superior in terms of user experience. I guess that is why we had Acorns in our classrooms rather than IBMs. That, and you had to physically destory an Acorn before it would stop working. I never gave up on IBM-compatibles however, fortunately that turned out to be the right decision.

I was now in High school, and there were no Acorns to be found. I had at this stage - by mid way though high school - managed to scrounge together a machine capable of running Windows 3.1 with MS Word and Excel, and could now program games in QuickBASIC 4.5 in colour! So after leaving Intermediate I really lost touch of Acorns. I still have a fondness for them, and a couple of disks with Lemmings and Gods on them, which I have managed to get running on my A3000. Sadly the A7000's version of RISC OS isn't compatible with them, hence also after a A3010 for old times sake.

Cheers,
Bert
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Re: IBM PC fanatic here...

by tezza » Thu Dec 08, 2011 11:04 am

bert wrote:While I had an IBM at home, school introduced me to Acorns. From the "Standard Three" level of Primary school we had 2-3 Acorn Archimedes A3000 machines for our senior classrooms. I'm not sure if it was a nationwide thing, but both Primary and Intermediate schools had BBC Acorns rather than any other "flavour" of microcomputer.


Interesting. I wonder if they had BBC micros before that and just continued the tradition? Anyway, that explains your interest in Acorn machines.
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Re: IBM PC fanatic here...

by SpidersWeb » Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:14 am

Another IBM fan here in Wellington!
Awesome :D
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