Corgis' First Computers

NOV 24, 2016 • Written by Jocelyne Morin-Nurse

Working on a remote team, we need to be extra creative to find ways to socialize, get to know each other better and even share a few laughs. Those natural moments like a quick hello-how-are-you in the hallway just don’t happen. All very conscientious about being “billable,” we tend to cut to the chase when on Zoom and keep the Slack chatter to a minimum.

So, to help us recreate the feeling of a virtual water cooler, we recruited our very own custom bot member, Ein. We provided Ein with a list of questions and, now, every day, she asks us something in our #random Slack channel.

Discussion erupted when, recently, Ein asked us this:

Computer Question

Down memory lane we all went. Well. Almost all of us…

Corgi Answers

  • Executive Assistant Erin Matthews

    I can’t actually remember what my first computer was. We had a family computer for my entire memory.

  • Lead Code Whisperer Catalina De la cuesta

    I asked my dad, and apparently it was a TRS80.

  • Lead Code Whisperer Kiere El-Shafie

    Commodore 128. Got it to play games because it seemed like it should be better than a Commodore 64… Never could figure out what that weird “A:>” prompt was for… ;-)

  • Lead Code Whisperer Kamil Ogórek

    Pentium II 266MHz, 128MB RAM, no GPU 3D acceleration!

    It reminds me of my first code ever (other than HTML/CSS). It was a VB program that prompted you with the question “Would you like to remove all files from X folder?” which was pointed at my sister’s files directory. She didn’t believe me that I was able to write something like this, and she clicked yes. Well, it worked! :-P

  • Lead Content Whisperer and Office Manager Jocelyne Morin-Nurse

    My first computer was actually a pocket PC. We had a TRS-80 PC-1 – the baby version of Catalina’s first computer –, which was touted as “the first-ever BASIC-programmable pocket-sized computer.” Memory tells me that it could only hold one program at a time. There was a booklet with various text-based games. My favorite was a detective-type game that asked questions, and I had to figure out either what happened or who did what. Most of the time, before I could play, I had to type in the required several pages of code. But in my mind, it was totally worth it!

    My first full-size computer came much later, although I was exposed briefly to some in high school. It involved lots of DOS commands and floppy disks.

  • Lead Code Whisperer Don Denoncourt

    IBM PC clone. An 8088 unit, no hard-drive, and two 5-inch diskette drives. It cost $2,000, and I took out a loan to pay for it. I was married at the time, and I had promised my wife that I’d make more money because of it.

    I clearly remember when I decided to borrow the two grand (a lot of money for someone making 18-20K a year). I was on a run, and I was fantasizing on what I would do if I won the $50,000 local lottery. I thought: “I’ll buy an IBM PC, train myself on new technology, and start my own business.” Then I thought: “What the hell is stopping you from doing that now? You don’t need $50,000. Just get the damn machine and get started.” When I got home, I made the business proposal to my wife.

    I later upgraded a hard drive and added a Herc card and memory. On that box, I learned Assembler, Lotus 123, dBaseIII, and C.

    And it was actually a decade or so later before I truly started my own business, but my salary skyrocketed because I knew PC programming as well as mainframe.

  • Director of Operations & Lead Code Whisperer Nickie McCabe

    My family got an Apple IIGS in ‘87 or ‘88. There were two games I could play: Gertrude’s Secrets and Reader Rabbit. The disks both looked the same, and I couldn’t actually read yet, so my dad drew a rabbit on one and a duck on the other (Gertrude is a goose) so that I could figure out which disk to use on my own. We had that computer until ‘95 when we got a Gateway which was pretty much mind-blowing in comparison.

    Like Kamil, this reminded me of my first code. My first non-HTML code was BASIC in high school. I distinctly remember the first day of class: our homework was to think about how we would get a computer to print out sequentially the numbers 1 through 10. I had NO IDEA and called my sister at college in a panic asking for help.

  • CEO Andrea Goulet

    Apple Macintosh. I loved playing around with HyperCard and, of course, Tetris!

  • Director of Business Development Brian Bassett

    My dad worked at IBM (I never intended to go there, but wound up there through acquisition!), and he brought home an IBM PC with a CGA monitor for Christmas. The first game I ever played was something called “Microsoft Flight Simulator,” and the colors looked like this (thanks, Nerdly Pleasures!):

    Flight Simulator

    16 whole colors… WOW!!!!

    MY first code was creating a personal webpage on a JMU server. I never remembered to make sure the files and folders had been chmod’ed. :-D

  • Lead Code Whisperer David Grieser

    Enter the Commodore 64!

    This was the first computer that I acquired. It was being sold at a garage sale that I was helping out at for a family friend. It came with a monitor, keyboard, disk drive, 5.25” floppy disks, and a copy of “How to Program Your Commodore 64 - BASIC for BEGINNERS by Carl Shipman.” The whole package sat there all day. Now, I talk like I know what it is, as it was my first computer, but, at the time, I just saw a big monitor in the box with a bunch of other plastic enclosures. The only thing I understood was the keyboard as it resembled the Apple II we had at elementary school.

    By the end of the day, everything was getting put away, and I had been such a big help, that I was told I could have anything as payment for my work, which led to me having this old Commodore.

    I didn’t even know if this computer worked, but I honestly didn’t care. Having earned it through helping out all day, I just knew it was mine. When I got home, I went straight to my room and started taking everything out of the box. There wasn’t an instruction manual, but all of the cables only really fit one way. One of my friends did have a C64 at home, however, they never really moved it, so I hadn’t seen all the connections.

    Once everything was plugged in, it was time to turn it all on. With the classic cathode tube turn-on sound and a steady hum, everything started up, and I was at the READY screen. I honestly don’t remember the first games that I had for it, but I do know I was able to borrow Rocky Horror from my friend for a while. The main thing I remember about having this C64 was programming on it. I started going page by page through the book learning how everything worked and typing in the commands as required. At the time, I was in middle school and had been hanging out with a friend across the street who was a few years ahead of me. He had shown me the game DrugWars on his TI calculator and having played it a bit, I then set out to start programming the same game on my C64.

    This took me some time, but as I got it completed and even saved to its own disk, I was able to start playing my own personal game. I remember spending more than a few weekends playing the game. I think I even built in some functionality to save my game state and restore from it. It took me until after I had started a new game, a few months later, to realize I could put in my own cheat codes. This was interesting, and I did things for the codes, like requiring you to fly to cities in a certain order, which added to the fun that I had playing the game.

    Sadly, I don’t think myself or my mom have this old C64 anywhere along with the floppy disks that had my friend’s game, but it definitely started my deeper dive into computer and how that world worked.

  • Chief Code Whisperer M. Scott Ford

    The first computer I ever used was an Apple IIgs in a computer lab at my elementary school in the late 80s (3rd or 4th grade). I lived in a rather poor area in the mountains of western Virginia, and I suspect that computer lab (a trailer with some tables and around 30 computers) was part of a grant. We went in there for an hour once a week for a few years, and we were given no direction whatsoever. I remember really enjoying the tutorial game that taught us how to use the mouse and keyboard so we could get around applications with file menus and know how to drag things. That was the only program I remember us having access to.

    One day, I got really bored and noticed that there were a bunch of fancy looking books that were in a small bookcase on one of the walls. I was hoping that there might be some insight about how we could make use of the machines. I remember very clearly one of the books I looked at was spiral bound with high-color pages, and on one of them it showed you how to make lines and shapes appear on the screen. I followed the instructions and typed in the examples and tinkered from there.

    It wasn’t until about five or six years later that I realized that was the first time I’d ever written any “code.”

    We didn’t get a computer at home until I was in high school. My dad was a retail-store manager at a store that was similar to Office Max in the Richmond, VA, area. He rescued a computer that was slotted to go to the dumpster and brought it home instead. That was an IBM clone 486. I don’t remember the clock speed. Probably around 32 Mhz. I remember the hard drive only had 100 MB available, and we later added a second one with 200 MB. I used to get in trouble when I would run QBasic on that computer, because my dad was convinced that the computer was less stable after I played around with it. I seriously doubt that. Most of the time, I played Nibbles.bas and Gorillas.bas and played around with trying to make sense of the source code, and figured out how to change the length of the snake in Nibbles.bas and the size of the explosion in Gorillas.bas.

    When my Mom started attending university, a few years later, the family computer got an upgrade to support the graphic design software that she needed to work with. The old 486 made its way into my room, and I remember fighting really hard to get Windows 95 to run on it. It required using the dblspace to compress the 100 and 200 MB hard drives and combine them so that they appeared as a single volume which was close to 800 MB. The storage setup wasn’t really tolerant of failed sectors on the disk, so the volume would become unbootable about every month or so, and I got really good at rebuilding the setup from scratch. That’s also the computer that I first installed Linux on. It was an old distribution of Slackware that was installed from 26 3.5 inch diskettes. Most of the time, I played around the programming software we had at school (Turbo Pascal 7.0, Turbo C++ 3.0, Visual Basic 1.0 for DOS) – the PC computer lab at the school where I learned to program had IBM desktop educational models with older specs than my 486 at home. I also got my hands on Visual Basic 4.0 for Windows at one point, and played around with it as well.

And What About You?

What was your first computer or code? Let us know in the comment box below, on Facebook, or on Twitter. We’d love to hear it!