Thursday, 3 November 2016

A Personal Computer History (3) : The PC world

After our third microcomputer, a BBC Model B, blew up it was time to "progress" to the PC world. The Amstrad PC was by then becoming popular being cheap enough for many to consider (though still expensive compared to today). We got a PC1640DD, 1MB of RAM, double 5.25" floppy drives and a CGA colour monitor. It might not seem much these days but it was a quantum leap after the days of loading programs off cassette tape. We upgraded the Amstrad PC a lot, adding a 3.5" floppy drive and a 32MB hard drive. Although a crude plastic machine in many ways it was also pretty robust and reliable.

By now we were in the early 1990s and i was at university, thus armed with my student grant (yes we got paid to be students back then) i decided it was time i bought my own computer. My first was an Amstrad too, a PPC512, so a kind of crude laptop. I didn't like it though and soon sold it on buying a Zenith minisport instead. This was a small notebook a bit like the Macbook and Chromebook Pixel i use these days though of course much less advanced.

The minisport had no hard drive though had a RAM drive and MS-DOS was installed on a ROM. The minisport had a 2" floppy drive, which was cute though no other computer used this format and getting the disks was difficult. Luckily it came with an external 3.5" floppy drive too though this made it rather less portable. The screen was quite nice as it was a backlit LCD though was a rather strange resolution as can be seen from the photograph above. 640 by 300 so any pie charts would be a bit squashed.

A year or so later i bought my first desktop PC, a Unisys with a mighty 386SX-33 CPU! This also had a hard drive so could be used for some decent computing. I had Windows 3.1 on it and did some Pascal and Visual BASIC programming and the like, useful for my degree in Software Engineering anyway. The 4MB RAM was later doubled to 8 (my present for graduating!) and i bought an external CD-ROM drive so i could install OS/2 Warp on it. It was just about usable...

Finally a number of years later i upgraded to a Tulip PC with a 100MHz 486 CPU. This i ran Windows 95 on. A fine computer but by now i was working at a design agency full of Apple Macintoshes... that would soon guide my next computer purchase.