My Computing History

In my birthday post a few months ago (eek!) I mentioned how I struggle to blog when things are going okay. Spoiler alert: things still are, however I feel this place has been neglected.

One of my favourite social platforms at the moment is Mastodon (follow me there) – because I enjoy the nerdy conversations there. From a toot by Jack McConnell I found a blog post by Kev Quirk called “My Computing History“, which details all the system Kev’s had over the years.

Brilliant. I’m nicking it. Here’s my computing history.

~1991: Commodore 64

The first system I owned was this beautiful Commodore 64. This version (the “Playful Intelligence” one) was a fascinating release – it was a re-hash of the ill-fated Commodore 64GS, with the keyboard stuck back on, a cartridge bundled in with 4 games (Fiendish Freddy’s Big Top o’ Fun, Flimbo’s Quest, International Soccer and Klax), and flogged in Tandy for about Ā£65.

I bloody loved this. Although I really wanted a Commodore Amiga 500, I became a huge Commodore 64 gamer (suck it, Spectrum owners). I still have it – the header image is my machine. I still have the cartridge now, as well as 2 of the 3 budget games I got with it (American 3D Pool, Agent X II* and Rollaround) and Decembers’ Zzap! 64 Magazine I also got that year.

I got better and more powerful machines, even for Christmas from my parents, but I grew to love this beautiful machine.

~ 1995: Atari STe 520

My second computer was a hand-me-down from my uncle, which took residence at my grandparents house. The Atari STe 520. Although I craved it mainly for a game I played occasionally – Lemmings – a lot of franchises I love and still love to this day come from this machine. It had Civilization, The Secret of Monkey Island, Championship Manager, Populous, and many more. As you can tell there were a lot more cerebral and slower games – with good reason: a lot of arcade conversions were not great. More known for it’s music, ST Format did champion the computer long past it’s lifespan. Late games that haven’t got their flowers include the excellent Obsession, the “fuck me they’ve done a Doom clone on the ST” Substation and Super STario Land. All three were games I played long after the commercial lifespan of the machine had ended.

Also, fun fact – this was the first machine I dabbled with HTML in. Creating documents and putting them on disk, viewing them using the Crystal Atomic Browser. I wonder how that ended up for me?

~ 1997-1998: Olivetti PCS P/75n Pentium 75 (I think)

My first PC was a bit of a surprise. My grandad – who was probably born a generation or two too early – picked up a PC when the local Radio Rentals was closing and they were selling off stock. A great machine, I spent my mid teenage years playing some fantastic big box MS-DOS games that were a bugger to get loading. Theme Park, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, Magic Carpet were all played and loved. All played for hours. Also I had a lot of fun with early Windows 95 games, particularly Shareware compilations became the order of the day, with CDs full of them and played with. Happy times with my grandparents.

It was used as a work machine though, so did used to type up my homework on it as well. It was an absolute timesaver as occasionally we had to repeat our homework, so being able to restore from a saved document rather than rewrite it saved hours. No need to rewrite in my best handwriting** the development of characters in The Mayor of Casterbridge anymore!

~ 1999: AMD (Something or other) with a Voodoo 3 2000 Graphics Card

I remember the graphics card. That’s all. What a beast this was.

Bought locally, this was the first computer at my parents house. A gorgeous machine, with an amazing graphics card, it was pretty much the PC I discovered a lot of later era FPS’ on, with Half Life, Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena being the order of the day on this machine. Sadly it was an AMD machine that’s chips – for whatever reason – didn’t quite work with the motherboard so I had to have a version of Windows 95 that was cloned on it. Odd. Anyway, it kind of worked, but every so often we had to wipe the machine clean and restore it from a CD.

Online for the First Time

This was eventually the first computer I had with the internet. It was expensive at the time (1p/minute, which racked up pretty sharpish), originally I connected with Ezesurf (if you want a rabbit hole, how that company went to the wall is a read), then with Freeserve, it was just about affordable at that point before we got broadband. After having a summer or two in Yahoo! Chat Rooms (which looking back may not have been the best idea as a 16 year old kid), I did discover a couple of interests.

One was programming. I ended up messing around in Blitz Basic and making and releasing a few games. I still occasionally run in to people from that forum. Sadly all but one of the games have been lost to time, as the forum that hosted it is no longer around. Even the game that still works, can’t run on modern PC’s.

With 56k I also discovered the world of serious online gaming, I mentioned Jase a few posts back. This was where he comes onto the scene as part of me getting quite addicted (and quite good) at online Team Fortress Classic. Less action focussed games that were a game called Cosmic Consensus – a family fortunes style game that was great fun, and Acrophobia – which involved created Backronyms. Both games were precursors to what became the Jackbox Party Pack. Bring back Cosmic Consensus I say.

Sadly, something was always wrong with how it was built, as it exploded with a glorious electrical smell some point a few years later.

~ 2002: Pentium P133

A slight bit of a downstep in quality, as I went to Liverpool University to got another hand me down, this time a mid range Pentium P133. Sadly, this was pretty much a work and general browsing of the internet, but thankfully the beauty was being super connected to the internet meaning I was revisiting Doom, Quake and Command & Conquer in multiplayer when I wasn’t out causing mischief on the streets of Liverpool.

I think I did spend the three years upgrading it, so by the end of my time in university it could run Counter Strike very comfortably. Which probably explained the 2:1. I also began my first ever blog (on Blogger, yeah WordPress wasn’t a thing just yet), which at the time I think I may have blogged every day šŸ˜¬. I can’t have been that interesting?

2008: Isys Elite – Intel Core 2 Duo E8200 2048mb DDR2 667Mhz 250GB SATAII nVidia 8500GT 512MB PCI-E Graphics DVDRW

You will notice this is the first PC with full stats, as in the process of writing this email I found the Novatech order I made to acquire this machine. From reading between the lines I’d have been working for a couple of years at this point, so had a wage, and also noticed that it seemed to have been ordered after I failed my driving test.

It took me two more years to finally pass.

Oddly, I cannot remember much of this PC as I was well into making websites at this point so I imagine some early WordPress development was done on this machine. One game in particular I remember playing quite heavily is Team Fortress 2.

This PC was stored in the shed at my parents until fairly recently, and went in a clear out.

~ 2012: Acer Aspire 5749

I cannot find the email about this, but apparently I bought my first laptop from Tesco. Primarily used for work (this is when I became rather boring), it was the first laptop I used to drag around to places. I believe it was what I used to contribute to WordPress for the first time. Oh my fresh face so excited to be helpful. Where did that person go?

I still have it. It’s covered in stickers and in a draw in my office. But occasionally I use it if I need a Windows XP machine to do something. The last time was to try and Nike Football Scorpion Knockout running – the free game based around that classic Nike advert. It has a CD drive which is unique as no other computers I own do.

2014: Apple Macbook Pro (2.6GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5)

This was a gorgeous machine.

From being a bit vocal supporter of Windows machines, I took the plunge and got a MacBook when being a Windows user became a bit of a barrier for contributing to WordPress (and that’s a statement I expect to be tore apart on podcasts), when all the documentation was written in Mac’s in mind. I loved the power with this machine – was powerful and allowed me to do some heavy duty coding, so much so that I had to rewrite a contract to use it for work.

A great machine, it’s since become a “Zoom Calls in my Lounge” and “Ordering off of Just Eat” laptop. It’s what Steve Jobs would have wanted. I also launched Dwi’n Rhys from Frankfurt Airport there, so saw me through my first two years of freelancing.

I also used it for Twitch Streaming as well. That wasn’t so good and begun to struggle.

The most expensive computer I think I bought, but the one that paid for itself many times over.

2020: Apple Macbook Pro (1.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5)

And finally to the machine I type these words on whilst sat in the City Tavern in Chester. A bit of a fluke really. 6 years after working on a Macbook it has been my pretty much my workflow now and I couldn’t imagine working with much else. However I needed to get a bit more power – it was the pandemic, and sure enough people were going online. I was juggling projects and it was taking up so much space on my laptop.

So – cue some good fortune.

My hosting company – 34SP – was celebrating 20 years and as part of it were giving away 20 prizes of increasing perceived value. The top prize was a MacBook Pro.

Which I won.

Truth be told I missed the fact I won (it went into spam) and even when I did win I begun to spun into working class guilt that always manifests itself with good fortune (said working class exists as I got my tax refund today). Three months later when I actually began to use it I discovered it was a great machine. Rarely do I hear a fan go on it. Probably need to clean the screen, mind.

2020: ASUS ROG Strix GA15 G15DH-UK041T Gaming Desktop

I had a solid pandemic really. Which feels wrong to say. I managed with my clients and people coming online and needing web presences to muster two years worth of accounts and a deposit for a house. In October, I moved out of Manchester to Newton-le-Willows to my first home.

With that came a room I could dedicate to an office, as well as room for a proper gaming/streaming rig. I bought this machine, which I use for more high end stuff. Mainly streaming, but also for training videos for clients. I’ve discovered the wonderful world of Steam gaming with this. Many of the games from the “Video Games I Fell in Love With” series in the past 2 years have been on this machine.

Not top of the range, but good enough for what I want to do.

And Next….?

Honestly, where is next? I don’t know. Both machines I own are powerful enough for what I want to do. As such, an upgrade is not on the cards at the moment. But you never know. But by writing this I’m reminded on how much technology is linked with me. As the machines have upgraded, so have I. The memory on the machines have gotten bigger but the memories with the machines have become stronger.

I genuinely didn’t expect to write as much as I have. I hope it’s not too self indulgent!

* Fun fact: There isn’t an Agent X 1, despite the name of the game suggesting there was…
** Which – if you ever received a Christmas Card from me would know – is terrible.

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