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I'm interested to see what people grew up with in the heyday of the 8bit micros and your experience?

For me it started in a cupboard under the stairs... no really it did! 

The early 1980's - My earliest micro memory was of my dad having an old portable black and white TV and the mighty Dragon32 with an extensive library of software on (mainly) tapes.  As a kid, I only ever played games and had to imagine the colourful sprites!  It was at school I got to use the BBC Micro and enjoyed the speedy loading times that disk media brought to me!  Most of this was educational software, but I do remember playing some normal games too like Elite and some text adventures.

The late 1980's - I got my first colour portable TV and a Spectrum 128K +2 (with a built in tape deck), this was "my" first micro of my own!  I had some of the classic titles, Dizzy, Ghostbusters, Pinball Simulator to name a few.  This was the first system I tried my hand at programming (with some success), I managed to input the arkanoid clone from the back of the spectrum manual and it worked!  But I never really caught the programming bug, at that time it was all about the latest title from Ocean or U.S. Gold's compilations.

The early 1990's - I wandered away from the micro path and got embroiled in the console wars, after many many heated debates at school about the merits and drawbacks of both Sega and Nintendo I came away unscathed.

The mid 1990's - I didn't have any computer or console for a while, instead I had the chance to use my friends latest and greatest machines, the Commodeore Amiga and Atari ST!  These machines blew my mind, the vivid colours and sprites, the software catalog and the music!!  The late nineties was amazing (in my humble opinion)!

The late 1990's onwards - I left school, started to work and went back to real computers (IBM compatibles at least), this has been my life since then to now, I've done the modding scene, the gaming scene, the napster scene...  Now it's 2020 and I have found myself drawn back through nostalgia to the 8bit world, to a time when I used to watch StarWars endlessly on video with friends and play outdoors with friends.

YouTube has introduced me to some wonderful retro content creators, two of whom are involved with this site and who have inspired me to heat up the old soldering iron once more to rescue some retro tech!

And with that comes the end of my story so far!  What are your memories?

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I'm a bit of a youngster here, by the time I was born in 1991 IBM PC compatibles were commonplace, my parents were in the field and were working with PCs, so I grew up with a PC. My mom once programmed in Commodore 64 BASIC before I was born, though.

I was always savvy to know how a computer worked. By 2003, I was already learning programming with Le Site du Zéro (a French website that became Open Classrooms by now) and some books like HTML for Dummies.

But for me, it all started in 2005 when I recieved a TI-83+. And yes, they're very much 8-bit micros in a calculator form factor as much as I consider modern smartphones pocket computers. It had a Z80 CPU and a nice BASIC I had fun programming with, so when I graduated and went to tech school in computer science back in 2008 I already knew a bit of the theory.

In 2010 I found and joined the TI calculator scene and since then I dabbled with many things one might now call "retro", "embedded" and "IoT". My brother also got interested in the retro computer scene thanks to YouTube and we now own an Apple IIc and a Commodore 64, along with a few TI calculator models.

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My first exposure to programming was learning BASIC in a summer class using an Apple II.  From there I got a Vic-20 at home and later a C-64 and was typing in a lot of BASIC/assembly programs from listings in COMPUTE! or other similar magazines.  I tried writing a skiing game on the C-64 (mixing in assembly for handling sprite movement with BASIC) and submitted it to COMPUTE!  Sadly I was rejected and my game development career stalled. 

Programming classes in school included BASIC, assembly on the Apple II, and Pascal.  Later years with the C64 included getting a modem and discovering local BBS's to dial into.  I got an Amiga 1000 my senior year in high school and did a little bit of programming with it (mostly in BASIC), but in college it was used largely for dialing into various Unix systems for doing various CS programming assignments.  Did get to hear Dave Haynie of Commodore speak at a local Amiga users group meeting in college (probably 1990 or 1991).

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I could go full-on Proust recounting my technology memories, but I can try the Cliff Notes version first...

1978: I am 3 years old and my father brings home our first interactive video device: a Coleco pong clone with a light gun. Note I didn't call it a computer because I don't think it had any CPU, or probably anything really digital about it - the whole thing could have been analog video except for maybe a score keeper. My memories are pretty fuzzy as we never really played it much.

1982: In school I touch my first actual computer: an Apple II. I had played video arcade games by then and Atari 2600s at other people's houses, but this was the first thing with a keyboard and monitor, and a tape deck to load some math game. It was wheeled into the classroom on a little cart and I got a turn on it and was hooked pretty immediately. But they didn't bring it back very often.

1983: I get to use the Apple IIs set up in the school library and use floppy disks and start programming for the first time, in Logo! That would go on for the next few years at school as I would explore more about how to make computers do things, and not just play games.

1984: I get my first real game console: a Vectrex! They were being liquidated at Toys R Us, so I racked up a bunch of cool vector-based games and overlay films to go with them. After about a year, there were no more games available to buy, and we were in the middle of the Great Crash. Nobody was getting any new consoles, but one of my best friends had a Commodore 64. No crash over there! Pretty much the only vital game platform in the US between 1984 and...

1986: I get my first real home computer: a Tandy Color Computer 2 with a whopping 64kB of RAM! The CoCo 3 had just came out so the CoCo 2 had come way down in price. Not much to do with it except learn BASIC, so I did! It came with a great manual with a bunch of examples you could type in, which I spent countless hours doing.

1988: I get an NES and suddenly I had a huge number of games available to play that were a lot more impressive than what the CoCo 2 could do. So the CoCo, which was often connected to a black and TV, was just for playing with BASIC and using Color ScripsIt, the worst word processor ever.

1990: I get my first PC compatible: a Tandy 1000 HX. Now I could go to places other than RadioShack to buy software, and an even bigger world opened up, with great games available from Sierra and many other publishers. They drew me in deeper than most NES games, so as the 90s began I started leaving the 8-bit world behind.

Until...

1997: My last year of undergrad at College and I am introduced to 8-bit microcontrollers, specifically the Motorola 68HC11. I had to learn to program it in assembly (not difficult after already using 68000 assembly for years and designing simulated CPUs) for multiple projects including my big Senior Project. When that was submitted in the spring of 1998, that was the last time I had done anything substantial with an 8-bit computer.

Until...

2019, and I reach back 20+ years and dust off the 8-bit assembly skills to learn 65C02 and start making new software for the X16!

It's been a great deal of fun so far, and I can't wait until I get a real X16! All through this timeline I built a career as a software engineer, until I got too good at it and people paying me to do things insisted that I had to be more of a manager than a developer. So this has really scratched my programming itch that has built up over the last few years of being what I call a PowerPoint Engineer. I also hope to get my kids interested in it, as well. My oldest daughter (who I have already started teaching Python to) says Chase Vault is her favorite game, even though it's a bit difficult for her. She has mentioned that her preference may have something to do with me being the developer. 😁

Cheers!

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I was born in the early 1980's, and my earliest memories are of playing Asteroids with an Atari 2600 joystick in my pudgy little toddler hands. I might've simply been born that way, the cable connecting the joystick was like a second umbilical that was never cut. My family's collection of games for the console featured every major critical success that ever came out for the console. You name it, if it was a critical success, we probably had it.

Sometime in the mid-80s, we got an Atari 5200, but we only ever picked up a small handful of games for it, in large part because we broke the controllers almost immediately. Dad got real tired of fixing or replacing them, real quick. Interestingly, it wasn't the joysticks themselves that broke, like would happen on the 2600 sticks, it was the buttons on the sides of the 5200's controllers that seemed to be utter garbage in our household.

1987. The Nintendo Entertainment System arrives at our house, in the form of the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo pack. I was old enough to appreciate the recommended age of "6 years and up", which our family promptly ignored. Dad kept trying to get me to back away from the TV so I'd actually have to aim at the ducks with some finesse. It never took.

So, yeah, I'll cop to the fact that I'm really more of a 90's kid, I "missed" the C64 era, and my interest in the X16 is partly to help fill that education and experience gap. But also, it turns out that programming 6502 assembly is quite a bit of fun. Who knew?

1990. My grade school hosts a small programming competition using the LCSI Apple Logo programming language (think "turtle cursor"). I took second place. Mom brings home a 2400bps modem and dumb terminal from work so she can work from home, but also pulls some strings to get me setup with 20KB of space on her company's mainframe, as well as access to their BASIC compiler and email system. She starts teaching me BASIC. ❤️

Ironically, the teachers in the computer lab don't know much about computers, and I end up showing them a bunch of things about their Apple IIs and, later, Macintoshes. It's the teachers outside of the lab who end up having things to teach me, and introduce me to the world of BBSes. This... really, my school system was awesome, but this trend never ended and the non-computer staff were routinely more competent with computers than the dedicated computer staff. It was comical.

Fast forward to 1994. Times had been tough, financially speaking. We finally get our first home PC, a Packard Bell 486-66MHz with the fancy-pants DX2 coprocessor. I am incredibly excited. It comes with a software front-end that is completely worthless, and I have it disabled within a day so that we have a "real" computer. 🙂 Dad points out that QBASIC comes standard with DOS/Windows installs.

At home, if I'm not playing video games, I'm poking around with QBASIC. At school, meanwhile, other shenanigans ensued.

I entered high school. I was surprised to find out that, for the first time in my academic career, I actually choose what courses to sign up for. I front-load the mandatory things, and fill whatever missing slots I have with computer and electronics courses. My electronics teacher is so impressed with my notes that he wants to keep my notebook.

My electronics teacher was awesome. One year, a student carelessly soldered a polarized capacitor into their project, reversed. Of course, you know what happened once he energized the circuit. I thought someone had set off a firecracker. My electronics teacher spins around on his heel, sees the smoke and confetti, and without missing a beat, yells "Cool! They're still making those things out of paper!"

My school's fledgling IT department made so many token efforts to secure the school's PCs, and they were all comically easy to get around. Worse, because IT was setting up every last computer in an identical way, whether for students or teachers, my group of fellow "computer nerds" and I discover all manner of tools and software packages that simply have no business being on lab computers. They are, at best, resource hogs poaching memory and making the computers slow, and at worst they're security vulnerabilities. You know that scene in the movie Hackers where Dade Murphy enables a test of the school sprinkler system? Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but it was pretty bad, I totally get where that scene was coming from. Hackers always struck me as a surprisingly well-researched movie, but the way it leans so heavily into details and minutiae makes it amazingly dated. And let's be honest, those terminal displays were whack, yo. Still one of my favorites.

My group is a bunch of total whitehats, and we go about on our own unofficial, years-long project to "liberate" the school's lab PCs and Macs from this useless, harmful software, about as quickly as we can identify them and gain the trust of the lab's current staff, or they at least turn their backs long enough to reboot the system without its most pointlessly irritating security features and come back later to finish the work (maybe that latter bit wasn't so white-hatish of us, but we were convinced that we were on the side of the angels).

In my junior year, we discover that our school system's public router was allowing administrator logins from the internet, and was still using the default password! We have no idea what to do with this information. We pass it along to a math teacher we trust. She's very cool, she gets us. Her classroom, with its row of pieced-together PCs running Linux, networked to her personal Unix server that had its own tunnel through the firewall and to the Internet, becomes the locus for our group. Later that year, we actually meet with the school's IT and start talking about how to genuinely improve the computer security situation at the school.

Nothing changes during my time in high school.

In my senior year of high school, I finally get "busted" for having had "Telnet.exe" in my student account for 3 years (placed there immediately after IT had deleted it from every PC on campus, and a full year before the school enacted their policy forbidding executables in student accounts). The IT department completely misses "Telnet.bin", the Mac application, in the same directory. I should add that fully 2/3rds of the computers in our school were Macs. My group knows this, we probably knew the school's computer inventory better than the IT department did.

Turn the millenium, and I'm off to college. It's a close call between Computer Engineering and Computer Science. I decided to go with with CompSci. But by now we're very much getting into "macro", so I'll just leave it there.

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For me, my first look at computers was at my neighbor's house, when he rolled out his Apple II.   It was fun, as he let my five year old butt play with basic and my favorite, a Star Trek game.   Fast forward two years, and my second grade class was introduced to the Commodore PET and Logo.  From there it was dying of dysentery along the Oregon Trail

Sixth grade got me introduced to a Mac Classic, and the rest of my teenage years were centered around x86 architecture and making terrible games in QBASIC, although a few friends still tinkered on their PETs and others were headed to more intricate programming.  My first games system was an Atari 2600, then quickly moved to other systems like the NES, Genesis, and SNES.

My 8-bit fascination really started to ramp up several years ago, after a bit of an early mid-life crisis in gaming.   Games were getting larger and larger with fantastic graphics and movies but the need for a simpler time got me into geting retro again.   I found a TI99 at a yard sale for $15, and then got a Timex Sinclair 1000, then a Pcjr, then an Apple II.  

There are so many games and software out there for older systems I have not been able to try yet, but I am looking forward to it!

 

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The first computer I was exposed to was the original TRS-80. My sixth grade teacher bought one for the classroom, and picked me to read out the listing of a BASIC program that he typed in. He then had everyone in the class sit down at the computer and interact with the program. If my memory serves, the program asked people to enter their initials, then it drew a castle on the screen with those initials on the wall, and then a cannon that fired a cannonball at the castle 🙂 All using those blocky black-and-white pseudo-graphics that the TRS-80 had.

Then in high school there was a computer room between two classrooms that had a few Euro Apple ][s (I grew up in Australia, though I now live in California). I think at least one of them was a ][ and not a ][+ because it booted into the monitor and you had to type CTRL-B or hit RESET to get into BASIC. Later they bought a few Australian-made micros called the MicroBee that used a Z80. I remember writing a version of the classic Snake game for that computer when I was in Year 9. But those computers disappeared the next year, so I got back into using the Apple ][+ and //e computers they replaced them with. My computer science teacher gave me a copy of the LISA assembler, which became my workhorse for writing games and other programs with.

In Year 11 I bought an Apple ][+ clone from a mail-order company in Taiwan. I could only afford a monochrome amber monitor and one disk drive, and no printer or any other accessory. But I would spend every weekend programming that thing. Years later I got myself a used Apple //GS (a ROM 01 with the Woz signature on the case) with a genuine Apple RGB monitor and ImageWriter II. I still have that to this day, although I got rid of my Apple ][+ clone (or more accurately, my mother did after I moved to the US, since it had been sitting in a closet for years at her house).

More recently I backed the Kickstarter for the ZX Spectrum Next, which has finally arrived 3 years later, and I've been getting back into Z80 assembly language programming. I had done a small amount at university, but my background has been mostly 6502 assembly language programming (as a hobby, that is, obviously I've never been paid to do it!). I do plan to write software for the X16, though finding time for it (even during the pandemic) is a little tricky.

 

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On 5/6/2020 at 2:07 AM, Juju said:

In 2010 I found and joined the TI calculator scene ...

Ah, memories! My very first "computer" was the brand new TI-59 back in 1977. I was 8 years old, and my dad had bought it for himself, but I was allowed to "borrow" it 😀

It was an extremely powerful calculator, programmable, and with a magnetic card reader to store programs on.

There was a very large community around this calculator (even locally here in Denmark), and people did a lot of reverse engineering, and figured out many undocumented features of the calculator,

I made lots of programs and games for this calculator. That was what initially inspired me to learn programming.

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My first exposure to computers was in elementary school in the 70s, where I had a bit of access to a MITS Altair 8800. I remember playing Hunt The Wumpus and a rudimentary Star Trek game.

In 1980, a teacher at my middle school had a TRS-80 Model 1 that some of us were given access to. He taught us BASIC and I started to learn some simple Z-80 that I'd use for some simple screen-related subroutines. Ah, the joys of data statements and POKEing your routine into memory!

In somewhere around 1982, a couple friends got Apple ][+ systems and we started working with those. I learned Applesoft and did some 6502. In the fall of 1984, I bought myself an Apple //c, which I still have. I used that //c for my first couple years of college, before buying myself a PS/2 (which I wish I still had). In the late 90s, my inlaws were cleaning out their basement and gave me the Apple //c system they had bought when my wife was a senior in high school (1985). I have over 100 floppies for the Apple line.

In high school, we used TRS-80s. I still have printouts of a lot of my programs, as well as all of my floppies. Unfortunately, I've learned CDC floppies don't hold up well, so about half of the TRS-80 floppies can't be read. My pride and joy was a disk sector editor I wrote for the Model IV in Z-80.

I had a few friends with Commodore 64s, but always preferred the Apple line. About 5 years ago, I started watching TRS-80 prices on eBay and have since acquired a pair of Model 1s and a Model IV. I still need a Model III. I've also since acquired an Apple ][+, a //e and a //gs.

I remember in 1974 when my dad bought his first calculator. He was in the Air Force and needed it for the homework in a training program he was in. I remember 7 year old me being fascinated by that little device. I'd fiddle with it for hours, and it was very basic by today's standards.

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Posted (edited)

My path is recounted in my  intro in the intro thread, so the quick shortcut version ... Timex Sinclair, membrane keyboard, tape storage, 16KB RAM expansion crashing, into the closet, next comes the C64, an Epson Geneva for my Peace Corps teaching in Grenada in the mid 80s, back to US, a C128D where I fried the processor, back to my C64, off to Grad School where my C64, BusyBee PerfectWriter, Big Blue Reader, 1541 and 1581 drives and daisywheel printer were my paper writing setup for two years, then a cheap liquidation two floppy transportable as hard drive systems were becoming the main thing, then relying on office PCs and cheap two generations old PCs until the present.

Edited by BruceMcF
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15 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

my C64, BusyBee PerfectWriter, Big Blue Reader, 1541 and 1581 drives and daisywheel printer were my paper writing setup for two years

For me, it was an Apple //c with an Epson FX-80+.  I typed up a lot of papers on that, and made a lot of money doing so, as well.

 

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I started to program as a young child in the early/mid 80's on an Acorn Electron (you may not have picked up on it, but there's a clue to my first favourite game, and most nostalgic).  Eventually got an Amiga 500, and soon after that an Amiga 1200 - loved using AMOS, Octamed, Deluxe Paint, WordPerfect (for course work) and of course hundreds of games and demos, which I used throughout college.  While at university I had moved on to a 486dx66 with DOS and Windows 3.11 (although I still far preferred the Amiga).

The last 20 years I've almost exclusively been using Linux, although I still occasionally use my A1200 and Acorn Electron, both of which have been upgraded to varying degrees since I first got them.

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