What were your first few computers?

Continuing the discussion from Welcome to our forums! Please introduce yourself :slight_smile::

My first was a used IMSAI 8080. Then a Televideo dumb terminal and acoustic modem to an IBM 360 in college. Osbourne 1. Fat Mac #87. Since then, all PCs.

At work, an IBM AT 286, 1986
At home a Macintosh Plus ( 1 MB of memory, 20MB external harddisk), 1987


My very first was an electro-mechanical computer. It was designed jointly with my school friend Stephen Hawking (yes, THAT Stephen Hawking) and another school friend Cyril Fletcher.

It was built out of components salvaged from my father’s office PBX from the 1930s, including Strowger uniselectors and Post Office relays. It solved logic problems, and was programmed by plugboard. And it worked.

We designed and built a second general purpose computer, but never quite got it to work - it used 35mm magnetic tape for main memory storage, and our electronic skills and hardware weren’t quite up to the mark.

After that, as an engineering apprentice, I used an ICT computer with a magnetic drum main memory of around 4000 bytes (yes, bytes, not kilobytes) and solved bell ringing permutation problems on it.

Every byte in its registers had a miniature neon light on the front panel, and a toggle switch to set it on or off.

I then did the same kind of thing as a university student at Cambridge on the University’s EDSAC II computer.

Its input and output were by high speed paper tape reader and writer.

We took the output tape and hooked it up to an IBM Selectric (golf ball) typewriter, ‘printed’ onto foolscap size Gestetner wax stencils, and duplicated a few hundred copies. It became a standard work for bell ringers and there are copies in the main UK Copyright Library collections.

“A complete collection of right-place surprise major methods” by Andrew Hudson and John McClenahan, Published around 1964.

Ah, hardware, firmware and software have moved on rather a lot since then!


Wow! To top @john_mcclenahan, it looks like we’ll need to find somebody who worked with Alan Turing! Then (to top that) someone who worked with Ada Lovelace (with the side effect of proving that Vampires are real - and immortal! :wink:)

Early 1980s
Sinclair Spectrum. [using Basic]
mid 1980s
Calcomp IGS500 workstation [1st CAD in England].
late 1980s
Apricots [PC] - IBMs for office use.
Silicon Graphics Indigo Unix workstations [Sonata the grandfather of Revit].
Apple MACs as support computing.
Various Windows PCs and their OSs [Reflex - the father of Revit].
Then 1990s/2000s
Windows Vista/7/8/10 - with AutoCAD/Revit,
then SketchUp from v4 upwards…

to Now

386 IBM Compatible (1990)

As a graduate student, I used the Univerity of Pennsylvania’s then bleeding edge IBM 360 computer and PL/1 to model speed and flow in downtown traffic, and a Cray computer as my (very) small part of a project to develop digital mapping for the US Air Force.

Then a long lapse, until I tried out a Mac Lisa at work, and later bought myself an Amstrad PC compatible with two 360kb 5-1/4" floppy disks as main storage and DOS or GEM as OSs.

Upgraded to a ‘massive’ hard disk of 20 MB (megabytes) at a massive price too - several hundred pounds at least in 1980s money, several thousand in today’s money.

Unbelievable how fast capacity and speed has gone up and prices down in 30-odd years.

TIG has reminded me that I saw a demo of AutoCAD v2, and that I started using less expensive CAD programs early on myself - 2D to begin with, like DesignCAD and TurboCad, then AutoCad and 3D from around v11, before SketchUp, I think starting with v8.

A lot of progress in ease of use and capability.

Hard to believe that some of you were into computers before me! My history is interesting (but predictable after a certain point):

Around 1978 I started playing with programmable calculators. The one I had used a variation of Fortran as its language.

In 1979 I started using a TV game console cartridge (made by Philips) that was a 100 step assembler. I found myself playing that more than all the game cartridges combined.

During 1980 I knew someone who had a UK101 (variation of the US Superboard kit), and someone who had a Nascom computer. I would ask both of them which was the best computer to get, and each would say “well, my one is good at this, and his one is good at that”. Then they would laugh, and say “you could always get an Apple 2!”.

At the time, Apple ][+ cost close to £1000, but I happened by be in the R.A.F, stationed in the Shetland Islands, where there was nothing to spend my money on. After a few months of thinking about it, I decided that if I didn’t get and Apple ][+ and I really got into programming, in a year I would regret my choice.

So, around October 1980 I bought an Apple ][+.

That indirectly led to a career change, and eventually led me to trying to work for Apple UK, in October 1987. The first time I used a Mac was at Apple, while I typed out my CV. I did get the job.

Since then I’ve used many different Mac, with my current one able to run macOS, Windows 10, Linux, Chrome OS, and Android OS.

I tell people that I will stop using Macs as soon as it’s not enjoyable. That didn’t happen yet.

Apologies for the platform bias!

Memories… I didn’t own this one but worked for several years on a SGI Onyx with a hmd. It was about 1/2 m3. You could buy a house for the price. Always had to keep the tri-count very low and lets not talk about the limited texture memory…Your current mobile phone outperforms this one by large.

When I was a kid my dad had some old desktop computer with Win 98 (I new too little of computers at the time to really know anything about the hardware). My mum got a laptop with the new and awesome Win XP (it was beautiful! it har rounded corners and gradients! YAY!).

Dad had broadband connection but since the computer was so slow and old I couldn’t use it for much and never installed any programs of my own. Mum had a dial up modem the first time I installed SketchUp and the download took me about 5 hours.

I think I was around 15 when I got my first own computer for christmas. It was my cousins old home built computer with 8 fans (that made much of the air just go around in circles) and a piece of black painted wood to fill up the space next to one of the fans to make it fit into a hard drive slot. This was absolutely wonderful! I think mum also got broadband around the same time and I could finally get connected to the world online.

I haven’t yet read all of this thread, but obviously you win!


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But it isn’t a competition, just a series of fond recollections of a long ago age when things were very different.

Flying toasters power



My first computer was an IBM DOS 386. (And I’m only 30)
I learned the hard way not to: C:\> del .. :anguished:

In my first “incarnation”… When I used the earliest Calcomp CAD system…
It had a disk-drive the size of a washing-machine [in an air-conditioned room!].
It also had a belt-plotter, which drew everything in the order you had created it, using the line-thickness / pen you’d specified for every line !
It also loaded each project from a tape-drive archive - using machines à la James Bond’s old-movies.
You worked on the project loaded into the computer-memory.
Unless you specifically chose to save it back onto a [new] tape at some time, then an unexpected “fatal-error” lost everything done thus far…
Worst outcome was of loss an entire day’s work [office-rules said to save at mid-day - but we didn’t !] - happened once to me !

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Ah the good ole days. I had a HP 41 C that I tried to convince to perform foot-inch math. Still have it. Then I got an Apple IIc 1 mhz. Still have that too. The first one (I think) to run any CAD was a 286 although it may have been 386.
Now I can view Sketchup and use Construction Master on my phone.


Digital (DEC) Rainbow, 1983. A 286 clone in '87 or so. So many since then…

My first computer as a 386 DX in 1991, but I didn’t start programming really until 1998 (perl).

Boy what a history lesson.
My first computer was an Acer DX2 50MZ, circa 1994 Windows 3.1. Because of this disastrous machine I was forced to learn about hardware, way more than I wanted to. It has been a fun ride to this point, keeps the brain cells moving.