Thursday, July 23, 2015

An Early Timeline of My Personal Computers

Stacy Zemke created a great Artifact Challenge for Unit 2 of our Power of Connections learning experience -- Framing Connections Through a Personal Archive.

The task is to make connections with your past by creating either a history of your Web presence or of your personal computing life. I opted for the latter as it says a great deal about the practical or adaptive approach I've taken to personal computing over the years.

You can see pictures of my primary personal computing devices from 1983-2005 on this Pinterest page, and here is a bit more detail on some of the specific machines shown.

Commodore 64 -- My parents gave me this personal computer as a graduation gift when I received my M.A. from Texas Tech in 1983. Until that time I had done all my typing on a Remington manual typewriter and an old IBM Selectric. The Commodore 64 had two joystick ports (you played four-player games by having the other two use the keyboard), a 5 1/4" floppy drive, and hooked into any small TV.  I bought a third-party dot matrix printer that allowed be to change fonts by changing dip switch settings, and used this for much of my coursework at the University of Texas.

Apple IIe -- A friend was selling off some equipment in 1986 and I bought an Apple IIe. This was an eye opener for me as the Commodore had required me to type in commands such as "Load" and "Run" just to access programs. The Apple IIe was my first experience with self-loading programs and something resembling and actual menu.

Apple IIc -- I like my IIe so much I couldn't wait to by a IIc (circa 1988/89). I typed the first chapters of my dissertation on the IIc and my daughter, born in 1987, played Treehouse and other games on it in her early years.

IBM PC -- When I took my first faculty job in 1990, the department issued me an IBM PC with dual floppy drives (3 1/2"). You booted Word Perfect or some other program from a disk on the left drive and stored data on a disk in the right drive. I had used WordPro and other PC-based word processing systems in the past, but this was the point at which I converted to DOS-based Word Perfect for much of the 90s.  I knew all the keystrokes, created my own macros and, in general, couldn't imagine computing getting much better. I finished my dissertation on this machine and also wrote my first article on it.

Macintosh Classic -- My personal life went through some changes beginning in 1997 and, not surprisingly, so did my computing life. I moved to a new teaching position in a new town, and along the way picked up an old Macintosh Classic. While it didn't connect to the Internet (I did all my Internet research and e-mail at the University library during this period), it was amazingly reliable and also provided my introduction to Microsoft Word.

Compaq Armada -- By 1998 my writing projects were increasing rapidly and I wanted something cheap that was also portable. Enter the used Compaq Armada laptop that ran DOS and has Word Perfect installed. It was blazing fast and really familiar. It allowed me to teach at multiple institutions, write on the go, and be extremely productive.

Dell Laptop (2003/4) -- I actually owned a number of desktops and Dell laptops at the university from 1999-2003, but this laptop is memorable because it came with the founding of a startup in Boston and represented a whole new way of thinking about productivity and communication. My wife worked for the company as well as still has hers (that she uses daily!).

Fujitsu Laptop -- The Fujitsu was my first experiment with "tablet" computing and, except for the limited computing power, was an enjoyable little machine. I like taking notes by hand and used One Note with great delight during this time (really!).


  1. Rob, didn't you have an orange iBook (actually now that I think of it, I may have had a blue one.....

  2. When I was Director of the Language Learning Center I had an orange clam shell with a handle. My favorite design ever. Probably should have included that one because it was cool. I didn't use it has heavily as some others but it was a fun thing.