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Cinnamon patrol

Mr and Mrs Lili Wedding


CPUs I have known and loved

The purchase of a new computer starts one reminiscing about previous hardware. Here are the CPUs I have known and loved - in chronological order:

  1. Unfortunately I cannot remember what my first computer was. I guess it was around 1985 and it was some kind of IBM PC partially-compatible, like this one, in fact it may have even been that one. I'm sure it was purchased at great expense (thanks parents!) and while novel and exciting, because of its partial compatibility (estimates ranged) a lot of software didn't run properly. There were lots of trips to the computer store (which I seem to remember was out of town) and much aggravation. Then it was sold (and relegated to history).

  2. Amstrad CPC 6128. The CPC 6128 was a true hobbiest computer and I cut my teeth on its smouldering Zilog Z80 CPU. My Dad hooked me up with a true ├╝bergeek who tried to teach me assembler language. It didn't really go that well - already I was hankering for a good 3GL and a decent development environment.

  3. Bit hazy about the sequence here ... but I'm pretty sure next up was an Amiga 1000, the slightly older cousin of the very popular Amiga 500. This was given to me by a family friend, cool huh? No real programming done on this; but lots and lots of fiddling. It was a ground-breaking machine; it had a windowed interface, it had > 8 colours and proper sound! and it may have influenced my computing aesthetic more than I'll ever know. Side note: upon receipt of the next computer (see next computer) I flogged it off in the Trade & Exchange to the tune of 500 bucks.

  4. Next up, at least in my head, was a Macintosh Classic. Aside from my wedding day I cannot remember being more excited; I was nearly beside myself waiting for this Californian beauty to arrive. Sure, performance was pretty limited (I can remember pushing the performance envelope by running BBS software (Hermes) and a word processor at the same time) and the market for accessories or even replacement parts was very limited (I remember I needed a new mouse or keyboard and the parents nearly had to restructure the mortgage), but just like a new iPod Touch it was the first computer to give me the warm fuzzies. You slightly loved it, and with those rounded corners you could almost take it to bed for a cuddle.

  5. How history repeats itself becase, next up, was an actually-compatible IBM PC clone. Yes, it was an XT. The exact circumstances around this purchase have been lost to time, but I must have been old enough to have some money of my own because I purchased it, off my own back, from my friend Matthew Yap for $500. Which I think was a rip off. It was clear he had a future in banking and I didn't. I bought this overpriced dog for the express purpose of running a BBS. Observant readers will remember I was already running one on the Mac, but all the really choice BBS software was DOS-based and this XT was my ticket, luckily...

  6. ... my friend Victor Chow's father dabbled in computer sales (come to think of it, I have no idea what he did, but he had a lot of computers and computer parts) and he gave me a 286 SX 12 motherboard + CPU. My XT brick was now a slender Italian sports car with racing stripes and all. This was also my first foray into frustrating world of DIY computer building. I clearly remember ripping out the XT motherboard, putting the 286 in and then plugging in the power supply. In those days the power supply had two identical-looking connectors coming of it and these connectors could be attached either way around. I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right (or blowing something up), and I chanced it, and I won.

    Another interesting aside: At some point after the Mac and before the 286 I developed a fashion conscience which, to my mind, meant I had to buy all my clothes from Kamikaze and Barkers at greatly inflated brand-name prices. I was in such a hurry to transform myself I borrowed $150 from Matthew Yap (the very same) to buy a denim jacket. And then I sold my Mac to a second-hand Apple dealer (for $700 I think) and spent up large on clothing items (including one of those Barkers jackets with the 3 men on the back - NZers my age will know immediately what I mean). I never wore that jacket as the colour didn't suit me, but I got excellent use out of the rest of those clothes. In the end some were stolen (favourite brown T-shirt at computer science lab), given away, exchanged, or just plain wore out. The last to go was the jumper/sweater made of green towelling. Either I've still got it and it's in storage or Laura made me get rid of it, I don't remember.

  7. Save item (8) below, that was the end of esoteric computing. I was now firmly in bed with the PC. I hooked up with another family friend who had a trade account at a computer wholesalers and bought and sold (for profit) a number of machines. These were the days of the beige boxes filled with anonymous Taiwanese tidbits. I don't remember any one system fondly, or particularly. It was an arms race and there was no room for sentiment or feelings. It was also the age of the Internet - and suddenly that became all consuming and more important that hardware.

  8. Although I didn't own it in the traditional sense my SGI Indy is worth mentioning, if only for its exotic value. It had been a long-held dream of Matthew Oram to have a SGI workstation and, in his role at ihug, he was able to realise that dream. Highly esteemed for their fantastic graphics hardware and used for feature films at the like, Silicon Graphics's eminence in that domain was about to come to end as Macs and PCs improved in leaps and bounds. So anyhow, Matthew bought two and I ended up with one. It's a computer very few people will have heard of, let alone used, let alone had on their desk for a couple of years and although it was actually pretty crappy for its intended purpose, and probably a waste of money (I can say that because the then-directors of ihug now own a resort in Fiji and Vodafone now owns ihug - and I have no allegiance to either), and ultimately caused a major security panic and had to be moth-balled, I thought it was awesome!

  9. Time is running out, and so is your patience so I'm skipping some of the aforementioned beige boxes and jumping straight to my IBM Thinkpad R40. This was my penultimate PC and as recently as last weekend I breathed new life into it with a fresh install of XP. IBM, now Lenovo, make the best business laptops in my opinion and my (now Laura's) R40 rocks. It's fast (under XP), stylish, and it sports a resolution of 1400 x 1050 on a 15" LCD monitor! Unfortunately, under Vista is was unusable and, for professional reasons, Vista is where I need to be. Goodbye R40. I love you.



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