TBT: The “How” of my Computer Hobby

Recently I created a video discussing the genesis and growth of my computing hobby.

Below is the 43-minute video where I ramble about the history of my interest in computers. If you don’t want to watch the video, you can read a “summary” below. If you’ve followed my blog, a lot of this information isn’t new.

A 43-minute video with me discussing the history of my computing hobby, from my introduction to computers to the present day.

In regards to videos: I don’t do videos regularly for a multitude of reasons – some of which are mentioned in the above video. First, I’m bad at impromptu speaking. I tend to ramble, repeat myself, and – in general – make myself look like a fool. Second, I typically don’t have access to decent recording equipment. (I usually only use my iPhone 6s to record videos, and I don’t have a tripod or dedicated microphone. The only reason I produced this video and two additional upcoming videos is because I had the camera equipment checked out for a class project.) Third, it takes a while to edit the video – whereas just typing a post takes an hour or two.

First, I’m 21 years old. Being born in the same year that Apple released the iBook G3 and Y2K had many concerned, I was surrounded by technology – even at a relatively young age. (Heck, my 1991 Classic was 8 years old when I was born, and my 1988 SE was 11 years old.) Unlike other vintage computer enthusiasts, I did not grow up using an Apple II or Commodore 64 at school – instead we had PCs running Windows 98 in Kindergarten, and our main computer lab was upgraded to Windows XP machines the following year.

However, I got a taste of vintage computers even at a young age. (Although they weren’t considered “vintage” or “collectible” at that stage.) My first computer was a 1994 Gateway 2000 x486 machine, which my grandparents gave to my family after it had sat in a spare bedroom after my cousin got done using it. (She purchased it new when in college.) I also used a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) for playing games at the time.

A wallpaper close to the one that was used on the Gateway 2000 I used as a kid.

Finally, my parents upgraded to a HP Pavilion running Windows Vista in December 2006. It was one of the first computers sold to run Vista, and featured an AMD Athlon x64 processor. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember any of the other specs of it.) At school, I continued to use the XP machines.

I can remember watching the technicians work on some of the computers in the computer lab. I remember one time, when I was in third grade, I watched the technician perform a motherboard swap.

I used the Pavilion until a devastating fire reduced our home to ashes in October 2010, taking both the Pavilion and the Gateway 2000 with it. (And the rest of our belongings.)

The next day, a neighbor gifted an Acer AspireOne netbook with Windows 7 Starter. That computer was used as my daily driver until my birthday in 2011, when my grandparents and cousins chipped in to purchase the Asus Essentio Series desktop (now known as the “MintTin.”) That computer, which originally ran Windows 7 Home Premium, was my daily machine until October 2014, when the hard drive failed.

Me using PowerPoint 2003 after setting it up for a “photo op” at my grandparent’s house.

First Apple “Phase”

In 2014, around my sophomore year of high school, my interest in computers started to grow and shifted toward the area of vintage computing and computing history. My first interest was focused in the history of Apple Computer.

My interest in Apple started after watching a video Apple published in 1992 titled “The Design Solution.” In the video, engineers and architects were shown using computer-aided design (CAD) and miscellaneous software packages on Macintosh models of the era. (Mostly Quadras, such as the Quadra 700 and 900/950. Though other modular models – the LC, IIsi, IIci/IIcx, and even a PowerBook make appearances throughout the video.) One section of the video show Black & Veatch Architects designing the American Royal Complex (a.k.a. Hale Arena) in Kansas City using AutoCAD on a Quadra 700.

Apple’s 1992 promotional video “The Design Solution” helped start my interest in vintage Macintosh computers.
In the above video, architects at Black & Veatch design the American Royal Complex in Kansas City, Missouri. The building was designed using AutoCAD on the Macintosh.

The video piqued my interest, but the movie Jobs (2013 version with Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs) furthered my interest in Apple’s history. While the movie is controversial and almost universally disliked by all Apple aficionados, I found it entertaining and it fostered my interest in learning more about Jobs and the history of the company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak.

While the 2013 movie Jobs is heavily disliked by Apple and vintage computer aficionados, I thought it was a decent movie and fostered my interest in Apple’s history. (Photo source: IMDb; Glen Wilson/Open Road Films)

While I was interested in Apple’s products from the Spindler/Amelio era of Apple (1993-1999, as I also liked the iMac G3), I didn’t purchase any vintage machines during this time. However, I started using Macs on a daily basis.

My interest in Apple’s History and Steve Jobs went so deep that in my sophomore year of high school, I created a Día de los Muertos shrine dedicated to Steve Jobs. (I used to have pictures of this shrine, but I believe I deleted them.)

In October 2014, I started an internship at a local newspaper office. While there, I used two computers – an IBM ThinkCentre which didn’t really work, and a 2005 Mac mini G4 which worked well. The G4 mini was the machine I used most of the time there, and it introduced me to Mac OS X – as well as macOS in general.

My desk at my internship. (Excuse the mess.) I used a 2005 Mac mini G4 (seen in the image) to write articles for the local newspaper.

It was also around this time that the hard drive in the Asus Essentio series failed.

After being “wowed” by the G4 mini, I persuaded my parents to make the switch to macOS. $500 and a 100-mile trip to the Apple Store in Country Club Plaza (Kansas City) later, we brought home our first Mac – a late 2014 Mac mini. (Yes, it was the controversial base model.) After setting the mini up, I continued to be impressed. 

Despite being the base model with only 4 GB of memory and a Core i5, that machine served me quite well. I used iMovie to produce a large (yet basic) video editing project, Pixelmator to do basic graphic design, TextEdit to code HTML and CSS webpages, and even Pages to create a program for a local event.

Me writing HTML code using TextEdit on the late 2014 Mac mini in 2015.

I also ran a (failed) web design (freelance) business at the time. Proceeds from one project helped me buy a second Mac, this time a portable: an early 2014 MacBook Air. The MacBook Air was used as my daily driver for a bit after the monitor used with the mini died.

Me unboxing the early 2014 MacBook Air
Me with the early 2014 MacBook Air after setting it up.

In 2016, my interest in Apple waned. I picked up an interest in Apple’s early competitor and later collaborator, International Business Machines – or IBM.

The IBM Phase: Starting garrettfuller.org

After my interest in Apple waned, IBM took the spotlight. Early on, my interest was on Big Blue’s early venture into the personal computing market. I was interested in IBM’s personal computers – from the original IBM Personal Computer (5150) all the way to the late IBM/Lenovo ThinkPads and ThinkCentres.

Over time, my interest focused to other parts of IBM’s history. After discovering an IBM Wheelwriter electronic typewriter in our high school’s library, I found an interest in IBM typewriters like the Selectric series and Wheelwriter/Quietwriter models. I also found IBM’s other business ventures – such as manufacturing bells, clocks, fire alarm systems, and even scales – interesting.

The IBM Wheelwriter typewriter that piqued my interest in IBM’s typewriters.

Of course, I was still mostly interested in their computers. My interest later shifted toward IBM’s earlier mainframe products, such as their 700/7000-series mainframes, the 1401, 1620, and the ubiquitous System/360 and System/370 mainframes.

It was during my IBM “phase” that I started this very website. In July 2016, I registered garrettfuller.org and started publishing static HTML pages discussing IBM’s history and other things. Later that year, I shifted to posting here on my WordPress-powered site. One of my first posts here was on the Wheelwriter typewriter I discovered, and many subsequent posts focused on parts of IBM’s history – such as System/360, RAMAC, or even the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) computer IBM co-created for the United States Air Force in the late 1950s as part of our early warning defense system.

In December 2017, I acquired my first “vintage’ (or, rather “collectible”) computer – an IBM (Lenovo) ThinkPad T42.

The IBM ThinkPad T42 (left) was the first “collectable” computer I purchased.

In early 2019, my computing interest shifted back toward Apple.

Apple Phase 2.0: The Present Day

In 2019, my interest in Apple started to reappear. This time, I got deeper into Apple’s ecosystem for modern machines. In March 2019, I purchased an iPad. Later, in May, I switched to iPhone by ditching my nearly-dead Samsung Galaxy Express Prime 2 for an iPhone 6s. I was also back into watching Jobs and Steve Jobs (another Jobs biopic released in 2015 starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and other top-tier actors) and learning more about Apple’s history and their past products.

This time, I was more interested in Apple’s earlier Macintosh models – specifically those using Motorola’s 68000-series processors. My interest lies between 1987 and 1992, with the introduction of the SE and Macintosh II through the end of John Sculley’s tenure as Apple CEO.

While 2019 was a boring year, 2020 would prove to be quite the opposite.

March 2020 brought two great additions to my collection. On March 2, 2020, I made a 45-minute trip into a Kansas City suburb to fulfill a long-time (6 or 7-year long) dream of mine. I purchased the 1991 Macintosh Classic (the computer I’m actually writing this on) from an individual.

Later in March, I purchased a 2019 13″ MacBook Pro (2 Thunderbolt-port model) to replace (or supplement) my ThinkPad W541. The MacBook Pro gets used for “work” things – such as homework, editing videos, and even writing/publishing posts on my website.

My then-freshly acquired 1991 Macintosh Classic with my brand new 2019 MacBook Pro in March 2020.

May 2020 saw the 1991 Macintosh Classic getting its logic board recapped. The individual who recapped the logic board also sent me an ADB keyboard and mouse, along with a memory expansion kit and some floppies containing popular classic Macintosh software, allowing me to finally use the Classic. The Classic worked fine for a week until the analog board decided to randomly fail.

The 1991 Macintosh Classic was used for a week in late May/early June 2020 until the analog board failed.

In October 2020, I had the analog board for the Classic recapped. While the board was in Rochester, New York receiving new capacitors, I purchased a second vintage Mac – the 1988 Macintosh SE. Later, after receiving the recapped analog board, I purchased a FloppyEmu – which allows me to easily transfer files and software between my modern MacBook Pro and the vintage Macs.

In October 2020, I purchased a 1988 Macintosh SE for my collection.
In November, I added a FloppyEmu to my collection to make working with the vintage Macs easier.

Which brings us to present day – December 2020. While a worldwide pandemic has forced us to quarantine, I’ve been reflecting on the genesis of my interest in computers while creating videos and writing posts during my Winter Break using computers that are nearly a decade older than I am.

I hope to grow my collection in the future when I have more room and more $$$ to do so. However, right now I’m perfectly happy with what I have.