My PC Experience

I always enjoy hearing about how people got into computers, whether they are or are not computer hobbyists. I've heard a lot of Apple II stories, and how teachers and adults I look up to played Oregon Trail and other games on their Apple II. My 10th grade English teacher had an IBM PC, which would have been a luxury, when he grew up. The newspaper editor I interned under was much like me: he started out with Windows and "converted" to Mac. He has a lot of good stories.

I've rarely shared my story. Although parts of the story are littered around this site, it is all fairly similar stuff. I started out with Windows 3.1 on a Gateway 2000, Windows XP in elementary school, blah blah blah. But what about my full story. While I probably won't give the story dating back to the day I was born in 1999, I will say that the Apple Clamshell iBook was released exactly a week after I was born.

Gateway 2000 - more like Gateway 1993

My first experiences was not with a computer directly, but seeing them in use. I watched TV, and saw computers in commercials. I thought it was interesting, as the internet was becoming really popular during this time frame. The dot-com bubble bursted about two or three years before this story begins.

Another thing I can distinctively remember was being a young child and going into Circuit City. My parents purchased a mammoth CRT Panasonic television from Circuit City, and I can remember seeing computers on display. It is strange to think that it wasn't that long ago (afterall, Windows XP was a year or two old at this time), but those computers are obsolete today.

My grandparents received a Gateway 2000 from my cousin. She bought it new in 1993 for college. I never knew (and never will know) if it had an Intel 386 or 486 processor inside. It would've been early days for a 486, and I highly doubt the computer had a math co-processor/FPU. It was also an early multimedia computer, as it had a CD-ROM drive, and a 3.5" floppy disk drive.

Although the computer was ancient (10 years old) at the time, it worked well enough for me. When I turned it on, it booted into Windows 3.1. The default desktop background was the Gateway 2000 cow. I have not been able to locate the cow background, although I've found other backgrounds featuring the same cow.

The Gateway 2000 worked, at least for me, despite the age. I used MS-Paint, Notepad, and the Calculator on it. It was something fun. But it couldn't run modern software, and it lacked a modem. (Even then, we lived out in the country, far from any reliable broadband internet; up until I turned 9, we had dial-up with modems. Talking about S-L-O-W.)

My parents were (and still are) computer illiterate. I one day accidentally got the computer stuck into the MS-DOS prompt and did not know how to get back into Windows. I thought I had killed the poor thing, and so it sat unused. (I didn't know any MS-DOS commands, nor did I know what MS-DOS was at the time. I was only 5.)

When I was a kid, we also had our own gaming console. It was a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES.) I can recall playing Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island for hours on end with it, and even beating the entire game (including the boss at the end - it was a great "feat" for young me.)

Elementary School

When I started elementary school, the school I attended was composed on a mixture of Windows 95 and Windows 98 machines. There were no, at least to my knowledge, Windows 2000-based machines. (Some of the machines, while I doubt it, may have ran NT 4.0.)

Nobilis Computers

A group of Nobilis computers running Windows XP. While these examples are located at the American Royal museum in Kansas City, they are very similar to the computers located at our elementary school.

Elementary School Computer Lab

The computer lab located at the elementary school I attended, after receiving nice, shiny new Dell Optiplex computers.

During my first grade year, they came in and revamped everything. Those Windows 95/98 machines were mostly gone. They were replaced with nice, shiny Windows XP-based machines. These Windows XP machines were off-brand computers, much similar to the Windows 95/98 machines. The Windows XP machines were Nobilis computers, and they were connected to Acer monitors.

I was still in CRT land when I saw these computers. The images and colors on these LCD monitors were extremely crisp, and filled up the entire screen. I was amazed. The keyboards were much better, but I can remember being in shock at the optical mice they came with. The printers were HP LaserJet printers.

The computers came loaded with Microsoft Office 2003. I can recall creating my first PowerPoint presentation on the Liberty Bell for first grade, and can remember typing a "poster" using Times New Roman 72-point font and printing it out. (That made the teacher incredibly mad. I didn't understand that toner was a limited resource.) When our second grade teacher went on maternal leave, our substitute teacher had us create books. My book, titled "Lizzie the Old School Bus", was written about a personified school bus (read more about my "obsession" with school buses during elementary school here.) We typed these books in Microsoft Word 2003, and printed them out on the HP LaserJet. We then illustrated the books by hand, bound them, and presented them to preschool and kindergarten students.

The next "first" blew my mind at the time, but now I use it daily. The Internet. My jaw fell wide open once I discovered that you could actually connect with people on the other side of the world... instantenously. You could find large amounts of information regarding a single topic, much like this page and my other pages are on computers. Websites were basic at the time, typically relying on simple HTML and CSS code (like this site!) and maybe a little PHP and MySQL. The first websites I can recall visiting from my memory is one about honey bees, and ask.com.

One more thing I can remember about the internet and these computers were what all kids of that age group love -GAMES! I can remember playing Flash-based internet games. But our teachers frowned upon that. (Well, one minor exception - physical therapy. They did something with some computer game, and the infamous "Around the World" basketball game, to improve my hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.) The last game was one that I was reunited with when I acquired the HP xPavilion - and that game was 3D Pinball. Believe it or not, but that basic game changed my world.

Our First Modern Computer

I enjoyed using the Windows XP machines. I found it easier to use (and better) than Windows 3.1, although I never understood that the Gateway 2000 was twelve years old at the time.

I finally persuaded my parents to purchase our first family computer which was made in the new millenium. It was the day after Christmas (maybe two) in 2006, and I can recall us being at Best Buy to look at computers. We picked out a HP Pavilion, very similar to the xPavilion I acquired. However, the Pavilion we got came pre-loaded with Windows Vista, whereas the xPavilion came with Windows XP. Both had AMD processors, although the xPavilion has a Sempron whereas the Pavilion we bought had an Athlon 64. The Pavilion we bought must have been one of the first computers manufactured after Vista hit the RTM stage, as it was before it was released to the public stand-alone.

We bought some accessories to go with the computer. We had bought a gaming joystick (my father enjoyed playing airplane games, such as "Turn and Burn: No Fly Zone," produced by Absolute Entertainment. I had an immense fear, when I was young, of the co-pilot in that game. I didn't even see that it had a face when I was young, and it looked like some strange monster.) My dad also bought a steering wheel and pair of feet-pedals for other games.

We actually got dial-up internet the next year. Dial-up was provided through our telephone (landline) company, and the HP Pavilion we bought had a built-in modem. I can remember being forced off the internet anytime a phone call was expected and/or made, and having to reconnect while listening to the modem sounds. The speed was slow, as expected, and eventually we upgraded to DSL, which was a little faster (although not by much. Our modem was a ZOOM Telephonics DSL modem.)

We also had a HP DeskJet printer to go with it, as it was a bundle deal. Eventually, we bought a newer printer (HP OfficeJet, fancy model with interactive touch screen and was able to print photos) along with my first digital camera, a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot.

It was actually on this HP Pavilion which I designed my first websites using Yahoo! GeoCities and other free services. I had experimented with different free software, mainly office productivity software (OpenOffice, AbiWord, etc.).

It was also during this time when hints of a future field in CIS would have become somewhat apperant, although I had other things on my mind. I can remember watching a computer technician work on a computer, with the motherboard removed from one of the Nobilis computers at our elementary school. I was interested, and I can also remember looking at this site (it is, unbelievably, still online after several years, and remains unchanged!) to learn about the guts of computers, and what makes it tick. (Just a hint of the age of the page: the processor page shows a picture of an Intel Pentium 2 - and the IDE cables are shown as a prominent part of the machine. When I was in elementary school, our teacher one day brought in National Geographic magazines. I can remember finding an advertisement for the "latest" Intel processor. The age of that ad? Late 1980s/Early 1990s.)

Post Move and Modern Me

On October 8, 2010, a devastating fire consumed our home. The next morning, I received a gift from an anonymous neighbor. The gift was an Acer AspireOne netbook, which ran Windows 7 Starter. Despite the simple machine and Intel Atom processor, it was my first Windows 7-based machine.

During my birthday the following year, I received another computer. This computer was a fully-fledged Intel Pentium-based machine. An Asus Essentio Series desktop. That computer ran Windows 7 Home Edition until the hard drive died in it in October 2014. The computer was used by me to code my first hand-coded websites.

Welcome to the Mac World...

Following the hard drive failure in the Asus Essentio series, I had decided to try a Macintosh. I was wanting to expand into doing graphic design with more professional tools, but Adobe Photoshop was somewhat too expensive for my needs. I was also not impressed with Windows 8.

On November 24, a day before Thanksgiving and after a month of using the AspireOne for all my computer tasks, my family drove to Kansas City to buy our first Mac. We bought our first Mac, a MacMini, at the Apple Store in Country Club Plaza.

Within a couple weeks of setting it up, I was accustomed to the Mac UI, and installed Pixelmator. Pixelmator was a cheap alternative to Photoshop, and was only $29.99 to buy it outright from the AppStore. That is one nice thing about Macs: there is a plethora of cheaper alternatives which work just as good as their expensive, professional counterparts. Great for freelance work.

That led me to buying a second Mac, an Early 2014 MacBook Air, in June 2015. The MacBook Air was used to run my former web/graphic-design business, whereas personal tasks were almost always delegated to my MacMini.

Back to Windows

Despite my experiences with Mac OS, I decided to go back to Windows. The reason is simple: the Mac OS is becoming less and less prevelant in workplaces. Networking Macs is usually done either with a Unix-based (typically Linux-based) server, especially since Apple quit manufacturing their server lines, and use MacMinis in lieu of actual servers.

For many businesses, unless it is in a creative field, Windows-based machines are typically used. There are exceptions to this. IBM, ironically, uses Macs mainly. The BDN used (and still uses) Macs in all of their departments, with the exception of sales. However, many businesses use Windows machines for a majority of tasks, from word processing to accounting tasks to other general tasks.

The nice thing, however, is that a Windows machine can be easily upgraded. Since Windows servers are readily available, and typically are equipped with high-speed, high-performance Intel Xeon processors, and are greatly expandable, many businesses and institutions use Windows servers and terminals/clients.

Personally, I got back into Windows (specifically, Windows 10) by purchasing a used Lenovo ThinkPad T420. The ThinkPad T420 is based on the ThinkPad series, which has been well known and liked since it was introduced by IBM in 1992 (and is the grandchild of the PC Convertibles [1986] and PS/2 P70 [1989].) My T420 has worked well, and so has Windows 10.

As for the future: I plan on purchasing a new Lenovo ThinkPad T460 or T470 (depending what is "new" and "good value" in the summer of 2017) for my college courses. I plan on keeping my T420, but delegating it to personal tasks (the T420 will, hopefully, be receiving some upgrades - including a 1TB hard drive.)

 

Well, that is my "complete" history of my experiences with computers and various PCs (and Macs.) It details how I got into computers, and what I've done over the years.


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Last updated 09/02/2016 ; T420 (created 09/02/2016)