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Pretty Good Hat

Computing memories

The recent discussion of retro gaming on Accidental Tech Podcast was an enjoyable trip through many years of my own gaming and computing history. I do sometimes imagine Siracusa (I think he and I are roughly in the same college cohort) wondering how he got paired with these know-it-all youngsters whose first computer was a 486.

In no particular order, here are a few of the memories sparked by their conversation:

  • My first modem was a 1200bps Everex, a Christmas gift from my uncle when I was in the fifth grade. My connectivity progression after that was to 2400 (oddly, I don’t remember this brand; it was an internal, I installed it myself, and I had to fiddle with jumpers. Now it’s really bothering me that I don’t remember the model), 14.4 (Supra, ca 1992), 28.8 (Supra, ca 1994), a mix of ethernet and 28.8 through the remainder of college, then 56k (USR and others) circa 1998, until landing with cable in 2002-ish.
  • I was already into computers in the fifth grade, but it’s fair to say that that first modem substantially shaped the course of the rest of my life.
  • My freshman college dorm was a converted house, about half empty, and we ran long phone cords from empty rooms, through windows and up stairwells, to plug into our modems and play multiplayer Doom. Hot stuff. Not a lot of girls visited that dorm, as it was on the far end of campus.
  • The first multiplayer, non-BBS door game, that I recall playing was Modem Wars. I loved that game.
  • I also loved Wing Commander. The cinematic sequences and music were a revelation. I had an Ad-Lib card and a huge expansion card full of 4MB of RAM that I installed in a Compaq DeskPro 386sx/16. As they described on the podcast, I had to swap config.sys files to turn on expanded memory when I wanted to play. The Compaq had heavy, loud power switches.
  • I got Wing Commander as a Christmas gift. I had asked for some nonsense called Tunnels of Armageddon. Man am I glad the Software Plus guy steered my mom and dad away from that one.
  • Playing games meant I had to shut down the WWIV BBS that I ran throughout high school.
  • My first PC was an IBM PC.
  • First “laptop” was an Everex Tempo, I think a 286. I used to run Turbo C on it to mod and compile the BBS. It was a small tank, and I took it to study abroad in Rome in 1997. Later I took it to grad school and it was stolen from my crappy rental house in 2000. I wish I still had it; it had a ton of text files on it and contained basically the history of my computer use up to that time.
  • Good lord did I ever spend a lot of time trying to get a PCMCIA wifi card working on linux.
  • Troubleshooting SCSI CD-ROM drives was a nightmare.
  • I brought a DX4/100 to college. It was the fastest thing in the house, but also the most temperamental (see above).

Good times.