As we debate whether we need 8GB or 16GB in our new M1 Macs, I thought it would be interesting to compare with where I started.
My first computer was an Atari 800XL purchased in 1983. I don’t remember the cost, but I know it was more than my teenage wallet could afford. It was connected to a 13-inch black and white portable TV (portable color televisions were too expensive) and I had a cassette data drive connected to the computer. (This was basically an audio cassette recorder that recorded the data as sound files similar to what you would hear if a modem connected to another computer. Atari used a proprietary interface similar to a serial interface, so the drive was specially made for the Atari computer and was pretty expensive by itself.)
Choosing an Atari was not the mainstream thing to do in 1983. The “cool” computer was the Commodore 64. I liked the Atari because it could play Atari games, and coming from an Atari game console, these were the games I was playing. My favorite was Missle Command.
Eventually, I saved up enough money to add an Epson dot matrix “24-pin letter-quality” printer to my setup and I was good to go.
Software for the Atari came in cartridges that you inserted into the slot on the top of the computer. I purchased a word processing program and a spreadsheet program. The data files were stored on cassette tape.
This computer got me through college.
After purchasing the Atari, I can remember seeing a display set up at my university showing off a new Apple Macintosh computer. This was probably Fall 1984 or maybe Spring 1985. It looked so cool and it seemed light years ahead of my Atari, BUT, it was expensive, way too expensive for a financially broke college student.
My first post-college computer purchased in 1987 was an Epson QX-16, which was state-of-the-art. It was a dual-processor, 16-bit Intel processor that could run both CP/M and MS-DOS. Moreover, it sported dual 5.25-inch floppy drives, one for the program disk and another for the data disk so you didn’t have to constantly switch out disks.
It is incredible to think that previous generations used a single typewriter for decades. When my grandparents died in the early 1980s (they were born around the turn of the century), they had an old typewriter sitting on their desk they still used that was from the 1930s. It was going on 50 years old. How many of us today have technology around our house that is 50 years old? If a tech device is 5 years old we refer to at as “long in the tooth.”