Loveletter to my first PC

Tandon 286 PC with monochrome green screen

OK admittedly – not my first computer. Or maybe I should rather say like “our” first computer to make it a family matter. My first computer was a Commodore 64 back in 1986 when I was 8 years old. My dad was an early IT pro back in the 1960s when Computers typically didn’t have screens or keyboards and you used punch cards to run programs in order to compute the interest of a savings account at a bank. Or something like this. His whole career kinda based on computers. I guess kinda natural that he wanted to interest his son in computers. It kinda worked with the C64. If you count playing video games as interest in computers.

However – my love for computers really got serious 2 years later when dad got the Tandon 286. A massive steel box with a 5.25″ floppy drive, 20 MB MFM hard disk, hercules graphics card and a monochrome green screen. Running MS-DOS and serious software like “Word Perfect”. It costed as much as a small car and you could hear the hard disk heads making noises like a little hammer banging against the massive steel case.

Obviously I wasn’t really allowed to use it, but despite having a lock with a key my dad never locked it, so you can imagine that I often tried it out on my own when I was home alone, replicating some crude DOS commands I saw my dad type. There was only one game installed – a crude text mode only thing where you controlled the ASCII control character that is a smiley. I can’t really recall the name of the game – and honestly – it wasn’t even great. But it got me interested in the machine. It was also an adventure to just browse through the myriad of files using just “CD” and “DIR” commands.

Later my dad got a pirated copy of “Leisure Suit Larry” from work. This was kinda new world. It was nearly unplayable for me – being a 10 yo German kid (Not angry German kid though), barely knowing a few words in English. But at that time I noticed the built-in PC speaker could actually make music and funny sounds. Who needs a sound card when you got a PC speaker?

Larry was pretty pixelated and didn’t look really good on the monochrome green screen, but that a game was loaded in seconds was new to a C64 user and close to a miracle.

Later on my dad would get some upgrades. A fancy 3.5″ floppy drive and an amazing 1200 BAUD modem. There was no internet back in the 1980s and I didn’t know about BBS systems back then, but we had the modern BTX system from the German postal company. Some crude way to access some online news and even download a few crappy freeware programs. I sometimes had a dispute with my dad over the phone bill. But I did look in the eye of the future – being online and reaching the world with a computer – and I liked it. I guess that’s how true nerds are born.