It was 20 years ago today: Not Sgt. Pepper, but my PCjr

Do you remember your first PC? I do as if it were yesterday--probably for all the wrong reasons. But the memory sticks.

Everyone remembers their first computer. Well mine was a PCjr and I don't care how history remembers it. The piece of junk stole my heart.

I wouldn't push the analogy too hard, but your first computer's a lot like your first love in one respect: years later, the memory does not fade with the passing of the seasons.

IBM PCjr: They don't make 'em like that any more.

So it was that I was reading Jonathan Zittrain's excellent new book, The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It (more about that in a future post), when I paged across his disquisition on the early PC era and got pulled back in time.

I missed out on the hobbyist fad of the late 1970s and early '80s. But once I got a job and could scrape together enough money, I was desperate to learn what all the fuss was about. I still remember the day, 20 years ago today, when I marched into the local ComputerLand, plunked down $1,200, and walked out with an IBM PCjr. What a machine: 512K of RAM, a 5 1/4-inch internal floppy drive with 360K of storage and an 8088 Intel chip that ran at 4.77Mhz. It didn't matter that the machine caused more trouble than it was worth--IBM pulled the plug a year later--I really became fond of that miserable hunk of plastic.

Maybe it was because the Junior caused me so much grief. I wound up screwing around with the machine day after day, taking pieces apart and then making a hash of putting them back together the right way. In the process, I received the equivalent of a crash course in personal computing. Even if the real pioneering work had taken place several years earlier, you still felt present at the creation. The computer industry was still in an early state of formation and chaos was everywhere. Booting up the PCjr the first time and watching it cough and whirr until it came alive--man, that was something to behold.

What about you? Any equally treacly love stories about your first PC? Do share.

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