Ben's History of PC's:1988

posted Feb 26, 2009, 6:38 PM by Ben Griggs

Circa 1988. The time eventually came to replace the IIc. As happy as we were with the IIc, we decided to stay with the Apple II line.  The model we ended up with was a IIGS.  The "GS" stood for "Graphics System", and it was the first of many Apples to focus on premium graphics and sound.  It came with a 2.8 GHz 16 bit CPU, so we nearly tripled our clock cycles in one upgrade, which is fairly unheard of today. 

It was the first computer we owned that had a GUI, called GS/OS.  It had a color monitor (also the first Apple to sport such an improvement), and was very mac-like in look and feel.  The integrated sound chip could synthesize voices and music that actually sounded like voices and music, not just different tones on a PC speaker.  It took me a long time to "get" the interface.  I was so used to re-booting the computer from disk for each application, I just didn't understand this "always on" concept.  Plus, the OS had all kinds of new terminology like "launcher", "installer", "finder" and "trash", with no explanation as to what it meant or how to use it.  It was expensive, even for the time.  With the monitor a IIGS cost about $1500.

We had never had a hard drive in a computer before.  We ordered, I think, a 10MB HDD and were pleasantly surprised to find an external 20MB had been shipped.  We called and they said that it wasn't a mistake - they had just started shipping all of those models with the bigger drive.    I mostly stuck with using the floppy drives.  We kept the 3.5 from the IIc and got an additional one with the IIGS, so copying floppies was a breeze. Actually, that was a great thing about the IIGS, everything from the IIc was backward compatible.  We re-used a 5.25'' drive, a 3.5'' drive, and the impact printer.  Honestly, I didn't trust the hard drive.  It was too foreign to me - how would I ever find my disks if I put them all INTO the computer?  It wasn't until later, when I started saving documents created with productivity software that the value of the hard drive became more apparent.

One very cool game that we had for the IIGS was a casino game called "Monte Carlo".  It showcased several card and casino games with lots of colors and great sound effects.  I remember when you launched the game, it played about 4 bars of a Scott Joplin song that sounded like it had just jumped off of a movie screen where "The Sting" was playing.

I learned word-processing on the IIGS and wrote up the infamous senior year stock market report on it, complete with pie charts that were automatically generated by the spreadsheet program! The productivity suite was called Appleworks GS.  Appleworks GS was a great program, and probably justified the cost of the IIGS all by itself.  It was a single program that included word processing, spreadsheet and database, and was bundled with the purchase of the IIGS. The much ballyhooed modern-day Macintosh iWork suite has it's roots in Appleworks and Appleworks GS.

After talking to my dad, it became apparent that we used this PC for a long time.  It wasn't until I graduated high school in 1993 that I started using a DOS based computer.  That's 5 years on the same machine.  An impressive run in a time when hardware was improving quickly. 

Side story: I remember there was a big computer virus scare around this time.  It was funny, because almost nobody had modems the only way for viruses to spread was through actually inserting one into your floppy drive.  People were actually unplugging their PC's from the power outlets to avoid getting the scary virus

Additional info:

Ben's history of PC's, Part 1: 1986

posted Feb 14, 2009, 6:00 PM by Ben Griggs

I recently saw a pictorial slideshow on PC Magazine showing the evolution of the Personal computer. It made me think back to my history with the PC, and how even the ones I've owned have changed throughout the years.

the following is part I of the series, 1986

Circa 1986 - My dad wanted to get a computer to help us out with school work. At the time, Apple computer had a foothold in the educational market. I can remember playing the original "Oregon Trail" on an Apple IIe in my fifth grade classroom. Dad settled on the latest and greatest of the Apple II line - the Apple IIc. So, like many my age, my first personal computing experience was on an Apple. According to Wikipedia, the IIc came with a 1.023MHz CPU and 128KB of RAM. It was an 8 bit computer and was priced at $1295.00

I have some very fond memories with that computer, It was a green-screened text-based computer with a 5.25'' floppy drive integrated into the side of the chassis. The monitor stand kind of curved around the small (for the time), flat chassis which was designed to sit at a slight incline going away from the user. The casing and the keyboard was all one piece, but since it was not GUI based, there was no mouse.

I learned some basic proDOS programming tricks on this machine (oooh, blinky text!) and at one time wrote a program that alerted whoever launched it that they had breached the integrity of the PC and warned that the FBI had been notified. My grandfather got such a kick out of some of my little hacks that he brought this particular disk with him to a computer store one day and when the salesman wasn't looking he slid my "FBI" warning into one of the machines on the floor. On the next re-boot (you had to re-boot to launch each program back then) grandpa pointed at the screen at said "what's that???". The salesman, after a few seconds of panic, just grinned and said it must be some kind of hacker program. Grandpa and I managed to keep a straight face.

The IIc had the standard Apple keyboard, complete with open-apple/closed-apple. I spent hours enjoying such primitive but classic games like Rescue Raiders, Choplifter, Castle Wolfenstein, Ali Baba, Summer/Winter/California games and a casino game called "Monte Carlo" I eventually got a joystick, but I had gotten so used to the complex key combinations for some of them that it was difficult to switch over. Wolfenstein, in particular, I remember you had to use one side of the keyboard to move your man, and the other side to show which way to point your gun. Good thing some of those Nazi's were a little slow on the uptake.

We had a dot-matrix printer and got our money's worth out of one of the early versions of "Print Shop", printing up greeting cards (how do you fold those things?), certificates and banners for ourselves. Oh, the banners! The only thing that made printing banners possible was the continuous-feed computer paper used by the impact printers of the day. Well, continuous feed is kind of a misnomer. It should have been called continuous feed until misalignment occurred after about 5 sheets. Some of you might remember that the paper was one long sheet, perforated at the 8X10 mark, and had a little strip of holes on each side, also perforated. The holes were used by the printer, which would catch the holes with little teeth to feed the paper into the printer. Unfortunately, all too often the teeth would eventually become mis-aligned with the holes and the paper would crinkle up and stop feeding. However, the printer didn't stop printing so you ended up with one big black line on the spot of the paper where the misfeed occurred. Also, if you've never heard an impact printer in action, picture a screeching cat sitting on top of a jet engine. Then give the cat a megaphone and tell it to sing a Mariah Carey song.

Our great money-saving trick for IIc floppy disks was to buy a single-sided 5.25 disk and cut a notch in the other side with an exacto knife to make it dual-sided. The 5.25 disks made all kinds of interesting sounds when they were being read/written to. When you formatted them, they sounded like they were being hit by a tiny jackhammer prior to the rhythmic "chunk, chunk, chunk" that followed. We did eventually get a 3.5 inch disk drive, and wondered how they could make such a tiny disk hold over a megabyte of information. I loved ejecting the 3.5'' drive, it gave you a sweet futuristic eject sound. Inserting them was cool, too, with that spring-loaded "ka-CHUNK!".

We used that computer for a long time, though I don't remember what ever became of it.

The Apple IIc, my family's first PC.

Analog to Digital

posted Dec 5, 2008, 1:50 PM by Ben Griggs   [ updated Jan 11, 2009, 5:12 PM ]

WOW!  What a chore!  Sara and I spent the majority of the afternoon going through all of our "old" photos and sorting them in preparation for scanning them into digital format.  Luckily for us, we were only married about 5 years before we went nearly all digital from a photography perspective.  I feel for people who have years and years of paper photos to go through.  And yet, I know the most labor intensive part of the chore remains ahead, scanning one photo at a time and saving it to disk.  It is fun, though, looking at some of those old photos that I'd forgotten about.  If you and I hung out circa 1992, watch out, you may see some old photos of you pop up on Facebook!  Don't worry, I'll use discretion....MY discretion!! :)

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