I was first introduced to computers around 1980 on a course at the local teachers’ centre in Wigan. They had Apple computers of some kind, big, bulky monstrosities that were state of the art at the time.
In my own school we had a Tandy with a green screen monitor that the Head of Physics had talked the PTA into buying. Nobody else was allowed to touch it, but the screen was so bad that no-one could read it anyway.
My First Computer
PCs were still something that cost £5-9,000 in the 80s. I bought a ZX Spectrum to play games on, the 48K model. 48K of memory was a lot in those days. Games came on cassettes that were very hit-and-miss as to whether they would load. Hard drives used something called Winchester disks that looked like a silver LP. I did use BASIC (a long-forgotten programming language) to write a random weather generator for my Spectrum, just for the challenge.
My First PC
My first PC was an Amstrad 1512 in about 1990. It had a 30MEG hard drive, as well as two floppy disk drives. I bought it second hand, but it worked as my word-processing and desk-top publishing centre for three years. It had MS-DOS 6.22 on it, loaded from floppies. This was long before Windows and the 512 K of RAM that it had was perfectly adequate without any GUI demands. That was 512 K, not 512 MEG of RAM but just one thousandth of that amount.
Without a Graphical User Interface everyone I knew used shareware menu programs that we could edit ourselves. There were very few games for the PC at this point and these computers were used largely for typing. Remember there was no Internet in the 1980s
My progress was to a 386 with Windows 3.11 on it in 1995. Whatever happened to Windows 1 & 2 I don’t know, but I never saw them. I tried my hardest to turn my 386 into a 486 by replacing the chip, but it never worked and in 1996 I bought my first ever new computer, which had Windows 95 on it.
1995 saw the launch of the Internet, though not as we know it today. Email was a massive innovation back in those days and we would send endless and pointless messages to everyone we knew.
Towards the Modern Day
Computers grew internally with more and more RAM being needed to cope with the ever-increasing needs of Windows 98, XP, 2000, ME and Vista. I stuck with Windows XP because it worked and have only moved on to Windows 7 this year (2012).
My first experience with the Internet involved lots of waiting on a dial-up connection. DSL and cable were still dreams.
It was broadband that really allowed us to access the Internet properly and that allowed it to develop to its current state. Broadband gave us realistic download speeds either through DSL or cable connections.
It was mobile technology that drove the Internet to its always-on, social media-driven current position. With today’s 3G and 4G technology and all the mobile broadband deals that are available we have a massive choice as to how we access the Internet, so much so that the Internet has now become an essential in our lives.
Essential, of course, is a relative idea. It is not essential in the way that food and shelter are, but it is essential to the day-to-day functioning of our society. Young people who have never known life without the Internet and certainly never life without computers or with MS-DOS cannot even imagine how we used to live before social media sites became the focus of their existence.