OK, I admit it. I'm a geek. I mean, anyone with a web page devoted to their history with computers must be, don't you think?

There was a computer drop-in at the local alternative high school in Ann Arbor; I used to go every week. I imagine I must have been about 13 years old. They had mostly Commodore PETs; one or two Apple ][ or Apple ][+'s (I forget which, certainly well before the //e). From the point of view of actually getting things done on the computers it was kind of hopeless, as one only got a 20 minute slot at a time and then had to wait for another slot, but, hey, I had no other options and it was social to boot. They had worked up an elaborate computerized ordering system devoted to getting dinner from McDonald's.

Then my family got an Apple II Plus. It cost $3000 which seemed like a huge sum. My brother and I even helped pay for it. This was the source of many projects, ranging from the relatively-routine (to distinguish between upper and lower case on the keyboard one needed to wire the shift key to a spare input bit on the game port. With our kind of apple (revision 7, I think it was), it turned out I could come up with a clever way to do this without soldering or making any other not-easily-reversible changes, and without needing to modify the other device plugged into the game port). I also wrote a lot of the software we used (often starting with something from a magazine or some such).

I don't really remember whether it was before or after the Apple, but I also had a MicroAce (kit version of the Sinclair ZX80). This was an utterly bare-bones computer, I think it cost $99 or something. The cool thing was being able to study the schematic and understand all of the hardware and the tricks they did to push stuff out of hardware into software. I guess also I could, and did, study the Apple's schematic, but somehow the MicroAce seemed more exciting that way. Perhaps because it was mine rather than the family's, or perhaps because the MicroAce was even cheaper than cleverer than the Apple (itself a cheap and clever design for the time). I later disassembled the MicroAce and used it as a power supply and clock signal for hardware experiments. I never did get as interested in actually building hardware as I was in drawing schematics. Just as well, actually getting hardware to work doesn't sustain my interest--too many things which can go wrong and I didn't have good tools for debugging hardware anyway. The one thing about the MicroAce is that it didn't come with the source code to the ROM monitor the way the Apple did. So in that sense the Apple was more fun to study.

After that there was the VMS community at college (a nice social group), and jobs and this and that, all stories I might get around to adding here someday. But I never really have gotten back into the habit of just playing with computers to the same extent that I did as a kid; today they are tool for me as often as something to marvel at.

This page is part of Jim Kingdon's personal pages.