We acquired our first two family computers while I was in middle school. They were both hand-me-downs at the right price (free).
Our first family computer was an Apple II+. One of my middle school teachers discovered that we didn't have a computer at home, and told my dad that if we would come over and get it out of her basement, it was ours.
She also warned us that the screen was green. She wasn't kidding...
I remember that this computer was well-configured. It had the full 48K of RAM, a language card, and one Disk II floppy drive. It had a decent, though very green, monochrome aftermarket monitor. And it had the Apple DOS 3.3 disk – I could save BASIC programs, yeah!
We never did get Oregon Trail for it... though I never asked for it, either.
Shortly thereafter, we acquired our second family computer, an IBM Portable PC. Mom's boss had upgraded computers in the office, and told her that she could take one home.
Portable means it had a handle.
This computer was equally well-configured. It had the full 640K of RAM, two 5.25" floppy drives, a built-in 9-inch monochrome amber monitor, and the aforementioned handle. There was an IBM slipcover box with it, which I believe it was PC-DOS 2.10.
I remember one difference clearly: The IBM didn't have BASIC...
We had these two computers side-by-side for a couple years. I do remember using both computers: the Apple II+ for writing BASIC programs, and the IBM for more mundane things.
I might have the table that these two computers sat on in my possession. Perhaps I should repurpose it for vintage computing...
I don’t remember what led me to finding a BASIC programming book for children during one fortuitous trip to the public library. It might have happened by accident, or because I was looking for a book on the next shelf over. But I remember checking it out and taking it to school a number of times.
It was a fascinating concept to my fifth-grade mind: you can write your own programs for the computer, not just run programs from the box of disks beside it!
And the best part about the book? It says that the programs in the book will work on the Apple II+ or the Apple IIe. This was great, because there was an Apple IIe in our classroom, and it was the easiest to get time to use! While I still wanted time on the Macintosh LC, that Apple IIe became my favorite as I still had programs to try from the book.
Note that our computer time happened at the end of the school day, if there was time left over after the daily lesson plans were completed. And at some point, my teacher started a weekly chart of who could use which computer on which day of the week when time permitted, to be updated monthly... only for her to stop updating it several months later (I was stuck with Apple IIe time). Bad for my desire to explore the Macintosh, but good for my exploration of BASIC programming.
My time with that yellow book started me down a path to wanting to learn more about computers... but the history doesn't end there.
Sometime in the past few years, I started thinking about that yellow book, and wanted to locate a copy of it for posterity. I couldn't remember the exact title or the author — all I could remember was that this yellow book was a BASIC programming book for children from the early-to-mid 80's, and that this book covered six different computers, including the Apple IIe, the Commodore 64, the TI 99/A, the TRS-80, something from Atari, and something from Timex Sinclair.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the book actually covered six different manufacturers, which complicated my efforts to find the book. And yes, my first check was of the library's online catalog for books on BASIC, just in case they still had the book. (Nope.)
About a year ago, after discovering that the Internet Archive has archives of computing-related printed materials, I decided to try searching their catalog and scrolling through the results, all in the hopes that I saw a familiar-looking cover. Success at last!
I once again know the title of that yellow book from the library: BASIC Programming for Kids by Roz Ault. And I can share that book with you, right here!
And if you happen to know Roz Ault, let her know that I said thank you for writing that book.
The first computer I ever used was an Apple IIgs, located in my elementary school's computer lab. And the first program I remember running was The Oregon Trail by MECC.
Which, of course, means that the first famous computer game phrase I remember is, "You have died of dysentery."
For a fourth grader, it was a magical experience: You picked a program from the box of floppy disks, all proudly emblazoned with the MECC logo. You slid the disk into the floppy drive, closed the door, and turned the computer on. Within seconds, you would see the splash screen for your chosen program. And you'd hope that your program disk didn't have a bad sector (an unfortunate common occurrence).
For if your program disk did have a bad sector, the floppy drive would make loud, evil grinding noises. I've since come to realize that was the sound of the drive heads being repeatedly commanded to the end stop, in order to get the drive heads back to a known location before re-attempting access to the disk...
Should your program disk be free from defects, and your gameplay wise, then perhaps you would make it to Oregon before you died from dysentery.
A number of sequels to The Oregon Trail have been released since my fourth grade days. I've refused to try any of them, because the Apple II version from the mid-to-late 80's is the only true version in my mind. It's the version my inner geek wants to play again, on actual hardware, for the nostalgic value.
The Oregon Trail is also the first computer game that I never finished... Perhaps that's actually why I want another shot at playing this game.
My grandmother has recalled on many occasions that, when I was asked what I wanted for my first Christmas, I replied that I wanted a "'puter". While some in my family think I was trying to say something else, my grandmother knows that I was trying to say "computer".