Fun Friday: Back In The Day

Sometime in the past week here at AVC, it was suggested we do "back in the day" for fun friday. I like that idea and so here we go.

I did most of my programming in college, at MIT. And I wrote most of my code on this thing, a DEC VT100.


This thing was a workhorse. I spilled coffee on it. I got muffin crumbs in it. I took out my frustration on it. And it just kept going and going.

It was hooked up to a VAX-11. We ran all the data acquisition and data analysis work at the MIT Dept Of Ocean Engineering Water Tunnel Laboratory on it.

That was over thirty years ago. In fact, this summer will mark the 30th anniversary of my graduation from college. Back in the day it was.

Now it's your turn to share your "back in the day" stories, photos, and videos with everyone in the comments.

#Sucking In The 70s

Comments (Archived):

  1. leigh

    Funny we were just having this conversation yesterday. i’m cleaning out all my stuff and compiling all my old blackberries (including the pager) and when i get some time am going to create a piece of art work with them for my office wall. πŸ™‚

    1. William Mougayar

      A pager! I never had one.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        I had a pager on me through most of the early 80s – hated the damn thing! Made us feel important in the pub, though πŸ˜‰

        1. pointsnfigures

          had one on the trading floor-hated it

    2. fredwilson

      I have all of my old gadgets in a hall of fame in my office bookshelf

      1. LE

        I also hoard old things! My only regret is not having more old things hoarded. I have many old business records in storage. As soon as I figure out why “we” do this I will let you know.

  2. William Mougayar

    About the same time, I was in EE at the U of Washington. I was a TA & in charge of the PDP-11. I had a key to the “computer room”. That was a big deal then.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Lol, love that – same here when entrusted with key to computer room – quite a mystique back then; a CA SyFA with RJE to mainframe. We worked crazy crazy hours, 24/7.PS, … which does however remind me that I did use the ‘I have the key to computer room’ as a chat-up line, once, as in ‘do you want to see the computer room?’ – it worked, lol – but, ahem, that’s a different story πŸ˜‰

  3. Dave W Baldwin

    Back at that time (a little before) the competition on who was the best amplifier for the big sound, keyboards (music) entering the different phase, a distortion pedal that cannot be matched today….

  4. JimHirshfield

    I have the original Apple Mac (the one with no hard drive, and like 8k of RAM. It’s in a box in the basement…bought it used in college for $500. It was a big deal.But years earlier, I started programming on paper punch tape – I forget what the make/model was. It was a summer course…some time in the summer of ’76 or ’77.Thanks for making me feel old. πŸ˜‰

    1. Techman

      Well, technology had to start somewhere πŸ™‚

      1. JimHirshfield

        Indeed Michael!

  5. Julien

    Back in the day, I was reading your blog post thru my open web reader… now I’ll have to wait for you to post on the closed silos that Twitter, Google+ or Facebook are. Ha wait, not yet. But soon… if we don’t fight against it.

    1. fredwilson

      There are other RSS readers out there

      1. Julien

        Of course, I was just being silly, but you’ll have to agree that the web will be a bit less open with Google Reader closed.

    2. Daman Bahner

      Well said, hopefully that day doesn’t come to be.

    3. Elia Freedman

      We’ll be better off in the end.

      1. bsoist


      2. Donna Brewington White

        Why is that, Elia?

      3. Donna Brewington White

        Elia, I hope you saw the browser version of that previous comment and not just the email version. Autocorrect on my phone changed your name to Reliable. Although probably accurate in some respect.

        1. Elia Freedman

          Very kind of you to say. You can call me reliable any time. (“As my grandpapy, Old Reliable, used to say…” Name that movie? Hint: I have young kids. … Excuse my ramblings.) Google Reader has pretty much stopped any innovation in RSS feed readers for years. Big companies, in my opinion, are like plaque. They enter a market, dominate it, and then stop innovating. Microsoft has done this for years with Office. For example, calendaring solutions haven’t improved since Outlook became dominant sometime around 1997. Google has done the same with RSS feeds, among other areas. They calcify until some major change happens to blow things up. Google cancels Reader. I predict we will see amazing innovation in the next couple of years in this area. Mobile is doing that to a lot of software areas now. The big news is Mailbox today, a potential example of innovation that would have never happened on the desktop but is happening because of smartphone explosion (although sold early so we don’t really know.) I saw a product called Draft (, I believe) that might do the same for word processing (or at least writing). Every product category dominated by a big player, same thing: the arteries of innovation calcify. Fred has his investment theses. This is one of mine. Look for areas where markets are changing and big company products have calcified around the old markets and won’t move successfully. (As a shameless half plug for myself, I’ve been working on number-based solutions, think spreadsheets and calculators, for years. Hope to ship an innovative new service in the next month.)

        2. Elia Freedman

          Very kind of you to say. You can call me reliable any time. (“As my grandpapy, Old Reliable, used to say…” Name that movie? Hint: I have young kids. … Excuse my ramblings.)Google Reader has pretty much stopped any innovation in RSS feed readers for years. Big companies, in my opinion, are like plaque. They enter a market, dominate it, and then stop innovating. Microsoft has done this for years with Office. For example, calendaring solutions haven’t improved since Outlook became dominant sometime around 1997. Google has done the same with RSS feeds, among other areas. They calcify until some major change happens to blow things up. Google cancels Reader. I predict we will see amazing innovation in the next couple of years in this area.Mobile is doing that to a lot of software areas now. The big news is Mailbox today, a potential example of innovation that would have never happened on the desktop but is happening because of smartphone explosion (although sold early so we don’t really know.) I saw a product called Draft (, I believe) that might do the same for word processing (or at least writing). Every product category dominated by a big player, same thing: the arteries of innovation calcify.Fred has his investment theses. This is one of mine. Look for areas where markets are changing and big company products have calcified around the old markets and won’t move successfully. (As a shameless half plug for myself, I’ve been working on number-based solutions, think spreadsheets and calculators, for years. Hope to ship an innovative new service in the next month.)

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Thanks Elia. I really enjoyed reading this comment and appreciate the elucidation.I’m no expert but that sounds like a solid investment thesis. Good luck with your new offering.Re: Old Reliable. We’ve seen that movie in our house literally dozens of times and yet I had to Google it. My movie buff son who should have known the answer informed me that this is also the name of sponge Bob’s net then grinned sheepishly because SB is forbidden in our house.Funny this time around my phone remembered your name. (Oops correction –just had to edit from “Elias” but now have “trained” it.)

    4. andyidsinga

      RIP (soon) google reader

      1. Techman

        I really liked Google Reader. It is a shame that they are going to close it, as there are fewer folks that use it, but the ones that do use it all the time.

  6. DonRyan

    My first computer was a Tandy TRS-80 with the cassette drive. We programmed in Basic with that thing. It had far less computing power than the average calculator today but it was the cat’s meow back then.

    1. fredwilson

      Me too. Junior year in HS

    2. takingpitches

      Always wanted the TRS-80. Something about it aesthetically nailed it for me at the time. The way a computer should work. Amazing to think from the perspective of today that it came from Radio Shack!

  7. andyswan

    Back in the day I learned marketing, inventory control (unlike most parents my dad charged us for the supplies and let us take a loss!) …and that my employee would let me have $6.75 if I let him have the $5 bill:

    1. JimHirshfield

      Y’all diggin’ the big pix?@andyswan:disqus that’s a great photo!

      1. William Mougayar

        Nice new feature at Disqus!! Congratulations for turning comments into a magazine.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Thanks. (I think?)

      2. Techman

        Yeah, I like that too.

    2. fredwilson

      drinking the kool aid

    3. LE

      Nice. And a girl in a bathing suit is always a good way to get attention. Note also the webbed folding chairs. Probably were made in USA.

      1. ShanaC


    4. Aaron Klein

      Note the careful Swan attention to marketing. Girl in swimsuit, one adjective plus one noun for the sign.Some things never change… πŸ˜‰

      1. fredwilson

        so true. that’s actually very funny

    5. andyidsinga

      literally drink’n the koolaid ;0

  8. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Started on 3270 screens doing JCL/TSO/SPF in 1981 – loved it when I got my hands on Unix via a VT220 in 1989. Then the real revelation/fun came with X-Windows in 1994.

    1. Cam MacRae

      And Slackware transitioning from 3Β½” floppies to CD-ROM circa ’96 meant X at home!

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        I didn’t try that but I remember the amazement it would cause when I went to do demos with this – running SCO Xenix and IXI X.desktop – was pretty cool for back then – and all on a 386! :-)…

        1. Cam MacRae


  9. CliffElam

    I lost them in a move, but until fairly recently I had my PL/1 punchcards from the only CompSci course I ever took – 101 at Duke in the Naval ROTC building basement. I used punchcards ($0.10 for a bundle of 100 from the candy vending machine) until I realized there was a TCO guest account one could use on a 3270 terminal to type and print the punch cards. Then I found out about cost accounting when my TA lost his beans at the cost….I also lately lost the paper tape I used to use to boot up my PDP/8 at work at Nortel to run production machines – robots, insertion equipment, etc. Big fun.-XCPS _ I has a Wyse/100 and a 300/1200 baud modem show up my first day at Oracle back in the day. But, hey, EMAIL!

  10. Alan Warms

    Originally, my Dad who worked at AT&T would bring home the TI Silent 700 that you’d plug the phone into (literally, you’d take the phone part you held and put it into these rubber connectors) and it had a printer attached and we’d play star trek. Later, Apple II plus, BASIC, attached home made circuit board with like 5 chips (got at radio shack?) and 8 light LED to count to some huge number in binary using PEEK (or was it POKE). I remember waiting for that computer to get delivered to NJ (to avoid NY sales tax) and they delivered to neighbor instead. It was a frustrating 24 hours! (yes we’re talking 1979 or 80, I believe).

    1. fredwilson

      You started young Al

    2. awaldstein

      I did a short stint with Racal when they were competing with Hayes (and lost) to own the consumer modem market.Know this world well.

      1. LE

        Remember both. Isn’t it amazing how many companies were the shit back then (when you walked around trade shows) and went out of business.

        1. awaldstein

          Hey….you just never know.I’ve been lucky.Tried at Racal and lost to Hayes. Tried at Digital F/X and lost to Avid, A bunch that just faded in the wind. A bunch that just did nicely and are lost to history as acquisitions and a few big names like Atari,Creative, RealD that hit the consumer markets and stuck for a bit.

    3. laurie kalmanson

      Omg awesome

    4. LE

      “literally, you’d take the phone part you held and put it into these rubber connectors”Remember that well and had a Western Union tty43 in my bedroom hooked up to the school computer so I could write my papers.If you put a tape recorder on the line and you play the tape back on the speaker next to the cups the printer will print the conversation I found after experimenting with that.

    5. robertdesideri

      Alan, I had the Silent 700 with dual APL / ascii keyboard! What memories!

  11. Barry Nolan

    The ZX Spectrum 8-bit computer from Sinclair. Hooked up to your tv with external tap recorder to load the games. It typically took a couple of tapes to nervously load up ping pong. Hours, and hours, and hours, and hours of fun.

  12. jeypandian

    Back in the day, I could barely hear people with my hearing aids. Today, I can hear the air conditioner, the sound of fabric brushing against my coat and people talking in the hallway while in a conference room. Today, I’m thankful for how far technology has progressed to benefit common people like me.

    1. fredwilson

      My dad wears them. No doubt I will soon. Its amazing how far the technology has come

    2. laurie kalmanson

      A friend has them and she can make theremin sounds with them by waving her hands near her head

    3. andyidsinga

      very cool. what a great counter to peter thiel’s assesment that tech hasn’t progressed enough!

  13. Nari Kannan

    Seein a VT100 brought back memories of my graduate school days at UMASS Amherst. DEC, WANG and Data General being powerhouses at that time had donated large numbers of machines to Comp Science departments like that of UMASS. This one was hooked up to a cluster of VAX11/780’s. The thing i remember most is the vast amounts of static the labs accumulated during winter and you would get an arc and a shock everytime you touched the door handles to these labs!

    1. fredwilson

      That brings back the same memories

    2. laurie kalmanson

      NYC mayors office internship everything ran on wang desktops

  14. Trish Fontanilla

    Back in the day (is the mid 90s to me)… I decided to make my first site on Angelfire. They gave 35KB for free and I was so excited to create something on the web! I found a Sailor Moon GIF (don’t judge) and slapped it on the page. I typed some text underneath it and it wouldn’t save. I remember asking my brother who had set me up with an email address years before, did I just break something? Uhhhh no Trish. You know how big 35KB is? It’s that big… and he pointed to the GIF. Whaaa? I ended up jumping ship for Tripod that gave 250KB of free space and later updated that space to 1MB to compete with Geocities. I thought I was so fancy. I ran Javascript to change the color of the page (I get nauseous thinking about it now), I made a web ring, I gave out awards I created in Microsoft Paint. Oh back in the day. πŸ˜€

    1. ShanaC

      πŸ™‚ Hey, I loved Sailor Moon and probably would have found that site πŸ™‚

      1. Trish Fontanilla

        Maybe you did find it! It LoOkEd KiNdA LiKe tHis. πŸ˜‰

    2. Techman

      It’s amazing how small storage companies gave you back in the day.

  15. laurie kalmanson

    Trash80 laptop that I loved — issued one to cover the courthouse. Filed by plugging the desk phone handset into rubber couplers. The sound was like this and there was trepidation inthe dialling and joy when the connection worked

    1. awaldstein

      Cool–had one.

      1. LE

        Same. Had two. Gave them away to non-profits. Total impulse buys.

  16. Tim Huntley

    Hey Fred,I was 14 years old in 1982, and I had saved my money from several summer jobs. I paid approximately $500 (a lot of money back then) to buy an Atari 800 with a cassette tape drive for storage. On that machine, I taught myself to program – this led to a CSC degree in college, a job at IBM, and founding a venture-backed company in 1995….Tim

    1. fredwilson

      That’s how it happens!

  17. laurie kalmanson

    Golfball fonts for IBM Selectric

    1. JLM

      .Like yesterday.JLM.

      1. pointsnfigures

        When I was in high school, some guys broke into our house. Stole the VHS and my father’s IBM Selectric typewriter. Left everything else.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          left the cannoli?

          1. pointsnfigures

            we weren’t italian, but I bet they were…..

      2. LE

        Nothing like the beats of a selectric and those golf balls. Much nicer than the daisywheel competitors.

      3. laurie kalmanson

        true story: i bought one in grad school at u chicago, and it was delivered to my dorm w red warning tape that said do not open so it sat until a man in a black suit and white shirt and dark tie came to my dorm, carried it to my room, opened the box and plugged it in.

        1. ShanaC


          1. laurie kalmanson


    2. panterosa,

      Not sure I can find the old stats, but I used to set type by hand (at Milton Glaser’s studio). I still work on Quark because of the control it offers for type.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        Amazing and awesome

      2. LE

        Pagemaker. And still have it running on a Mac running Os9 in emulation under OSX 10.5.8 to do some things easier than having to convert the files to something current.Quark quickly surpassed Pagemaker as the designer tool of choice. So much for first mover advantage.We bought the first linotronic in Philly (as a service bureau) and had it hooked up to a 128k Mac running Pagemaker 1.0. A big improvement over doing “mark point return point” on the Itek typesetters when you wanted to draw a box.

        1. panterosa,

          Ahh, the linotronics and the service bureaus, when you to a tape drive over. Still have those crazy things.I was trained by hand to set type, and in calligraphy. It was great training and I’d not trade the hand eye coordination which I got from it.I never quite got Pagemaker. Am a total Quark jockey. Don’t much like InDesign.

    3. fredwilson


    4. ShanaC

      i had to look up what this was…

      1. laurie kalmanson

        self correcting! that was a huge feature.…The carriage on this machine held both the main typing ribbon cartridge and two small spools for a correction ribbon. A new ribbon type, the Correctable Film ribbon, was introduced at the same time. This produced typing quality equal to the carbon film ribbon, but with a pigment designed to be easily removable from paper.There were two types of correction tapes: The transparent and slightly adhesive “Lift-Off” tape (for use with the correctable film ribbon), or the white “Cover-Up” tape (for cloth, Tech-3, and carbon film ribbons). The correction tape was changed independently from the typing ribbon.The correction key (an extra key at the bottom right of the keyboard) backspaced the carriage by one space and also put the machine in a mode wherein the next character typed would use the correction tape instead of the normal ribbon, and furthermore would not advance the carriage. The typist would press (and release) the correction key and then re-type the erroneous character, either lifting it off of the page or (if using other than the correctable ribbon) covering it with white-out powder, then type the correct character. Any number of mistakes could be corrected this way, but the process was entirely manual, as the machine had no memory of the typed characters.

        1. pointsnfigures

          I typed papers using white out, and sometimes white out tape. Then you’d copy them for a fortune and turn them in. Gave me the idea for Post It Tape on my first job with 3M. (Post it and post it tape were already invented-I just found a market for them in automotive trades)

          1. laurie kalmanson

            Paradigm shift Nice

        2. Edith Wiethorn

          The IBM Selectric empowered my work as Public Information Coordinator for an education & arts org. We were published coast-to-coast year around – used Burrell’s clipping service, rather than Google Alerts. πŸ™‚ But the Compugraphic typesetting capabilities in those days could do anything you could envision – 72 points to an inch! πŸ™‚

          1. laurie kalmanson

            clipping service!!!!!

    5. Donna Brewington White

      Laurie — My son passed by my laptop and saw this photo. “What’s that?” I asked if he knew what a typewriter was. “I know about some things from the olden days.”Wow, this brings back memories. The Selectric seemed so high tech at the time.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        Whoa. Olden days. It did need electricity to work so it was past the candles and horses era.The correcting ribbon was a big deal.Also the machine was solid metal and so heavy — it ran like a German car

  18. Chris Fralic

    And your VT100 probably plugged into one of these. I have this PDP-11 if you still know how to work it, we could try to fire it up.

    1. fredwilson


    2. LE

      I lusted for one of those.

    3. andyidsinga

      that looks like a vic20 on top ?

  19. JLM

    .I am headed to my 40th college reunion next month. I went to Virginia Military .Institute at the tail end of the Viet Nam War.We had some foreign students in my class. Brilliant young men. All studied engineering and were at the top of the class.Before Red China was Red China, VMI educated a lot of Chinese officers who would go on to lead Mao’s armies.Anyway, at such affairs VMI guys are constantly comparing notes as to derring do and danger. A lot of my classmates have had their fingers around the throat of history in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terror. Damn good men all.Two of my foreign classmates conducted a coups d’etat and overthrew a sovereign government. That is going to be damn hard to top at the reunion.Here is what I looked like all those years ago. I had just parachuted into a rice paddy that was fertilized with night soil. I had landed standing up as you can see from my boots which stuck pretty damn deep.This was all that stood between ya’ll and a world gone amuck back in those days.JLM.

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      I agree, it’s difficult to beat a coup d’etat at a class reunion…

      1. takingpitches

        Yep – a coup is Game, Set, Match.

        1. JLM

          .I think the only competition might be a manned trip to Mars and the discovery of life?JLM.

          1. takingpitches

            Ha. Elon Musk’s reunion.

    2. William Mougayar

      can you repost the pic? it didn’t show…unless it was censored by China πŸ™‚

      1. JLM

        .You must be on a tablet or other mobile device. I reposted it and it shows fine on my laptop. Maybe the NSA got it. I was kind of a dangerous guy in those days.JLM.

        1. William Mougayar

          It’s there now… Your photo was flagged for CIA clearance, and now it showed up.

    3. pointsnfigures

      Not enough BBQ back in those days! nice butter bar on your cover.

      1. JLM

        .Green shavetail. In about 18 months I was a Captain.Even the Ship of Fools had a Captain.JLM.

      2. JLM

        .I could even dunk a basketball in those days. Though it was not allowed in the college game until 1976?I was only 6’4″ but I had some hops. Less mass and resistance from gravity in those days.In response to Lew Alcindor @ UCLA.JLM.

    4. Elia Freedman

      Where’s your laptop bag? πŸ™‚

      1. JLM

        .About 15 years in the future?JLM.

    5. ShanaC

      nice picture

      1. JLM

        .I was about 22 years old, a long way from home, had 50 soldiers and used to run foot patrols up to the DMZ in ROK routinely.This is probably the only picture of me from that time when I was not armed.About a week later, on an otherwise routine patrol, we shot it out with some NK infiltrators coming across the Imjin River at 2:00 AM. It was my baptism of fire.I was a child playing in a dangerous world. This is how I repaid 4 years of education and earned the GI Bill to go to grad school. It was a great trade.Everything I ever needed to know to run a business I learned when I was a platoon leader and company commander.By the time I was 25, I had hardened up a bit and seen enough to know to be scared and when.Sometimes when I write here, this is the guy who is really speaking. That innocent boy in the picture. He was a lot of fun and I miss him.JLM.

  20. Fernando Gutierrez

    My first computer was a Commodore 64 hooked to a TV with an external tape player to load anything. Not as back in they as yours, but it must be more than 20 years! I really loved that machine.

  21. Tom Labus

    I did all my serious research in this place. Much more beat up at the time and had an endless supply of 15 cent beers.

  22. Susan Rubinsky

    Oh this is so cool! Here’s my Apply IIe, ubiquitous they were in their day. I learned BASIC in high school in 1983 on one of these. I was the only girl in the class.

    1. Cam MacRae

      If the lab session I passed today is any indication, you might still be the only girl in the class today.

      1. Susan Rubinsky


        1. Cam MacRae

          Truly. Could have been a fluke. At a guess we must be closer to 60% women in stats and 50% in applied maths, so it stuck out like a sore thumb (hence me noticing).

    2. harvestgrand

      Believe it or not there is one of these still up, running and in use by a company near me. Its sole purpose is to operate a motorized fence after you punch in your pass code. My First computer Apple IIc.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        About 10 years ago I fired this thing up and got it to run but now the connectors are all disintegrated so I don’t think that will happen. So great that someone is still running one! I like products that are built to last.

      2. laurie kalmanson

        dunno if it’s still there; for a long time tek serv in nyc on 23rd st had an old mac hanging up just to display the number for who’s next/take a number — elegant hack

    3. fredwilson


    4. Techman


  23. rimalovski

    Back in the day I taught myself to program (when I was 13…circa 1978) on my dad’s RadioShack (really!) TRS-80, unaffectionately known as the Trash-80 for good reason. It was a command line black and white pc with a cassette tape drive for storage. This made saving your work a chore! I coded an accounts receivable aging app for my dads medical practice which he was very proud of, but i got very frustrated when the computer would crash in the middle of writing code and you’d lose all your work because I didn’t stop to save, which took 1-2 minutes every time you wanted to save. I almost chucked the thing out the window one day and didn’t touch a computer again for nearly 8 years until the end of college. Wish I had stuck with it in many ways.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s how i learned to in roughly the same year. i was a junior in high school though

  24. JLM

    .Remember this baby? The first portable — luggable really.JLM.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      We had one in engineering – used mainly for diagnostics – was very cool.

    2. fredwilson


      1. JLM


    3. Joe Marchese

      I had an IBM PS2 Model 75 luggable (running OS/2) that weighed a neat 21 pounds. It felt like a desktop with a handle. My elbow hasn’t recovered yet.

    4. andyidsinga

      love the juxtaposition of the iphone 3g!

      1. JLM

        .How many years in between?Technology is moving like crazy.JLM.

    5. Techman

      That’s a pretty huge space bar.

  25. awaldstein

    First piece of original software I worked on at my first job with Atari.Oh so cool!First piece of new hardware I introduced was the Atari ST 1040.Working with the Tramiel family was the best possible way to start my career. All opportunity.

    1. laurie kalmanson

      Awesome package MTV looked like that for a while

      1. andyidsinga

        well played πŸ™‚ hahaha

  26. Adam Schwartz

    In elementary school, we used to do BASIC “computer programming” on a TRS-80. I put the term in quotes because most of the time we were simply copying the programs directly from this book.That’s how code was commonly distributed pre-BBS and Internet. You’d drive to a store, buy a book, bring it home, and then retype the lines into your machine.

    1. Luke Chamberlin

      Why 57!?

    2. takingpitches

      haha. i remember I used to get magazines with TI99/4A code and sit there typing it in and saving it to a cassette disk.What a way to learn though!

    3. CJ

      My first PC was a TRS-80 with dual 5.25in Floppy Drives. Oh my, I remember those days.

    4. andyidsinga

      yup – that and compute magazine πŸ™‚

    5. Techman

      Well, while you copy the lines you could learn to remember the lines without referring to the book.

  27. Daman Bahner

    Here’s me somewhere in the 9-10 year old range (1985-86), with my first computer of my own, a Laser 128 Apple compatible, running to a monitor with dual input that allowed my NES to hook up as well. Between Lode Runner, Zork, and of course Super Mario Bros I got outside a little less often that summer.

    1. Cam MacRae


      1. Daman Bahner

        Indeed! There was a little more advanced one I played that I can’t recall the name but was awesome at the time, it was something like P.R.I.S.M. or something similar where the protagonist of the game wakes up and realizes he’s actually AI, kind of a cool concept.

    2. mikenolan99

      Lode Runner!

    3. fredwilson

      “apple compatible”that market doesn’t exist anymore

      1. Brandon Burns

        yes it does. its called “everyone.” :o)

        1. takingpitches

          haha – good point

      2. Daman Bahner

        Steve definitely killed that pretty quick when he took back over after Gil Amelio days.

    4. LE

      Was that taken with a Kodak instant camera?

      1. Daman Bahner

        Haha, no – the superfluous black border is due to grabbing the pic quick off of my Instagram feed…

  28. Informerly

    I remember when I was 3, my dad bringing home our first PC, the IBM 8088 and spending hours playing Big Top –… . That led to all the Kings Quests, Police Quests, and here I am today.

  29. Dan Wick

    My dad is a teacher so we always had Apple products in the house in the late 80’s and 90’s because of his educator discount.I remember putting all my basketball cards into an AppleWorks database on our IIGS. This video (not me) takes me back to how incredibly slow getting programs up and running was. And the multiple disk drives, both 3.5 and 4.25. Wow.…Then, FileMaker Pro completely shaped how I think about data by introducing me to relational databases without even really knowing it.

  30. laurie kalmanson

    Friends in the cs lab had beautiful alto monitors hooked up to the dec monsters in the room with the raised floor

      1. fredwilson

        what an awesome machine that was

        1. laurie kalmanson

          i loved visiting the cs dept and using it just for writing *.*

  31. Cam MacRae

    Sometimes I get all nostalgic about logging in to a terminal and ^H^H^H^H^H

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      The quick brown fox …

  32. Denim

    Love this! Thank you Fred!Building Lifemap: the most comprehensive personal digital archive that allows you to permanently organize your meaningful memories into life stories & a lasting legacy. Here’s a video intro we did in-house to showcase the power of a Lifemap. Hope you enjoy! (Still in public beta)

    1. Denim

      oh, what about calling these segments ‘Flashback Friday’?:)

  33. TamiMForman

    I had a Commodore 64 in junior high. Not sure I remember exactly what it looked like, but this is close enough. I remember doing Logos on it. I also remember at some point doing a paper on it and had a typo. I was then lectured by an English teacher about the limits of spell check. Thanks for the wander down memory lane …

  34. mikenolan99

    Mr. Knudtson was my high school teacher from ’78-82. He was also one of the first Apple franchises in Minnesota – in the SMALL town of Blooming Prairie (pop 1,994). Mr. Knudtson somehow convinced the powers that be that computers were the next big thing, and loaded up a classroom full of Apple II… and then he convinced them that computers were a math credit.I spent 4 years playing in that room. Online D&D on a paper terminal. Building our own games and hacks. Taking out cards and using a pencil erasure to clean the contacts.I convinced my dad to buy a IIe for our family business, and put his weekly sales projections on visi-calc. The old man loved it. I think we spent $3,000 on the first set up – we splurged on 128k of RAM!I taught myself programing by copying code out of the Apple manual, then going step by step to understand it.I never took any high school math – Mr. Knudston just kept signing some form that let me stay in the lab. When I graduated I took my college placement tests… and failed the math section so miserably I did not get accepted to the college where I now teach MBA students – I ended up taking Math 50 as a probationary student at an out of state college.I can’t thank Mr. Knudston enough….

    1. mikenolan99

      And… I found a screen shot of Tiny Trek! the first game I ever hacked! Take that Klingons! (999 Photon Torpedoes!)

      1. andyidsinga

        text adventures are coming back ..starting _now_

    2. andyidsinga

      awesome story – cheers to Mr Knudston!

    3. fredwilson

      awesome story

  35. Jan Schultink

    Texas Instruments TI 99/4A with the Extended Basic module. Always watch out not to press the “reset” key combination by accident…

    1. takingpitches

      love the color. i had one that had that awful off-white old computer color.

    2. Joe Marchese

      Had one too. You forgot to mention that storage I/O was through a cassette recorder… another ‘back in the day’ artifact.

      1. Jan Schultink

        Yes, I think you could set the speed at which you recorded your programs depending on the amount of trust you put into your tape recorder

  36. Kirsten Lambertsen

    In 1984 I got one of these from my parents after graduating high school. It’s a Brother word processor. You’d type and it would show you what you were typing on the screen. You could go back and edit, and then save everything on a floppy disk.When you were ready to print, you’d give it the command and it would type your whole document from the disk. So you had to stand there and feed it paper :)Wasn’t long after that I was introduced to my first Mac – the II that was like a little tower – and FileMaker.

  37. David Semeria

    I remember when I was one of the very few in the city to own one of these:It could only store 10 songs, but I didn’t care…

    1. fredwilson

      i loved my Rio!

  38. Guest

    My first tablet. Circa 1969

  39. kirklove

    Nice <img src=””> action. #proud

    1. fredwilson


  40. Guest

    My First tablet. Circa 1969

  41. btrautsc

    back in the day (this isn’t that long ago) before every middle schooler had a cell phone or a laptop – we would rush home from school or practice and immediately get on AIM and pull up chat boxes with all the people we had just spent 8 hours with. Then, we would throw together a chat room with all our friends – so we effectively could have 1-to-many communication, then talk about our ‘crushes’ secretly in 1-to-1 comms… basically we would do that until we were forced to go to bed… Oh, and we all had 2nd phone lines because if your mom grabbed the phone to make a call, heard the wrath of the dial up scream, and then effectively ended your conversation with your soon-to-be-potential beau, life was over…In hindsight, I really should have started GroupMe.

    1. ShanaC

      me too! I remember that! except for the having to be on actual aol for most of those features to work

    2. laurie kalmanson

      9 yo daughter now has group texts w friends after school … you can hear the phone buzzing for an hour

  42. pointsnfigures

    This is when there was no three point line and we wore short shorts (1977). I was a strapping 6″5″ and 180 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. I was really excited when I got a TI-30 calculator for Christmas. I didn’t look good, but I could dunk.

    1. fredwilson

      wow. you could dunk?

      1. pointsnfigures

        Almost any way you wanted. But USAFA recruited me because I could shoot.

        1. btrautsc

          have you considered 1-on-1 for angel round?

          1. pointsnfigures

            My mind is quicker than my feet these days.

      2. takingpitches

        with all the hops in this thread, we need an avc dunk competition!

        1. pointsnfigures

          I can’t jump over my credit card bill anymore….and i bet a lot of people on this thread are taller than me when they stand on their wallets.

        2. andyidsinga

          I’ll bring the other kind of hops beverage form when they’re thirsty afterwards πŸ™‚

          1. takingpitches

            I’m all in with that idea!

    2. Brandon Burns

      “I was a strapping 6″5” and 180 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal.”Sounds like the opening line of the next great coming of age nostalgia movie!

      1. pointsnfigures

        Stole it. Not my line.

    3. andyidsinga

      6″5 180 lbs? wow mr skinny. I’ll take 6″1 and 180 any day of the week πŸ˜‰

  43. awaldstein

    i lugged these Doch computers around for years!They were the only luggable that held a full size ISA card (aka SoundBlaster).

    1. laurie kalmanson

      awesome. i had a luggable in the washington post buro in chicago; hauled it to the farm aid concert … we were very techtastic

    2. LE

      Arnold weren’t you a big shot at Targus maker of those ballistic nylon cases? I bought many targus cases.

  44. Brandon Burns

    Back in the day, dude, I got a Dell!

    1. Brandon Burns

      As I look at my post, vs. all the other posts… I’m clearly a youngin’ here at AVC. :o)Great topic. A truly fun friday.

      1. btrautsc

        haha…same boat, but I’m pretty sure I remember saying this to my parents while we were at a Gateway store…

      2. Donna Brewington White

        You hold your own.

      3. fredwilson

        agreed. can’t recall who suggested it but its a good one

      4. Donna Brewington White

        This whole time I thought your avatar was your actual photo. Imagine my surprise.

  45. Guest


  46. Guest

    My first tablet. Circa 1969

  47. Dave McLaughlin

    I didn’t make software then. I made films, or I was trying to anyway. And I can remember — about 1995 — the first time I saw an Avid. It was like someone showed us the inside of the space shuttle. Non-linear editing. Non-linear?! Oh man. No longer needing to have multiple spools of film and literally cutting and taping – literally taping together – bits of film. It’s interesting: then it was still a novel way of thinking, the mindset that a filmmaker needed to have — the idea that if you juxtaposed Image A and Image B then some piece of meaning would be created, and these bits of meaning could be assembled to create a narrative. Now everybody has juxtaposed images. And on some level everybody understands how to make meaning that way. But that wasn’t true then, because actually juxtaposing images — on a Steenbeck editing table, or even still images for that matter — was so mechanical and laborious to do, that most people had never done it.Plus we carried the editing table on our backs in the snow as we walked up steep hills to get to our day jobs as coal miners before shooting all night. Etc. :)Thanks, Fred – fun post!

    1. LE

      I remember walking around Macworld in the early 90’s and seeing quicktime for the first time. It was a video in a small window of a rocket launch.

  48. takingpitches

    Mid-80s, Chilltown Jersey City, you might find me with my Sony Yellow Sports Walkman with the cassette hiss, crackle, and pop of something like My Adidas in my ears (waterproof in case I fell in the Hudson or something, I guess).

    1. laurie kalmanson

      i had the yellow boombox; kept it on the dashboard for x-c drives

    2. bsoist

      I had one of those. I think I still have it, actually.I had a cassette with one VH album on one side and another on the other side. I would ride my bike all over listening to that thing.I remember driving to PhilaPA ( 50 miles ) to spend more than $400 to purchase the first diskman when it came out.

  49. Guest

    Login, Wharton Computer Center approx 1981.

  50. Guest

    Disqus – For some reason photos aren’t posting.

    1. ShanaC

      i’m having this problem too, from a logged in state :/

  51. Guest

    attached. test w/o space in filename

  52. kidmercury

    back in the day i used google reader. then it was taken from me.RIP google reader. i loved you more than you will ever know.anyone know a good substitute? good = free, no max number of feeds, works well, offers a web-based app, offers an android app, and the two are synched in the cloud.right now i’m using netvibes, though it doesn’t have a mobile app……man. google reader was such a great product.

    1. Techman

      I wonder if Google will open source the code used in Reader so others can continue on the project.

  53. Ptaco

    First post-high school job – “Find out how we can use this machine.” HP-85 with basic. Loaded up with a floppy drive and a plotter. Figured out how to use the plotter to scan points on a map, then use those digitized locations to show radar coverage in the Fulda Gap using the plotter as a color printer. Tektronix workstations were the next step up the following year.

  54. ErikSchwartz

    1990s Radius RocketEarly 1990s Didgidesign Audiomedia II NuBuss card1980s Serial controlled laser disc players.1970s Exidy Sorcerer

    1. LE

      I worked for a short time for Radius competitors. Rasterops and Supermac early 1990 after I sold my first company.Same time period that Steve Blank worked for Supermac. Steve would sometimes bring women to tears.When I told the person that I reported to (Sales VP) that I needed a syquest drive he looked at me puzzed and said “what’s a syquest drive”?At Rasterops the first thing the person I reported to told me was to get signed up for the air miles program and never to fly Continental. He looked out the window of the plane we were on, pointed to a Continental jet, and said something like “losers fly continental”. He knew practically nothing about the products it was all about getting the deal done and “making the numbers”. Sometimes they would “stuff the channel” prior to the end of the quarter and then take the goods back so they could make the numbers. I told my Dad both companies would fail and they did after I worked there a short time. They only rode (as I like to say) the “low hanging fruit of opportunity”.This was my first taste of how clueless people could be and actually have a job like that. Coming from where I was you had to know everything A-Z well not just know what something was.

  55. Guest

    My first tablet and mobile device. I found it to be very ‘Mac’ compatible.

  56. Guest


  57. laurie kalmanson

    this is getting to be back in the day

    1. LE

      I still have one of those in storage I think. It surprised me when Steve came out with the multiple colors. I thought for sure it was going to create inventory problems since some colors would be more popular than others and with all the configs how would you know what to stock?. Obviously the novelty of having the different colors made up for those problems or drawbacks. (Especially since one of the things Steve was doing at the time was cutting sku’s to the bare minimum.)

      1. laurie kalmanson

        yeah my blue one is in its box in a closet … and the batman black rubber macbook is still in a drawer. i remember when everything was suddenly round transparent and colorful … a design fad that lasted for a while

    2. fredwilson

      my oldest daughter’s first computer of her own

      1. laurie kalmanson

        so awesome. mine was delivered to the yoyodyne daughter is 9: has an iphone, ipad and a handmedown macbook. she is with me now at a women’s tech group, where one of the devs is helping her see code for hacking minecraft.

  58. Guest

    Anyone else having trouble getting picture to load from ‘comment box’ to the thread?

  59. bsoist

    Until I was 13, our family was fairly poor. My dad stopped drinking when I was seven, and it took him several years to get solid work, save up some money, and start his real estate business.So … for Christmas 1980 I wanted a computer. My brother, who was 9 at the time, wasn’t quite as excited about the idea, but he and I decided we would ask for one to share. I remember like it was yesterday going to pick out the one we wanted, etc. It was a major purchase for us.Christmas day we opened it, and a 300 baud direct connect modem, put it on the living room floor, and connected it to our TV (one of those giant console models).There were quite a few BBSs locally, so we met some other friends that way. We also knew a couple of other kids who had modems and we would just call each other and type back and forth ( which my dad thought was about as silly as Star Wars and Dr. Who )Not long after we moved into a nice big house. My brother and I shared the largest bedroom in the house until I left for college. We set up two table in one corner for the TV, computer, Atari, and eventually a C64, TI99, and a lot of other crap. We played games, frequented the BBSs, and learned how to program in BASIC.We wrote an Othello game with real graphics ( for that time ). We had to play each other, but it was cool to do it on the computer. We almost finished cool racing game – the kind where you move the car back and forth and the cars come down backwards toward you. :)We also made some progress on a word processor of sorts using fonts we created ourselves by manually plugging memory locations. It was a blast.I’ve been a programmer ever since. He is a financial analyst with analytical skills that far surpass the average man his age. As far as I’m concerned, our parents made a half dozen decisions that drastically changed the course of our lives as kids ( my sister too ) – scraping together enough dough for that computer was one of them.

    1. takingpitches

      Great story!

    2. andyidsinga

      awesome story – thanks! My folks also didn’t “get” why I would dial up my friend on the modem and chat through the terminal πŸ™‚

    3. LE

      Until I was 13, our family was fairly poor. My dad stopped drinking when I was seven, and it took him several years to get solid work, save up some money, and start his real estate business.The honesty of people today really amazes me. For example back in the day, in your great story above, most people would have left out the part about “drinking”. Today it’s almost commonplace for people to talk in this manner.

      1. bsoist

        You agree that honesty is better, right?

        1. LE

          No I wouldn’t say unequivocally that honesty is always better. It totally depends on the situation and who is the receiver of the message. The same story told to different people would have different responses and outcomes.Some people might welcome the honesty and award points for it but it’s a risky proposition. Why? Because you aren’t factoring in the “downside” and the people that will be judgmental and would deny something because of the same honesty.Let’s take an unrelated example.You want to hire a babysitter for your family and the babysitter tells you a story (is honest) about how in their last job they made a mistake and the child that they were watching was harmed. Is the honesty going to get you anywhere in that situation? Maybe it might resonate with 1 or 2 or 20 out of 100 people but the other people will see it as a negative and you won’t be hired for that “honesty”. So the answer as always to the question “you agree that honesty is better, right” is “it depends”.In your example someone hearing “drinking” could have a close personal connection to someone who did that and might react in a negative way to that info because it brings back memories. Or they could empathize and it could bring you closer (the upside). The problem is you don’t in advance of telling the story.

          1. bsoist

            Agreed. While I think honesty is always better when set opposite to dishonesty, I don’t think leaving something out is the same as dishonesty.In the case of my story, I could have left out that detail without being dishonest. I actually included it purposefully – because he overcame it. If I were just “airing our dirty laundry,” that would be sensationalizing ( and in my opinion in very bad taste ). No doubt that won’t be a positive message to some ( because they think of their story, which turned out differently ), but I think it might help others. My dad started drinking at age twelve. When he was 34 he was a great dad and a great man, but alcoholism made it hard for him to be the best dad he could be. He stopped drinking, and never took another drink until the day he died – thirty years later.

          2. bsoist

            BTW, I recently interviewed someone for a job and he mentioned to me that he was the kind of guy who “even if I don’t know something I’m supposed to know, I am going to tell you I do and figure it out later” ( where he was not using “you” referring to me ).While I understand where he is coming from, I think it wasn’t smart to be quite that honest. πŸ™‚

    4. fredwilson

      damn straight

  60. Dan Goldin

    A story my dad likes to tell me of getting a PhD in the Soviet Union during the early 80s. I’m not sure whether it’s true or just an urban legend but he tells it convincingly enough.They used to have a computer lab university with some massive mainframes that had a significant amount of mechanical parts. Thus, during some programs, it was possible that the machines would scuttle around the room.Unfortunately, these mainframes were housed in a lab where the door swung inward. Combined with the machines moving around the room it was possible to end up in a state where the door got blocked by the moving mainframes and required someone to remove the door from the hinge to access the lab. My dad and his friends ended up having a competition to see who could write the shortest program that would result in this state. I’m sure they were loved by the lab administrators.

    1. laurie kalmanson

      i have read about this in the lore:…walking drivesAn occasional failure mode of magnetic-disk drives back in the days when they were huge, clunky washing machines. Those old dinosaur parts carried terrific angular momentum; the combination of a misaligned spindle or worn bearings and stick-slip interactions with the floor could cause them to β€˜walk’ across a room, lurching alternate corners forward a couple of millimeters at a time. There is a legend about a drive that walked over to the only door to the computer room and jammed it shut; the staff had to cut a hole in the wall in order to get at it!Walking could also be induced by certain patterns of drive access (a fast seek across the whole width of the disk, followed by a slow seek in the other direction).Some bands of old-time hackers figured out how to induce disk-accessing patterns that would do this to particular drive models and held disk-drive races.

      1. Dan Goldin

        That’s awesome! Thanks for digging in and finding the source. I’ll pass it on to him.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          it’s a genius archive…Drescher and the toasterA disciple of another sect once came to Drescher as he was eating his morning meal.β€œI would like to give you this personality test”, said the outsider, β€œbecause I want you to be happy.”Drescher took the paper that was offered him and put it into the toaster, saying: β€œI wish the toaster to be happy, too.”

        2. laurie kalmanson

          more lore:Tom Knight and the Lisp MachineA novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power off and on.Knight, seeing what the student was doing, spoke sternly: β€œYou cannot fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong.”Knight turned the machine off and on.The machine worked.

  61. Jay Janney

    Ahhh, this post brings back memories. I too had a laser 128 apple clone; found it four years ago in a closet at my father’s home, when we were cleaning it out. When I went to work for the government, our department had a compaq luggable (about 35 pounds). You could tell the road warriors back then: one side of their body looked like ‘Ahh-nold”, and the other “diary of a wimpy kid”.

  62. skysurfer172

    Commodore 64 purchased by my Dad as a xmas present, a Computes! Gazette subscription and a week long BASIC programming class and I was off and running creating adventure games and exploring the BB’s. I was in 7th grade and I see it as a pivotal time in my life that led me to my current IT career.

  63. Nick Ambrose

    When i was 15 or so, before going off to college, my father needed a program to allow him to print estimates and invoices for his small construction company ….All i had was this (complete with a 3″ Disk Drive and 128 KB RAM — a vast improvement on the CPC64) and a dot-matrix printer.http://www.computermuseum.l…I taught myself BASIC and wrote a basic program which he continued to use for over 10 years to basically run his entire company (finally getting an upgrade to a 3.5″ floppy drive !)The awesome thing is that even today you can go out and buy spare parts for these things and keep them up & running.Sadly he finally “upgraded” to a PC with “Excel” which to me doesn’t really seem much like an upgrade but since I live in the US, getting “tech support” for him was rather patchy and my younger brother only knows PC’s and Excel…On my annual christmas trips back home I’d format a whole bunch of floppies for him to get him through the next year!

  64. Ruth BT

    I can remember my Dad coming home with the Trash-80 and us all crowding around to watching him type some code. For me the back in the day story I remember is the day my university decided to invest in a scanner and software to help us sight impaired and blind students. No longer did I have to rely on other students or my poor mother to read hours of material, I could put the book in the scanner, choose a voice and go for it. My favourite voice was most definitely Boisterous Billy. The first text I “read” this way was Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.

    1. fredwilson

      did your dad write software?

      1. Ruth BT

        Yes, he was an engineer and worked on large scale manufacturing solutions. The TRS-80 was a bit of light relief for home I think!

  65. Guest


    1. William Mougayar


      1. Jeffrey Hartmann

        I spent so many hours playing games on Prodigy. I had almost forgotten about it. The graphics that slowly painted on the screen as they came through the modem. I think at one time I was on a 1200 baud modem with Prodigy, and I remember it was PAINFULLY slow (might have been 2400 baud, I don’t remember).Speaking of modems, I remember how much better things were when I got my 14.4 US Robotics modem finally. Now look at us, there are places where 1 gigabit goes to the home. Totally wild how far we have come.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          prodigy, yes — first online account there. 14.4 was speed of light when it happened.

    2. andyidsinga


  66. William Mougayar

    Amazing how fully blown images liven-up the comments space. Kudos to Disqus!The discussions thread is starting to look like a Museum of technology πŸ™‚

    1. Techman

      I wonder the exact date they added that feature. I also wonder how they manage to get bigger images to fit without compromising how they look.

      1. William Mougayar

        I think there’s a size limit on the pics around 400 or 500K max.

  67. David McMahon

    Compuserve & ZX81 [still got it and it’s manual….]

    1. fredwilson

      wow. i remember that so well. haven’t seen it in years.

  68. Guest

  69. LE

    Wharton Computer Center login about 1980/81

    1. fredwilson


  70. LE

    @disqus – You can’t post photos unless you have “third party cookies” enabled.(You can send me a check for doing your troubleshooting for you and figuring this out.You might want to make a note of that when people hit the icon so they aren’t frustrated.Also if you don’t have third party cookies enabled disqus doesn’t remember your password and you have to click the icon and login each time you want to make a comment with a new browser window.Things like this will impact the usage of disqus so you should fix them. Most people aren’t going to go to the trouble of complaining or troubleshooting like I did.)

  71. ShanaC

    My parents had to decided to buy me/the family a computer at around age 2.5-3. I remember being terrified of the thing because I couldn’t read, so I couldn’t use DOS.(never expose kids to a command line until they can read)I also remember playing a really early version of reader rabbit I think in 1991? where the screen was black and green.I remember my mom doing computer programming work off of data that came in these huge magentic rolls of film/tapes. The drive that read them was my height. I must have been around 7.I also had straight hair (which may or may not be uploading to disqus, I’m having a horrid day with it)I also swore around that age I would never have a job that involved a computer because it seemed to me that computers made my parents fight when I was very young.

    1. ShanaC

      also, I was forced to use mavis beacon – which did not teach me to type (aim did though)

      1. andyidsinga

        are you serious? AIM? thats awesome.

        1. ShanaC

          Yup. I wanted to type in full sentences to friends – and having to chat will teach you to type. Parents tried everything, in the end, gossip got me πŸ™‚

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I was having trouble loading photos as well…finally got ‘er done.Want to see the straight hair.

      1. ShanaC

        working on it πŸ™‚

  72. LE

    Passbook savings account.

    1. ng

      great twist!

    2. takingpitches

      oh man, i remember that. awesome to have that as a kid!

    3. Donna Brewington White

      That’s great!So what’d you buy April ’79?

      1. LE

        I was wondering about that also. It might have been a car most likely. I bought a new Celica 5 speed and that was probably the down payment or something like that.

    4. fredwilson

      i had one of those

  73. LE

    Attached receipts for purchase of an IBM compatible in 1983.Total cost inflation converted would be about 15,000 for one low powered PC with a 10MB hard disk (read that again you could run an entire accounting package and do other things with a 10mb hard disk.Two years later I replace with a Unix system with about 10 Wyse terminals.Note that the “Marathon Data” was fabricated simply so I could deal direct with the wholesalers and cut out the dealers and save money. This would have been more expensive if purchased through a dealer. Oh yeah and save the sales tax!!!Add: This was 2 years out of college and self financed.

  74. Scott Barnett

    We were the second class at my school to have “PC’s” in college in 1984. We had a DEC Rainbow 100 – which was innovative at the time for having 2 disk drives. The only problem was there was only one disk head – it would move up and/or down to write to each disk (the bottom disk was inserted upside down). Is was also LOUD – my roommate (who was not a CIS major) would get really annoyed when I was doing my project at 2am and I would have to save my program to disk – it was an annoyingly loud and long write process!

  75. markgoines

    I learned Fortran at UC Berkeley using one of these: An IBM model 29. Solid!

    1. Joseph K Antony

      IBM main frames were solid. The languages :Fortran and COBOL. COBOL is till very active on mainframes but I am not too sure if anyone uses Fortran. Then it was the age of the minis and the first PCs started appearing with floppy disks almost the size of LP vinyl records…..oops…most people here may never have seen those type of gramophone records….feel so antiquated..a dinosaur?

  76. Joseph K Antony

    We learned programming in the mid 70’s on an IBM 1130 on punch cards. There was no VDU like CRT monitors and all input and output was through a computer printout. The programming language was Fortran. The micro processor was just about invented around that time and the first courses were being taught.It was the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, Rajasthan India. Something like the IITs of India.Joseph

    1. LaVonne Reimer

      My college roommate, a double major in piano performance and math, composed a piece for piano and computer for her senor recital. She came home one evening with a huge stack of cards that looked just like that. We had the hardest time resisting shuffling them!

  77. Guest

    My first handheld. Still works apparently.

  78. Joe Marchese

    Citibank’s early money transfer systems (’70s) communicated with each other using 8-level ASCII paper tape. We thought it was an improvement over 5-level Baudot. All this seemed whiz-bang next to the Wang system at Cooper Union, where we waited hours for access to a terminal that had the same functionality as today’s $20 calculator.

  79. Pete Griffiths

    A classic if ever there was one. Indeed, so prevalent that Fred will doubtless remember ‘VT100 emulation mode.’And the PDP11 was another beauty. Loved by computer science departments around the world and a worthy host for UNIX versions 6 and 7. Happy days.I can’t find a picture of it but my blast from the past is the first winchester disc drive we ever bought at my company. Up until then it had all been removable disc packs, but this was a sealed 100mb unit. We stared at this huge box in awe – 100mb! That was going to last us forever. Little did we know. πŸ™‚

    1. LE

      I think for my Unix system in the 80’s 4mb of memory was something like $4000 iirc. It came with a 70mb disk which was huge compared to the 10mb that it replaced.It ran Unix V and came with a set of nicely bound manuals in 3 ring binders which I used to teach myself how to operate it and write simple shell scripts.

      1. Pete Griffiths

        UNIX V – I remember it well. My first company implemented Sun Microsystem’s Network File System (NFS) for System V.

  80. Derrick Oien

    I started playing with computers in 1982, but it was in 1994 when I first got connected to “the Internet” Here is a picture of my set up at the time complete with a smoking hot 2400 baud modem…

  81. bobmonsour

    Back in the day (1979), in my first job out of college, I went to work at Motorola. They sold boatloads of them. Two of us wrote the code that made this thing work. It was Motorola’s first microprocessor-based pager. All of 2K bytes of ROM and 112 bytes of RAM on a Moto 146805 processor running at 100KHz. Hand-coded, finely tuned, assembly language where you had to know the number of cycles for every instruction. We had to time the signal sampling loops as well as the loops that generated the beep. Quite an experience…I remember it fondly.

  82. andyidsinga

    first computer – atari 400. dad got us the atari 400 basic book and compute magazine too. I had no idea what “basic” really was but I knew that if I didn’t type in the listing correctly that I had to find the broken line(s). (early debugging?)first “pc” – mom let me me take home the smith corona portable from her business.It had a modem card in the back that used to start calling my friend with a C64 to “chat” directly in the procomm terminal ..and eventually call into BBS and rack up huge phone bills and learn the AT command set while i was doing it.( yada yada yada everything around me has been paid for by a career in tech. – thanks mom and dad for letting me keep the computer while I attempted to pay for the phone bills πŸ˜‰ )

  83. Karen Williams

    I recently relocated to SF. While packing stuff, I came across a letter , all 5 pages handwritten. Strange, it took me a while to figure that it was actually written by me to my mom, start to finish. When I implored my son to start writing letters to me , he did but didn’t last the second time. There comes an email from him mentioning his fingers started to ‘freak out’ while writing…Back in the day,, life was life πŸ™‚

  84. Donna Brewington White

    First recruiting job. First woman, first “minority” and first gentile hired by the firm — I mention it because it was a big deal at the time. This was actually the newly launched executive search division of a large staffing firm. My boss informed me that I was too mild-mannered to be a recruiter and that he was only hiring me because I got high marks from my interview with the president of the parent company. FTR, within six months I was one of the top billers — there were only four of us at first. That division eventually split off and is now one of the top regional search firms in Los Angeles. My first start up experience.Notice the phone — (my best friend). Notice what’s missing. See the “database” next to my desk? And, the HAIR! Figure out what’s missing yet?

    1. fredwilson

      that’s awesome

    2. ShanaC

      I like the hair!

  85. John Revay

    1. I came to AVC tonight …I was doing a – search – to find the Fujitsu scanner that you and Arron have talked about / recommend.2. I came across post from 2010 – when you were looking for a MFP for your home…3. I found this exchange between Fred & CDixon – talking about Hunch…..Chris goes on to comment about “better ways of getting Hunch into people’s regular research flow”4. Fred talked about Hunch>Amazon “amazon is key. cut a deal with them to put hunch on their product pages”5. Didn’t Amazon acquire Hunch…wonder if this was the post that got that started……#finderfee?chris dixon fredwilson β€’ 3 years agoanswering how you said in your post that’s what Hunch recommended:…Rakshith chris dixon β€’ 3 years agoI did not know what hunch actually did until I saw this tweet, the home page is not clear as to what users should do, you should probably have like a step 1,2,3 boxes on the home page, something like:1. search for something you want2. answer few questions about it3. review recommendations and purchaseand also that search bar needs to be big and in center of be honest I have been answering 300+ questions on hunch and never knew what the service was supposed to do ultimately.2fredwilson Mod chris dixon β€’ 3 years agoi guess i should have tried hunch. thanks for doing it for me chris1chris dixon fredwilson β€’ 3 years agoshows we need better ways of getting Hunch into people’s regular research flow…2fredwilson Mod chris dixon β€’ 3 years agoamazon is key. cut a deal with them to put hunch on their product pages

    1. falicon

      Awesome! I believe it was ebay that actually acquired Hunch, but still awesome overall πŸ˜‰

      1. John Revay

        #FactcheckI will need do more checking before I post – very embarrassed to have confused amazon w/ ebay.PS I love using the search

        1. falicon

          At least they are both large internet companies that do some version of e-commerce…so not that hard to get fuzzy in the head over time (I’ve certainly mixed up worse myself).Oh and thanks for the kind words! πŸ˜‰

  86. Bruce Warila

    Back in the 80’s my family recycled tons of DEC hardware in the middle of Massachusetts. From this pile of scrap we assembled dual VAX-11/780s (if I remember correctly). I took time off from UMASS to work on software (COBOL). At the time, we had the most sophisticated systems for buying (from insurance companies) and selling (to the automotive trade) used auto parts in the world. Being close (enough) to Boston, we had more than a few customers that were also professors / lecturers at local universities, that fixed up classic, foreign autos as a hobby. It was always great to give them a tour of our ‘computing center’, as we had the only “junk yard” that nearly matched MIT in computing power and spare parts. In the 90’s we sold this entire business to Ford, and it’s now part of a publicly traded company called LKQ.On a related note, I know of more than one high-tech company that prowled the scrap pile (computers and autos) for advanced, competitive technolog: “just looking for some fun stuff to bring back to the lab…” Going forward, companies smartened up and decided to crush and schred everything prior to scrapping it.

    1. fredwilson

      a junk yard that matched MIT in compute power. well done!!!

  87. Mark Essel

    I have an entire post with some cool back in the day tech. It was an attempt to convince the IT guys at my old job to let me get a Mac. The post didn’t work as planned and I ended up parting ways with my aerospace engineering profession of 16 years.Been absolutely in love with startup life and a role that keeps me energized and always fighting just above my weight class as far as technical challenges.

    1. fredwilson

      that post is a trip down memory lane. i owned almost all of that stuff at one time

  88. laurie kalmanson

    related: 1969, world series; ny mets — carrying a transistor radio everywhere

  89. Edith Wiethorn

    That DEC is still a nice design. In 1974 my son programmed in 5th grade at the Hyde School in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts – lots of curriculum enrichment from graduate schools. They played a game in Basic about a rocket trip to the moon & calculating food & fuel for the return trip. Having done that, he programmed landing on the moon at mach speed with no food or fuel left, net zero – which was well received by his teacher-s due to his good humor & programming accuracy.

  90. kizi

    wow, yesterday always has a strange feeling. This song is very nice

  91. jacobstiglitz

    Wow – I went half of college without facebook. FACEBOOK!

  92. Dorian Dargan

    Fred, wasn’t Ocean Engineering Course 13 back in the day? When I was at MIT it was nonexistent.

    1. Quinnton Harris

      LOL. Yeah, by our time, Ocean Engineering was absorb into the Course 2 department! Good times!

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