The Story of My Life so Far - Part 64 - September 1980: I buy my first microcomputer

in story •  2 years ago  (edited)

This is the story of my life so far: 68 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France

The story starts here
Previous episode: Part 63

I buy my first microcomputer

In September 1980, I bought my first computer from a guy who was building microcomputers in is garage, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

The computer that I bought had no name and no brand. It was very heavy, as the case was made of 1.5 mm aluminum sheet.

It cost me the hefty price of 4,500 Canadian Dollars, that is equivalent to more than 13,000 Canadian dollars in 2018 (~US$11,000). This shows you that I really wanted to own a computer!

And yet, you will see that compared to today's personal computers, it was not powerful at all.

The CPU was a Zilog Z80 at 4 MHz. That's Mega Hertz, not Giga Hertz!

Zilog Z80 microprocessor
source: Wikipedia

The instruction set of the Z80 was a superset of the one of the Intel 8080. Any program that could run on the 8080 could also run on the Z80.

The internal memory size was 64 kilo bytes, that was the maximum that could be accessed by the microprocessor.
Nowadays, cheap laptops has an internal memory that is at least 100,000 larger.

The computer included an S-100 bus, that was used to connect the CPU with the internal memory and the disk drives.

The external memory was accessed by two 8" floppy disk drives. Each soft-sectored floppy disk had a capacity of 600 kilo bytes.

8-inch floppy disk, 5¼-inch floppy disk, and 3½-inch diskette
source: Wikipedia

The 5¼-inch floppy disk had already been created 3 years before, but was not yet widely distributed. The 3½-inch diskette did not exist at this time.

The Operating System was CP/M, created by Gary Kildall of Digital Research.

CP/M was a very primitive operating system that allows you to manipulate files on disk drives, to load programs and to execute them.

Here are some examples of built-in commands in CP/M:

DIR                         Display file directory, current drive
DIR d:                      Display file directory, designated drive
TYPE filename.typ           Display ASCII file, current drive
ERA filename.typ            Erase named file, current drive
REN nuname.typ=olname.typ   Rename file, current drive
SAVE n filename.typ         Save as named file, current drive

As my computer had two disk drives, the default one was A: and the other one was B:

I believe that there was a version of the BASIC programming language on one of the floppy disks that was delivered with the computer.

As there was no display and no keyboard with the computer, and that initially I owned no terminal, I had to use the terminal in the CAI lab, that was used during the day to access a minicomputer in Ottawa.
So, during lunch hour and after hours, I would disconnect the terminal from the leased serial line and connect it to my computer to be able to use it.

At the same time I had bought this computer, I had discovered the Pascal programming language.
So, I decided that the first real program that I would create would be a Pascal compiler.

(to be continued)

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Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8
Part 9 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12 - Part 13 - Part 14 - Part 15 - Part 16
Part 17 - Part 18 - Part 19 - Part 20 - Part 21 - Part 22 - Part 23 - Part 24
Part 25 - Part 26 - Part 27 - Part 28 - Part 29 - Part 30 - Part 31 - Part 32
Part 33 - Part 34 - Part 35 - Part 36 - Part 37 - Part 38 - Part 39 - Part 40
Part 41 - Part 42 - Part 43 - Part 44 - Part 45 - Part 46 - Part 47 - Part 48
Part 49 - Part 50 - Part 51 - Part 52 - Part 53 - Part 54 - Part 55 - Part 56
Part 57 - Part 58 - Part 59 - Part 60 - Part 61 - Part 62 - Part 63

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  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Hi Vincent, a question, in the photo when you put "8-inch floppy disk, 5¼-inch floppy disk, and 5¼-inch diskette" the last one (the blue one) is not a 3 1/2 floppy disk? The same in the text when you write "The 5¼-inch diskette did not exist at this time"

You are absolutely right, thank you.
I just corrected my copy/paste mistakes.

Growing up in Halifax I attended Chebucto Heights Elementary School where I was lucky to have a teacher who was all over the computer craze at the time. I was in grade 5 and we were one of the first classes in the city to have computers in the classroom. We actually had a visit from a newspaper reporter and had our pictures posted in the Chronicle Herald. The computer seems so big and bulky looking back compared to what we have now.

this is a interesting story i enjoyed reading post veery good

Wow! I was a tiny newborn baby!!

You had such amazing forsight! This was a huge investment, but it probably played a big role in your success as a computer programmer! I have tried to get my own boys started, but so far they are not very interested....interested, but discouraged when it is something they don't understand.

Hope all is well sir! How's the weather warming for you? Today here in Detroit it is a warm 55°F.



J'adore! tu me rappelles quasiment à cette même époque (un ou deux ans plus tard quoi que) je m'échappais de la maison de campagne pour aller à l'école du bled (un tout petit village) pour jouer avec un TO7 et plus tard un TO7-70... Ah les commandes Dos et le basic! hâte de lire la suite et de ce que tu en faisais :-)

jezz @vcelier "The computer that I bought has no name and no brand. It was very heavy, as the case was made of 1.5 mm aluminum sheet." you bought this thing for $13,000, dude even at then, you where still bloody rich. nice story though, just can't get pass your post, keep up man

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. 11000 USD is a huge amount for a computer, that shows how desperately you wanted a computer. And you can't do much to the changing technology. Nowadays a normal computer storage is more than 4TB.

Much simpler times. #threeWords

Wow you have the old is gold one
Wow you done the great at last you just the amazing number
God bless you
Best of luck for the future too

@vcelier computer those days were prety heavy compared to the slick light stuff we have now..
Your first computer was funny as it got no brand , name, even keyboard lol

Another beautiful life story, your stories inspires me.....

Pascal programming language cool? I love that stuff...

your writing is great for us to understand
keep moving forward, never give up

Buying a computer at that time must have cost you a lot, at least you got what you wanted, nice piece. Followed you.

very interesting story i enjoyed reading this thanks for sharing.

Wow amazing story dear...Resteemit.done...

Whatever be, old is gold


your story seems to be very interesting. history or 64 years will take decades to share :) just kidding

Amazing #story about your #microphone

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

What microphone???!!!

What is the fate of this computer? Did you just throw it away when it's out of date? Have thrown out $ 11000? :\

You will learn this later, if you continue to read the Story of my Life.

OK! But I worry about his fate)

  ·  2 years ago Reveal Comment

Very nice story.... thanks for sharing story.....

his life experience became inspiration

Aw I remember those good old days with floppy disk :D

I wasn't even born yet haha I'm a mere baby still in this ever-so-changing world we live.
You definitely wanted that computer, paying that much for it at the time!!
But, hey I am sure you did not regret the decision and I am also sure it did wonders for you at this time. Thanks for sharing your story, looking forward to more!!

Regards from

  ·  2 years ago Reveal Comment