My Hardware History: The 1990s

As my collection of vintage computers grows, I wanted to look back on the hardware and operating systems I grew up with.

For most of the computing world, the 90s was about Microsoft taking over with Windows. However, I don’t think any one particular operating system took over my particular computing world. My early computer time was all about LOAD "*",8 and later almost equal time between Mac OS, Windows and Linux.

My first computer was a Commodore Plus/4 in 1992. My grandparents took me with them to a garage sale when they were looking for patio furniture. While my grandfather and the seller were talking about the price, the seller offered to throw in the computer if they bought the whole patio set. They bought the patio set, and I got my first computer.

The Plus/4 couldn’t do much out of the box. There was some software included, but it didn’t include a disk drive or cassette player, so I couldn’t load or save anything. But still, I copied code out of the manual and a magazine that came with it to make the Plus/4 play music and also made a very simple Tetris clone.

Because I showed interest in it, my grandparents purchased a Commodore SX-64 later that same year from the local classifieds. It was very complete kit out with an external monitor, joystick, printer and some software. I went over to my grandparents almost every weekend just to play with it.

Over the summer of 1994, my elementary school loaned out an Apple IIe to my family. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing Number Munchers and Oregon Trail on it.

In 1996, When my family was looking to buy a modern computer, I really wanted us to get a Macintosh. We had a computer lab with Macintosh “pizza box” computers at school (LC or LCII), and Macintosh computers were in all my favorite movies.

Jurassic Park Quadra 700

However, we got a Packard Bell Multimedia C110 in 1996. It was the family computer until 2002, though it went through many upgrades. I spent so much of my money from mowing lawns on this system. I put in more RAM, a bigger hard drive, a better sound card, and a 3D capable video card. I had also installed a few different operating systems on it. I think Windows 98SE was the last OS installed, though at one point it was dual booting SuSE Linux 6.4, too.

Even though we had a Windows machine at home, I preferred the Macintosh experience I had at school. I think it was because I was using a computer at school to get something done, while I spent most of my computer time at home just playing games. Windows was just a game launcher, and every hardware upgrade was in the service of playing more demanding games.

In high school, I got a Fujitsu Lifebook that was strictly my machine (not a shared family computer). I installed SuSE Linux on it and started working on a Star Wars fan site and tinkering around with perl scripts.

As 2000 rolled around, I started saving my money for a Mac of my own. The non-linear video editing in iMovie blew my mind, and Apple announced the public beta of Mac OS X with a UNIX subsystem. I thought this was going to be the best of both worlds.