My first computers: Amstrad, Twinhead and IBM

By | May 23, 2009

I was raking through my files a few weeks ago, pulling out books for computers that I no longer have. It reminded me of my first PC that I actually bought.

260px-Amstrad PCW 8512The Amstrad PCW 8256 with 256kb of computer memory and it was actually a full word processing package but included an OS. The PCW 8256 consisted of three units: a printer; a keyboard; and a monochrome CRT monitor whose casing included the processor, memory, motherboard, one or two floppy disk drives, the power supply for all the units and the connectors for the printer and keyboard.

It wasn’t a particularly sophisticated system even at the time, but its entry onto the market made it affordable to those who couldn’t purchase an IBM Compatible PC. And with it, I learned typing, started writing stories, and decided to become a writer. I was too busy at the time to explore the workings of other packages and after I left the UK in 1992, I had to sell it to another budding writer who was thrilled to get it. Wonder if he ever did write anything with it?

Then in 1993 I bought my first portable PC: a Twinhead PC compatible system running Windows 3.1. I remember buying it and carrying it carefully home. It was quite a small PC, and one of the first truly portable machines on the market. But it had one annoying problem: the machine had faulty wiring and would shock the user slightly if you touched the case by accident. Given that it was a small portable PC, this was quite a difficult feat. I still have many files that were written on that machine, including TextPad files and Database files.

Eventually, I got fed up with the shocks, and purchased an onsale IBM notepad that was similarly configured as the original machine, came with my next word processor (Works 3.0 by Microsoft) and it was a big step up from the original Amstrad! Still, it couldn’t go online, didn’t come with any modem, and was a tad slow. But I was thrilled with it. It lasted for years until my wife accidentally stepped on it, breaking the screen.

In all of these machines, the hard disk was just a 80mb and the ram was miniscule, too. But they worked well enough, had few problems, and with them I was able to take my first steps in computing. How things have changed? My usb key has more space than all of those PCs combined!

None of these machines were the first computers I had touched, in fact I had used a Z80- Research machines model in the 80’s, some early generation PCs in the insurance company, and at University. However, it was pitiful that actual training we received at school about PCs, and when we got to University, there was no awareness in many of the departments about the need to teach students computing skills. The result: many of my peers still don’t really use email, and don’t see the need.