Old school meets new school!
Hello Maximum PC! It’s great to be here. As the latest addition to the Maximum PC team, it’s tradition for me to take a moment to introduce myself. I could tell you all about what I’ve done, about how I’m something of the “Old Man of the Mountain” now, but that’s no fun. Instead, if you’ll grant me some lenience as this is my first post here, join me as I reminisce about my computer history.
Like many of our readers, I’ve been involved with computers and technology since a young age, hailing all the way back to the time of the Commodore 64 and BASIC – or if you want to really dig, the first computing device I can remember using was the Magnavox Odyssey2, chugging along at 1.79MHz. Yeehaw! That showed up under a Christmas tree when I was just six years old, but we could all tell what was in the package. My brother “ruined Christmas” when he decided to get a sneak peak on Christmas Eve…the cartridges weren’t all that robust, and he broke one of the games. Oops.
But as I was saying, my computer addiction (no, really, I can quit any time I want!) started with the C-64 and its rocking 1MHz processor, playing games like the Bard’s Tale, SSI Gold Box D&D, Wasteland, Neuromancer, and many others. I also spent time typing in programs from a book and learning a bit of crude BASIC in the process. I didn’t know what all the commands and instructions did at the time, but I knew how to load games and it was a start. I later learned how to dial the local BBS (Bulletin Board System) as a precursor to the Internet. Watching ASCII stream across the screen using a 300 baud (300 bits per second) connection resulted in about one 40 character line per second. When we later upgraded to a 2400 baud modem, let me tell you, it was amazing!
For the younger generation, talk of such crazy slow computing devices likely sounds incomprehensible. But then even for someone of my generation – those that grew up with computers being taught in elementary schools – the earlier days of vacuum tubes, ENIAC, and punch card readers seem equally absurd. Our job here is to look at the present and future of computing, however, so I think it’s great to also remember where we started.
The changes in my youth came fast and furious (no, not the movies). We went from an early IBM compatible PC XT to a PC AT within a year, and the first time I used a hard drive was a revelation. I was twelve and used to waiting minutes to load games or other programs from floppy disks; now we had a computer that could load up a game in seconds. I was hooked. Goodbye C-64, hello DOS! The graphics were crude on those early ASCII games, sometimes worse than the C-64 sprites, but thankfully my father was enough of a computer geek that he fueled the fire within me, moving to a 286, adding an EGA card then VGA…
Image courtesy of theoldcomputer.com
As soon as I came of age, I saved up my pennies for an entire summer and plunked down a not-insubstantial chunk of money on a custom 386 with a whopping 4MB RAM, 40MB HDD, an early Cirrus Logic SVGA card with a 15-inch SVGA monitor, an AdLib sound card… and thanks to Origin Systems and Sierra Online, I just had to have a Roland CM-32L sound module. If Maximum PC had been around at the time, we would have been recommending the Roland MT-32/CM-32L for those that absolutely had to own the best sound money could buy. I was able to play Wing Commander in all its glory. Huzzah!
And just like today’s high-end GPUs that cost $500+, the life of such a component was relatively short and it was retired from active use four years later. When people complain about how expensive PCs are today, they’re forgetting the past. My $3000 system wasn’t even top of the line at the time, and in today’s dollars that would be like spending closer to $6000 on a new PC. You can certainly do that, but $1500 will buy a system that can handle any reasonable task, including QHD gaming. We’ve never had it so good! It was also money well spent as far as I’m concerned. My passion for technology has allowed me to play all the latest and greatest games, but more importantly it got me involved with PCs and hardware at a much deeper level, with job opportunities always around for computer geeks.
Anyway, that’s where my passion for technology was born, and I’ve kept it over the following decades. From my “Dream Machine” back in 1990 to the present day, I’ve used and abused more processors and components than I could hope to recall. I’ve run just about every major x86 CPU at one point or another, from the 8088 and 8086 through the latest Core i7 Haswell parts, and everything in between – including the AMD K6/K6-2/K6-III, Cyrix 5×86/6×86, and Transmeta to name a few. From CGA to EGA and VGA, then later to the 3dfx Voodoo paired with a ViRGE/325 and now the GeForce GTX 980, I’ve had the joy of sampling the best – and also the worst – that computer graphics chips have to offer. These days you can reasonably expect to run the latest and greatest PC games on a $200 GPU, though not necessarily at maximum quality or resolutions above 1080p. Again, we’ve never had it so good.
I’ve spent most of the past decade writing about technology, covering systems, displays, notebooks, and more. And as much as I enjoy a good laptop, tablet, or smartphone, when it comes time to get “real” work done or play “real” games, I still typically end up at my desktop PC. There’s just no beating the large displays, powerful processors, and amazing graphics you can get with a PC. My personal system is about due for an upgrade – not because I really need it, mind you – and it’s as good a place as any to wrap things up. Here’s what I’m running right now:
- Intel i7-4770K (Overclocked to a mild 4.1GHz on all cores)
- Gigabyte G1.Sniper M5 Z87 motherboard
- 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866 CL9 RAM
- 2x ZOTAC GTX 970 4GB GPUs in SLI
- 480GB Corsair Neutron GTX SSD
- 1TB Samsung HDD
- be quiet! 850W Straight Power 80 Plus Gold PSU
- Corsair Obsidian 350D Case
- Acer XB280HK 4K G-SYNC Display
- Truly Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard Model 229
- Logitech G303 Daedalus Apex Mouse
With Intel’s Broadwell and Skylake looming ever closer, not to mention Fiji, NVMe, Pascal, Oculus Rift, Windows 10, and dozens of other topics, it’s a great time to be a technology enthusiast. I’ve been building, troubleshooting, upgrading, and enjoying PCs and all they have to offer as far back as my memory goes. At times, it amazes me just how far we’ve come…but then I read a sci-fi book and wonder where we’ll go next.
The Internet is both more and less than William Gibson’s cyberspace, but we’re not done with it. Companies are investing heavily in VR, software continues to improve, and smartphones are all part and parcel of our daily lives now. How do we make the most of these new technologies? When will the next quantum leap strike and what will it be? I’m as eager to find out as the rest of you, and I’m looking forward to the journey.
Along with all the computing hardware I’ve used over the years there are stacks of computer magazines buried somewhere that I poured over. I used to dream about working for a computer magazine and I thought it would be the coolest job in the world. And you know what? I was right. I’m excited to join the team at Maximum PC, writing about the technology that makes our digital realm possible and sharing my passion with the world.
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