This post commemorates the first 10 computers I used in my life – by sheer coincidence, my experience with them spans exactly 10 years.
My first 10 computers
1978 – I use the IBM s/360-158 installed at Milan’s Polytechnic to write and run a Fortran IV program for the “Electronic Computers” exam. Don’t laugh!
1981 – I use the DEC PDP-11 managed by my thesis professor (Solid State Physics) for the calculation of the geometrical shape of liquid-phase necks in the sintering of an Ag-W mix of powders. This beautiful little Pascal program is probably appended to my thesis final report; the experiment should have run on the Endeavor as part of the ESA-sponsored scientific payload, but never made it to space because of the Challenger disaster.
1982 – having joined IBM, I write my first Cobol/CICS program, a procedure for the calculation of payroll which will happily run for many years on the client IBM 4330 CPU. For the first time, my terminal has 15 more colors on top of the customary green phospores.
1982 – I discover, in the basement of the IBM branch where I work, a room dedicated to application systems engineers; it contains four terminals connected to the big mainframe (no idea of model) in IBM’s HQ in Segrate. Thanks to a friendly informer, I get access to the rogue “The Cave” text adventure game that someone installed on that machine. My wife to this day still believes my boss at the time made me pull long nights.
1983 – I have become the country specialist for a Project Management application. Its first installation on a s/370 CPU of an italian client grinds it to a screeching halt, causing the client to upgrade the CPU, migrate to MVS and upgrade two disk strings. I am a hero (at IBM!)
1983 – I smuggle in my dirty underwear to avoid customs a 48k Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k bought at WHSmith; with its pseudo-Basic I write a 6×4 cell spreadsheet (why? because I could, that’s why!). I am able to run the four arithmetic operations, but I do not have enough memory to do square roots. I am sure that cassette is still somewhere.
1984 – I have now joined Olivetti. In the branch where I work as a salesman, it is considered disgraceful to even touch the word processors used by mere secretaries, but I stay longer at night for the privilege of writing my own letters. When our office is assigned an M24 PC, it obviously lands on my desk and with such power and the help of Ashton-Tate’ Framework I create a little system to keep track in real time of my incentives, the envy of all my colleagues. Oh, I also keep score of the company-wide Briscola Chiamata card game tournament. A hero again!
1986 – I move to Windsor (UK) and a then very young Lotus Development Corp. gives me a Macintosh SE. I remember its 3.5″ disks and the “puke” sound effect I had assigned to the eject command. Priceless when in front of management!
1987 – returned to Milano, I decree, as the CEO of the italian subsidary, I deserve a top-of-the-line Olivetti M24 with 10 MB of hard disk. In the rather anarchic style of the company, its six italian employees have seven different PCs.
1988 – my first portable, a Toshiba 3100SX; great machine which I take home to show off on its first day, but as I am locking my car, the computer falls on its side and the disk is gone. I had booted it only once.