Bits (and PCs)...
I like gadgets, and believe that "He who dies with the most toys, wins" (though I've no clue what the prize is).
I've been lured down many an expensive technology cul-de-sac,1 believe me. But they have mostly been fun while they lasted, and isn't that partly the function of toys? I managed to dodge the Elcaset, HD-DVD, all initial variants of mobile phone technology, and only used fax because Christa needed it for her business.
Feel free to enter my little hi-tech Aladdin's Cave (click the button above). In it, you'll find details of some personal computing toys. I was a shockingly-late starter. My computing adventures didn't even begin2 until October 1985!
I had what was, in hindsight, a weird liking3 for hand-worked long division and multiplication. I can still tell (instantly) how many seconds there are in a "standard" year (not because I have any special maths prowess but simply because I worked it out so many times that I reckon I probably got it right) and I quite enjoyed calculating how many miles there were in a light-year too. Not that the answer ever seemed to change.
I was a mainframe chap. The first I recall of "personal" computing was in Larry Niven's turgid 1977 tome about an asteroid strike — "Lucifer's Hammer". Back then, I was a first-line manager in ICL with little spare time, energy, or cash to explore the concept. I was too busy with my freelance writing and programming career — both for other bits of ICL, and for a chunk of Michael Heseltine's publishing empire, for which I was both carrying out hi-fi equipment and record reviewing, and programming an ICL 1500 Series minicomputer originally designed by one of my computing heroes: George Cogar.
A couple of weeks after joining IBM in June 1981 came my first system crash.4 I all-unknowingly provoked my first-ever "OC4 abend" on one of their 31-bit machines. All I
was doing was trying to format a one-page memo on a mainframe running the TSO "system" — for want of a better term. I was tersely informed that an OC4 abend meant I had run out of virtual memory. Fair enough.
"How much memory have I got?" I mildly inquired.
"One megabyte" came the reply.
Given the programming I was then doing on a 32KB ICL 1500 desktop machine in one of my several evening freelance careers I fear I laughed. I simply couldn't believe an IBM mainframe system with 30x more memory could have been so badly-implemented.
"What," I wondered, "have I let myself in for?"