Yesterday, some of us were discussing about our start with computers. Lars was commenting that his first computer was a Commodore C64. Aparently, he got hold of one around 1984.
I didn’t even know the existance of a thing called computer until late ’80s. I saw an ad in “The Hindu” around 1996 for a Rs 25000 computer by PCL. It was a 486DX based machine with 4 MB of RAM and a 256 MB harddisk with a B&W 12″ (?) screen. I pestered my father to get me one. I was one of the last in my class/batch to get a computer at home. After a long wait, it came on one afternoon. It was study leave time for me and I was at home. The machine came with no OS in it. But the technician who came to “install” the machine was kind enough to put MS-DOS 6.22 on it. But after 2-3 days, MS-DOS quickly became boring. I installed an assembler in it and did a bit of programming with various interrupts etc.
One day, my best friend from the CS batch, Prakash, mentioned a new Operating System called “linux” (only later I came to know of GNU Project) which, by license, comes with the source code. I was quite excited. Prakash came home with some floppy disks and we began installing the Slackware distribution, which someone in the computer lab had. Though the documentation said that the minimum RAM requirements was just 2 MB, my computer won’t run those floppies. I remember those loading linux and the dots appearing one by one. Suddenly the LED on the floppy would just stop, We understood that my 4 MB is a bit low. We opened the PC and took the harddisk off, put it into a small plastic cover (ESD issues were privy to us that time) and went to Prakash’s house. He had a CDROM drive and more RAM and a faster computer. After installing the slackware floppies (those came in different series like the A series, B series etc), came home and connected the harddisk back and voila, the linux kernel boot messages are coming and I was dropped into the shell. I remember the nice console font that came as default with Slackware. The kernel version was 1.2.13 if I remember right. The next few weeks were spent reading the HOWTOs which came with the docs, reading man pages, trying various software, writing bits and pieces of code etc etc.It was also around this time that I read the GNU GPL and started exploring more about the GNU Project. With no internet, I just read what was available in the computer and didn’t get a chance to look at the GNU website until 1998.
I upgraded the machine later. The cabinet was too small and didn’t support the new motherboard, so the guy who sold me the motherboard etc took it with him and gave me a new cabinet, so I permanently lost my first computer. The 265 MB Harddisk drive died much later but I still have it on one of the boxes. I should probably take a picture of those relics. I still have my GNU/Linux CDs (PCQuest Slackware 2.0, 2.2, Redhat 4.0, Debian Hamm, Woody .. ). I will probably scan the CD artwork and put it somewhere before someone throws them away.
If anyone reading this has the aforementioned PCL machine (I forgot what the model number was) and would like to sell it to me, I will be glad to buy it.
Read more: VU3RDD Station Log
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