I think all of us have at least one — if not more — computer that meant a lot to us from our past. For me, I have three, all of which happened to be the first three computers that I personally owned.
My first computer was a 386 that I bought with money from working at Pizza Hut as a teenager. By my sophomore year in high school, I was so tired of begging time on the family computer and wanted one to call my own. I recall that I had to convince my parents that owning a computer was an investment for college, and so they relented and let me pick up what I now recognize to be a slightly substandard machine for the time.
Still, it was mine! It came with Windows 3.0, which I soon upgraded to 3.1. While I did some school work and programming on it, mostly this computer was for games and games only. It’s where I played such classics like Wing Commander II, Doom, and Ultima Underworld. I remember rushing home from school every day, eager to get into another lengthy Masters of Orion campaign.
Sad as it is to say, this computer might’ve been my best friend in high school. Other people went on dates and parties; I was happy to be fiddling with autoexec.bat and config.sys to make my programs work even better.
That computer — already long in the tooth — didn’t make the transition with me to college as planned (I donated it to my family as a replacement family computer). The college I went to announced that starting with my class, it was equipping all of us with laptops (that we had to pay for — I think the final cost spread over for years was $2400). It was a laughably chunky laptop with a trackball mouse, but like everyone in my class, I adored it because it was my first portable computer.
I took that thing all over campus, and it was great to have that freedom to write papers under the trees or sneak in a game of solitaire during a boring lecture. We never had internet on it (the next year’s class got that nice upgrade), but I did encounter Windows 95 for the first time on it and pushed its 100 MB hard drive to the limit with fonts, games, badly written poetry, and fuzzy WAV music clips.
That one laptop lasted me for five years — 1994 to 1999 — during my college era, so I definitely got a lot of use out of it. But I certainly couldn’t play any games made after 1995 on it, which really rankled me. This is why I missed out on some of the big essential titles of the ’90s, as I simply didn’t have a machine on which to play them.
After finishing college, I took all of my graduation money and splurged on a brand-new computer. This was a Compaq, if I recall, with a 15″ CRT monitor and a nice sleek short tower. Again, not the best or most powerful machine, but it was a huge upgrade that allowed me to play whatever I wanted.
Just like how my first computer was a great companion in college, this Compaq was my buddy as I moved to a new state (and then a second new state) with my early career. It’s where I finally had internet access (dial up!) whenever I wanted it, and where I enjoyed The Sims and KOTOR and StarCraft and so, so many more games. It’s not, however, the machine that I first used for MMOs, but still, it was a great gaming platform and what finally pulled me away from consoles.
My laptop I sold to a collector at a garage sale back in 2015 (I took out the hard drive), while I gave my Compaq and all of my older games to a college buddy who didn’t have enough money to buy his own.
There’ve been many computers since then, some of which I’ve blogged about here, but none that have that special spot in my heart due to being first, rare, and a vital part of my bachelor lifestyle.