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My first computer was an Atari 800 similar to this one.
Back in November of 1980, it came with 24K of RAM, a 1.2Mhz 8 bit 6502 processor, a serial/parallel interface box, cassette deck, and a 300 baud acoustic coupler modem, all for only $1280. The cassette saved programs to tape at a whopping 300baud. I later paid $300 for a signle sided single density 5.25" floppy disk drive that could hold 88K per disk and transfer data at an astounding 19200bps. I eventually sold everything off for $300 so I could buy a 65MB hard disk for my Atari ST system.
This is NOT a hobby one makes money at.
A couple years later, I essentially re-bought the whole system for my kids to use. At $75 for "the works" at a HAM fest it was hard to pass up. Then of course there's the SECOND '800 setup I got for $10 -- what choice did I have?.
As I said, after the '800, I picked up an Atari ST system
A major step up to 1986 technology. One full meg of RAM, a 20MB hard disk (which alone cost $545), a high res (640x400) monochrome monitor AND a color monitor (320x200x16colors). The ST used an 8Mhz 16/32 bit 68000 processor. By 1989 I had upgraded to a Mega 4 ST with 4MB of RAM, a 16Mhz chip, and an Atari SLM804 laser printer. With my "Magic Sac" and later "Spectre GCR" emulators I not only had a hot ST setup, but essentially had a better faster Macintosh with a larger screen than the "real" thing. By 1994 though, the ST was an obvious dead end. Poor thing got ripped apart and sold piecemeal over the 'net, but I scraped enough together so I could buy....
My first IBM compatible PC was a '486/66 clone.
We still use this machine today. It originally started out with 8MB of RAM, a 420MB hard drive, sound blaster, 3x SCSI CD-ROM, 15" monitor, and an HP Deskjet 550C printer. I recently completed a major overhaul of the box, dropping in an ABIT SM5 motherboard, Cyrix P200+ CPU, and 32MB of EDO RAM. It's also now up to about 2GB of disk space. Of course when new, it actually cost LESS than the ST. It's also outfitted with a 1.2GB DAT drive that I harvested from....
The MicroVAX II sitting in my basement is an interesting story.
It hadn't worked right for over a year, since it took some kind of power hit. The boss said "get it out of here and it's yours", so really what choice did I have? It's been down there for over two years now, and I've yet to start bringing it back to life (I've actually got parts of two machines). However, it only took about 5 minutes to scavenge the DAT drive off it and put it to good use in the PC.
(Editor's Note: This section is in a sad state of disrepair. The P-Pro below is now the kids' machine, while I'm using a P-III 750 clocked @ 900Mhz with 256MB of RAM and an obscene about of disk space (70-some odd gigs) as since the SparQ debacle detailed below, I've taken to using removable hard drives as a backup medium.)
My current machine is a Dell Dimension XPS Pro200n.
Still holding its own a year after it was the latest and greatest, it sports a 200Mhz Pentium Pro processor, 64MB of EDO RAM, a Hercules Stingray 128/3D Voodoo Rush card *and* a Diamond Monster 3D Voodoo Graphics card. The multimedia system consists of a Soundblaster AWE-32 wave table card and a 12x IDE CD-ROM. The speakers are a pair of Altec Lansing ACS-90's (made only for Dell) supplemented by a modest but capable Yamaha YSTMSW5 powered sub-woofer. I wanted to get the 2.1GB hard drive, but was "forced" by Dell to get the 3.2GB model (good thing too as I've already filled it up and added a 4GB Maxtor) Other goodies added to this box are a SCSI IOMEGA Zip drive and a Plustek flatbed scanner which I used to scan most of the pictures on these pages. The gaming sub-system is rounded out by a Thrustmaster FLCS programmable joystick and a pair of Gravis GamePads.
A Syquest Sparq 1GB removable drive (12ms, PIO mode 4 for only $199)Update: First unit worked ok 4 months, 2nd one 8 weeks, 3rd one made strange noises out of the box. Got a refund though, and got another 8G of fixed storage and an Acer 6206A CD-R/RW. More $$$, but more stable.
On the horizon/burning a hole in my pocket:
A force-feedback steering wheel with pedals using Immersion's I-Force technology.