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What was your first home computer?

PC Advisor writers share stories of their first PCs

With its clunky keyboard, low-resolution screen, pitiful RAM allocation and miserly hard drive, your first computer was probably the worst computer you ever owned. And yet it's likely you remember it with great fondness, either as the product that started your love affair with the PC or as a measure of how far home computing has come in such a short time.

Micro Men, the BBC drama about Sir Clive Sinclair's 1980s battle with Acorn founder Chris Curry, reignited PC Advisor's nostalgia for the home computer boom, so we asked several members of the team to spill the beans on their first home computers.

Join us in reminiscing about the glory days of the UK computer industry and the boom years of the 1990s by taking part in our online poll in the left-hand navigation menu. Then, discuss the results in our forum.

But first, read on for the full details of our first home computers.

Paul Trotter - Amstrad CPC-464

I'm going to start off by cheating because I have only a vague recollection of the first family computer in the Trotter house. It was referred to as "the Tandy" and in recent years I've come to the conclusion that it was probably a TRS-80. As far as I recall, it was only ever used for Space Invaders. Not a great anecdote.

So I'll skip a few years and focus on our first recognised home computer - the Amstrad CPC-464. It arrived in August 1986 and had a colour screen as opposed to the second-rate green screen version owned by my best friend at the time. I have a clear memory of the salesman demonstrating a word processing tool and a number of other worthy applications. I used it for games.

A number of titles in the 'Roland' series came with the CPC-464 (if you remember the Roland games and fancy a trip down memory lane, take a look at this and this) and after that I bought more or less every Amstrad football game available.

Amstrad CPC-464

Amstrad CPC-464

Like others here, I tried my hand at programming - usually by typing in lines of code printed in Amstrad Action magazine. On one occasion, I spent hours typing in code to produce a personal finance management app, at the only period in my life when my income per week exactly matched my outgoings - £1.

As for the hardware itself, our CPC-464 had 64KB RAM and a built-in tape deck. A floppy-disc version was available at the time, and I distinctly remember reading the letters page of Amstrad Action in which a reader had asked whether the cassette had had its day. The magazine's reply was that cassettes were still the cheapest form of storage, and would be with us for a few years yet.

By 1990, even I'd lost faith in such promises, and made the switch to an IBM-compatible PC.

Rosemary Hattersley - Commodore 64

The first home PC I had access to was a Commodore 64. It was a little bit different as all my friends had ZX Spectrums. A couple of people had BBC Micros like the ones in our school library. I think the school had the sum total of three. We didn't get to use them unless we were on the GCSE Computing course though.

My brother and I used our Commodore 64 mainly for games. As well as the usual £2 games such as Frogger and Horace Goes Skiing, I'd buy books of games code and then tap it all in. The games were stored on C60 cassette and if you accidentally put a computer tape in your cassette player, you were treated to the screeching sound of binary. Not pleasant.

Commodore 64There weren't really any of the applications you get today - no proper word processor or email, of course. However, I wrote a program to catalogue the contents of my music collection (tapes and records, of course) and made a basic database.

I also had a plastic keyboard that fitted over the top over the computer keyboard and that I used to learn to play the keyboard - the 80s lent itself to this sort of stuff. I was really miffed when my brother sold the Commodore 64 to his mate along with all the games we'd typed in and, of course, my trusty keyboard.

About three years after we got the C64 my Dad decided to get one of these new-fangled laptop things - a white Elonex 386 model that cost about £3k as they were just beginning to import them from the US.


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