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.

Join us in reminiscing about the glory days of the UK computer industry and the boom years of the nineties by taking part in our online poll in the left-hand navigation menu of the site. Then, discuss the results in our forum. But first, read on for the full details of our first home computers.

Simon Jary - Apple Macintosh LC

My first home computer was an Apple Macintosh LC, still one of Apple's classic designs, nicknamed at the time as the "pizza box". It was the first thing I bought when I left university.

Despite the LC standing for 'Low Cost', it set me back just under £1,500 in 1991 - I'm presuming a bank loan was called for. For that you got a 12-inch colour screen, and a separate slimline desktop running a 16MHz processor and boasting 2MB of memory and a 40MB hard drive.

For the same money today you'd get change from a 3GHz iMac, with 4GB memory, 1 terabyte drive and a stonking 27-inch widescreen. It was the first Mac to come with a built-in microphone, which allowed for hours of fun with the Mac's amusing text-to-speech function.

Apple Macintosh LC

The Mac LC was the best-looking Mac since 1984's original and unsurpassed until the first iMac. Aimed at home and light-business users, many also found their way into schools. It could easily run QuarkXPress 3, which I was teaching myself to use. The 12-inch screen was a monster compared to the 9-inch version I'd been used to using to create the student union newspaper. I'm not sure they even made 27-inch TVs in those days!

The one-button mouse looked like a cigarette packet someone had half trodden on, and there was no sign of a CD drive - just a slot for one of those floppy disks you might recall.

The Mac LC remained a bedroom fixture for several years, before its eventual replacement with something bigger and uglier. I donated it to a school, but now wish I'd kept it for my little office museum of ancient Macs I've owned.

Andrew Harrison - Apple PowerBook G3

Some people dabble with a tired hand-me-down as their first PC, or maybe shop patiently around for a cheap but cheerful starter computer. Long-time IT hacks, meanwhile, get dewy-eyed at the question and will cite some lowly but revered piece of computing history as their first PC. My experience is probably a little different.

I'd just started at my second publishing job, having learnt in the first, over a six-month stint, why Apple Macs were the first choice in the print industry. As I came to appreciate, they were easy to operate and didn't crash so much when you least needed them to.

It was summer 1998, I'd just come onboard as technical editor, and I had as my new desk PC some beige Apple box, probably a Quadra. My editor, meanwhile, was totting his own PowerBook 1400, a tired but productive workhorse used for subbing and tweaking QuarkXPress 3.32 layouts on his daily commute. He managed that on this laptop's 11in, murky passive-matrix 800x600 screen.

Apple PowerBook G3With not too much encouragement, I set out to get one too. Fortunately, for the sake of the extra longevity that I would appreciate with my final buying choice, that 117MHz machine had just been discontinued. It was replaced by the Apple PowerBook G3 Series.

Also known by the codename Wallstreet, Apple's latest line of laptops had a shapely black and plastic rubber body, up to 13in 1024x768 screens - and scorching G3 processors.

With the help of an audio industry PR who knew Macs inside out, I sought advice on which model to get. After all, this was my first computer purchase, and I wanted to get it right. Especially given these lofty price tags that were starting around £1500.

I settled on the middle of three, as the 250MHz version had L2 cache (‘which is good', I was assured), along with a roomy 4GB hard disk and 32MB of RAM. Other niceties included a removable CD-ROM drive, which you could replace with a second battery - I even added a Zip drive module at one point - and an S-video output, so I could play out video on the telly.

It was beautifully put together, and I didn't even mind the extra 3.5kg of weight on my shoulder, every single day of the journey to the office.

That curvy laptop nearly bankrupted me, of course. Or at the least, started a long spiral of credit card abuse. But I loved that computer: how it could connect to this big internet out there with its own built-in 56k modem, and could play QuickTime video clips without a hiccup, and how it opened up the secrets of the Mac OS 8.1 operating system.

It even tore through Quark XPress magazine pages, when I found some extra time to do work on it.

Join us in reminiscing about the glory days of the UK computer industry and the boom years of the nineties 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.

Matt Egan - Acorn Electron

There aren't many upsides to your mum being a teacher in your school, but here are two: you get out-of-hours access to the school guinea pigs, and use of the computer each weekend.

In early 80s Yorkshire, this was up there with having a Soda Stream in terms of cutting-edge chic. As a consequence the first computer in our home was a regularly borrowed Acorn Electron, which became a permanent addition to the Egan playroom circa 1985. A budget version of the BBC Micro, the Electron had a mighty 32KB RAM, and ran BBC BASIC.

You could use any tape-recorder to load programs and, coincidentally, the interminable loading progress made a similar noise to the guinea pigs at feeding time. Hooked up to a black and white telly, we used it for word processing and digital drawing, but mainly games. Lots and lots of games, most of which were borrowed and copied from other kids, or scraped off the front of nascent computer mags.

Acorn Electric

Chuckie Egg was a big favourite, as was a slightly quirky space game: Elite. I remember the graphics taking an age to render and being particularly unreliable, and odd patches of random pixels appearing around the window, but I loved that computer.

It seems odd now that the first computer I personally owned, and the next PC I subsequently used regularly, was a Windows Me system from e-Machines that I purchased in 2000. What a different world we live in less than 10 years later!

Carrie-Ann Skinner - Tiny P75

In 1996 when both my brother and I were getting towards the point of choosing which subjects to study at GCSE, my parents decided it was a good point to upgrade from our Amiga 500+, purchased because it allowed us to play games and do school work, to a Windows PC.

My mum plumped for a Tiny P75, chosen because that's what they used in the four-person office she worked in at that point. The Windows 95 PC had 8MB of memory, a 630MB hard drive and was powered by a Pentium 75 processor. It had a CD drive and a floppy drive.

Although the machine came bundled with Microsoft Works, my parents also paid an extra £200 for Corel WordPerfect as, once again, that's what they were using in my mum's office. We hadn't heard of Microsoft Word at that point.

It was at least another year before we got internet access, so the machine was used to type letters and coursework (replacing an ancient Brother word processor) and to play an awful lot of solitaire.

Unfortunately, the Tiny P75 came to a bit of a sticky end only six months in. My brother thought he was, at the age of 14, competent enough to upgrade the sound card with one he'd 'acquired' from our school's stock room.

He thought it would be a good idea to dismantle the PC on a nylon carpet without earthing himself. He then proceeded to fit the sound card and put the PC back together. However, the machine refused to boot up. None of us were tech-savvy enough to repair it, or even guess what the problem was, so it was straight to Tempo (remember them!) to purchase a new machine.

Join us in reminiscing about the glory days of the UK computer industry and the boom years of the nineties 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.

Marie Brewis - Toshiba Satellite

I was lucky to grow up with computers at home from an early age, and I had no need for my own PC until I started university. Being strapped for cash, my dad's Toshiba Satellite cast-off running Windows 95 was an attractive proposition for typing up essays and lecture notes.

But the laptop showed its age, and its need to be permanently hooked up to the mains for life support prevented it from enjoying a life on the road. A year or so later, I jumped at the chance to upgrade to his recently homeless Windows 98 laptop - another Toshiba Satellite. This at least survived half a lecture (admittedly, this was all that was left once it had started up), but it wasn't much fun to lug around on the underground.

The lack of wireless connectivity made connecting to the web at home impossible, and the difficulty in finding and installing supported applications and drivers made simple tasks such as accessing USB drives something of a chore. This was particularly irritating, given that the laptop would read but not write to DVDs. Its 3.5in floppy-disk drive certainly wasn't of much use. Attempting to edit images on the low-resolution screen was another activity I don't much miss.

With a good clean up and the addition of an external DVD drive and a copy of Microsoft Works, the Toshiba was dragged as far into the future as possible without undergoing internal surgery. It's now in retirement, but the laptop will still begrudgingly wake up on command.

Chris Byers - ZX81

My first computer was a ZX81 given as a birthday present in 1983. It was thankfully supplemented with a 16k RAM pack with the obligatory piece of blu-tack to stop it from wobbling and wiping out whatever it was you were attempting to do at the time! The other added benefit was that my family's portable TV was a black and white type so no-one complained too loudly when it disappeared into my bedroom on long-term loan.

As an introduction to computing, though, it was second to none and hours were spent typing out magazine listings for games which hardly ever worked until you waited for the next month's edition to print any missing sections that had been edited out by staff who didn't realise that the entire thing had to be published (this is true as many of the editorial staff were not technical at the time).


I had that machine for 2 years and by the end it had a 'real' keyboard stuck over the membrane type and quite a good knowledge of basic, but was still baffled by machine code. I then got a Commodore C16. My parents reckoning was that if it looked like a Commodore 64 then..... Ah well.

Join us in reminiscing about the glory days of the UK computer industry and the boom years of the nineties 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.

Forum Editor - IBM XT

I had worked with a mainframe computer for some time before managing to talk my bank manager into lending me the money to buy a home computer. It was an IBM XT - the first home computer to have an internal hard drive. I clearly remember my excitement on the day it was delivered, and how impressed I was by its huge 10Mb hard drive and 256Kb of memory. It was 1983, and I thought I had well and truly entered the space age. It was a business machine mind you, no games ever graced its screen, and of course it wasn't connected to the internet.

I spent the whole of the first weekend marvelling at my machine's speed - the processor zipped along at a heady 4.77MHz - and at its size; when you were used to sitting in front of a giant mainframe that filled an entire room, a PC seemed miniscule.

I never ceased to marvel at how such a small machine could handle all my work so efficiently, and I've certainly not experienced quite the same sense of excitement with any computer since. The big green 'IBM' that appeared on the screen each time I fired up my new toy was the icing on the cake - colour like that was destined to impress the neighbours when they were invited in to admire the computer, and I made sure I invited all of them, several times - nobody was spared.

Heady days indeed, and what amazes me as I write this is the thought that it all happened just 26 years ago. How things have changed in just over a quarter of a century. My current machine is many times more powerful than the old IBM, and can do things that couldn't have been dreamed of back then. They say you never forget your first love however, and I certainly haven't forgotten the XT. We entered the world of home computing together, and a door opened which hasn't closed yet. I must remember to check my Direct Debits, I'm probably still paying for it.

When did you get your first home computer? Let us know via this forum thread.