Linux on the Low End

DOS Nostalgia: Looking Back at Early Computer Experiences

- 2009.05.04

I thought I would share a bit of my personal computing history.

Tandy 1000HX computer

My dad bought us a Tandy 1000HX computer in 1988. Since we had never used a computer outside of school, and most of that was with TRaSh-80s, it didn't get used very much. We did have some games for it, and they had pretty good graphics for the time because of Tandy's use of the PCjr's 16-color CGA graphics superset. [Editor's note: Regular CGA only supported 4 colors. dk]

As time went on, I ended up buying a used CoCo 2. I bought a book of code - all I had to do was type in this code, and the programs would run. I lost interest in that after I found out how much I disliked programming, and I moved back to the 1000HX. I then bought a 1200 bps modem in 1990 for $79 and joined the world by starting out on the local BBS's in my area.

Back to MS-DOS

Once I discovered how unexpandable the Tandy was (it had 384 KB of RAM, but the upgrade card to get to 640 KB was very expensive), I bought my first IBM clone for $25. It had two 360 KB 5.25" floppy drives and a 2400 bps modem. It had a Hercules graphics card and 640 KB of RAM. I ran a BBS for a few months, but after getting a $150 phone bill that I couldn't afford to pay (who knew long distance was so expensive? Even with a job at 17, I wasn't ready for that), I lost my phone line and went back to being a user. I eventually upgraded that machine with a 20 MB Hard Card (a hard drive and controller as one unit that plugged into a slot).

Eventually, I moved on to faster machines. I had an XT compatible with an NEC V20 chip, an enhanced version of the Intel 8088 used in early PCs, running at 12 MHz, making it one of the fastest PC clones available. I found out that by using a Hercules graphics card that you could get 704 KB of usable RAM, because that card's BIOS was located higher in memory than the standard monochrome and CGA cards available at the time.

So, what could you do with an IBM compatible computer? A lot. The CGA graphics weren't cutting edge, but you could create some cool ANSI color graphics for your BBS. You could play lots of games. One of my favorite BBS "doors" (which is what some systems called their games) was Global Wars, a Risk type game that is still available for purchase.


I still wish I had my old PC compatible or my family's Tandy. Being a father, it's nice to show my son some of the things I had when I was a kid, like the Atari 2600. He's always that those graphics are awful compared to what he's used to (he has a GameBoy Advance and had a PSP that was stolen :-( ), as well as the 52" HDTV rear projection that's in the living room.

A friend of mine has an IBM PC XT with its 10 MB hard drive. I'm still trying to talk him out of it (it's not looking promising). Unfortunately, I lost most of the software and files I had from those days, so I would have to do a lot of digging to find some of them now.

Oh well. I'm sure 20 years from now, I will be nostalgic for my current Celeron Dual Core E1200 system that's overclocked at 3.2 GHz. Such is life. LEM

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