My Journey to Linux

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~Lao-tzu

I was a relative late-comer to the world of modern personal computers. Even though I went to school for electronics and computers back in the late 70s and early 80s, the technology was in its infancy at that time. The most modern microprocessor was the Intel 8080A; an 8-bit processor that you can still occasionally find in sprinkler system timers and like contraptions.

In school, we learned to program the 8080 using octal machine code on a 0-9 numerical keypad. The output of the programming was displayed in blinking red LEDs. Spiffy stuff here, folks. All joking aside, even this obsolete CPU was light years beyond the contraptions they used for computers in the Apollo lunar landers, so I guess we were making progress.

A couple years later, a buddy of mine went out and bought himself a cool Commodore VIC-20 home computer system; complete with cassette tape drive and a solid epoxy-sealed power supply that could have doubled as a boat anchor. This system had an amazing 20K or RAM available. Of course, once you booted up, you lost a 1/4 of that to the operating system. A bit later, he upgraded to a Commodore 64 system… a vast improvement, actually. It still used the same boat anchor for a power supply, though.

We spent hours munching pizza and playing Zork* on that 64 system. Remember Zork? It was a 100% text-based adventure game created by a company called Infocom. I don’t know what those guys were smokin’, but the games they created were a blast to play. We literally wasted our lives away playing these games till all hours of the night and then showered and went to work in the morning. You wouldn’t believe the money we were spending on pizza, soda, and Marlboro while this was going on. FUN!

In ’93, I took a brief hiatus from my electronics career to go to work with my brother. He was/is a contractor/developer here in Florida. He had just started a major new residential home project and needed some help with getting odds and ends organized. I’m the organizer. I’m good at it. A place for everything and everything in its place. Anyway, one morning I walked into the office and there was a nice new 486 DX66 computer sitting on my desk. It was loaded with an operating system from some new company called Microsoft. The OS was called Windows 3.1. It was slicker than snot on a glass door knob. The only thing I had seen that was even close to its coolness was the Commodore Amiga’s windows-type OS. I had some fun with that computer.

I stepped away from computers for a while after that and went back into my analog electronics service world (RF communications and audio). I didn’t get back in touch with computers again till spring of 2000. My brother went out and bought himself a brand new system. He asked me if I’d like to have his old Pentium I computer. “Sure,” I replied. This was the beginning of my “modern” computering. I spent hours and hours online at USENET Newsgroups and forums/boards of all types. I’ve always been a forum junkie.

I tinkered. I learned. I built my own systems. I name them “ericsbane”. It’s appropriate. In the summer of ’06, after becoming somewhat aggravated with the fourth (in three years) Win XP security patch-caused catastrophic crash, I began my Linux Adventure. It started out with Ubuntu, and through many wipes/reformats/installs, ended up at Slackware. It’s been a blast. Another featured blogger here at Lockergnome, Ron Schenone, once reposted a story that I wrote about my first year with Linux. You can read that blog post at The Blade by Ron Schenone.

The journey continues…

~Eric

*Note: You can still play Zork online HERE. Also, there are some ported versions that you can download and play in MS Windows and Mac, too. Have fun! Don’t forget to order the pizza!

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Comments

  • chrisretusn  On April 13, 2010 at 21:50

    You know the spark was started for me back in 1968 in the back of my high school physics lab. We wrote programs on an old teletype. I still have the punch cards and tapes of those programs I wrote. A few years later I was programing and fixing specialize main frame type computers, not just digital but also analog. Before 1982 I wouldn’t have much to do with PC type computers. At work we got our first Z-100, I was forced to learn and use it, but I still did things the old fashioned way (paper) just in case. Glad I did too, because it did fail and other who relied on the little PC lost everything. Me, I just grinned and said told you so. LOL

    Oh, I loved to play Zork. I have the Zork Trilogy on one of my floppies.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 13, 2010 at 21:58

      Hiya Chris!

      Yup. I remember key punch cards. My mom got a job at McKesson Pharmaceuticals here in Tampa when I was a kid. She brought home stacks of those cards for me to play with. Here’s an image of one for you young whipper-snappers who’ve never seen one –> http://tinyurl.com/y62d22l

      Thanks for reading… and jogging some old memories, buddy!

      ~Eric

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