Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis


In March 1984, I turned 35. I lived in a rad (well, we didn't say rad back then, but we would have if we had known about it) condo in downtown Charlotte with a waterbed and I had a great job. What to give the girl who has everything?

IBM knew. That very month they came out with the IBM PC jr. They had just opened up one of their IBM Product Stores. Yes, long before Apple Stores or Microsoft Stores, IBM had stores, too. (I still have a shopping bag from one of them!) I marched in and bought myself a computer.

When it first came out, the PC jr, was a CPU, and a keyboard. The keyboard was infrared wireless which was space aged at the time. There was no disc drive, no monitor, no mouse. The software for it came on cartridges that you shoved into the CPU. It came with a cable that you plugged into the TV for a monitor. I set it up on a table across from the end of my bed and I used to lie on the bed on my stomach with the keyboard pointed to the CPU and play for hours.

There was very little software initially. It came with very basic Basic built in and you had to buy DOS (2.1) separately. I did and spent the first months just going through the DOS book and doing each command and learning how to use them.

And then Sierra software came out with a game cartridge - Kings Quest (written by a woman!) and I played that for hours/days/months on end.

I got very creative with the hardware. I had a little 5" black and white TV along with a 11" color TV on the desk. I added a switch box so that I could use either one for a monitor and easily switch between the two. So I could be watching a baseball game, for instance on the little screen and if the action got good, I could quickly flip it to the 'big' screen.

I had that coupler modem still from work so I hooked that up. And got into the mainframe at work. Some of the sys admins there told me about electronic bulletin boards. I would log in using the name of Susan and I was swarmed with friends. They were all teenaged boys so thrilled to be talking to a girl. And they were also very patient and kind and served as my computer science education. They taught me everything and kept me well entertained.

Eventually, I upgraded the modem to 1200 baud and then a blazing 2400 baud. IBM came out with a real monitor for PC jr. and I added that. With the help of my EBBS friends, I added a disc drive (5.25") and got a dot matrix printer. It was a Frankenstein of a beast and I loved it.

To Be Continued
Tags: tbc
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