Computers Then and Now

This will either make you feel old or feel like it’s ancient history; home computers first became a thing 40 years ago. Commodore computers and Texas Instrument computers were both introduced in June of 1981. I had just given birth to my son the month before. He also turns 40 later this month.

The price for these systems was high ($300 for the Commodore and $525 for the TI), but after a pricing war between the two companies, the price dropped around $100 each.

My husband, a systems analyst computer programmer at the phone company, decided we should get a TI and make money selling them. I made things and sold them at craft shows, and he decided that would be a perfect way to market the computers. He paid for a booth next to mine and set up display units to showed shoppers how the computer worked. His booth was the most popular in the show… tons of kids were mesmerized by the computers and managed to get their parents to buy one.

Texas Instruments discontinued in 1984, and Commodores ended in 1985. It was hard to compete with Apple and IBM (which also came out in 1981 but had a price tag of more than $1500. But by the mid-1980s, the price of all computers was becoming more affordable.

We stopped selling them before then but still had several lying around. By then, I was running a daycare and used the computers for the kids to play games. It was pretty popular toy for them.

We bought our first PC in 1995, and by Christmas, we were using AOL to access the Internet. I became addicted. The computer helped me learn more about my genealogy and access it faster; learn about email groups and how to create my own; and how to do HTML coding to create my own web page.

Facebook came out in 2004; before that, it was only available for college students. I joined in the fall of 2004 and was invited to be a beta tester. I had met my husband in the data systems department in 1977… he was the analyst, and I was the computer operator. In those days, programs were fed into the mainframe using punch cards. It was my job to feed the cards into the computer system and, after its run, pull off the printouts and deliver them to the systems analyst. At that time, these jobs were the beta tests of the billing system that the phone company would eventually use. They want to make sure there were no glitches. Facebook use to do that once upon a time. Now they just roll out the upgrades, glitches and all and wait for the complaints.

Amazingly, I’ve been involved with computers in one form or another for 45 years. So many changes in that time. Sadly, not all of them have been good.

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