Accidental Tech Podcast had a members special a couple of weeks ago where the hosts attempted to rank their all-time favourite laptops. Inevitably, much of the the conversation turned into reminiscences about their entire computer history, not just their top four favourite laptops.
It got me thinking about my own computer history. I’m very confident I’ve misremembered a lot of the earlier stuff, and I’ve almost certainly forgotten a bunch of computers, but using a combination of my memory, photos, and financial records, here it is.
The not-my-own-money years
It all started with a Commodore 64. I came home from school one day and there it was, sitting in my bedroom set up and ready to power on. I don’t know if Dad had owned it before then, or if it was acquired for me. Questions you don’t think to ask until it’s too late. I reckon this was roughly 1992.
I vaguely remember a Sinclair ZX being involved - I was sure it was a ZX80, but it had an evil fucking membrane keyboard that made it miserable to use, so it might have been a ZX81. I’m pretty sure it was bought at one of the annual Inner Wheel silent auctions my Mum was involved in.
Anyway, a couple of years after that I got a hand-me-down Amstrad 1512 (the twin floppy-drive edition no less), and was introduced to the world of (mostly) IBM PC-compatibility. It had previously been used by my parents to help run their farming business, but they’d upgraded to some other grey thing that had a 30MB hard drive - an unfathomable amount of storage. Most of my time with the 1512 was spent in GEM.
The next computer I remember propelled me into the world of Windows. Dad surprised me once again by purchasing a second-hand home-made machine from a guy in Dunning. It had a god-damned CD-ROM drive! The guy who sold it to us later popped over to upgrade it from Windows 3.1 to a bootleg copy of Windows 95.
That machine was upgraded piecemeal a few times, and at one point it’s guts were almost entirely replaced with a Cyrix 6x86 motherboard/processor/etc. The upgrade was performed by a guy running a computer maintenance business out of a shed next to his house in Perth. And once again, it was Dad who initiated and paid for the work.
The weekend-job-money years
We’re now in the 2000’s. The hero of this entire journey - Dad - got me a weekend job at the Spar general store in Auchterarder in the mid-90’s when I was in my early teens (I wish I had an exact date for that) so I had a little trickle of my own money now. In 2002 I bought my first digital camera, so this is where photographic evidence starts.
And straight away there’s a photos-don’t-lie moment because my library contains a picture from January 2003 of a grey Dell that I have almost no memory of! CRT monitor, Harman Kardon speakers, and a sea of grey plastic.
In May 2004 I went down down the home-build path again and spent a shit-load of money trying to build a quiet PC, something which was impossible on my budget at the time. I had a massive heavy case that was filled with sound deadening foam, a special caddy that attempted to keep hard drive vibrations separate from the case, fans that promised to be silent. None of it worked.
The introduction-to-Apple years
It’s not a computer, but in September 2004 during a family holiday to Florida I walked into a CompUSA store and bought a green iPod mini and was thus introduced to Apple’s world. Here it is docked in a Denison ice-Link Plus contraption (it presented the iPod as if it was a CD changer to the built-in head unit) in my Renault Mégane:
In November 2004 I gave up on my home-build and bought a Dell Dimension 4700 which came with a CRT monitor whether you wanted it or not apparently:
But just a few months later Apple announced the original Mac Mini and in February 2005 I took delivery of my first Mac and plugged my grey LCD monitor, grey keyboard, and grey mouse into it and never looked back.
In November 2005 my then-boyfriend bought me an iBook G4 - my first Apple laptop. I was bowled over by the thought that had gone into the design of that thing - the breathing sleep indicator, the way the metal latch sprung out of the way when the lid was open, the battery test LEDs that faded in and out when they could have just turned on and off.
The first-real-job years
At this point - mid-2006 - my computer history gets less interesting. The wild-west days of second-hand boxes, wonky-upgrades, and Windows are behind me. I’m smitten with Apple and completely over my desire to build and upgrade noisy unreliable PCs.
In January 2008 I replaced my G4 Mac Mini with an Intel Mac Mini. And in November 2009 during another holiday in Florida I really splurged and bought an iMac during the Black Friday sales.
In January 2010 when I found out I’d be moving to Australia I managed to convince one of my soon-to-be-ex bosses to give me an old company MacBook Pro.
In October 2011 I bought my first unibody MacBook Pro, and in December 2012 my second iMac - one of the ones that came in a trapezoid shaped retail box.
In July 2013 I replaced the spinning hard drive in that MacBook with an SSD - a pivotal point.
The MacBook Pro years
The last ten years of the story really does get very boring indeed: a MacBook Pro (2013) in October 2013, a MacBook Pro (2016) in March 2017, a MacBook Pro (2018) in September 2018, and a MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) in December 2019.
At some point prior to all of these MacBooks I’d purchased a Thunderbolt Display and fallen in love with the laptop-as-a-desktop lifestyle. That display was eventually replaced with a separate CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 dock (which I’ve mentioned before) and Dell(!) monitor.
And in November 2021, the computer I’m typing this on now and my first Apple silicon machine: a MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021), which is just bloody 😍