Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)
As wonderful as that Apple II was, better things eventually came along. Due mainly to software companies' shift to the IBM PC and its hundreds of clones, our family purchased a Packard Bell IBM-compatible in 1987. For those of you keeping track, I was age ten.
This computer had a few distinct advantages over the Apple. At 8 megahertz and 640 kilobytes of RAM, it was a far better number-cruncher than the Apple. Its graphics were sharper than the Apple's, though it was limited to displaying 4 colors at a time until we upgraded the graphics card. This upgradability was also a bonus: over time, the Packard Bell accumulated graphics cards, sound cards, interface cards, a mouse, etc. (all the better to play games with, except for the mouse, which we bought so that we could use a mouse-based desktop publishing program.) This machine also had one feature lacking in the Apple II: a hard disk. This meant an end to disk-swapping and to rummaging through boxes of floppy disks in search of a blank. Of course, it also meant I had to learn DOS.
To run a program on the Apple, one just inserts the disk and turns the machine on. Most programs for MS-DOS machines involved booting the machine into DOS, and then typing something along the lines of:
or whatever the proper subdirectory and filename were for the program I wished to run. It wasn't really that difficult to learn (unlike UNIX), but the necessity of keeping track of files and configuring AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files gave me a greater awareness of just what was going on inside that box.
This computer lasted me through the rest of elementary school and through junior high; in my freshman year of high school, I got a faster PC. (Now I have a Packard Bell again, albeit a slightly faster one.)