My First Computer by
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I am not an early adopter by any means, but in the early 1980s I bought my first desktop computer. I don’t remember why I thought I needed a computer, but I was working for myself as a consultant (the first of several marginally successful efforts at self-employment) so that probably had something to do with it. It was a Morrow Micro Decision, the same as the model pictured above. The most popular desktop computer at the time was the Kaypro, but I had done my research and determined that the Morrow was a better bet. There was also on the market a very crude computer made by some company named after a fruit, but it wasn’t up to my standards.

My first computer was a Morrow Micro Decision, the best desktop on the market in the early 1980s.

At that time, there were a few small computer companies that each made their own desktops with their own proprietary operating systems. Each one came with a software suite – usually including a word processing program, a spreadsheet program, a database program, and sometimes others. No one else made software for that particular machine. This was before Windows, so you needed to know some basic operating system commands to start the computer and open the software programs, which were loaded into the computer on floppy disks.

Sometime after the first desktops came out, the computer world was shaken by the entrance of the 900 pound gorilla – IBM. IBM used its huge market share to take over the desktop market and also made what was at the time a bold decision to release its DOS operating system publicly. No one was sure whether IBM’s decision was a self-inflicted disaster or a genius move. It did enable independent entrepreneurs to design software for IBM computers, including some guy named Bill who started creating microcomputer software in his garage and eventually built a software empire.

Once the DOS operating system became the standard, I replaced my Morrow with a more forgettable desktop. I gave the Morrow to my parents and even set it up for them at the desk in their guest room. I don’t think they ever touched it. When my mother moved, she asked if it was ok if she discarded it. By that time, I think she could have donated it to the Smithsonian.

Before I retired, I was always being confronted in various offices by Millennials asking whether I knew how to use a computer. I found that telling them I owned a computer before they were born was not a helpful way to move the conversation along. What they usually meant anyway was whether I knew how to use the internet, or email, or social media, which could be the subject of another story. Back in the old days, a computer was just another useful machine – like a multi-functional typewriter – not the time-sucking addiction its offspring have become.

Profile photo of Kathy Porter Kathy Porter


Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Great recap of the computer evolution Kathy!

    The first computers I knew were Dells – apparently Dell had the contract for the NYC school district where I worked. And over the years, of course, we’ve had a succession of computers and devices at home, many in fact named after that fruit!

  2. Marian says:

    Great story, Kathy, and I can identify. Luckily near the beginning of my self employment, one of my clients was IBM, nothing to do with PCs, but my contact had an in so I got one of the early IBMs through her. I still remember a couple of DOS prompts. Wonder if the youngsters even know what that means!

    • Kathy Porter says:

      Since Windows came out, I don’t think people even understand that there is an operating system behind all those screens. IBM was the big dog in the computer market for a while, but at some point they decided to focus on other areas.

  3. Suzy says:

    Kath, I love this story! Glad you were able to find a picture of the Morrow Micro Decision, it is such a perfect reminder of the ’80s. You made me laugh out loud twice – once with the line about donating the Morrow to the Smithsonian, and once with the sentence “I found that telling them I owned a computer before they were born was not a helpful way to move the conversation along.”

    Glad you’re paying attention to the prompts and sharing with us on the ones that catch your eye. Hope we can keep you engaged!

    • Kathy Porter says:

      Glad you liked it! Looking for that photo, I came across what is apparently a world of people who collect old computers. I was happy to see that my old Morrow is still considered one of the best computers of its era.

  4. jjjersey says:

    My first computer experience was at work. I was terrified of the thing at first. After some months, we did become friends though. You’re so right; computers were initially timesaving and convenient. Nowadays they are indeed a “. . . time-sucking addiction”.

    • Kathy Porter says:

      I think I was always fascinated by the idea of a computer. But I had the same reaction you did when Windows came out. Initially, I couldn’t figure it out, until I bought a book that explained how Windows thinks.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Very wise research on the Kaypro, Kathy. I was involved in the litigation when Kaypro went under — shareholder suits, SEC investigations, etc. It was very much a family-run business (the Kays), and the outside IT folks involved said that its problem was “Too many Kays; not enough pros.”

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    We bought our son that very crude computer with the fruit name around 1984. We feared it would do something evil to his mind, so we kept it in our family room rather than in his bedroom. Thus, I had some early experience with those floppy disks like you. I really enjoyed your story — took me back to those innocent early days of home computers.

  7. My favorite sentence was, “I found that telling them I owned a computer before they were born was not a helpful way to move the conversation along..” IT makes me think you may have a lot of good stories to share about cross-generational communication in the workplace! just a thought.

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great story, Kathy. Really took me back (both my husband and I were involved in the tech industry, as are our kids now). In fact, my husband and some friends decided they would start their own company and bought one of those first IBM PCs, which sat in out tiny second bedroom. They never got the company off the ground and sold the computer for a loss!

    I’ve never heard of a Kaypro, but I think it looked similar to those other first home computers.

    Like Suzy, I loved your response to the younger set, when asked if you know how to use computers. And that yours should wind up in the Smithsonian. Both great lines!

  9. Joe Lowry says:

    I loved the comment that you told Millennials that you used a computer before they were born. As usual, you cannot tell the younger generation anything, they have to make their own mistakes.

  10. I love your sense of humor! That company named after some fruit wasn’t up to your standards! Haha!

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