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What was your first microcomputer upgrade?

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What was your first microcomputer upgrade/peripheral? Was it a disk drive? Was it extra memory? How was it carried out, a simple plug-in, or something more technical? What did you expect from it?

 

I remember getting a Microsoft 16K RamCard for my Apple II. And I consider it one of my first computer upgradea. The machine was equipped with 48K already and this card made it 64K. This was back in 1979/1980.

 

I loved the colorful box and how it illustrated the card - an array of memory chips that was going to make my system smarter. You see BITD we determined how smart a computer was by how much "K" it had. And 16 more K was a big boost.

 

Anyways, I first saw it at a Winter CES show down at the McCormmick Place in Chicago. It was locked away in a case - but the array of memory and its associated control circuitry was mesmerizing and whacked my fancy in a special kind of way. It was important and I felt it was alive and held a nascent intelligence inside.

 

I had envisioned making ultra-smart chess games, writing AI programs to discover new radio waves in space, finding new more efficient trajectories for spacecraft and then selling the information to NASA, parsing BBSes and wardialed numbers automatically for WaReZ, enhancing Eliza, and a whole lot more!

 

I was scared shitless about opening up the Apple II and messing around inside even though I had done many electronics projects before and had taken thousands of things apart as a baby. This was the big-leagues now. This was a $1500 computer! AND a $199 circuit board! Nothing to take lightly. It took me over an hour to pop the lid, and plug this thing in. I had like 2 of my buddies look it over before turning it on. there could be 0 mistakes. And it was all next to the power supply (slot 0), so that increased the fear factor. Not to mention a chip from the mainboard had to be removed so that the card could have its jumper strap tied into the board. This was sophisticated modding at its finest. Though one tiny insignificant error and I would not have a computer anymore. The Apple II was something that took me months to get, months of begging and pleading, and months of mowing lawns and doing other odds & ends favors for anyone that would give me a dollar.

 

Well it had to be turned on and tested sooner or later. We flipped the switch and everything was as it was before. No smoke, no crackling, the speaker beeped and the red light turned red and I was on my way! Success!

 

While I would not device new trajectories for NASA and their outbound interplanetary probes I would quickly discover I could have a 12K RamDisk that worked with real DOS commands and files. 12K? Yes 12K, there was some overhead for the program itself. It was TURBO FAST. Files loaded instantly and disk drives suddenly became as slow as cassette tapes. I also found some other programs, like terminal programs, would have a bigger buffer. And I could load other computing languages into it, like Logo, Pilot, Integer BASIC, Fortran, Pascal, and other stuff. I discovered it could hold specialized utilities that the bigger kids used for "cracking" GaMeZ.

 

I found it indispensable for increasing the size of my Applesoft BASIC programs, it did this indirectly by allowing DOS to be loaded into the upper 16K bank. Thus freeing about 10K additional space. And my BBS at the time could use ALL the memory it could get. There were variations on that style of expansion by using that space for just variables or strings, but I never much explored it. And the card served to host some TSR type programs which I used from time to time.

 

And it enabled (or was supposed to improve) something called CP/M, which I equated to "grown-up" business stuff. I quickly lost interest in it. The then-future-upgrade called the Microsoft SoftCard Z-80 board would be a waste of time and money. Because with that I had imagined playing multi-processor arcade games and was utterly confused as to why none were ever made for it. All this potential. Wasted!! 2 Processors!! I mean this was arcade cabinet territory!! C'mon man..

 

All in all it was a very cool and eventually necessary upgrade.

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RAM upgrade for my Mac SE. It was a tremendous pain in the ass, needed a special tool to unscrew the case. I can't recall but I think I put a 100MB hard drive in there at the same time.

 

http://lowendmac.com/2016/memory-upgrades-mac-se/

 

Nowadays it seems silly to upgrade memory or storage on anything but a big tower or chunky laptop. The slim things are all sealed up tight nowadays.

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When my family got a c64 we had a 1541 with it, so I'm thinking the first peripheral we bought separately was a Commodore printer. We might have gotten that at the same time, I don't recall. We did end up getting an Okimate 10 a couple years later as well - COLOR PRINTING!!!!!!

 

The first real "upgrade" was probably a 512k ram card for my Amiga 500.

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Yes there's always that weird dividing line, is a peripheral and upgrade? Does it enhance performance or does it grant new functionality instead?

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Surprisingly I think mine was not until I had my first PC clone in 1993 or so and had to install extra VRAM in order to get all the graphics modes promised on the box when I bought my computer. Packard Bell mailed it to all owners of my machine as part of a lawsuit settlement or something. So technically it wasn't an "upgrade" since it just gave me what I was supposed to have to begin with, but it was an upgrade from what the computer actually had.

 

My first intentional upgrade must have been installing an 8MB RAM SIMM to bring my total to 12MB. Either that or it was upgrading my hard drive from 170MB to 340MB. I can't remember which I did first.

 

I had my Apple IIc for 8 years before I got my PC but I don't think I ever did anything to it. It had most of the possible upgrades for an Apple II already. I did wish I could get one of the RAM upgrades that were available for early IIc's but I think I figured out that my machine ROM didn't support it.

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I was poor so it took a few years of selling old bottles etc and begging my cold-hearted/poor family to get a ZX Spectrum (Timex actually). After that, any add-ons were completely out of the question. I didn't even have a joystick.

A year or so later a relatively cheap Turbo extension appeared and I did get that. It compressed games (I think) so they loaded much, much faster and you could squeeze many more of them on a cassette (these were not cheap for me either). It was kinda cool but extremely sensitive and more often than not the games have failed to load.

 

Some years later I managed to scrounge for an Amiga, also through some failrly humiliating stunts (such as agreeing to cut my long thrash-metal hair - true story). A week later, the internal 3,5" drive failed. Since it was bought from some random guy from an ad (we did not have computer shops behind Iron Curtain) there was no warranty or anything. The cheapest solution was to get an external 5.25" floppy drive and a "boot selector" mod. It was still not cheap, about 1/5th price of the whole rig. But, seeing as absolutely destroyed I was by all this, my folks just went and got it for me without any further ado.

The upshot was that 5.25" disks were cheaper than 3.5 ones so I could get more games at least.

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Based on it being an upgrade and not a peripheral, for me, it would probably be the 256K RAM upgrade for the Tandy 1000 RL I bought at Radio Shack that maxed out the memory at 768K. Doing this allowed a full 640K of memory plus 128K for the special Tandy graphics modes. I had 2 previous computers (a TI 99/4A and then a Commodore 128), but I didn't ever buy anything for them that one would call an upgrade.

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My first "peripheral" was the Joystick Interface I got for my Sinclair ZX Spectrum (48K). It was a third party one with a built in cartridge port and could emulate all tjhe other popular interfaces of the time.

 

Moving on to the C128 I then worked the school holidays so I could get a Floppy Drive for it, I got a third party one again, it had a metal case but i can't for the life of me remember the manufacturer, for some reason "ever" seems to pop into my mind.

 

Next up, the Amiga 500. Dungeon Master made me purchase the 512K expansion, which I later on got brave enough to do the old soldering mod to make it 1MB chip ram instead of 512K chip/512K Fast. I had a few external FDDs for this so I could daisy chain them for Microprose and Cinemaware games. I also had Samplers which I used for audio production.

 

In between these were consoles, which didn't need any mods, except my PlayStation which i got modded once i saw how awesome Gran Turismo was and it wasn't available in the UK yet.

 

My various PCs over the years have had many add-ons, but none that stand out.

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Yes there's always that weird dividing line, is a peripheral and upgrade? Does it enhance performance or does it grant new functionality instead?

There was a time I would pore over the weekly sales circulars for upgrades and peripherals, blank media and disk burners ...when I was a mark for CompUSA rebates and Office Depot price matching deals. When shitty Palm and PocketPC "PDA" handhelds were the closest thing to mobile gaming outside of Gameboy. Every upgrade could add new functionality, and there was a lot of experimentation and innovation -- but before we could count on networks and video cards to reliably show full screen, full frame video, let alone 3D graphics.

 

Now I can buy a potato computer like a plastic netbook for $150, and it can run all those games I wanted to play but lacked the $3000 multimedia PC to run them.

 

In your FACE, Wing Commander III!

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My first was a voodoo 64mb card that I added to a custom pentium 3 that I built. My second was a peltier cooler that I added to over clock my cpu.

Edited by adamchevy
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I added a hard drive and 2mb of Fast Ram to my Amiga 500. It was ridiculously wide on my desk with the Ram expander and Hard Drive chained together. The difference in productivity was astounding.

 

Like many others I started with a Commodore 64, which came with everything I needed at the time.

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The first peripheral had to be the Datassette C2N tape recorder for the VIC-20. The first upgrade most likely was the 12K (*) expansion memory I got a year or two later, after borrowing friends' expansion memories for short periods of time.

 

(*) Yup, neither 8K nor 16K. This was a custom cartridge with 12K RAM and empy slots for 2K or 4K ROM IIRC, originally used as part of a video texting package though the reseller removed the ROMs before selling it as a memory expansion.

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I vaguely remember upgrading the ram in my PC around 1990. Probably taking it from 1MB to 2MB. The ram was individual chips that came in a plastic tube. Purpose was for multitasking/switching programs. I also bought a Soundblaster Pro for playing games. Not sure which came first. I also bought a gravis joystick and upgraded the hard disk drive from mfm 40MB to ide something. I wasted a fair chunk of my student loans on that computer. This stuff wasn't cheap. In 1982 I convinced my mom to buy the $80 intellivoice for the intellivision.

Edited by mr_me
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Dual floppy drives gor my CoCo 3. The drives were put into a homemade wooden box with a not so standard power supply and the ribbon cable sticking out of an open slot. The drives were not your regular Tandy drives but they worked very well. Less tempermental than by Dad's true-blue Tandy drives.

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An 8K RAM expansion cartridge for my Commodore VIC-20. As it was just a cartridge for the cartridge port, installation was beyond simple.

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I bought a Coco in about June 1983. For my birthday in November, I received a cassette deck so that I could finally store programs. About a year later, I had it upgraded to 64K RAM (at a local shop).

 

The first computer upgrade that I did by myself was adding a 4 Meg. SIM to my '486. I later added a sound card (a second-hand original AdLib) and then a joystick interface card. This would have been in about 1996 or 1997. I badly wanted to add a CD drive, but there was no room in the case.

 

I replaced a faulty power supply fan in a later PC.

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Wow, thank you. I haven't heard the term "microcomputer" in years. I remember in the 90s in school, teachers would get really, really intent on making sure you knew what the difference was between a "minicomputer" and a "microcomputer"... and when you pushed them on the matter, even THEY would admit that there really wasn't a difference except in physical size. But that question wound up on the test all the same.

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The earliest that comes to mind is the Dell something or other PC my family had in the early '00s. It came with WinME, but a guy I knew from school upgraded it to WinXP. I also added RAM so it could run Battlefield 1942.

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Mine was also the C2N tape drive for my VIC-20. It was the old style looking one and not the 'soap bar' one. It came with a cassette that had 4 programs on it which were Blue Meanies From Outer Space, Biorhythms and the other 2 escape my recollection. I got it two weeks after the computer and then finally I could save my programs!

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The kids of today would not believe us if we told them our first computer didn't have any means of storing or retrieving things into the computer memory, and all software we wanted to run had to be typed in each time (unless one would own e.g. a game cartridge). Spending perhaps a few days without a tape recorder might be agreeable, but two weeks or like jhd, five month must have been an exercise in patience.

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Well, and they wouldn't understand loading a program from tape for 5-10 minutes, only to play something like Tic Tac Toe (as I did with my TI 99/4A)

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A 32K Axlon "RAM-Cram" for my 8K Atari 400. I watched the installer with wonder and fear as he opened the 400 and revealed the mysterious insides. That started my interest in digital electronics. I got to keep the now useless 8K board. Later I learned enough to mod the Axlon to 48K myself, using part of that 8K board.

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i was a kid in the advent of the first wave of home computing- my dad's first upgrade was the P-Box for our TI 99 4A. He managed to sell several demos to TI he wrote. :)

 

when I had my own machine my first upgrade was... a CD-ROM! sooo much time spent marvelling at how much different an encyclopedia on a CD was than OLD CLUNKY BOOKS, hehehe

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