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Posted Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:00 pm

How long have I been an Amiga user? Well, Reagan was President...

Back up fourteen years to when I first walked into the storage room of Thompson Intermediate which had been converted into a "computer lab" with an ASR33 Teletype, an acoustic modem and coupler (which connected with an HP 2000F minicomputer in Pasadena that I never saw), and a Touch-Tone Western Electric telephone. I borrowed and devoured a copy of "Basic BASIC" and in fairly short order was well known as the school's computer geek. They frowned on me playing "STTR1"—Mike Mayfield's original Star Trek game—because it used so much paper! So, I talked my Mom into driving me across town to Tel-Tex to purchase a roll of Teletype paper....

First of many such trips across town. But not just for Teletype supplies; in 1976 I came across the news (by then a year old) that it was actually possible to purchase your own computer! I couldn't possibly afford to do so at the time, of course; our family was solidly middle class with a mortgage and a basic setup (for sale at the local Foley's department store) was $5000 for an Altair 8800b "turnkey" (no front panel) model with 48K RAM, a single 90K 5-1/4" floppy disk drive, and a Lear Siegler ADM-3 terminal for input and output; a dot-matrix printer was an additional $1750. I spent a lot of time at Foley's. And in high school the next year I had friends with cars drive me over across town again to look at Altairs, IMSAIs, and Sol "Terminal Computers".

While I couldn't yet afford to enter the computer age, a high school buddy a couple of years older than I took out a bank loan and bought one of the original 8K Commodore PETs—you know, with the "Chiclet" keyboard and built-in Datasette. I swooned over the thing. One thing led to another and he went into the IT industry...I went into the Navy.

Not to do anything electronic; I was to work in engine rooms. Nuclear engine rooms, at first; I scored so high on the qualifying test that they had to re-check the answer key. Still, after I finished boot camp I had enough pay set up to afford a black & white TV (I know, I know)...and a VIC-20. The VIC turned out to be a disappointment; I never succeeded in porting "Star Trek" to it on my own. But the Navy Exchange was very generous about returns with a receipt...and very shortly thereafter Commodore introduced the C-64.

I used that C-64 in the barracks at Nuclear Power School, then at home (on CompuServe with a VICmodem) while on leave awaiting assignment to the US Naval Academy. I had applied and been accepted while finishing at the top of my class at NPS Orlando. However, I got crosswise of the upperclassmen at Annapolis and washed out there after a year. It wasn't all bad, though; my Dad bought me a "luggable" SX-64 with (at the time) my first floppy disk drive and a dot matrix printer for Christmas that year.

I had been out of the nuclear program long enough at that point that I couldn't go back without extending my enlistment, so I "loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly." Actually, it was Long Beach (via short stops in Treasure Island and San Diego) in a 1962 Plymouth Fury, originally white but now mostly rust-colored...the perfect car for a Navy sailor. I could drive it into L. A., park in one of the worst neighborhoods, roll down the window, leave the keys in the ignition, go out to sea for six months, and come back to find it exactly where I left it. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but not Real Life after my junker failed a safety inspection due to faded taillights and was excluded from the base I parked it outside the fence line and then deployed for three months. It was still there, untouched, when I returned. I am dead serious.

They allowed me to bring my SX-64 aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) and use it in a corner of the engine room, but engineroom heat and humidity is not kind to died shortly thereafter (I was able to have it repaired, eventually, but it went out on me permanently in the '90s). However, our next long deployment, the "Persian Excursion" (Operation Earnest Will, June 1987-January 1988) lasted long enough to allow me to save up a chunk of change and at the same time coincided with my assignment as M-Division supply petty officer...which meant that I now had the use of a sizeable and fairly temperate storage area.

I answered a classified ad in the L.A. Times and shortly thereafter exchanged $1500 which I really had no higher use for in order to obtain a very slightly used Amiga 1000 setup, still with its original packaging and including an external disk drive, a StarBoard II expansion unit, a genlock, and a 1902 monitor. I set that up in my hidey-hole and went to town. I purloined very few programs; almost all of my software was legitimately purchased or obtained via Fred Fish disks. Late that year I left the Navy for good; I purchased a SCSI module for the StarBoard and my first hard disk 80 MB Seagate in an external box. Massive; most HDDs sold at the time were 20 or 30 megabytes...I thought I was future-proof for at least the next ten years. Little did I know....

In 1991 I was able to upgrade to an Amiga 3000; I donated the A1000 to my church. They never really used it; I wish now I had gotten it back from them later. That A3000 was my main machine for the next thirteen years. Really. It's still out in the garage, although I haven't used it in about ten years now. (I'm afraid to open it up and look at the motherboard battery :( ...) I still have my last A3000 backup on a Seagate external USB HDD (for PC...I invested in an Ethernet card and had the A3000 networked for the last few years of its life), but as of now I have no way to open it up and read it. I'm hoping that participating in this forum here will give me a way to bring at least my Amiga software out of its long slumber...

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New Orleans, LA, USA

Posted Sun Nov 29, 2020 9:36 pm

Welcome, and for the love of all things sacred, open that 3000 up and cut out the battery and neutralize whatever leakage has occurred!

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Posted Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:23 pm


What a great introduction. You seem to have ‚been there‘ when electronics changed and became computes. What exciting times. I don’t think that these days going from one iteration of CPUs to the next will leave an impression of technical advancements such as going from a VIC20 to a C=64.

Got any pics to share of your machine you still have or even some older machines showing your setups back then?

Great to have you here!!


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Zippy Zapp

Posted Tue Dec 01, 2020 10:48 pm

Welcome! Great story.

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Dec 02, 2020 10:51 am

I loved reading about your history - thanks for sharing! Welcome to the community and I hope we can help you get your A3000 sorted out and back to glory.

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