Happy 30th birthday, PC era

I may be a hardcore Apple fanatic now (and, well, for about the last 20 years), but back in the ’80s, I lived in the “IBM-compatible” world, as it was called back then, in the days before Microsoft Windows.

IBM-compatible, of course, meant a computer with the same basic architecture, and capable of running the same software, as the (literally) definitive Personal Computer — PC — IBM introduced on this date in 1981. I have so many vivid memories of the ’80s IBM PC experience that I’m at a loss where even to begin to discuss them. So many games. Such terrible graphics.

I never actually owned the IBM PC, the model 5150 (not to be confused with this), myself, but my uncle did. It was always a treat in the early ’80s when we’d visit him and he’d let me go into the spare bedroom where he kept his PC. He was the first person I knew who owned a computer. It was dazzlingly futuristic, and I eventually learned some rudimentary command line skills — just enough MS-DOS to get myself into BASIC, where I loved to write stupid, pointless little programs.

Eventually, in 1987, I got my own PC-compatible computer, the Tandy 1000 EX that I’ve mentioned here before. The Tandy 1000 was an odd beast. It boasted a better graphics card than the average PC, allowing it to display a whopping 16 colors instead of the usual 4, but in almost every other way it was already hopelessly outdated at the time of its release. It was never able to run even version 1.0 of Windows, so we got Tandy’s feeble semi-GUI, DeskMate, instead. But I still thought it was cool.

It all began with the IBM 5150 PC, though. Without that, Apple might have become the world’s largest (technology) company 25 years earlier. But in the end it all worked out OK. The iPhone 4 I carry around in my pocket now is (approximately) a kazillion times more powerful than the 13-pound metal box IBM gave us 30 years ago today.

Still, I have fond memories of so many games I played on that old Tandy 1000 back in the late ’80s. Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

I brought my Tandy 1000 EX to college with me in the fall of 1992, but the campus computer labs were dominated by Macs (except for a couple of the high-tech labs in the physics building that were full of NeXT cubes), and it wasn’t long before I was a convert. I bought my first Mac — an LC 475 — at the college computer store in the spring of 1994 and I haven’t looked back. Except when I have. That Tandy 1000 EX is long gone but my love of those old games I played in junior high and high school lives on.