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IBM PC Portable

When entering college in 1984, I was required to buy a computer. The school offered three different computers: the IBM PC, IBM PC Portable, and IBM PC Jr. Of those offered, I chose the IBM PC Portable for about $2500. This particular unit came with 340k of RAM, 1 half-height double-sided 5.25-inch drive, and a built in 7-inch amber monitor. The keyboard attached to the face, allowing you to lug the thing around. For software, it came with DOS 2.1, Volkswriter (a word processor), BASIC, and FORTRAN 75.

Over the years, I added a second floppy drive, rounded the RAM up to the maximum of 640k, added an external monitor, and in the latter days of its life, a color video card, a turbo board, and a 30mb hard drive on a card. By that point, I kept the case permanently open. I don't believe that I added a sound card.

I kept this computer until about 1992, when I finally had enough money to build a new one. Even with all its improvements, it had trouble playing all the modern/fast games.

From the picture, I had forgotten that there was a little nook for the keyboard cord, and the keyboard itself attached with a phone-like jack, which was genius. I wish more computers had adopted this little trick. Just along the back, you can see the big handle which folds out.

During freshman year, I dropped the keyboard too often, eventually knocking the mechanical keys out of place. I spent several hours tearing apart and rebuilding the keyboard because I could not afford a replacement. For the longest time, I always preferred having my functions keys at the side of my keyboard rather than along the top.

Volkswriter, my word processor, expected that you already had a printer, so if you printed without a printer, the entire computer froze up and you had to reboot. So naturally, my asshole friends decided that getting Doug to print while he was typing a paper was the height of hilarity. Fortunately, that amusement eventually faded. I reformatted all my college papers off of Volkswriter in the mid-90s by opening them in ASCII and removing all the format codes by hand.

My biggest woe in freshman year was disks going bad. At the time, I did not know about magnetics. I kept a large magnet in my desk draw which kept killing my disks and causing me no end of headaches. I eventually sorted that out. The drives were also quite audible, so I still know that it took 42 ticks for each disk to format.

I learned to type on this computer as well. I had taken touch typing in high school, but I hadn't gotten very good at it. With the computer, I forced myself to touch type and to backspace over any mistakes. That was more work at first, which is what I wanted. The end result was faster work because I did not want to retype. For part of my freshman year, I kept the computer on a dresser which sat by the bed, so I sat in the lower bunk typing away and playing games. Eventually the computer relocated back to my desk.

The computer came with my first computer bag, well capable of carrying this monstrosity. Believe me, you did not really want to carry this computer around, even in a well made bag.

My parents bought me a printer for Christmas, as I requested. Rather than get me a dot-matrix printer, they bought me a Brother HR-5 thermal printer. The thing was weird, using these waxy cartridges. It preferred printing on specialty paper which was expensive, so I printed on the smoothest paper that I could buy. Surprisingly enough, the printer also printed color if you used a color cartridge. As these were expensive, I rarely used this capacity.

After college, I rarely used this printer. One of the first things that I had bought on returning home was a 24-pin Epson dot matrix printer that had been a floor model.