Time flies – my first computer in 1990

As you may or may not know, Germany has quite a few public holidays. On the Easter days I took the chance to sort my folders (real paper, not on any computer or in any cloud). And when you do such things, you may find some rare gems. When I found an old invoice I realized: Time flies – my first computer in 1990 did cost a real fortune.

Time flies – my first computer in 1990

I posted this picture in a social network as well – and the comments I received were just great. So if you have seen it there already, please ignore this blog post. But if you haven’t you may smile as well – and remember a similar story.

Time flies - my first computer in 1990

Invoice of my first PC – and 80286 AT with 1MB RAM and a 40MB Harddisk

Actually I should mention and explain a few things here.

The Price

I paid DM 3615,90 – this was the currency in Germany called “Deutsche Mark” almost as stable as the Swiss Franc. The interchange rate for the conversion to Euro was fixed on Jan 1, 1999 at: DM 1.95583 = € 1.00. And EVERYBODY who reads this will remember that shops and restaurants etc were rather creative with the real world conversion. I remember that the pizza I used to pick up sometimes after work jumped from DM 6,50 to at first € 4,50 – and shortly after to € 5,00. Or CDs at the electronic store near the Oracle building in Munich saw a dramatic price increase months before already from DM 19,90 to € 14,90 shortly after. But officially this never happened anywhere in Europe 😉 Of course not.

Anyhow, when I simply divide the price above by 1.95583 I get a wrong result as I need to do an inflation based adjustment. When I take the inflation between 1990 and 2018 into consideration the price of DM 3615,90 equals today to  € 3182,-. This is quite a fortune for a PC.

For this amount of money I’d get a 27” iMac with the best specs – and I still have money left for a new iPhone X. Or a DELL PC with 64GB RAM, the newest Intel i7 CPUs, two (!!) graphical interfaces – I could do Bitcoin mining on it and still have a bit of money left for the energy bill before I get really rich.

Where did I get the money as somebody who just finished school waiting for the university to start off? I worked. Actually I worked twice a week on Friday night and Saturday morning up to 8 hours each week. I commissioned pharma products which got delivered to pharmacies. And I worked of course in the school holidays as well.

The Equipment

What did I get for this whooping price? Well, a light gray box from Escom.

And a keyboard. And a monitor – full VGA colors and resolution, 14 inch and ugly gray. Plus some cables. And a very reliable needle printer, the Star LC24-10.

The 80286 PC included 1MB RAM and a 40MB hard disk. Upgrading from a 20MB to a 40MB hard disk did cost extra. And it had riser cards inside to accommodate a full size VGA card. It ran MS DOS 3.0. You had to do some extra treatments as MS DOS wasn’t able to address the full 1MB of RAM. “highmem” and other things were necessary in the startup files autoexec.bat and config.sys. The CPU ran I believe at 16 MHz. And the case had this Turbo button. No idea anymore what it did 😉

You could feed it with 5,25” and 3,5” floppy disks. The first Linux distribution I bought in 1994 came on several 3,5” floppies. And around the same time I exchanged this beast with my first 486 AMD based PC.

The printer, a rock-solid Star LC 24-10 survived many many years. I still had it when I moved to Munich to join Oracle in late 1996. I sold it in 1998 on a flea market in Munich for a record high price of DM 20,-. It still worked pretty well. But I had no use for endless paper feeds at home anymore. I actually realize now that Star Micronics is still in business these days.

Conclusion

These days, my Brother ink printer has 256MB RAM. My smartphone has 64GB embedded storage. And I have no idea how much RAM it has as I never had to care about it. Time really flies. But when you clean up at home you sometimes find some gems transporting your memories back in time.

I received very nice comments on FB such as:

  • Mine was a 386 x86 from VOBIS for 2.5K DM
    Vobis was the competing chain to Escom just a few meters away from the store I bought mine.
  • And from Escom! I got my first PC (a 486 DX2-50, VESA local bus, 16MB of RAM in…’93?) when Escom had just entered the UK market and was cheaper than anyone else.
  • OMG, First PC. 640K RAM, 8088 with 8087 math coprocessor. Two 5 1/2 Floppy drives, a wopping 10M harddisk and hold your hat’s an Amber Monitor.
  • “And I was not born then

Time really flies. It was 28 years ago when I bought my first PC.

–Mike

7 thoughts on “Time flies – my first computer in 1990

  1. Hi Mike,
    “And the case had this Turbo button. No idea anymore what it did” – well it just slowed down your CPU as often software just used some kind of loop to wait e.g. for user input. And as processors got that blazingly fast, those loops would finish far to quick leading to some unexpected behaviour. I remember an old game where you would pilot a small plane which became impossible to do using keystrokes as even the shortest possible stroke would lead to a 90° turn from horizontal to vertical and back… So actually it was rather a brake than a turbo switch, but that wouldn’t sound that sexy 😉

    Oh, and as I’m much younger than you, my first was a 486sx (no math coprocessor, but still with turbo Switch) which was way cheaper (somewhere around 2500.- DM if I remember correctly) and already came with Windows 3.1.
    Cheers,
    Holger

    • Holger,

      thanks for this reminder. Now I remember as well that certain things required the TURBO switch – games especially 😉 OMG … 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Thanks,
      Mike

  2. My first two computers, both PCs, were almost the same as yours. The #1 was also a 286. I can’t remember the RAM, but the “whinchester” was just 10Mb. The graphics were just monochrome CGA. But video card (and monitor) are also Hercules graphics capable.

    My second one was also a 486, but a poor man version, the 486 DLC. This stripped version has no math coprocessor, but my mobo had one, apart from CPU. My CPU was made by Texas Instruments.

    Interesting fact was that the 286 CPU was also not made by Intel (my only one Intel CPU PC was my Pentium III), but by another company that I can’t remember now.

    Good, very good times.

    • Thanks Luis 🙂

      And “Hercules” card … oh gosh … this is such a long time ago 😉
      I went with AMD for many many years after my first one simply for the price. In the 2000s I switched to a Celeron CPU from Intel – but I regret it shortly after as the price fell like Yosemite Falls in spring – and the performance was terrible.

      Thanks 😉
      Mike

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