My computing history, Part 1

I have planned to retroblog about this for some time, but it was Abe’s post about the past that reminded me.

I started in high school, was it 4th or 5th grade? This was around 1985. I was advanced in Math or Science, so we had a computing class. We studied BASIC programming. I did not have my own home computer at the time, but I was already imagining some games that could be developed on graphing paper.

In Grade 7, 1987, I got a “PC XT.” It was a 8088 4.77 Mhz, 640 KB memory, 2 360KB floppy drives, CGA video adapter and monitor. It was a “clone” of the IBM XT platform, inside an “AT” case, but they were called “XT’s” for convenience. It had an unauthorized copy of the IBM BIOS complete with ROM BASIC. (Licensed machines had third-party BIOS without BASIC.) I did some programming in ROM BASIC, and then BASICA on the PC-DOS 2.0 platform. (PC DOS needed a IBM PC BIOS to run). I then migrated to Borland Turbo Basic and Microsoft QuickBasic.

I then swung around to the opposite end: programming in x86 machine language. I was inspired by Peter Norton’s Programmer’s Guide to the IBM PC. This was the day of hotshot programmers developing machine code in a few tens of KBs. I used Microsoft MASM, Borland Turbo Assembler (TASM), and their tools.

I made some PC utilities (what do I remember? a file splitter I think), which I submitted to PC Digest. I didn’t have a modem yet so I could not login to their BBS. I remember walking to their office in Legaspi Village to submit it on a 1.44 MB diskette. I believe I was already in college by this time, and was equipped with a 286 16 Mhz (with “turbo” I think), 2 MB RAM, and a 50 MB Quantum ProDrive hard drive. I was already doing some programming for college coursework – for my next post.


8 Responses

  1. The book “Peter Norton’s Programmer’s Guide to the IBM PC” was an inspiration for me as well. I remembered reading about that book in one of the articles from a book about viruses and local anti-virus writers.

  2. Good you brought that up. I got involved with the Ateneo Virus Research Group for a while, but totally forgot about it. I’ll cover that story.

  3. hahaha. that’s how i remember meeting you back in college. I believe I still have a copy of the source code of the AScan program that the AVRG came up with.

  4. By 1985 I would have just been born. Heh

  5. Remind me of my upcoming blog entry, “Why I Feel Old.”

  6. 1985? I was fifth grade, then. (Yeah, I’m old, but I don’t feel like it. Heh.)

    I bought my first computer programming book (on FORTRAN!) on the summer of 1985, just for kicks. Had to track back and learn BASIC on my own in high school, then went on to Pascal, assembly and C (in that order) in college.

    I remember Ateneo’s Luis Sarmienta coming out with “PC Buster” (?). Were you part of his group?

    (As an aside: my roommate in Kalayaan (UP freshman dorm) introduced me to the wonders of assembly language {using Norton’s famous pink-shirt book).)

  7. I opened my cabinet and took out – the PC Digest Virus Survival Kit, edited by Po and Chin Wong.

    From Appendix C, “The Virus Busters” – the Ateneo Virus Research Group was Luis Sarmenta, Johnson Sia, Robertson Chiang, Anthony Francisco, Rene Lacson and Sidney Santos.

    I was in the second iteration of this group, when they had a generic checksum checker, “Aegis.” (as in shield, not the Ateneo yearbook). Their original version was in Turbo Pascal, a language I despised. I implemented the second version in Turbo C (or was it Borland C?). Unfortunately Aegis was not as popular as the specific virus removers.

  8. […] At some point I joined the Ateneo Virus Research Group, when viruses were all the rage. (I have some recollections in my previous post.) I implemented my code in C. C was heaven compared to Pascal. I used Turbo C, and then later Borland C/C++. For Christmas in 1993 or 1994, I made a “brick game” in Borland C++ and its proprietary VGA graphics module, as a gift. One of our senior projects was also in C or C++ – networking class. We made a multiplayer LAN shooting game – inspired by the CROBOTS fighting robots perhaps? It did not use IP, just layer 2 broadcasts. […]

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