My first computer was a TRS-80 model 1, 16KB RAM, cassette tape drive for data storage, 16 row, 40 column black & white monitor, uppercase only, all built into the keyboard. I still remember the taxi ride home, because the whole box was just too large to carry onboard a city bus. I quickly upgraded it with a third party expansion box, to upgrade to 48KB RAM and add the ports for an Epson MX-80 matrix printer, an Exatron Stringy Floppy storage tape device, and a Hayes 300 modem. The TRS-80 was a nice first computer, still worked when I threw it away many years later. Someone grabbed it from the street before the garbage truck came, so maybe its still in use.
My next computer was a Franklin Apple IIe clone with 48KB RAM, which featured two built-in 5″ dual-sided floppy disks, and a Z-80 co-processor board with it’s own 48 KB RAM and 16 KB ROM, so I could boot up CP/M and run WordPress and other open source software. The Apple platform was much more powerful than the TRS-80, graphics wise. I upgraded that with a 10 MB RAM disk, that was a lightning fast storage device that would lose everything if the power went out, so it could only be used to cache the OS image and temporary data.
The Apple II user community was tight knit and helpful, with lots of creative types releasing tons of magazines, BBSs, software and printer templates to let you use your computer to it’s fullest in the 1970s and 80s.
My next computer was an i386 with 8MB RAM and a 200 MB MFM disk, running MS-DOS. Eventually I got Desqview OS virtualization software, so I could run multiple DOS boxes simultaneously and switch between them at will. Windows 3.1 became a thing, but it was extremely primitive compared to what Windows has become today. a few years later, I upgraded that case to a new motherboard, and new AMD 486-clone CPU later on, and had a 2400 bps modem for a long time. Later on, work gave me a 9.6 kbps modem, and even later a 14.4 kpbs modem, and that’s when I started accessing the Internet from dialup. I bought a multiport serial card to hook up multiple modems for a bbs, and a SCSI-2 interface card to add a couple of 9 GB hard drives that were hand-me-downs.
It was on this 386 that I started running ESIX, a release of AT&T SysVR3 UNIX for i386 platforms. I even wrote my own BBS in the Perl language, and had a few regular users. I tried out the new OS GNU/Linux, by installing Slackware 0.99pl11. At work I was learning about BSD Unix, and at home I had DOS, Windows 3, SysV UNIX and 1st generation Linux.
Eventually I upgraded my desktop to a prebuilt HP Pentium (i586), where I ran Windows 95 and various flavors of Linux. I went from Slackware, to Red Hat, Mandrake, TurboLinux, Ubuntu, and finally to CentOS. My current favorites are Xubuntu on desktops and CentOS 7 on servers.
I didn’t latch back onto the Apple train until my boss gave me a Mac Pro workstation to take home and learn why they all liked it so much more than windows and Linux. Didn’t take me too long to come to the same conclusion, that when you use a Mac, you spend more time using the computer, and far less time mucking about with settings, drivers, upgrades, and other hassles. You still need anti-virus software, and reliable 2 level backups – local and remote/cloud.
These days, I’m getting tired of Apple’s dropping reliability rates, and constantly rising device and repair costs. After the Spectacle and Meltdown disasters, I want to wait for the next generation CPU to come out, and replace my all-in-one iMac with something of the class of the AMD Ryzen 7 1700x, GTX-1060, and just go back to running Ubuntu at home.
I’m perfectly fine running apps as containers using LXD and Docker tools, and using VirtualBox to run any other OSs I want. I will lose access to some music I’ve purchased through iTunes, but I’ll still have my iPhone, until such time as a generic, open source, touchscreen smart phone market becomes a thing.
To be a success, an open source phone would require a published, documented, verifiable design that anyone can implement, improve upon, release, and that would be hard, because it sounds so anti-business, anti-profit, but if you think about how the original PC design became open, how everybody made money selling their version, and all the benefits for users due to cheap and open standard interface ports.
Of course, the phone would also need an open source, community managed operating system, all the basic apps, and an editable list of app stores trusted to download apps and updates from.
There exist Android emulators for Linux, and in fact, Android is itself an open source Linux based system, so perhaps it can somehow be figured out how to provide Android app store compatibility, such that some of the most popular user apps could be used at launch in an emulated manner, until such time as the developers can be convinced to port their app to our platform.