Throwback Thursday: Kaypro II Stole My Heart - InformationWeek

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Throwback Thursday: Kaypro II Stole My Heart
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Ellis Booker
Ellis Booker,
User Rank: Moderator
10/23/2014 | 11:09:37 AM
My first computer--not PC--was my dad's Wang minicomputer
Actually, the first extensive time I spent with a computer was my dad's Wang minicomputer in 1976. Dad taught himself BASIC and programmed the washing-machine-size behemoth himself. I recollect you had to let the hard drive (again, think washing-machine drum) spin up to speed before touching the keyboard. The danger was that the read-write head would tear up the drive if the disk wasn't spinning at operating speed. Good times, good times.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2014 | 10:33:59 AM
Sol 20
I remember those 'new-fangled' computers - a lot easier to move around than my Sol 20 with its' Micropolis floppy drive.  You are most correct, folks today do not know, understand, nor (sadly) care how we all brought what we have today to today...
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/23/2014 | 10:02:51 AM
Magnavox VideoWriter
I was afraid of computers until about 1996. In college, I stubbornly used my Magnavox VideoWriter word processor with a built-in printer and 3.5" floppy drive for writing papers. It was a terror. It's tiny screen only showed two paragraphs at a time and it would delete entire files at will. There was a computer lab at school that had Windows Desktops and printers, but I didn't go near it. Too modern for me. But soon enough the Internet came along, hardware and software got better and cheaper, and I learned to stop worrying and love the computer.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2014 | 9:44:29 AM
Kaypro II ... memories from the early 80s
We, too, had the state of the art Kaypro II from Andy Kay.  My dad was a datacenter (think IBM mainframe) guru who ran IT and kept me apprised of the ever-shrinking footprint of computer systems. 

I spent late nights mastering the CP/M operating system (still better than DOS!) and memorizing the ctrl shift command functions of word star word processing, spreadsheets (PerfectCalc?), and others.  Cataloging floppies by the dozens, it was amazing how many papers I "categorized" and the address book databases (hello mailmerge!) I had right there at my fingertips. 

Given the pricetag, the Kaypro II did not go off to Cal with me, so I dabbled in BSD Unix and bought this box called a Mac Plus in 1984. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

I'll go wake up my kids now.

User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2014 | 9:40:08 AM
In the Beginning... there was the Kaypro II
Great article!  Yes, you are right.  You truly never forget your first. I loved my luggable.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I bought my first computer in 1983. Wow - what a bargain in that ad!  I paid $4000 for mine!  But it was worth every penny.  I worked for a university and was one of the team responsible for running the payroll on their universities IBM 370 -- the computer that took of rooms and had less brains than your smartphone.  Almost nightly, some procedure would fail and I'd have to get out the portable line printing computer to fix it. Hook up the acoustic coupler, go make a sandwich, and maybe the proc would have printed out when you came back so you could enter line editing commands.  With my new Kaypro II, printing the procs became a thing of the past.  And with all that bundled software, I could do anything!  

The next year, however, a sexy little Compaq with a CGA monitor and 320K of memory came out and I just had to do it -- take out a loan for the $2100 to get one. And of, course, one led to another and to another.  I don't really remember what happened to my old Kaypro.  I wish I still had it, just for the historical significance.  I write this with two laptops and two smartphones within reach, but I still remember my first.


Lori Valone
Cornelius, North Carolina
User Rank: Strategist
10/23/2014 | 9:38:20 AM
Mine was a Kaypro as well
But my Kaypro was the one with MSDOS.  I was in the Navy and took it to sea with me.  I also bought an additional 64K of memory so that I could have a RAMDISK (gasp!) and load Wordstar's spell check dictionay into it to give me almost instant spell checking.  Everybody on the ship was astounded at the things I could do.  The only downside was I didn't bring enough paper with me and had to some serious scrounging by mid-cruise.  The ability to do things like cutting and pasting whole paragraphs was a heady experience when you go tasked with generating 50 letters of commendation for crewmembers (The Executive Officer decided to take advantage of my "toy" and gave me the list for the whole ship to do for him).  Not only could I do serious work, but in my free time I could ever play games like "Zork."  Heady times indeed. 
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