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Tech Nostalgia

David Finster
Alert Human

I've rediscovered the IBM PC 5150 reference manuals.

  • The User Guide doesn't assume any prior knowledge of computers. It goes into great detail about basic subjects like what the cursor is, how arrow keys work. It's pretty nostalgic for me, because this was my tutor.
  • DOS 1.0 was pretty limited. It didn't even support subdirectories. Check page 22 for a fun fact: these machines didn't have a real-time clock, so the date and time had to be entered on every reboot.
  • The Basic Reference Manual was my introduction to programming. Frankly, it was a terrible manual, because it was mostly a command syntax reference that explained each command individually, but didn't explain them in context or how to use them together. There were a few terse examples, but I had to do a lot of experimenting and modifying code I typed in from computer magazines to learn how to program in Basic.
  • The Technical Reference Guide for the 5150 was pretty wild reading for a kid. Pages 123-207 had the full assembly code for the BIOS. 236-248 (ASCII codes) and 262-296 (the glossary) were my favorite sections, I spent a lot of time referring to these.

These were my introduction to computers when I was 13 years old. I spent hours poring over these three-ring binders. I distinctly remember the texture of the cloth binding and the smell of the paper.