In the following years I tried to improve my programming skills, but I was limited to the Texas Instruments TI-57. One of the drawbacks back then was the loss of all programming data when the TI-57 was switched off or the batteries died. In that case you better had a good paper documentation of all your programming steps and you were forced to manually enter your program once again.

But things should change soon as multiple things happened almost simultaniously. In 1979 I finished school and was looking for an apprenticeship on the german jobmarket. Electronic Engineering preferred.

And I got access to a ton of computers through a friend of my father. To be more specific I now could lay my hands on a

Commodore PET
Commodore PET
, a Commodore CBM, an Apple II, a Tandy TRS80, a Sinclair ZX81 and an Osborne 1 portable computer. Not that I had all the time access to all the computers but once a week access to some of them was already more than you could dream of back in the days. I couldn't afford to buy only one of these computers.

I started learning how to use the different operating systems, how to write BASIC programs and I was reading every computer magazine I could get a hold of.

In September 1979 I started an apprenticeship as an Telecommunications Engineer at Deutsche Bundespost, which had, back then, the monopoly in Germany for all telecommunication services. And with the newly earned money I could afford to buy me a TI-59 programmable calculator. The TI-59 had the advantage that it had a magnetic card read/write module integrated which allowed you to write/save your programm onto a magnetic card. No more problems of gone code through power losses. I immediately started to convert all the electronics formulae from my textbooks into code, which was very helpfull to speed up the process of calculating electronic circuits. Some times later I added the TI PC-1600 thermoprinter to my TI-59 which allowed me to print out program listings and a lot of other fun stuff.

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."
- John Cage
More and more it came to be that I was working with programmable calculators as a portable device for calculating electronic circuits and the part time access to more powerful computers to more or less properly learn how to program using COBOL, PASCAL (later TurboPASCAL on the INTEL 80286 platform) and Assembler - which is a different story.

Stay tuned for more tales from the Cro-Magnon age of computers.

Have fun and stay healthy!

How everything started - Part #1
How everything started - Part #2
How everything started - Part #3

Copyright © 11/2021 by Howard Fuhs

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