First 2Mhz 8080 computer.

Year was 1994 and I was at the fifth grade. Somehow my Kirivere school got 2 Juku computers with 2Mhz 8080 processor and 64KB of RAM that were scrapped in favor of PC-s in city schools. Now the computer club was started. These were very exciting times where once a week for an hour 10 or so students came together and watched eachother play Xonix. This meant around 10 minutes of computer games per week and every week was worth waiting for. Fun lasted maybe half a year when both of the computers were stolen during the night.

Fortunately next year there was news that there will be new and better computers coming. However for the huge disappointment these computers were assigned to teachers only. Maybe couple of months went by and these were stolen as well and school did not have any more computers for some time again. Luckily thieves from the same school were soon caught and computers retrieved. Possibly it played a role that the school was in remote area around 1km away from closest village.

On 6th grade kids got access to computers again. Now computers were in another room on the second floor with metal bars on windows and at the door. We had very kind computer teacher Raivo Mägi that let us operate there quite freely. Fun fact, he was also Estonian Record holder in 800m run for 15 years. However he was in the house only once a week and kids wanted more computer games than that so some other teachers let us loose alone in the computer class.

By the 7th grade I was de facto computer class administrator. I had the key, I was letting others in after classes were over or during the breaks and I was in charge to make sure all computers are operating. When teachers had problems then I was excused from the class to come and configure their printers etc. These were the best times, I was sitting in the computer class playing games sometimes even till midnight. Only school vacations were hard as nobody were allowed to go to school. Problem was solved so that my computer teacher allowed me to go to his home and play computer games in there. One one next vacation we solved it in a way that I got the wheelbarrow and took one computer to my home for a week.

This computer stuff also improved physical ability. If you are a little boy and its late and dark and you have key to expensive computers that everyone wants to steal all the time then you are not walking home slowly but run quite fast.

On 8th grade or so things started to go downhill. For example teachers said that it is not allowed to go to computer class during the breaks. While this restriction was somehow manageable then we got into quite big trouble when head of local municipality started asking why are the computer class lights on all the time late in the night. Now when the principal and teachers started investigating what is really happening and big party was over. There was rule made that I was still computer class administrator but the key was taken away from me. After classes they gave me the key to let everyone in but by 18 sharp I had to take the key to principal home or else.

At some point we got dial up internet and modem. Together with was weather program where I had to measure outside temperature and humidity every noon and email this data somewhere. What a suprise when one day modem started to talk with strange man voice, it turned out that modem had ability to call people so so we could hear them and they did not hear us. Thats another evening well spent.

Now I know that I was logging into some unix system and doing using CLI e-mail client. I remember creating (email)accounts for my whole class for learning about email in the computer class. I even sent e-mails to one girl I liked in my class even though she never answered. Most likely because she never logged into the email system after class was over.

Interestingly our math book has QBasic programming language samples. Nobody really knew what are these until I found out that our computers have also QBasic support. Then I learned my first programming on my own. Next amazing step was Fortran that had super ability to generate .exe files so I could build real executable calculator.

Overall this experience taught me a lot. I had to be independent and get stuff done without anyone to ask from. If floppy disk broke down then there no game. If you do not know how something works then go and find out, click all the buttons, see all the menus. These days there were no web browsers that you could just go and search from Google.

While I graduated 9th grade then Pentium just has come out but I never saw this yet. Computer class consisted of several humanitarian aid 286 computers. There were also already better 386 and top of the line 75Mhz 486 that was able to run even Doom 2 very smoothly. It also had Windows 3.1 that was great tech back then.

Before going to high school I worked all summer long and afforded to buy myself used 486 100Mhz with sound card. This was powerful enough to barely play MP3, I was so lucky about WinAmp and got somewhere even CD with a lot of songs.

Next bigger step was 1st year in university so I could take study loan 15 000EEK (1000EUR). 10 000EEK went straight for buying brand new computer and 5000EEK (300EUR) was left for food for a year. The computer was top of the line AMD Athlon 1400 (Passmark under 300) which I bought in parts and assembled totally on my own.

These days it is much easier. 2 year olds get their parents smartphone and start learning IT immediately.

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