Past Computing Devices

Main Timeline

PCs

Intel 80486 (1993)

Packward Bell Multi-Media 486, picture by /u/fwork on reddit

The Intel 80486 was my first PC. This machine was given to me by my grandfather who had an interest in computers for quite some time. This computer existed during a time before computer usage was required for school, so I spent most of my time playing games on it. There was also some light usage of Prodigy during this time, my first experience to the online world.

Unfortunately, due to my young age and having little experience with computers, I do not know the exact model or the rest of the specs. My best recollection is that it was a Packard Bell with a look similar to the provided image. The operating system was a version of MS-DOS and Windows 3.1, although I spent most of my time in MS-DOS as the games I played ran through there and not Windows.

Pentium (1996)

HP Pavilion

The next PC I had was a Hewlett Packard. The exact model has been difficult to track down, but as I was learning more about computers and how they work, the specs have stuck in my head. While I had been an avid computer game player since the 486, this was the machine that started the passion of online multiplayer for me. I discovered IRC and gaming clans on this machine, and played both cooperatively and competitively on it. One could argue this online aspect makes it the most influential machine in my life, as the foundation of online-focused games remains to this day, as well as a friendship gained during this time.

The image provided is not the exact model, but is the same look and as close as I could find to it.

Pentium 2 (1998)

My next PC was my first PC I built from scratch. It was built in 1998.

The case for the machine is unknown to me, but looked like a typical beige box for the time. This case would stick with me for 20 years. It was an ugly but functional case, kept mostly hidden away underneath my desk.

This machine was not only the first that I put together myself from individual components, but also the first that I upgraded myself. When the GeForce 256 was released the following year, I upgraded the GPU to be that. I would later upgrade to the GeForce 4 Ti 4600 near the end of this PC's existence.

AMD Athlon 64 (2004)

My second PC was the first machine I built that used something other than an Intel CPU. This PC was built sometime in 2004. It was also the first time that I used parts from a previous PC, with the GeForce 4 coming along for the ride from the previous PC.

Shortly after building this machine, World of Warcraft was my main game and I did some upgrades to try and perfect the performance of it. This included upgrading to 1 gigabyte of RAM and a GeForce 6800 Ultra.

PowerBook G4 (2005)

PowerBook G4

The PowerBook G4 marks my first non-Wintel machine, although it was not my first exposure to Apple computers. A friend of mine growing always had Macintosh computers for as long as I knew him, and while this was during the time period where Windows began to overshadow them, they still intrigued me in their differences.

This machine marks a lot of firsts for me. It was my first laptop. It was my first Mac. It was my first WiFi-enabled device. It was my first exposure to a trackpad. All-in-all, a rather memorable device for me, that changed how I approached computing.

Intel Q6600 (2007)

This next PC was not only my first machine to have a multi-core CPU, it went all out by being quad-core. In actuality, it was two dual-core CPUs put together, which meant that anything wanting to use more than 2 cores at a time had a performance penalty that made the CPU feel like a tri-core CPU. Most of the time this was not an issue, as multi-threaded programs were still not common during this time period.

This machine was later upgraded to 4 gigabytes of RAM. While this machine would end up being the longest used CPU in my computing history, it was the opposite for the GPUs. My first GPU upgrade was to a GeForce 550 Ti in 2011, and then followed by an upgrade to the GeForce 650 Ti in 2013. This was also the first machine I used an SSD in, with my boot drive becoming a 60GB Intel 330 SSD.

MacBook 13" (2007)

MacBook

The late 2007 MacBook was a fairly quick upgrade over the PowerBook G4 due to the Intel transition. While I am glad to have been exposed to a non-Intel platform, it was a bad time to get into Apple computers due to the impending transition to Intel CPUs. It was during this time that I learned that developers on Mac OS X were rather quick to upgrade their software to match Apple's requirements, as everything that I used already was or would soon be a universal binary, allowing non-emulated use on the new machines.

This was not my first Mac, but this machine marks the beginning of when my mindset became multiplatform. My interest in Mac OS X was high to the point where I already was thinking of purchasing other Macs. One of the reasons why the Intel Q6600 formed the core of my gaming PC was both its capabilities but also due to my being focused on having a complete and diverse contingent of Mac computers. The PC was downgraded to a gaming device, and this MacBook became my main machine for everything else.

iPhone (2007)

iPhone

The iPhone. One of the most revolutionary computing devices released in my early life, and one that I underestimated the impact of. When Steve Jobs first showed it off, it was a cool device but one that I was not interested in getting right away. At the time, my logic was that I had my laptop which would fulfill most of my mobile computing needs. This was quite misguided, but I would not know until after having the device for a few years.

There is a lot to say about how the iPhone changed not only my life but the lives of others who owned an iPhone or one of the competing smartphone platforms that launched in response to the iPhone, but I'll refrain here as it has been said better elsewhere.

Mac Mini (2009)

Mac Mini

The early 2009 Mac Mini was my third Apple computer and my first Apple desktop. This device started out as an experiment in having a centralized media server. A few years prior I had begun converting my music library into being lossless where possible, instead of mp3 and AAC files. This required connecting external hard drives, as the laptop drives used in my MacBook was not large enough to hold the music. Regularly disconnecting the drives was an extra burden every time I took the machine to school, so having a desktop that those drives could attach to helped.

This was the initial role of the Mac Mini, but it slowly turned into my primary computing device. My MacBook would be the mobile device for when I was on campus, but when I was at home, my Mac Mini would be what I used. Apple's MobileMe service was expanding its services during this time, which I used as an experiment for syncing files between the devices.

The HDD was upgraded to a 500 gigabyte HDD later on its life just to give me more breathing room, as it was a spare drive that I no longer used in other devices. Like most Apple hardware, I did not make any other changes.

MacBook Air (2010)

MacBook Air

The replacement for my MacBook, and the last Mac laptop that I owned. This machine is the epitome of what makes Apple's hardware great. It makes a lot of compromises in the name of mobility, but what it has left is perfect for the use and form factor. This was also the laptop that I kept running for the longest time, with it being used up until it was no longer supported.

iPhone 4 (2010)

iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 was my second iPhone. It was a solid upgrade to the original iPhone, and it was around this time that the App store was coming into its own. The original iPhone functioned well with just base apps, but expectations changed quickly as third-party apps expanded the platform into something else. While it would not be as notable at the time, this was the first iPhone to run with an Apple-designed CPU, which they have stuck to doing for every iPhone since.

This phone is infamous for being leaked so heavily ahead of time, as well as the antenna issues that it had. The outer band of the phone acted as an external antenna, which meant that holding it in a certain way reduced how strong the cellular connection was. Due to this, Apple gave out free cases for the phone, which I took advantage of and consequently was the first case that I used for any cellular phone.

iPhone 5S (2013)

iPhone 5S

To this day, the iPhone 5S remains my favorite iPhone ever released. The design of the device is peak Jony Ives, with a beautiful exterior, flawless functionality, and a classic look that made no compromises. It was the last iPhone to not have a camera bump, which is a design compromise that I dislike.

If Apple ever released another phone with this exact design but modern internals, I would buy it in a heart-beat.

Mac Mini (2014)

Mac Mini

My second Mac desktop, and the first time that all of my Apple devices did not have an optical drive. This Mac Mini was a nice step up from the previous one in all but one way: the hard drive. My previous Mac Mini had its hard drive upgraded to something that was both higher capacity and speed. This Mac Mini was a stock 5400 RPM hard disk, which after having both my gaming PC and my MacBook Air running on an SSD, loading speeds are back to being a bottleneck. This Mac Mini was difficult to upgrade, so I left it as is.

Despite my love for the Mac Mini form-factor, this particular machine is pretty low on my list of favorite Macs. Unfortunately, it also fell in a period where Apple did not update the Mac Mini again for 4 years, so I kept it longer than I would have liked, since none of Apple's other desktop options appealed to me.

iPhone 6 Plus (2014)

iPhone 6 Plus

As much as I loved the iPhone 5S, I replaced it rather quickly when Apple announced significantly larger iPhones. My job at the time had me taking the train into work, and I wanted a device that was easier to read on while riding the train each day. I was not yet looking to purchase an iPad, so a larger phone helped fill that role. The iPhone 6 Plus was generally a good iPhone, although I disliked the camera bump that it added, and it did occasionally exhibit from what tech commentators have called "touch disease", wherein the touchscreen will not respond to touch until the phone has been locked and then unlocked again. Beyond this issue, I had no other issues, and the phone ended up lasting me 5 years, even without replacing the battery.

Intel Skylake (2015)

Skylake

It took 8 years, but 2015 was the time to replace the venerable Intel Q6600. I had been keeping an eye on benchmarks, and the previous desktop CPU line, Haswell, was starting to surpass the Q6600 significantly. Games that I played were starting to become CPU limited, as performance metrics were showing. The i7-6700 was still quad-core, but a true quad-core that reduced the overhead of running multithreaded programs. Games were still having issues taking advantage of all the cores when I purchased this machine, but like with the Q6600, I wanted to try and make this machine last as long as possible.

This machine has seen many GPUs pass through it. The first upgrade was to an NVIDIa GeForce 780 Ti, generously donated by a friend. This was later upgraded to an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB when the 780 Ti was damaged due to a power supply failure. After the 1060, I became a bit disenfranchised with NVIDIA's tactics, seeing how they handled the RTX 20 series, so for the first time in my life, I purchased an AMD GPU with the Radeon RX 5700.

Apple Watch (2015)

Apple Watch

Apple's announcement of the Apple Watch excited me more than any previous Apple device. The first Apple device that you wear, the first of a brand new product category for them, and one that the market had toyed with previously but did not shake up the world. I had worn Fitbits before, but this looked to expand that functionality beyond anything others had done.

Initial pre-orders for the device opened up at midnight, which at the time, I was driving home from work. I pulled off to the side of the road just to get my pre-order in as quickly as possible. Despite doing this right at midnight, I still had to wait over a month to receive my space gray Apple Watch with black sportsband.

In retrospect, the first generation Apple Watch was a seriously compromised device. The battery would not last a full day if you used it heavily, it was slow, and it took a few generations of software updates before Apple themselves even truly understood the device. But even with all this, it remains one of my favorite Apple devices just due to how much it expanded the concept of what computing could do.

iPad (2017)

Apple iPad

Tablet computers were a device class that I came to much later than most. I previously had a Google Nexus 7 that met an untimely end, but was in no rush to replace it with something that fit in with the Apple ecosystem better. The 5th generation iPad is when Apple lowered the introductory price of full-size tablets down below $500, which helped push me towards getting it. I was also working graveyard at the time, and having a larger device than my phone was helpful for reading and researching topics during downtime at work.

Apple Watch (2018)

Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch Series 4 was a gigantic leap in capabilities over my initial "Series 0" Apple Watch. CPU speeds were significantly faster, the OS gained a ton of new abilities, and the Apple Watch itself had become an accepted part of daily life for many. I still run as much as I can from the Watch, and independent watch apps added in watchOS 6 have made this even more capable. This particular watch is still only WiFi capable, but my reliance on it has me thinking about getting a cellular version for my next upgrade.

Mac Mini (2018)

Mac Mini

After the less than stellar performance of the 2014 Mac Mini, Apple's announcement of a much more powerful Mac Mini made me incredibly happy. This would end up being the first Mac that I ordered customized, and my intent was to maximize its capabilities so that it both lasted me a long time and made me happy as I used it. Given the constant rumors of Apple switching the Mac lineup to their own ARM CPUs, I wanted this potential last x86 Mac to last a long time as that transition unfolded.

While owning this machine, I began the process of upgrading all of my monitors to 2x DPI. The GPU built into the Mac Mini was insufficient, so I purchased a Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box and installed an AMD Radeon RX 570.

iPhone 11 (2019)

iPhone 11

The iPhone 6 Plus lasted me 5 years, longer than any previous cellular phone had. It was a great device, but iOS 13 no longer supporting it meant that it was time to upgrade. The iPhone 11 is still a great phone, but as good as it is, my infatuation with the form factor has definitely waned. These are now functional devices that do not garner much excitement in me.

This was the first device that I owned that used an Apple GPU built into the system-on-a-chip. This is also the first iOS device that I began making apps.