Requiem For An XT

My PC died the other week. It's not a top of the line machine, but it was a reliable workhorse that gave me few problems in its three year life. I really wanted to get it working again -- I had a sentimental attachment to it, like a good carpenter's love for her tools. I put a lot of effort into resurrecting it. For a while the only operating system it would run was DOS. I hadn't had a DOS machine for six years, and it brought back some good memories.

My first PC was a Zenith PC/XT clone. At the time it was a pretty good machine: it ran well, had a fair amount of memory, and plenty of storage space. The video wasn't top of the line, but it was good enough. It ran DOS; a copy of Windows 1.0 came with it, but there were no Windows applications then and it was very slow. DOS was fine.

Ah, the places we went together. Everything was simpler back then, except for hardware installation. Compilers and word processors came on 5 1/4" floppy disks. There were no huge APIs to learn. Graphics programming was a snap in Turbo Pascal 3.01a. It made it easy to write small programs that did fun things. And program we did!

Graphics was the really fun thing. It only took a few lines of code to set the graphics mode. Once that was done, drawing a line was a single command. It was so easy that it took almost no effort to make the machine do what I wanted. Function plots, turtle graphics, hidden line removal, fractals -- we did a lot of things together. It seemed like every day held another discovery.

Even working in a word processor was fun. Okay, "fun" might be a bit much, but it had its advantages. It wasn't WYSIWYG, but italic text was italicized and bold text was bold. Fonts were limited, but this limitation was a fair trade for an application that didn't crash every few minutes. If you made me choose between the latest version of Microsoft Word and the DOS version, I'd go with the latter.

I remember well the programming bursts while checked out from the hospital. In fact, they're most of the few memorable moments of that CF cleanout: sitting in a hot apartment with a box fan, programming Mastermind. It kept me sane.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. I moved out of town and gave the XT to a friend. She used it until it eventually died. I'm told it was put out with the garbage, but was taken by someone before the trashmen arrived. I hope it gave someone else as much pleasure as it gave me.


2000-03-15. I have a copy of Turbo Pascal 3.02 and the manual as well now. It's time to resurrect some of that joy of programming.

Last updated 3 June 2000
All contents ©1999-2002 Mark L. Irons