Check out this 1982 Atlantic Monthly article about the wonders of owning a home computer.
...many people suspect that IBM will wage a counteroffensive with a DOS of its own.His Processor Technology SOL-20 system, a computer I hadn't even heard of, had 48K of RAM and could use both upper- and lower-case letters, and cost about $4,000. The heavy-duty business machines had 64K of RAM. The weird Osborne, the first portable computer, weighed 23 pounds and had a monitor the size of a postcard. And it was a big seller.
Donna Bowman reminisced on the computers she's had a couple of Mondays ago, going back to a TRS-80. Our family got a TRS-80 Color Computer sometime around 1981 or 1982. It had a whopping 16K of RAM, and we never even graduated beyond cassettes and cartridges to a disk drive, but we did have the "Extended Color BASIC." We never got a real printer for it, though my dad did fiddle around with trying to convert an old teletype machine to a printer. Maybe it didn't do much by today's standards, but I played games more interesting than those on game machines of the time and learned how to program in BASIC, which was a lot of fun.
Sometime in junior high (Christmas 1985 or 1986) I got a Commodore 64 that was my machine until its disk drive finally conked out for good, sometime around my senior year of high school (1990-91), maybe in the summer before college. With the C64 I played a LOT of games (many of them cracked), did a lot of BBSing (local calls only), fiddled with BASIC while learning PASCAL at school, and wrote all my school papers, which I printed out on my "Near-Letter-Quality" dot-matrix printer. If I had a good old Atari joystick I'd get an emulator and play a lot of those games today, but without the joystick, it's not the same (this is the cue for me to Google "atari joystick usb").
Man, I haven't done any real (i.e., non-HTML) computer programming since learning C in college. I never even got to object-oriented programming. Seems like these days there are applications like Excel (actually, I use openoffice.org) that do most of the number-manipulating I'd be programming, if I were programming. But it seems like I'd find useful things to do if I relearned a programming language or two, though. What do people use these days to program web applications like, say, Marty O'Brien's county-counting site?