In 1979 I was an 11-year-old who desperately
wanted an Apple II. My parents wanted to buy me
one, but $2,000 was just too much money. Then one
day my dad came home with a pile of photocopies
of the poster-sized wiring diagram that shipped with
every Apple II. He taped it together, began dropping
wire-wrap sockets into a big prototyping PCB, and
we were building one ourselves.
I helped a bit, but my dad did
most of the work. He sat at the
kitchen table late into the night
for months, wire wrapping the
board and tracing the diagram
in yellow pencil crayon as he
finished each line. The wire-wrap gun looked like a ray gun. I’d hear it steadily zip
as I was falling asleep. When the diagram was solid
yellow, we started checking continuity. I remember
buzzing out the board with a multimeter as Dad
called out endless wire start- and end-coordinates
from the diagram and then marked them in orange
if they worked.
When it was finally finished, it was an ugly piece
of hardware with a giant, old teletype keyboard, a
case-less CRT he pulled out of a dumpster somewhere, and a blue Fisher-Price kiddy tape recorder
for “storage.” The power supply was a separate box
connected by a long wire.
It worked for a couple of years before corrosion
in the wire-wrap connections
started hanging it too often.
By then the guys at my dad’s
workplace had used in-house
CAD software to replicate the
Apple II board and had a couple hundred made. There was
hell to pay when management
found out. We cannibalized most of the chips for the
new board and bought a proper case, but I couldn’t
bring myself to throw out the old board. I still have it.
It’s kinda busted up from a dozen moves and covered
with dust and cobwebs. But it’s my first computer.
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Photograph by Gareth Palid wor
My First Computer
By Gareth Palidwor
192 Make: Volume 01