@The Unexpected Bill
Well, my first exposure to a Trash-80 was when I was...4? I don't actually remember my first forrays into computing...but I do remember vividly being confused by the introduction of the mouse into my computing environment.
My earliest experiences were generally as simple as using someone else’s pre-configured text menus and playing games. Type 1 and hit return to get into the spelling game or Type 2 and hit enter to get into a text-based adventure game.
It was the text adventure games that did it for me: having to learn exactly how to type in “pick up candle” or some such really made future use of computers easier. From a fairly young age I was conditioned to learn how the computer worked as opposed to trying expecting the computer to know how I worked. This makes me a terrible programmer (I am not used to bending the system to my will) but a good sysadmin. (As a sysadmin I learn what the system can do and thus how to make it behave in unexpected ways.)
It wasn’t until the 80286 that I really got some legs under me and started working on my own. Navigating the command line, writing batch files, coding in QBasic and generally fully exploring what DOS could do. I remember being so proud of myself when I got my first 386 laptop (1MB RAM, 100MB HDD.) I had figured out how to load almost everything into extended memory and was sitting pretty on 631K conventional post-boot with all my drivers and compression software loaded!
It was an attempt to be really clever in early grade school that sent me down the road towards systems administration. I was trying to get a document I had written in Word Perfect over to a floppy so that I could bring it to school to work on it over lunch. The disk I took out of the box was unformatted and my father (with his magic book of commands) was not around. I hit “Format, return, Y, return.” Wiped out the C:\ drive. Oops. Fortunately my uncle was able to unformat the drive – but it was that incident that made me decide it was time to stop farting around with these smeggling things for games and documents and actually learn how to use them.
As you can probably take from the context then, the original “smart terminals” really were before my time. I certainly had procomm plus and a modem on my 80286. BBSes and fun! But it honestly was the closest I ever got to “terminals” until I was in junior high (early 90s) and started spending time at Libraries.
Odd though…the more this technology progresses headlong into the future…the more I miss the simple days of my 80286 and the sacred sheet of local BBSes. Photocopied and re-photocopied and distributed with great ceremony to young nerds like me. Oaths of secrecy were sworn and much ado was made about the importance of the information on that sheet. Computers were a super-secret private club back then. They were kludgy and wonky, awkward…and really cool.
I miss that. This instant interconnectivity, disposability and interdependency is a whole other world. It’s lost it’s shine somehow. The /mystery/ is gone. There is too much information available at your fingertips, and not enough requirement to spend nights hunting through piles of old books and documentation. Oh, but that’s another rant altogether…