In the late 1970's, when the personal computer bug bit you the choice was simple: Apple II v. Atari 400/800 v. Commodore PET. In retrospect, the answer is obvious. But I guessed wrong: first Commodore (~1977 - ~1982) and then Atari (~1982 - ~1984). I was an impecunious grad student, and the Commodore PET ( = "Personal Electronic Transactor" --- what a dorkismatic name!) at $800 was cheaper than the competition. It came with a massive 8kB of RAM, a built-in monitor, and a tape cassette drive for (slow) program storage and retrieval.
Once I got the PET I began to raise money for frills by writing magazine articles on hobby computing themes. The prose was pedestrian but the cash flow was good --- something close to minimum-wage, if one counted all the software development time, but I didn't know any better. And I would have done the programming regardless, so any return was pure gravy. (I wasn't a vegetarian then.)
I wrote for Byte, Creative Computing, Commodore Microcomputing, Personal Computing, and anything else that would pay. See http://www.his.com/~z/guestbook/zhurnal08.html#20000523 for a brief and incomplete annotated bibliography.
As for me, cf. http://www.his.com/~z/
for an index into far too much online material,
including the (in)famous ^zhurnal project at
In brief, I finished my Ph.D. in physics (Caltech, 1980) and have been
living a boring existence --- working in a nice job for the Federal
Government for the past couple of decades, married to the same nice
person, raising three nice kids, etc., etc. (OK, so we're multiracial
philosophical homeschoolers and there are lots of less-conventional
aspects of our lives ... but I won't go into that here!)
^z = Mark Zimmermann