Thomas Chavez

Tom began working at Radio Shack in his senior year of high school. While working there, he also started attending college. His experience with computers began when he signed up for his first courses in computer programming. During those days, they used terminals in the computer lab to write programs and get the program and the results on long tractor fed sheets of paper. Tom would write his programs and turn in his long printouts to be graded. He spent some pretty long hours in the computer lab trying to debug one program or other. The next year, Radio Shack introduced their first home and small business computer; the TRS-80. Tom had leaned enough in college that he became the primary computer salesman in his store. Tom even wrote a couple of programs for store use. One of these was an interactive presentation that asked for the user to input their name then hit the Enter key to start. The program went on to ask if this was for home or business use and continued on by personalizing the home or business uses the computer would be used for. That became their primary sales tool and sales were quite good. In fact, sales were good enough to place Tom’s store as the number one seller of personal computers in the US’s Southwest. Sadly, Tom had to take a hiatus from college. Tom lost his job at Radio Shack, so he had to take work where he could find it. College had to be put on the back burner until Tom could gather up enough money to return. However, in 1982, Tom went back to college and started classes at Las Vegas Business College. On his first day in computer programming, Tom was very surprised to find several banks of IBM PCs in the computer class/lab. These were all IBM5150 models with two floppy disks; one for loading the operating system and programs, and the other drive for saving work to be turned in to the professor for grading purposes. Each student was provided two floppy discs at the beginning of the term. Tom loved those IBM computers and their green monochrome displays. He went on to graduate and all the while using these systems for all of his work. It was then that Tom made up his mind that he would one day get one of these computers for himself. (Little did he know it would take 30 years to finally get one.) During his time in college, he leaned to program in BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL and even CPL; all on these same IBM systems. Tom spent many long hours in the computer labs writing programs, running the results and even obtaining the manuals for the computer so he could learn how these systems worked. The love affair blossomed. The IBM5150 Personal Computer was the very first in the 2nd generation of “micro” computers Tom had complete access to. This was the computer he learned the most on, and the first computer he wrote programs worth anything in terms of revenue or real usefulness. In short, Tom owes everything he was to become to that one PC. If it weren’t for that computer alone, he would not have become the intrinsic geek he is today. Time went on and Tom eventually had to leave the computer field. He could not afford to buy a computer of his own, mainly due to the price of the systems at the time. An IBM 5150 Personal Computer similar to those he had in college sold for a minimum of $10,000. To get any of the later models wasn’t any better. life got in the way of completing any kind of graduate program, so Tom went to work wherever he could. Eventually he became disabled and found an old Packard Bell computer, similar to the IBM 386 systems, but this one had a hard drive installed along with a few productivity programs and utilities. The computer came with a manual on DOS 3.1, so Tom read that to learn as much as he could on his own. Then, something marvelous happened. Computer prices fell to where most people could afford to buy one. Tom bought a new Packard Bell model running the then new, Windows 95. We won’t go into that much here. Suffice it to say that whenever Tom bought a new computer, he always felt that he was somehow making a compromise. They just weren’t IBMs. Finally about a year or so ago, a friend at Tom’s work was complaining that he hated the keyboards used at his job. Tom never really thought about them much, and let it pass. Later on though, the conversation came up again where the other employee had mentioned that they should all be using “clicky” keyboards because they were so much better than the new ones. That got Tom thinking about getting one of the older IBM keyboards. He finally found several IBM model M keyboards and has used one on his home built PC ever since. The IBM Model M keyboard got Tom thinking about IBMs PCs again, specifically the IBM5150 computers he used during his college days. Tom started looking, and found web sites like; “The Vintage Computer Forums”, “Old’, “Computer History” and others. He did some research on old computers and found that prices for these systems have fallen to the point to where he could afford one. Tom looked on places like E-Bay,, local newspapers and want ads, but the best resource he has hit upon was the Vintage Computer Forums. Tom eventually found the IBM Personal Computer he wanted while searching the Forums section titled “Vintage Computer Items for Sale or Trade”. There was a new post from one of the members selling a complete IBM5150 PC. Actually another member pointed Tom towards the post. The seller didn’t have any idea what to ask, and Tom didn’t want to get into a bidding war. Tom informed him that he was interested and finally made my offer. To Tom’s surprise, the seller accepted his bid. He even waited the two weeks it took for Tom to put the funds together. Since the cost of shipping the system was also quite high; over $350.00, Tom made a call to his brother in law and together, they made arrangements for the purchase and storage at his home until Tom’s wife made a planned trip to Southern California in a couple of months. This is a great computer system. It came with a beautiful IBM5150 Personal Computer, original keyboard and CGA color display. The computer has been in operation for over 6 months in it’s current condition. In other words, it has been updated and upgraded as far as feasibly possible without changing what the system was. Tom kept true to the IBM’s origins, even locating a very rare IBM 5161 Expansion Unit; which now has two full height hard disc drives. One drive is the original 10 Meg MFM drive, and the other is a 30 Meg full height unit. (More information can be found under the Hardware tab. Look for “Alice”, the name Tom chose for this particular build. Indeed; Alice has become the center piece of a small, but growing vintage computer collection. and become the envy of many of the members of the Vintage Computer Forums; Alice has really become special in the world of vintage computing. Photos of Alice can be found both here, and on our Facebook page as well. Send Tom an e-mail.

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