the year was 1981, i was 6, the place was Canadian Tire, the price was $999CDN- it was a C64 with 1541 drive and 1701 (or something) monitor.
programmed "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" and the moving balloon. Peek, poke 53281,0, etc. All the code in Byte magazine was typed out and fixed. Every article was read, whether or not I understood it. Floppy copy parties, ordering 5 1/4 floppy warez from a place in Germany through the postal service. used it for 6 years had mastered Jumpman- all levels on the randomizer.
then in 1987 I saved up my allowance, raked leaves, etc and bought an Amiga 500 for $399. workbench, deluxe paint IV, OctaMED and all the kick-ass demos got me enthused as "computer as artists tool". made many Red Sector type demos, pirated plenty of software, played Birds of Prey and all the Pysgnosis games.
another six years later and I bought a P90 for $2000.
the whole time i was reading everything i could get my hands on. in the early days it was a lot easier. you had your choice of a couple magazines; BYTE, Compute!, 2600/Phrack/CotDC and various "business" computer magazines which included code snippets. it didn't always make total sense, but it gave me something to talk about with my friends.
now i'm running a bunch of cheap homebuilt systems in a pharm* and use my AW7700 has my command console.
(network raid and streaming vid/audio, etc)