I vaguely remember when my dad bought a 286-12MHz with 256-color VGA graphics, DOS 4.0, and a dot-matrix Epson printer. That was an all-day shopping trip, like buying a refrigerator. At the time I was still using my allowance to buy newspapers and read them in the car, and my dad ended up refunding my quarter because I turned up a Computer City coupon that saved something like $100 on the printer when purchased with a computer system.
We ran that thing for years, and it never did have a soundcard. My dad set up a batch-file menu system so we could access the basic programs, like Microsoft Works and Funnels & Buckets. Somewhere along the line, my mom developed a bit of a Tetris addiction. I got sufficiently frustrated about not knowing how to make the computer work that I finally sat down with the DOS 4.0 manual and walked right through it, command by command. And lo, for it was destiny...
I think I discovered Tom's Hardware, back when it was more like what TR is today, shortly after its inception in 1996. Around the same time, ComputorEdge was still publishing hardcopy and had just opened a sub-office in the Denver area, so that was my other source of "hot and new" information. Even got a couple letters published, I think.
He who laughs last, laughs first next time.