So, yesterday I happened to notice that I'd bought my copy of the 1st edition AD&D PLAYER'S HANDBOOK on May 2nd, 1980: exactly thirty-seven years earlier.
I'd started playing the game in February of that year, and remember that while I was fascinated by the game from the very start, I hesitated a while trying to decide which version to buy. There was the D&D boxed set, which seemed the reasonable place to start. But the guys I played with at the local Hobby Store urged me to ignore the word 'advanced' on the cover of the hardcover rulebooks buy this instead. I'm glad I did. Even though it was expensive for a poor grad student ($12.00) I've never regretted it. I still pull it down and create characters from time to time.
Just to make things more difficult, this was not the rules set by which the games were actually being run: that was a binder of xeroxed pages that I have since come to know were what's generally called 'the Cal-Tech rules'. I still have a copy of that as well, but I'm not nostalgic about it; it was superseded for me as soon as I got the hardcover PH. Eventually I managed to get all three books that made up the core AD&D rules set (at $12.00 for the MONSTER MANUAL and $15.00 for the DMG), but I don't seem to have written the date in my copy of either though I remember reading through the entire DMG over a Christmas break, which must have been December 1980.
A copy of Dungeon Geomorphs, and of Judge's Guild's DARK TOWER (the first module I ever bought, which still holds up well), and some dice, and I was off and running -- solo games mostly, until I found a group at Marquette circa the spring of 1982. And despite some periods when I cdn't find a group (the longest one corresponding to the first few years of Fourth Edition) I've been gaming ever since.
--who's too busy on the festschrift to roll up any characters right now, but knows it's just a matter of time.