I actually started with a Timex/Sinclare, but shifted to TI99-4a when I started. All that was without the benefit of the online community.
My first Commodore was the SX-64 which was a lug-able computer. I bought it with a modem that connected to the game port, and was soon dialing into places like GEnie, The Source, and CompuServe.
I got rid of the Timex due to it crashing while I was entering code from a magazine. If I ever finished a program, I had to save it to a cassette tape.