I had to figure out WHAT my old login information for the board was because I had to come back and comment on this awesome episode! Thanks, Mike and Meri, for helping me travel back in time!
My first exposure to Dragon Ball was when I was in fourth grade (which puts it around '93 or '94) and I had a friend across the street who was a year older than me. He had a teenage brother at the time who we thought was awesome, who had a group of friends who were always bringing over cool import games and things that blew my mind. One of his friends brought over a VHS tape of a show called "Dragon Ball Z" and it had a really elaborate clamshell cover... It had nice, hand-drawn(!) art on it and some kind of description on the back in what I THINK was Japanese. We watched it, and I don't recall if it was subtitled or not, but it was the beginning of the Cell Games (which I guess would make it a pretty recent episode looking back) and I was completely blown away by it.
Said friend later turned into a little douche and wouldn't let me come over to watch Dragon Ball anymore, saying that I "copied him" too much and Dragon Ball was "his thing."
A few years later I had friends who had subtitled tapes, but growing up in Sacramento there weren't really any places (at least that I knew of) to buy tapes. As the internet was gaining steam and eBay started to gain in noteriety, their parents would let them buy tapes that way, but unfortunatley my folks didn't trust it so I was left out. Still, any time one of them got a new tape we'd all get together and watch it, and the episodes were all out of order naturally.
I discovered that the International Channel was showing Dragon Ball Z in Japanese (I was never a fan of the dub, which was new at that point) so I would watch that each Sunday. I had a loose idea of who the characters were but the plot made no sense. Everything I had seen previously had Vegeta as a "good guy" so when I saw him and Nappa flying around I assumed that Nappa was a good guy too. HAH.
Fast forward a couple of years and the advent of sites like Planet Namek, Temple O' Trunks and of course Vegetto EX's Home Page and I grew into the informed fan I am today.