Thursday, September 9, 2010

Collecting Doorstops

Six Bits (and a Nail)

Six Bits
Written 9 September, 2010

Collecting Doorstops

Ten years or so a lot of people I know were contemplating buying their first computers. To a person, they all wanted the latest high-priced model, and were willing to put off their initial computer experience for years before finding enough money to purchase. And to a person they wound up playing solitaire and sending e-mail on their new PCs.

I tried to explain to them that any computer, no matter how old, does everything it did when people were once motivated to pay a thousand bucks for it. They didn't listen.

I still have most of the computers in the list in my previous post. My VIC-20, a number of Commodore 64s, two external floppy drives, and boxes of peripherals and floppy disks, sit in storage. One 1541 Commodore monitor does duty in my kitchen, where it's hooked up to cable tv via a DVD/VHS combo machine a second sits in my bedroom. My SX-64 resides in my bedroom also. I recently used it to retrieve a novel I had stored on it. I could have hooked it directly up to my PC, but I just printed it out and scanned the pages directly into text. It took some hours to find the mis-scans and correct them, but it gave me an opportunity to do a  minor re-write. I had a hard time operating the 64 because the keyboard keys weren't making contact; this because I kept it for years in storage without covering it.

My Mac Plus sits in its padded bag behind my bed. The Mac IIci is gone. The G3 sits in my bedroom. The G4 is gone.

When I acquired the Tandy Model 102, I gave the Model 100 to a friend who spent a lot of her time in a park.

I still have the alien computer, anticipating the day I'll drop a new motherboard in it. My Compaq laptop was stolen, but I still have my Fry's el-cheapo, and of course my new Sony VAIO laptop. I recently blew the dust out of my VAIO laptop, and it's running fine. My older PCs are gone.

Except for the alien computer, which I fried, every one of my computers is operational-- and every one of them does everything it did when I bought or otherwise acquired it. My Model 100 will still run my data collection program, and my Commodores will run hundreds of mostly pirated programs, some of which I've not seen on the PC. I miss the original Omega Race, and Activision's Little Computer People was a hoot. My VIC-20 still runs Six Bits, an communication augmentation program I wrote for a profoundly physically disabled man I once worked with. I called it six bits because with six presses of a digital switch he could select any character of the alphabet, numbers and puncuation marks, and print, save, load, and speak messages. With Six Bits, he wrote his autobiography and sent angry letters to the superintendent of the facility at which he lived. With it, he once delivered addresses to the national conference of the Civitans Club and the national meeting of the Association for Retarded Citizens. My Commodore 64, by the way, allowed the secretaries in the office of the Tennessee ARC to manage registrations of more than 1300 attendees of that conference, keeping records of payments, arrival and departure dates, housing, and special meal requirements, and print letters of acknowledgement and name badges.

Some people consider old computers doorstops. I consider them repositories for memories.


Brinda said...

It's not just computers.
As I get older (if that's possible) the more I understand my Mother and all those seemingly useless things she's "saved".

Cheyenne Palisades said...

Dang! My parents got smarter as I got older, too! Ain't it funny how that works?