punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

How I Ended Up in Computerland: Part 3 - Steve's House and my first computer

So then there was Steve. This poor guy, I think I tortured him a lot on Junior High. He lived a mile and half away, closer to our Intermediate school than I was in the opposite direction. I had to make quiet a trek to get to his house. I considered him a friend, but I am not sure how he considered me. I liked to torture him in science class by pinching off my veins in my hand and caused them to stand out. Somehow, and am not sure what transpired, I ended up at his house a lot. I liked his friends. There was Fred and Nicole (a guy), and we played D&D a lot as well.

Steve had a lot of current video games. I mean, his house was the place to be if you wanted the latest and the greatest. He had a Commodore VIC20, then a C64, and finally a C128. I am not sure if he ever got an Amiga, but it wouldn't surprise me. he also had all the latest console games. For a spoiled kid, he didn't act it. Always humble, and laughed at my jokes. Truth be told, I liked him a lot, and not just because of his video games. Steve was the first kid who taught me that computers could do more than games and program coin flip averaging. You could draw or use them like a typewriter to write. Word processing completely changed my perception of how to write.

But we played games, too. We used to play a game called "Mail Order Monsters" which I still think is one of the greatest games of the time. Similar to the concept later used by Pokemon, you fought monsters you raised yourself. In addition, you could mod them with your prize money from fights. One of my opponents was Nicole, who found a way to work the system so he'd have a massively tricked out monster. He'd pit them against weak monsters over and over, until he was rich and his monsters were overly powerful and then I'd beat them with my scrappy determination. No, I am lying heavily; really, he'd flatten my monster, and use what was left to wipe his monster's ass. But that was okay, Nicole gave me my first computer (later, at my high school reunion, Fred said he gave it to Nicole).

A Timex/Sinclair. One of the original ZX80 machines. The only other computer (besides the Atari 400) that had a touchpad keyboard that I had ever seen. Makes typing a pain in the ass if you're a touch typist, but I never was, so I pressed hard on the flat keys to generate one of my first "advanced" programs: making a 3-D cube. It wasn't really 3-D, but you could enter in "10,15,20" and get a 2D drawing of a 3D cube that was 10 pixels wide, 15 pixels tall, and 20 pixels from front to back. The ZX80 had a "fast" mode, where it would suspend the screen because back then, the computing power was so low, that it took more processes to draw something on your TV screen than it did to compute it. So you'd do all your calculations in "fast" mode, and then switch to slow mode to draw it out.

Sadly, storing your programs was a bit of a challenge. Technically, you could store it to your cassette player, but the connections were so bad that often stuff got corrupted. Most of the time, I'd have to re-type it, and that became a pain. Later on, my friend Jason got it, and used it to add some memory or something to a luggable computer he had from his intern work at NASA.

When I was friends with Kate, she had an old TRS 80 that I used to make D&D character sheets, but that was not so much programming as using a word processor, printing out the paper, and then her dad made photocopies at his work. Thanks, Dr. Tredwell! :)

But at this point, I had started a poisonous thought that sort of went like computers were for only two sets of people: gamers and strange beaded men who worked around mainframes. I was neither.

But that was about to change.
Tags: computer, computerhistory, tech
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