Oct 11, 201109:42 AM
The Lighter Side
Exploring the humor and peculiarities of the Big Easy
Time to Put Away Childish Things
My first computer was an Apple II+ back in the early 1980s. The original 48k was beefed up to 64 with an expansion card. It was a sweet machine. Over the next few years I built it up even more and it eventually sported dual 5.25 inch floppy drives and an internal 300 baud modem. (Remember baud? I don’t even remember what baud stood for, except that it was a measure of speed.)
I taught myself Basic and coded with friends, even delving into "BBSs" - bulletin board systems which were the forerunners of today’s websites. For a while the II+ ran neck-and-neck with its arch-nemesis, the IBM PC, until its speed was eventually eclipsed by the latter’s monster 1200 baud modem.
Along with the coding, I played long-form games like Wizardry and Ultima. Individual games spanned about a half-dozen floppies – that’s how you knew you were getting your dollars’ worth. Other Apples came along and I played on those as well - the IIe, the “portable” IIc, and (eventually) the IIGS. But by this time high school was upon me and I left the computers behind to pick up guitar and learn how to talk to girls. Back then, liking computers was not something that was regarded as normal and I wanted to fit in. Walking away from those Apples is now one of my biggest regrets. Had I stuck with them, I like to think that the decision I’d have to be making right now would be where to send the Mega-yacht for the winter season – Australia or the Cote d’Azur – not wondering if open-cell foam insulation might save me $50 a month on my utility bills.
By the time I returned to computers, their world had largely passed me by. I caught the tail-end of the dot-com boom and managed to eke out gigs using HTML, that pig-Latin of a language that even a dim-witted lemur could master. I work now among guys who never gave it up, who now swim in Java and who speak of things beyond my comprehension. I like to listen, and I can follow to some degree, but it is akin to eavesdropping to someone fluent in Spanish while only having had a semester of college: I can pick out the words but I can’t really jump into the conversation. I’m now trying to get conversant again.
When Steve Jobs died I felt a real loss, as did many of us. I made the switch away from Apple recently, because I don’t really jibe with the proprietary nature of the model. Other open-source platforms have come along that interest me more. But I am sure that these Linux-based platforms were at least driven in part by a reaction to Steve and his vision. Even the haters owe a debt to him. And along the way I have owned a II+, IIGS, Performa 6300, MacBook, iMac, iPhone and more peripherals than I could throw a cordless mouse at. I made a conscious decision to put Apple in the rearview before Steve passed, but I would never have been in a position of strength to do that had it not been for him. And those early years on the Apple II were some of the happiest and most fulfilling times I had growing up. Thank you Steve, for having been with me all along the way.