Dreams Do Come True

I used to dream of owning a computer. Starting when Popular Electronics ran the article on the Altair 8800 I yearned for my own computer. As it turned out, the Altair 8800 was pretty much a hangar queen (aviation talk for a plane that seldom makes it off the runway). As it was originally configured, the only input devices were the toggle switches on the front panel and the only output devices were the lights that corresponded with the switches.

It didn’t take long for MITS to offer a serial card that allowed the 8800 to talk to a teletype machine. That gave it a keyboard and a printer and, on fancy teletype models, a paper tape punch/reader. Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the first version of Microsoft Basic for that machine.

I followed the blossoming of the personal computer hobby, largely by reading magazines like Byte, Kilobaud, and Compute. As time passed, the market grew and there were multiple ready made personal computers available. They always exceeded my budget by a considerable sum. Each year the capabilities of the latest models grew by factors of two or three while the cost remained essentially constant. For many years, the machine that I wanted cost approximately $1000. It was a different, more capable machine each year, but the cost was constant.

The first computer that I owned was itself somewhat of a hangar queen. It was an Ohio Scientific CIP. This was a 6502 based computer, as was the Apple II and the Commodore Pet. The particular machine I owned was given to me by a former employer in lieu of back wages that he owed me. It had been sitting in the shop for years with hardware bugs in it that none of us had been able to totally exterminate. It was better than no computer at all, but just barely.

Soon after that, I got my first real computer system. It was a Kaypro II. It was euphemistically called a luggable computer. It was too bulky and heavy to really be considered portable. It had two floppy drives, a z80 processor, a keyboard, an 80 character by 25 line display, and it ran CP/M. I was ecstatic.

I’ve owned many computers since then, some of them expensive, some of them incredibly inexpensive. I have several Arduinos that cost less than $20. I own several Raspberry Pis that are in the same general price range. Cell phones are more powerful computers than corporate data center mainframe computers were in the sixties. I can only imagine what people will think of our computers in twenty years.

But when it comes right down to it, I use my current fancy Apple laptop for the same thing I used that Kaypro II for, to write programs and to write prose. I occasionally use the graphics or sound capability that the Mac has and the Kaypro didn’t. But mostly, I write. Oh, and I surf the web. But that’s a story for another blog.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.