Sunday, February 10, 2008

Technology Withdrawal

I'll be suffering about five days of what I imagine will be severe technology deprivation, as I send away my laptop for a new hard drive. Whoever would have thought, back in in 1979, when we got our first home computer, that 80 gigs would not be space enough to contain my photos, recorded music and audiobooks, let alone any design work or music transposition I may happen to do? When we bought that first computer, at John's insistence, Tighe was seven years old. He was excited about getting an "electric game," although he thought Pong would be more exciting, since he'd heard of that one. 

John got the TI-994, a Texas Instruments machine that was way ahead of its time. It had a color monitor, and its graphics were unheard of at that time. You could use cartridges or program it yourself on cassette deck, later replaced by 7" floppy discs that stored a whopping 360k. Great care had to be used not to damage those floppy discs. The programming code was tedious to learn, and had to be double-checked line by line before a program would actually work properly. It was a challenge, but fun in a twisted sort of way. 

Within a year there were rumors of "Winchester Drives" that would store 10 megabytes. For those who had an extra $500-600, that was sure the way to go, but with the original system (without cartridges or floppy drive) costing nearly $1500, it was a pipe dream for us. We never did scrape up the money for one, but did eventually get a floppy drive.

I really tried to talk John out of buying that first computer. I said there were a lot of game systems out that didn't cost nearly as much, and he said this wasn't a game. I had no concept of what it really was, but the money was out of our league, and I told him so. It was one of those times when he had made up his mind. "I'm going to buy this, so you might just as well agree and get it over with." That was a long sentence for him back then.
He bought it on a Friday night:  just the basic unit and one educational game, the cassette recorder to store our programs, and a book on Basic Programming. We didn't see him, except from the back, for the rest of the weekend. We watched him set it up and start learning to program it. He put it right in the corner of my kitchen. Then Monday night he went back to work. Tighe went to school. Jeremy, at 3+, played and slept. I was expecting Benjamin. I wasn't going anywhere...

I read the programming book while sitting at the computer. I took out one of the blank cassettes and started to figure out what that little machine could do. I was always careful to cleare off my work before John got home from work. I also made sure that Tighe got time to play with his educational cartridge when he got home from school. But the daytime hours were mine! 

That Friday night John and I had a babysitter come over, and then he and I went to a square dance together. (Having met at a square dance, he and I danced up until two nights before Benjamin was born.) After one of the "tips" he left to get us some punch. The last time we had talked about the computer, he knew that I was really against its purchase. We hadn't discussed it again during the week. I used it during the day, but he didn't know that. He was shocked to walk up behind me with the punch to hear me telling our friends what I had learned to do with my computer that week. Oops. 

I've been in love with computers ever since.

In some ways it may seem a waste to get a larger drive, but I'm constantly trying to figure out what I can delete or move to a backup drive. I figure it will be a good investment in convenience alone for this year. My laptop will most likely be replaced next year after the Macintosh conference in January. At least that's the plan, God willing and the creek don't rise. I know; we don't have a creek. Anyway, we'll save up for it this year. And anticipation is such wonderful fun. 

But this week I'll definitely be in withdrawal.

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