|Photo of the TRS-80 Model III computer that started everything. I later upgraded this to a Model 4. Note the cassette drive on the left and the Epson MX-80 dot matrix printer on a homemade printer stand.|
I wrote the article below around 1984. At the time, I had a TRS-80 Model 4 computer (upgraded from a TRS-Model III) with 48k RAM (Well, technically 64k, but only 48k was accessible to the user) and two single sided floppy drives. The modem was 300 baud and only used to connect to local bulletin board systems (For those too young to know, a bulletin board system, or BBS, was a computer that someone connected to phone lines for others to call into and download software or leave messages on). The Internet was not available to mere mortals yet.
Interesting how much things have changed in 23 years, but seem to stay the same! (By the way, if you enjoy this, see the related post Miss Your Old Micro? Write Like Itâ€™s 1983).
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Confessions of a Computer Nut (circa 1984)
I’ll admit it. I’m a certified computer nut. Every spare moment is spent sitting in front of a terminal, computing how much I spent on print out paper last month or figuring out what it will cost for my next upgade. In other words, trying to figure out where to get money for more computer equipment.
More. . .that’s the key to my affliction. I’ve got to have more, no matter what the cost. I started out with a bare bones 16k tape-based system three years ago. Now I have a 48k system with two disk drives, a dot matrix printer, a daisy wheel printer, an auto answer modem and several hundred dollars of books and software. To make matters worse, that old card table I said would suffice for a computer stand didn’t. My little jewel now rests on a deluxe three-piece computer station to the tune of several hundred dollars.
Oh, once in a while I’ll find time to do some of those things that I said I was buying the computer for, like keeping track of income and expenses, LP record and tape lists and even typing a letter now and then. But most of my time is spent contemplating all of those marvelous new additions, like a 10 megabyte hard disk. Just think of all of the recipes I could keep on that! The fact that I don’t cook doesn’t matter. With a hard disk I might learn, one of these days.
Or, how about that new multi-user system? I could invite my friends over and we could all play Pac Man at the same time! I’d have to get some extra computers for that, but what the heck? I NEED that system!
I suppose my symptoms have been evident for years. When I was a child, I wanted every new electronic gadget that I saw. I evolved from the Mr. Machine robot to quadraphonic stereo systems to 8-bit CPUs in a matter of 15 years. I was only satistifed when I was the only kid on the block with the latest electronic gizmo. If Stuart down the block got the new 20-channel CB radio, I had to run out and get the newer 40-channel job. If Michael around the corner got the new Lost in Space robot, I had to go out and get the new improved model that talked and did dishes. It’s been a never ending cycle.
It just seemed natural that I should get hung up on computers. And hung up I am. I can’t tear myself away from them. My neighbors are complaining because my grass is several feet high and the mailman walked into it and never came out. We haven’t had mail delivery for a month now, which is fine with me. I quit ordering my computer supplies through the mail a while back anyway. I can tell them to bug off. Can’t they see how important it is for me to reach that top level in Frogger? The nation’s security may depend on those very skills, one of these days!
And then there’s my mother. She gripes at me because my phone is always busy. Doesn’t she realize the necessity of connecting my computer with databases over the phone? How else am I going to get the latest stock market prices? It doesn’t matter that I don’t know anything about stocks. I’ll learn, one of these days. In the meantime, I can get all of that great up-to-the-minute information for the cost of a phone call (and $6 per hour connect fee).
It looks like my checkbook is going to be taking another beating in the near future. It seems that 8-bit systems are out and 16-bit systems are in. To make things worse, Texas Instruments is moving into 32-bit systems! How in the world can they expect me to keep up with all of this! It’s a techno-nut’s nightmare! Why didn’t I just stick with Mr. Machine? I suppose I’ll learn my lesson…
One of these days.
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Here we are 23 years later. Yep, 8-bit systems are kaput, I don’t have to connect to anything by phone anymore, those $6 an hour fees that systems like Compuserve used to charge are history and cell phones have made the mania around CB radios seem sort of silly. And I never did reach that top level in Frogger.
But, there are now six PCs, a wireless-N router, broadband cable Internet, a VOIP phone, two cell phones and a PDA in my household and I’m now lusting over an iPhone and a 1 terabyte hard drive for my media PC.
What was I saying about learning something “one of these days?” 😉