Wednesday, June 09, 2010

My Very First Computer

Back when our children were young, my dear friend Lisa and I wrote frequent long letters to each other. We saved them, and once a year we mailed mailed them back. The result—in my case four file folders bulging with letters—is a diary of sorts. We did a smart thing, Lisa and I.

Of course, the letters don't always reflect smart things. Life, as we know, is a mix. The following is neither dumb nor smart, and it's not about child raising, marriage, or the endless weight loss/weight gain loop that was a continuing theme in my letters. It's about getting my first computer, which was the beautiful, ahead-of-its-time (but poorly marketed) Commodore Amiga. The Amiga had thousands of colors, but no hard drive. (My husband's first Dell, bought later, had a 40MB—yes, megabyte— hard drive and cost over $5,000). The disks I speak of were 3.5" floppies. Considering where we are today, I found my observations amusing, and thought you might, too. The letter is dated December 28, 1985.

I'm beginning to think I wasn't meant to get this computer. Naturally, I've been panting to use it ever since we opened it up Christmas morning. Joe put together the very nice computer desk Christmas night, and we were going to play with the machine the next day. I set about reading the (enormous) manual beforehand, and the first thing I found was an instruction to make a copy of every program disk before you use it, in case you manage to destroy it as it's running. In fact, the whole first part of the manual is full of warnings and cautions. It seems you can completely ruin your computer in any number of simple ways, such as turning it on within five seconds of turning it off (for real).

Anyway, I didn't have any blank disks on which to make copies, and of course they were unavailable locally, so I called a store and had them send me some (20 for $80.00 - on sale). Then I learned that the one piece of software I have in hand is copy protected; that is, I would not be able to copy it anyway. So I thought, great—we can get on with this and use the computer this weekend. Then I noticed that the package reads "joystick required." Nothing in my Amiga literature mentions a joystick, just a "mouse" (whatever that is).

So-o-o-o.......I called Sears and left a message to be given to Joe when he stopped there on the way home from New York: "Go to Weniger's and buy an Atari joystick." His reaction was, "My God—there's no getting away from her!"

He brought home the joystick and I thought we were finally All Set. Tonight I began the rather complex job of hooking up all the computer parts to each other, and I discovered two very discouraging things. One, an instruction that reads, "....you will have to buy a patch cord for this purpose," and the other the fact that Amiga mistakenly provided us with an extension cord instead of an audio cord with photo jacks. Eeeeek!! There seems to be no end to this, and I'm wondering if I should trade it in for a nice microwave. Actually, I could probably get eight microwaves for the price of this aggravating computer. Was it really properly named? I am going to start referring to the Amiga as the Mierda if this crap continues.

7 comments:

The Cookbook Junkie said...

That's too funny!

What was the joystick needed for anyway?

Bridgett said...

When my closest friend from high school essentially broke up with me after I got married (I say essentially because, well, our relationship had gotten complicated and meant different things to her than it did to me), anyway, the best thing she ever did was send me back all the letters I'd ever written to her during late high school and college. What a glimpse of life.

Susan said...

Bridgett, I'm glad you got to have that experience.

TCJ, I'm not sure what the joystick was for. All the programs we bought for the kids were educational (but gorgeous--it was a lot like the Macs of today).

mm said...

I have a friend who saved all the notes we passed in class from high school. The last time we met for a coffee, she brought a few. Such drama! I'm so glad she kept them - it was a treat to reread them after all these years. We were driven by hormones, and little else

Indigo Bunting said...

That's a great letter. I got my first computer in 1986 or 1987, I think. I can't believe how much it cost and it didn't even have a hard drive! All floppy drives...

And yes, letters. And yes, mm, sometimes it's humiliating what we spent so much time writing about.

Mali said...

That's so funny. I remember my old Commodore 64 fondly. Thought I was at the cutting edge of technology!

Letters too are wonderful, embarrassing, funny - I am slowly going through all the letters I wrote to my parents when I was an exchange student.

crystal said...

I didn't get a computer until about 10 years after you - you're so avant garde :)