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It was the year 1984. My parents were going to buy us a Nintendo Entertainment System. My oldest brother, who was a huge nerd back then (and still is), convinced them to buy a computer instead. Sheesh!
I remember how big and dumb it looked. It was cream colored. Had huge buttons. And only showed a stupid blue screen when you turned it on. My parents had bought us a Commodore C64. I hated the thing for a while. While my friends were playing Super Mario Bros. on their NES, I had a really annoying computer whose only ability seemed to be blinking a light blue square on the screen (the cursor).
My huge nerd of a brother was always doing something with it. He would press the buttons and then a weird looking thing (1541 drive) next to the display started making strange noises. He somehow got a game to run on it. But it was a strange black and white game that had a little stick as the main character. I hated the computer and I hated the game.
Fast forward to a year later, and my brother was done using the computer. He did not use it as much anymore. Mostly to play Ultima, but the game was harder than he liked and lost interest. One day, while looking for something to do, I turned on the computer. Picture me, being around seven years old, sitting in front of this big stupid piece of plastic. My brother had somehow taught me the
GOTO commands. Which would provide endless hours of entertainment with programs similar to this one:
10 PRINT “My brother smells.” 20 GOTO 10
Yes, my actual first program was me making fun of my brother. Anyhow, on this day things were different. The computer’s manual was left next to the keyboard. I opened it up and started browsing it. Inside there were a lot of little programs that taught you how to write BASIC. I did not know what BASIC was nor did I care. What drove me to type the programs was that the manual was in English and I wanted to see what those words meant. From that day on, I continued to type whatever programs the manual featured. Only modifying them after figuring out that I could. It was a very frustrating process, but for some reason, I was driven to figure out how it worked. I still have an inherent and resilient drive to figure out how things works. Specially computers and software. My first computer woke up that drive. I don’t know what would have been of me without it.
My first computer came in to my life and I hated it. It was big. Clunky. Dumb. Mostly useless. But it became a very important part of my past. I wish I had kept it.
PS. I gave my daughter a really dumb Raspberry Pi. She also hates it, but I’ve caught her quietly typing Python into IDLE…