Tuesday, February 03, 2009

post titled: post-midnight non-fiction blurb regarding the PC, the NES, and TI

In 1985 or 86 my grandfather brought over a Texas Instrument computer. The "computer" consisted of just one over-sized keyboard with a cartridge slot up in the right hand side for those bulky (usually black) game or program cartridges (which appeared to be similar to ATARI ones but were clearly not. The computer had no monitor but rather plugged directly into a tiny black and white television. David, the thick-haired nerdy older brother of an idiot friend of mine from down the street. would come over and show me programming things, -he'd type code that would cause my name to repeat on the screen forever until you pressed ESC. David now works for NASA. Sometimes Dad would bring audio cassette tapes home from the guys at work and supposedly there were actually computer games on them. You had to somehow hook the cassette up and load the data into the computer but I never recall this actually working, I only recall playing the games in my mind in anticipation and imagining the labyrinths, warlocks, and 2D excitement. I did get s few games and kept them in my mom's slender KEDS shoebox on the table next to the monitor. Circa 1986-7 the spoiled kids in the neighborhood all got Nintendo Entertainment Systems. This wave of consoles made the TI and Ataris somewhatirrelevant. We spent a lot of time at their houses anyhow because they had much better toys and more playroom space that we did, but witht he dawn of the Nintendo we suddenly spent hundreds of man-hours frustrating ourselves to no end over Metroid, Contra, Castlevania, all the Mario Bros. and of course Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. We always played for for as long as out parents wold allow us to. I don't think this prevented us from playing in the woods or using out imaginations, we did plenty of that as well. Afterall, parents mistrusted this newfangled variety of home "entertainment", and would often turn off the TV or console saying " c'mon! time to go play outside!" Little did they know how long it took us to get to that crucial point in the game, it took so much time adn effort actually that we would leave the consoles on overnight hoping that they didn't freeze just to preserve our progress. For example, the final showdown on the bridge above the lava with a fire-throwing/breathing Koopa, or Little Joe vs. Mike Tyson himself. All that work lost and the push of a button usually pressed by TJ's mom, a woman who wore long floral-print t-shirts, and did nothing except sit on the pastel pink couch (that we were not allowed to sit on), eat liqueur-filled chocolates, and watch soaps in a state of captivation. This beast was our juggernaut.
In the early 1990s we got a PC. After that, regular trips tot he hardware store turned into hours-long visit to the COMP USA at Tyson's Corner, which was basically a computer mecca. On weekends it was packed full of dorks. People, actually... people who were curious and thirsty for whatever these things were capable of doing. Dads liked spreadsheets and kids liked games. Dad would wander off and I would spend hours inn the game aisle drooling over the cereal-box-sized games rattling with 4,5,6 floppy disks for such titles as Wing Commander, Home Alone, Lemmings and Indiana Jones: the Fate of Atlantis or Monkey Island while pretending not to glance out the side of my eye at the Leisure Suit Larry cover. If I waited long enough the "guys at work" would often copy these disks and send them home with my father, but of course one could only install one or two at a time since hard drive memory was scarce and precious...
In high school I got a TI-82 graphing calculator for math class, that was the first time I'd re-encountered Texas Instruments since that first computer ten years prior. I kind-of love that logo.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



4:20 pm  

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