Tuesday, December 07, 2010

First love

Tom can check me here, but I believe the first computer to enter our house was a Commodore 64 which we purchased sometime in the early eighties. It was a funky, serviceable machine, a keyboard mostly, with 64K of RAM, and an RF modulator that let you use the family TV as a monitor. I remember writing a game program. You had to navigate a blinking square from the upper left corner of the screen to the lower right corner as a screen-filling grid filled in randomly. Get blocked, you lose. Not quite as thrilling as Pong, but a bit of a lark. That machine may still be up in the attic, unless Tom took it for his computer collection.

But what I really want to recall here is the first computer I used to actually do something useful -- a TRS-80 Model 100.

A sweet, sweet little machine from Radio Shack. The college bought two, in 1983, and my colleague Barbara and I appropriated them to ourselves. A mere 32K of RAM. But wonderfully portable. Ran on four AA batteries. And a built-in LCD screen that let you read 8 lines of text.

I loved that little box. I wrote The Soul of the Night on it, my first really personal, literary book. That machine kept me in business until I bought my first Mac the next year, the ground-breaking Macintosh 128, for something like $2400. It's been all Macs since then. 512. Classic. The Portable (a dog). Up to the MacBook Pro I'm writing on now. I'm sure Tom has some of those machines in his basement collection.

But back to the Model 100.

At that point I had already published three books, scrawled in longhand on yellow legal pads, then laboriously typed out in multiple drafts on a cheap Smith-Corona. And now. Backspace. Delete. Revise to one's heart's content. I hugged that machine to my heart. I slept with it by my bed. If one can have a crush on a computer, I had a crush on my TRS-80 Model-100.

Twenty-seven years ago. The world turned upside down.