Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Computer Contest


It has been a day of reminiscence.

Though long and arduous, my thoughts could not help but drift back to February of 1989.  That was when a team of high school geeks, consisting of Graymalkin, Neutron Frog, and yours truly, attended a computer contest at the college where I would eventually attend undergrad and currently teach.  What did this contest consist of?

I can't remember much of it, other than debugging or hard coding programs in either Basic or Turbo Pascal on Zenith PCs.  What I do recall is feeling how "cutting edge" it all was.   In high school, we worked on the Commodore CBM.  Don't remember that particular vintage?  You're not alone.  Or you're not old enough.  Here's a link to one for reference.

You can imagine our reaction then to seeing a Mac (can't remember which iteration but it was 1989) scan in graphics or play an audio clip of John Cleese from The Life of Brian (at least I think that was the Python film it was from.)  That was also the day that I was introduced to The Church of the SubGenius and their divine entity known only as "Bob," whose devotees seek not grace but slack.  It was all shown to me through files on the IRC, that forerunner to what we now call the Web.  The future gleamed in front of me and my years ahead seemed to glow with silicon. 

Our team won the contest and I think a few of us went to Neutron Frog's and played Contra.

I was just on the cusp of discovering cyberpunk as Gibson would show up on my radar only a few weeks later.  In the coming years, that HyperCard creation Beyond Cyberpunk! would worm its way into my consciousness, just after Dreamer, Ahab and myself would create our own cyberpunk setting through the first version of SimCity.  That latter game would propagate itself through the dorm like a virus, passing between PCs for copy protection was virtually non-existent for software in those days.  The pirates would then grow addicted, playing the game until when they closed their eyes they could see the grid outlines of the city they tended.

Cyberpunk took a bit of the gleam off the silicon and added a tarnish to it.  Still, those were relatively optimistic times for me.  Wish I could go back again, but the tensile strength of time is paper thin, nearly non-existent as a matter of fact, offering nil pliability.

But to be young again, to be with those guys, to be discovering all that technology for the first time, primitive though it may be by today's standards, it's indescribable.

Not every day you get a front row seat for a revolution.

On a somewhat relevant side note, check out this tattoo of the ARPAnet as it stood in 1970 (courtesy of Boing Boing).


My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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