Do you get nostalgic about your first personal computer? Perhaps it is a sign of geekdom if the answer is yes. But if you’re a Gen Joneser, it’s very possible that you discovered computing on your own, making for a lot of good gee whiz discoveries and eventual memories.
When I finally decided to buy a personal computer in 1988, I aimed for the low end: The venerable Commodore 64. By then, the IBM PC had already made its mark, and the Apple 128 was giving way to the Mac. Nevertheless, I was still working as Legal Aid lawyer in New York City, and I didn’t have a lot of money.
More importantly, the C64 had established itself as one of the best game machines around. Designers had squeezed everything they could out of its tiny amount of available memory, and the result was an incredible array of gaming software. I was especially partial to sports video and simulation games, and the choices were considerable.
Productivity software designers were similarly ingenious. For example, the C64 supported decent word processing programs that signaled the eventual demise of my electric typewriter. The C64 even managed to introduce me to online computing, however primitively. Powered by a 1200 baud modem, I dialed into Quantum Link, soon to become AOL.
Although I was among the last major wave of C64 buyers, I was in very good company. As this excellent Wikipedia article about the history of the C64 tells us, it was one of the bestselling computers of all time. Airplane buffs will understand the reference when I say it was the DC-3 of personal computers.
In the early 90s, I upgraded to a PC, and about five years ago, I morphed over to Macs. Yup, affordable personal computing power has come a long way during the past 25 years. For me, though, I don’t think that any computing experience will surpass the pure fun of booting up that C64.