by Dave Moore, CISSP
For The TranscriptI got involved with computers because I thought anything that had to do with technology was fun; therefore, I figured computers should be fun, too. I have my friend Jack to thank for introducing me to computers and getting me started in my career as a computer repair guy.
When I first met Jack, he was an engineering student at the University of Oklahoma and was, in my estimation, a bona fide genius. Jack and I loved electronics and technology and had great fun talking about pretty much anything that used electricity.
Back in about 1978, Jack and I were driving around Oklahoma City one day and Jack said, “Let’s go into that store, over there,” pointing to a small storefront on NW 23rd Street. “I want to show you something.”
Walking into the store was for me like walking onto the set of some futuristic science fiction movie. There were computers everywhere. We were in one of Oklahoma’s first computer stores and they sold machines from a company named Commodore. Jack pointed to a Commodore PET computer (which stood for “Personal Electronic Transactor”) and said, “Someday, I’m going to own one of those.”
Those seemed like fanciful words at the time, since the price of the Commodore PET was around $1,000. A review of the Commodore PET, printed in a 1978 edition of “Electronics Today” magazine stated, “Never before has a company tried to convince the public that a computer is an acceptable, fun, useful, perhaps even an essential thing to have around the house.”
As time went on, Jack and I both ended up buying computers, but not the Commodore PET. In the mid-1980s, Jack bought a TI-99, made by Texas Instruments and started to learn programming. I bought a Commodore 64, which was 8 times as powerful as the PET, and started experimenting with programming and music recording. Other geeky friends bought the Apple II or early Macintosh computers. The world of home computing was really starting to gel and we were having a ton of fun.
Before long, the IBM PC format became somewhat standardized and competing companies like Dell, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard began selling machines that were more or less the same. The home computer revolution was ramping up and going mainstream. Computers from the likes of Commodore, Atari, Texas Instruments and Radio Shack were being crowded out by the “PC” and Microsoft’s Disk Operating System (MS-DOS). The promise of total, across-the-board PC compatibility was never quite fulfilled, though, and computing became less fun as computer repair guys and enthusiasts like me tried to figure out how to make things work as advertised.
Microsoft’s “Windows” changed everything, and the promise of bringing easy computing to the masses proved irresistible. Never mind that Apple was already making superior computers that were loads of fun to use. It’s almost as if the entire world of computing was hypnotized by Bill Gates and Company. The PC/Windows combination became the dominant force in home computing. The rest is, as they say, history.
The first version of Windows I owned and used was Windows 3.1. Granted, when Windows worked like it was supposed to, it was fun. It was cool flipping back and forth between different “windows.” Being able to point-and-click with a mouse was definitely more fun than typing in strings of cryptic DOS commands (C:Windows>dir /p).
Sadly, though, Microsoft Windows was so full of bugs that you could often spend as much time trying to fix things as you did actually getting anything fun or productive accomplished. Countless hours and dollars have been spent trying to make Windows computers live up to Microsoft’s promises. This made computing much less fun than I had with my old, faithful Commodore 64.
Each version of Windows brought incremental improvements in reliability, and therefore, fun. To be fair, despite the imperfections, modern versions of Windows are far more reliable and fun to use than Windows 95 ever was.
In the next few columns, let’s look at ways to have fun with computers. They can be way more fun than your phone. Next week: games.
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