After my bar mitzvah, I added up all the checks and cash I was given and it came to about $1200. That was a crapload of money for a boy in the early 1980's who generally spent his allowance on candy. My parents cautiously suggested that I had earned the money and I could decide what to do with it.
Me: I want an Atari!
The Atari 2600 was the video game system to have. One of my friends had one and we had wasted countless precious hours playing Combat, Space Invaders, Pitfall, and a handful of other treasures.
Dad: Video games? Can't you think of something better?
Dad: That's a shame. This is a lot of money. I think you should pick something more substantive.
Me: I want an Atari!
Dad: How about a computer? You can play games on a computer. And do lots of other things!
Me: Really? A com-pu-ter?
Dad: Yes. I think that would be a smart choice.
Me: You're sure they have games?
Dad: Of course!
And so, 25 years ago, I bought an Apple II+ for about $1200. It had 16K of memory, no hard drive or disk drive of any kind, and no ability to process complex things like lowercase letters. We hooked it up to a 13" black and white TV and it was my computer. It came with one game, which was a single-player version of Pong called Little Brickout.
With no disk drive and no modem, there was really no way to get more games onto the thing. We hooked up a cassette tape player from Sears up to it, but by then tape-based games were nearly unavailable. I was stuck and only then did the genius of my father's plan come into focus.
If I wanted more games I was forced to program them myself.
So, I started with Tic Tac Toe, and eventually I built my own version of space invaders. I ended up learning almost everything there was to know about the Apple II+. It was a fine machine. Little did I know that it would be the last computer I'd buy from Apple for over 25 years.
Until earlier this month.
For the last few days I've been doing much of my computing on this darling little Mac Mini. It's shiny and pretty on the outside (physically and operating systemly) and rock solid on the inside (operating systemly at the very least). And, we bought it by accident.
I have been ogling Macs for about as long as OSX has been out. I kept saying that my next computer would be a Mac, but I was unable to convince myself that I actually needed a new computer. But then, my wife was purchasing a computer for her sister a couple weeks ago. Mysteriously, 2 boxes from Apple arrived. They both contained identical Mac Minis. It was a sign from the computer gods. This was miraculous like Hanukkah. Although we had thought we were only purchasing enough computing for one person, miraculously, it was going to be enough for TWO people.
I wasn't sure if I'd keep the extra computer until it became obvious that it was meant to be. I asked my friend Jay, who is a longtime Mac owner, if I'd be able to find a good VI emulator that I could download somewhere for the Mac (apologies for the total geek-out here). Jay stared at me as you'd stare at someone who had just asked where to find their own asshole.
"Mike, it's Unix!"
Right. Me dumb. (Again, apologies for the geek factor in this post.)
Anyway, I'm not 100% sold yet, but it does seem pretty slick (and shiny!). Widgets soar across my screen, and icons leap into view at the merest suggestion. And, as the little girl in Jurassic Park once famously said, "This is a Unix system! I know this!". Now, if I could only enable the flying simulator browser...