Friday, July 13, 2007

The Dawn of Cyber-time...

There was a day, children, when we didn't have computers on our desks, and life was not easy.
The ingredients were the basic four of any word-processing system. First was the computer itself, the Processor Technology SOL-20. Its detailed specifications—its 48K of random access memory, its Intel 8080 microprocessing chip—are now of antiquarian interest, since Processor Technology went out of business several months after I bought my computer.

The second element in my system was the monitor, a twelve-inch TV screen. Some monitors are like black-and-white TVs; mine—which, oddly enough, was produced by the same company, Ball Corporation, that makes home-canning supplies, displays light-green letters against a background of dark green and is supposed to be easier on the eyes. Third was the external storage device—the equipment that saves the documents you've written when the computer is turned off. The equipment I chose, two small tape recorders, was such a complete disaster that I must discuss it separately later on. Fourth was the printer, a ponderous machine, built like a battleship, which had been an IBM Selectric typewriter before it was converted to accept printing instructions from a computer.

These four machines, and the yards and yards of multi-strand cable that connected them, were the hardware of my system. The software consisted of a program called The Electric Pencil, with a manual explaining the mysteries of "block move," "home cursor," and "global search and replace."

I skip past the day during which I thought the computer didn't work at all (missing fuse) and the week or two it took me to understand all the moves The Electric Pencil could make. From that point on, I knew there was a heaven. [More]

My experiences began much later, of course, but not much more cheaply. Kinda like childbirth for females, I think time softens the memories of earlier technology unpleasantness for us geeks. Still - only 25 years since this revolution began!

What will it be like for my grandson?

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