It’s 2011. That’s progress for you…

It’s 2011. That’s progress for you…

k2frontlWhen I was a kid, 2011 was science fiction. We’d all have personal jet packs, robot servants and colonies on Mars.  Instead, we’ve got Facebook and  iPhones. Harlan Ellison is selling his first typewriter, a Remington made in the late 1930s.  Kodak stopped making the chemicals needed to develop its famed Kodachrome color film, and the last batch was finally used up by Dwayne’s Photo in, appropriately enough, Kansas.  My six year old iMac that’s been clugging along since it was state-of-the-art oh so long ago (2004) blew out its logic board, and now I’ve got a new 27″ screen with an Intel Core i7 processor  that should be the coolest desktop Apple makes until probably this spring.

I don’t know if anyone may be interested in buying my old Kaypro II, though it’s not for sale, and, besides, I’m not Harlan Ellison so what would be the point.  It was one of the earliest “portable” computers, weighing in at something like 9 pounds.  It had a 9 inch screen that displayed green characters on a black background, and a dual 5 1/4 inch floppy drive.  You’d stick the program (word processor, database manager, a couple of games more primitive than Pong) in the top drive, and save your files to the bottom drive.

My first word processor was PerfectWriter, which didn’t quite live up to its name (but, then, nothing ever really is perfect).  That relationship didn’t last,  any more than my personal relationships did at the time, when I fell in love with WordStar  because I could depend on printing out exactly what I saw on screen instead of keeping my fingers crossed with PerfectWriter that the print out would vaguely resemble the way I thought I had formatted it.  I believe WordStar was the first WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) program.  For years I resisted the switch to Microsoft Word until I could no longer be out-of-step with the corporate hordes.  At the same time, I had to give up my beloved Kaypro II (currently residing in a closet along with all my other obsolete techno-junk).

Once upon a time, in my early youth, I actually composed on both manual and electric typewriter, so  I know how to type.  Consequently, I tend to still use keyboard commands rather than mouse clicks.  For Windows users, that means some keyboard combination of the CTRL key with another letter or character. Today, things are better now that Word (and its various web emulators) is the de facto standard since you don’t have to worry about writing a document in a format that’s incompatible with someone else’s program back in the ancient days when a thousand word processors bloomed. However, there’s a lot not to like about Microsoft Windows, which is why I joined the Mac cult.  Guess what?  The CTRL key function doesn’t work the same, you have to use Apple’s Command key, instead, so I had to get used to a whole new way of keying a program command.  I use my thumb.

These days, the only way a new generation seems to produce text is with their thumbs, on tiny keyboards that in many cases lack real pushable keys, and faster than I can do with 10 digits on a full-sized keyboard.

We’ve become a culture of all thumbs.  Who’d have thunk it back when we were dreaming of maids on Mars?

That’s progress for you.

Happy new year.

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This was a great post! I’m only 25, but I can remember older computers, like the Tandy my family used to have. It was a great computer, with a basic word processor and ribbon printer that I used for homework. One of my favorite games was ‘Digger’ which is now on Java. Not to mention the fun of rolling a mouse’s trackball with your fingers. Today’s computers are awesome, but even though they were from when I was in kindergarten and first grade, I do miss the simplicity of older machines. Even when Windows came along I only liked it because (yeah, yeah, I know it was on DOS) those were the ones that played Wolfenstein 3D.


My first job in Illinois was working in a warehouse for computer equipment and software (when I had spare time they had me formatting 5 1/4″ disks so they’d be ready to use).

We were shipping a lot of a new program called “Windows.” I asked my dad, who was in IT about it, and he said it wasn’t going anywhere because it was the same crappy DOS architecture underneath, just running in a little visual box.

My favorite old DOS game was Load Runner.

John ONeill

Great post, David!

At a New Year’s party this morning, someone was talking about clearing out an old office and finding a prehistoric laptop with a built-in CRT. I couldn’t remember who made them, but I sure remember seeing them.

And I still dream of maids on Mars, thank you very much.

John ONeill

Hey Eric,

Load Runner was the bomb.

You ever play Choplifter? What about Wizardry? Any of the classic adventure games, like Wizard and the Princess?

Jeff Stehman

I used a KayPro II. Happily I didn’t own it. It belonged to the college. But I started out saving files to cassette tapes (and no one has ever convinced me that was an advancement over punch cards), so 5.25″ floppies were about the coolest things ever.

Load Runner was great, but Bolo and Bilestoad were even better. (Imagine my surprise when a friend hooked his Apple up to his color TV, and I discovered Bilestoad was programmed to display in color, and those splotches on the ground were red blood.)


Way back I had this fold open Radio Shack computer I put all sorts of cool programs into. Fighting Fantasy battle simulators, learned math by first making programs to ‘cheat’ but then making the programs I could solve the problems… After years of use and in a backpack the connective membrane broke down and I wasn’t able to find any more.

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