As a child of the 70s I grew up in a family that may not have been able to afford all the greatest things…but we were a solid Blue Collar Family that looked to having an understanding that technology would be a great equalizer. My mother a Typesetter (before starting her own Printing Business) and my father a Cheese maker (he still works at the same place 44 years in a few months) sought to provide us with what we now call Edutainment which meant that we always had a Video Game System and starting with the Commodore Vic 20 we had a computer in the house.
The year was 1985, the commodore had been out for a couple of years and we all had seen the Personal Computer Craze start to take off. Back then, the $300+ price tag was a substantial sum of money for a family with 5 kids living in a small Ontario town…but we hooked this beast up to a 14″ Colour TV in “the den” and off we went learning about the wonders of programming and playing games. To save our work, there was no “Hard Drive” and we would save everything that was in RAM to magnetic Data Disks which looked a lot like regular cassettes (and in reality they were):
As I moved from Grade 8 to Grade 9 in 1986, my home became some what of a gathering place of geeks (before that was a cool term) and our Lunch Breaks were often spent running across the road and into the “den” to play a few games before we headed back to class.
The capabilities of the VIC 20 were poor when we compare them to the absolute processing power of even today’s most modest SmartPhones but for me…it was an ey of the future. It was a keyboard that connected to the TV and would let us build things. I remember waiting for the Your Commodore Magazine to arrive each month as it would provide us with new “code” to test and compile. We built our own mini games, we leveraged an early version of a word processor called Speed Script and it was a real connection to the future for us as a family.
I was the only one who had a real affinity for computers (4 younger brothers who were at the time from 3 – 10 years old) never really got into the “Geek” that I did but I still didn’t see myself as anything more than what I was and I had goals for myself that did not include programming or using computers (if I only knew then what I know now).
Eventually we upgraded to the Commodore 64 and in fact…the VIC 20 only lasted with us for a short while (less than a year if I recall) and by then most of my friends were getting Personal Computers in their homes too…by 1987/88 the Commodore was out paced quite dramatically by the Amiga and with the increase in power came a dramatic increase in price (the difference between the Vic 20 and the C64 was nearly $300 back then and the Amiga was about the same.
In our small town, we may have been a couple of years out of date…but it did not change the fact that there was a war raging in the Tech world and by the time Microsoft asserted its dominance on all of us with Windows 3.1, then Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista, SeVen and now Eight…well the working world had made its calling and I had gone off in another direction…until 1997…but that is a story for next week.