1. When it was something like 1986 and I was eleven or twelve years old, I received the first computer that I
could actually call mine, an Atari 800 that my dad had recently upgraded from to a 130XE. It was paid for in chores
over the course of a summer.
2. Access. A 1200 baud Prometheus ProModem.
Compared to the 300 baud modem socketed into the back of a friend’s Commodore 64, it was blazing fast.
Text appeared faster than I could read it.
An Atari 410 tape drive. Used mostly to load Zaxxon and Pooyan, as by the time I was doing anything in BASIC worth saving (very little)
we’d already upgraded to floppies. An Atari 810 disk drive. Dad had the stylish black Indus with the flip-up door and cool digital number readout on the front. 850 Interface Module. A boring box to plug everything into.
3. The first computer in the house was an Atari 400, the 8k entry-level machine with a membrane keyboard
so kids wouldn’t fuck it up with their grubby hands. I learned to type on that keyboard, ingraining a
stompy two-finger typing style that I’ve never been able to shake. On the first night, we gathered around
the portable TV with a 4inch black & white screen that the Atari was plugged into and played Star Raiders.
There was a BASIC cartridge, too, but that was dumb and boring because Star Raiders.
A couple years later the 400 was upgraded to 48k.
4. No, on further reflection, I was wrong. The first computer in the house was a
Tektronix 4014, a bulky machine that
my dad brought home from the office on occasion. Due to the way the storage-tube vector display
operated, images could be drawn to the screen and maintained, but the entire screen had to be
refreshed with a bright green flash to remove an image. My dad wrote a version of Lunar Lander
for the Tektronix (it had a BASIC interpreter), and I remember a long row of little landers
detailing the course of the craft as each frame was drawn.
I've always found the glow of a vector display soothing. Is it due to my early experiences with this machine?
5. In my memory of the experience, augmented by the imaginative
exaggeration of childhood, the Starcade had an entire wall of TRON
machines, arcade cabinets unlike any I’d ever seen, black with bold lines
of color, a second screen extending above the top of the marquee, the
intense glow of blacklights bathing the crowd of spectators surrounding
the machines. I remember the sounds – the whir of the Light Cycles, the
menacing drone of the Tanks, and the synthesized fanfare of Wendy Carlos’
soundtrack. I was enrapt, and a love for the game, with its middling
gameplay that I’ve never excelled at even after owning and restoring my
own TRON cabinet, has never left me.
In reality, I doubt there were more than two or three TRONs at the arcade that day, the crowds were maybe a dozen bystanders, but much later I learned that my memory of second monitors above the first was most likely true, as Midway had by then released the Auxiliary Show Monitor, and what better place to show it off than the Starcade at Disneyland?
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