I doubt you would ever be able to stimulate a post mobile phone
generation into the same level of wild excitement and enthusiasm
when greeted by the simple flashing cursor that was synonymous with
early computers. I recall the very day that I first connected my
ZX81 and witnessed first hand the marvel that was keyboard inputs
to generate results. To appreciate the wonder of this you would
need to go back in time and forget all that you know about modern
technology. For the cursor represented the beginning of everything
we know now. It may not have looked much but it represented the
holding, waiting status anticipating instruction from the user.
Life in the early years of computing was pretty much the same no
matter what tiny piece of technology you had laid your hands on.
They all required some flavour of BASIC to jolly that cursor along.
Magazines were not given to handing out tapes and disks and much
of the coding was printed line by line and needed to be copied
exactly into your computer.
Never forget that a pre computer generation was probably the type
that played board games and were already nerds of a kind. The type
that liked Rush and Yes concerts and argued over the best figures
currently on glass shelves in the Games Workshop. All these activities
required an active imagination, and most of what happened on the
computers in those early days required a very active imagination.
The computers added a whole dimension to the world of bedroom nerds
that loved to venture into uncharted territory.
It all seems a little pointless these days given that most things
are gifted to users across the web with little or no effort. Pretty
much everything in the early days was hand crafted and created by
heavy graft punching the numbers. Computer programming was an intense
process. It was also in many ways a very solitary affair. Most never
came into contact with other users and only shared their experiences
through the letters pages of magazines.
So next time you dabble on an old computer, or play a simple game
or maybe even acquire an old bit of kit, just reflect on the era
from whence it came. I read too many new users of old kit these
days screaming out for modern updates to older kit just so they
can get some semblance of their current computer behaviour. It
really is staggering just how underpowered older kit is in comparison
to the most modest electrical gizmo these days. Users will never
actually be able to go back to the origins of the older kit. It
is possible to immerse yourself in magazines and memorabilia of a
fashion. It takes a little more imagination I would say these days
to ignore all that you know just to get into the right frame of
mind. It may not have been easier to conjure up that space adventure
or dragon quest when faced with the blinking cursor, but it certainly
wasn't hindered by knowing just what has happened these last thirty
years in the world of computing.
Fortunately I still have all my memories, magazines, tapes , books
and games, but then I was always the outcast and bit of a nerd.