When I was 13 years old, my Dad bought me an almost $3000 computer system. It was an Apple //e, two floppy (5 and a quarter inch) disk drives, a dot matrix printer (“Imagewriter II” as I recall or if I really wanted to, I could go look since it I have it somewhere), VisiCalc spreadsheet software, and one of the best programs of its time, Broderbund’s The Print Shop. On arriving home, a few thousand poorer, my Mom asked, “He’s never going to be a programmer. Why did you get him a computer?”
The question stuck with me. Now, whenever I think of a crazy expense for my kids, I remind myself of my Dad’s vision. I learned a lot with that rig, and I’m grateful to my parents for their hard work.
In those days, I met other teens online via Electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), and friendships grew from impromptu Saturday gatherings at Pizza Hut. There’d be a few old guys (retired Air Force), security contractors, and teenagers. As I grew older, learned to drive, the teens and I would pack into a car (or get our parents to drive us, albeit with suspicion in their eyes as to what we were up to). We’d visit Jatmon Insearch, also known as James Bullard. He ran one of the BBSs in town that made Apple //e software available for blazing fast download at 9600 baud.
Eventually, we all acquired on our software, and we’d share tips with each other, hang out. As I sat staring at my screen today, contemplating the power of Facebook and other social media to connect us, it occurred to me–for the first time in 25-30 years–to ask, What happened to those guys I hung out with?
Here are their names and links:
- Michael Muniz – his Dad was a chemist and we went to the same high school, Central Catholic Marianist High School. As a matter of fact, I lent him $80 bucks and never got it back! Ah well.
- Nick Montfort – Works at MIT. Well, we always knew Nick was smart! I remember running into him one time at the UTSA Library, where he asked me, “As a teacher, do you leave right after school or do you hang around?” When I told him I hung around, he was pleased. It’s a question that I remember even now after all these years (it must have been my first year as a public school teacher back in 1990).
- Stephen (don’t remember his last name) – A quiet young man who lived on a funny street…Armor, I think. Amazing what the brain recalls.
- Victor Mux – My wife and I actually introduced him to his wife and he got me started with my first IBM compatible computer (an 8088).
- Mark Ulmer – Works and lives in Arizona. Mark was the only person I knew who owned a Franklin computer, a clone of the Apple //e.
Wow…trip down memory lane. I imagine that today, my children won’t have trouble staying in touch with their childhood friends and acquaintances…instead of peering down the narrowing corridor of memory to a time long past, those relationships will remain alive and vibrant.
For now, for me, it’s enough to smile at times gone by and wish my childhood companions well.
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