Friday, August 10, 2007

I won a contest!

I recently won a contest online. And no, I didn't need to wire $5000 to some unnamed Nigerian bank account in order to claim my winnings. Rather, I won a "My First Computer" contest from a great Mac blog: ThinkMac.Net They were having a contest requesting entrants to write in about their first computer. As my prize, I won a copy the cool Mac application Posterino.

However, I'm not creating this blog entry to brag about my good fortune. I just wanted to share my winning entry:
My first computer was a Timex Sinclair ZX-81. I still remember sitting in front of that thing with a small 9" black and white television punching away on that nasty touch-sensitive keys. My parents noticed how much I was doing with it and helped me spring for a 16KB memory module to hang off the back. Everything would be great unless you moved it too much - then the module would wiggle, the connections would get loose, and the whole system would reboot. A bit of velcro and tape went a long way to fixing that problem.

I remember the first day I wrote:

10 print "Hello "
20 goto 10

And watched the whole screen fill up with words scrolling upwards. I remember being mesmerized by how I could vary the number of spaces after the word and get different patterns of text scrolling up the screen (I was eleven - my simple fascination can probably be forgiven).

It wasn't long before I added an old tape player so I could save and load files. The first time I learned that I could actually purchase software for this machine was mind-expanding! I remember going to the house of a complete stranger, with my Dad in tow, and purchasing cassette tape copies (I can't even remember if they were pirated or not) of a flight simulator and a game called "Mazogs". That's when I knew I had to get into computers myself.

I thank that crazy little machine for eventually landing me with a Masters degree in Computer Science and a life-long passion for software. It lead me through a long sequence of machines: Atari 800, Osborne, Atari ST, Mac Plus, Mac LC, and on and on the list went. A couple years ago I saw an ZX-81 sitting on the shelf of one of my grad supervisors at school. She and I started talking about that machine and learned that we shared a similar set of stories and passions about it. Needless to say, I couldn't get her to part with it for me.

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