A Used Laptop And Memory Lane

I recently bought a refurbished Dell Inspiron laptop running Windows 7.  I bought this machine because I needed to run a piece of ham radio related software that isn’t available for the Mac. As a longtime Apple user, I am learning Windows for the first time. How long have I been on an Apple? Let me bore you with a story.

My Dad got one of the first Apple IIs back in February, 1978. He was really keen to get one of these much talked about personal computers. I think he paid $3,500 for it, which was hideously expensive. And you couldn’t just go down to the Apple store, they didn’t exist, you got on a waiting list and had Apple send it to you.

Our family was lucky. Our new machine had a floppy drive to store programs. Most people went with the cheaper option, which was a cassette tape to provide memory. Yes, you ran programs off a cassette tape recorder. Programs were difficult to find, so much so that computer magazines carried programs as articles. The magazine provided the code on a printed page and you typed that code into the Apple. It was nerve wracking work as you tried to enter dozens and dozens of lines of code without making a single mistake.

Our first Apple had only 40 characters on a line. All upper case. A few months later the first aftermarket circuit boards appeared. They provided 80 characters a line and upper and lower case letters. Could life get any better?

Initially, early Apples were fairly easy to work with but they were always more expensive than PC machines. Apple never developed a hobbyist base like PCs did. Once the Mac came out, the days of tinkering with the operating system were pretty much over for the Apple enthusiast. But the PC folks had the DOS operating system which Microsoft built Windows on top of. To this day, there is still a marked preference for hobbyists to work on PCs instead of Macs. (No, I won’t go into stories about Apple DOS.)

So, here I am, a confirmed Apple user, navigating my way in Windows. It’s definitely an experience, a different way to do the same thing a Mac does. And the Windows program I needed to run is doing just what I wanted.  I wonder what else I will discover as I explore this parallel universe. But I also think of Springsteen when I reminisce:

Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of glory days.


By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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