I received as a gift a Commodore C64, almost new. with 2 1541 floppy readers, a 1525 vic printer, an atari josytick and a green on green monitor. It included like a hundred of floppys with lots and lots of programs and specally games.
The only problem: nobody knew how to use it.
It was 1987 in Mexico. Computers were seen as stuff from the future. A distant future like 2001 space oddissey. So it wasn’t easy to find a techie friend that thaught you how to use it.
I could barely read basic english due to being in a bilingual school. My mother and father understood some english but got really confused with what back-then was uber-technical jargon: RAM, ROM, Varialbes, BASIC, Resolution.
The user guide didn’t include what to do with floppy disks, floppy reader was an option, and the user guide assumed you were reading and saving data on audio tapes.
Basically I was left on my own. There was no GUI, there was no inline help and even reading the contents of a disk recquired a not so easy command for a 7 year old kid. (LOAD"$",8 was the needed command then followed by a LIST command, but I didn’t know that)
Nobody at home found it funny. And became basically my toy.
Since user manual was almost useless I used to read the programming guide and became amused with the idea of telling the computer what to do and the computer doing it!!.
Oh man how many nights (and scolds) spent with that green monitor. understanding what a variable was, an array, how I had to plan because variables names only took account 2 characters. And what happened if i didnt left lines in between to add a new functionality. And the worst: Everything was gone when rebooting.
Remember? I still didn’t know how to use the Disk unit and I didn’t have the datasette audio tape reader/writer
It was like building sand castles and every time I turned off the computer a typhoon took away everything and had to start again. It was a little disappointing that I could not keep my creations, but it was the way it was.
Then I got permmissions to hook the computer once a week in the house’s only color tv (only tv for the matter) And the color and the sound attracted me even more
I spent several sundays at the swap meet with my dad buying everything I could for that computer (back then you could buy TANDYs and Zinclairs in the flea market, trust me) and once finally found in the flea market a floppy with some game that included a brochure indicating how to load it from the disk.
I remember the game but can’t remember the title. It was about firefighting. But it was not relevant the good thing is that said HOW TO READ DATA FROM DISKS!
And there I could play a lot of games like Summer Games and view spreadsheets, word processors, even more games.
And then I knew how to save to disk my own creations. And found it more motivating. I could keep what I was doing. I started making useful things like a program that could keep accounting for my father’s business and a program that could calculate the caliber of the pipes and metal jackets that my father needed to build industrial boilers.
It was 1989 I was 9 years old and my school bought brand-new IBM PS/2 and created a computer-lab that I found boring. When we were learning some useless stuff in a monochromatic MS-DOS prompt at school. I created my own equally useless stuff but in a lot of colors and with funny sounds.
I LOLed hard when the school praised their modern computer laboratory with what looked not-so-modern to me. I mean, I had colors and 3 voice sound and them a buzzer and a green on black display and we weren’t allowed to play because computers were for “serious” stuff.
When they were teaching us how to “dir” or start MS-WORKS from a floppy (come on! Who thinks that 3rd-graders need or want to learn how to use MS-WORKS) I could make bitwise operations and knew the truth-table for AND,OR,XOR and their negations. And even made some ASSY.
I Grew up, and went to College and graduated in “Informatics” (whatever it means) and there I hated programming. Data structures that never were thaught to apply, programming crash-course with lots of boilerplate just because teachers were pursuing some JAVA certifications. I made my grades and never found almost any computer-related stuff challenging, but my partners? Many graduated knowing a lot of math but can’t open-apart their own PCs and replace the HDD even if their life depended on it.
I still do some code and I’m very involved with IT, I would like to learn a new way to teach the youngsters and the elders. Teaching has always been one of my strenghts and I hope that I can relate this good ol’ programming manual with good new persons and memories to make IT more accesible to new generations.