Friday, June 24, 2016

Nerd On The Road

On several family trips back to see my aunt, at least one of our personal computers went along us: that original 128k Apple Macintosh. It didn't take up a lot of room in the car, and it kept your nerd servant occupied during those times when the adults wanted to drink adult beverages and talk or slip out to shop for antiques (again). I was honing my programming skills with Microsoft BASIC, and having the Mac and with lot of spare summer hours was just too much to go uncapitalized. We parked it downstairs right next to my Uncle's Apple ][+ and I hacked away on it between sightseeing and shopping.

On a previous trip, I had another PC up my sleeve -- or more specifically, stuffed in my little travel bag. That was the famous Timex-Sinclair 1000, that little computer that just about anybody could afford which hooked up to a TV set and could save and load programs from cassette tapes. During a stay in New Hampshire, I coded a Blackjack game and dumped it to tape. It lacked eye candy and had a few flaws -- I didn't realize face cards were worth 10, regardless if they were Jack, Queen or King. I gather it was more the feeling of accomplishment, though, being able to mix technical grunt work and escapism. That's nerd culture. I still have a tape with that program and at least a dozen others. Between screechy dumps of data, you can hear my wee voice announcing the program name so I could find it again on a cassette recorder without a tape counter.

Nowadays, when I'm riding in the back on a getaway with the Royal Father and Queen Mother, I'm on the iPad with the Samsung smartphone pumping tunes into my ear from a cache of songs on an SD card or TuneIn radio streaming from mobile data. I'm not programming on the road anymore, although I put together a Jeopardy scorekeeper using Visual Basic during a break at my parents' house -- still nerdy after all these years.

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