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» Monday, May 09, 2011When 64 Meant Fun
The Commodore 64, That '80s Computer Icon, Lives Again
Oh, goodness, do I remember the Commodore 64! I needed word processing skills to be able to get a job and my previous business school (who shall remain nameless, but let's say they go by the initials J&W) wouldn't allow me to learn word processing because I couldn't reach 60 wpm typing speed. I learned my first word processing on a 64, Alice and Juanita's, to be specific. It used a program called "Easy Script." Later I became enamoured of another word processing program called "Paperclip." I still have a couple of stories written in Paperclip and printed out on that noisy old dot matrix printer.
James and I bought one together, then I got custody of it when I moved to Atlanta. We had one—gosh, was it, into the early 90s?, first the original, and then the new one, the 64C, I think it was, which we had in the apartment after we were married.
The greatest gift the 64 gave us was contact to a "sort of" internet, the late, great GEnie, a bulletin board system. At that time, J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, and a whole bunch of other science fiction writers, like Rosemary Edghill, Ashley McConnell, and Christy Marx, hung out on GEnie's "SFRT," the "Science Fiction Round Table," which became so popular they had to break it into three different boards, one for books and short stories, one for televised SF, and one for related stuff (gaming and comics). JMS used to chat about the series in long, detailed posts.
These roundtables were discussion groups, and there were others for television, books, science, etc., sort of like Usenet (now accessible through Google Groups) and forums on web pages. It was on GEnie I met Laura Hayden after I created a GEnie group for Remember WENN. I remember one wonderful Christmas when the SFRT hosted a role-playing game New Year's Eve party and you could come with your favorite television character. I was pretty shy at role-playing, and, although I remember I "brought" someone with me, I didn't play much. A lot of the hunky or brooding male characters from then popular-SF were involved, I recall, like Methos from Highlander, and it was super-fun to read. I wonder if anyone still has that saved somehow.
And all this on a clunky old 2400 baud modem that tied up the phone lines; thankfully we had a program called "Aladdin." It was basically a macro program that would activate the modem, download all the new messages (since the last time you read), and then shut down the modem. You would read all the messages, reply to whatever you thought interesting, then start up Aladdin again; this time it would upload your messages.
I also remember James playing games on it, like Lode Runner; my favorite game was Jumpman. I remember Terica being addicted to Lode Runner for a while—you'd walk in the house and hear beep-beep-beep and then "Sh*t!" from where the computer was and laugh and know it was T, or Ann, playing Lode Runner again!
As the web and Usenet got more popular, and after GE sold GEnie, it wasn't quite the same anymore, especially after the new owners jacked up the prices. We couldn't afford both the new "Genie" and our Earthlink fee, and the friends we'd had there were also "jumping ship," so eventually we quit, too. It was so much fun while it lasted. :-) And then we traded in the 64 for a PC. "The old order changeth..."