You always remember your first.
I don’t recall exactly how old I was but I was young, maybe nine or ten. She lived in the neighborhood, a few doors down from my own, residing with a friend of my brother’s in a modest ranch-style house across from a local high school. My brother and I had been invited to his friend’s house to hang out and had ridden our bikes over, his dragon-red, mine a pale blue that mirrored the afternoon sky. I remember the weather was cool–it was autumn, I think–and the air smelled like wood smoke and pine. A leaf-choked stream ran quietly behind the house and into the deeper forest.
I looked beyond the parking lot blacktop to the rows of classroom windows and imagined myself, much older, attending the school in some far distant year. I felt a blip of anxiety but there was nothing to worry about at that moment.
The friend met us at the door and flashed his signature rabbit-toothed grin. I was a little jealous of his maroon Members Only jacket. He was the first kid I remember seeing wear one. His family wasn’t wealthy but seemed to want him to have the best, to fit in with his peer group. He ushered us in to a house whose decor was a fight between the seventies and the eighties (and the seventies were winning). Through the lens of memory it strangely reminds me of the interior of a Steak and Ale restaurant (the chain went bankrupt in 2008).
We walked down a dim, shag-carpeted hallway to his bedroom kingdom. At this point my memory becomes a blur. I don’t remember the personal treasures he shared with us in that wood-paneled chamber, save two: a really cool lava lamp and her.
When the friend introduced us, she didn’t say much and neither did I–I could barely comprehend what I was seeing. I was in awe but hid my excitement well, not wanting anyone to know. Her dark skin caught the bedroom’s light as she moved from the closet to the bed producing a sheen that was irresistible, electric, full of mystery and promise.
It was love at first sight. Yes, I was young but I knew my life had changed and would never be the same.
I’ve thought of her often since that autumn of discovery, so very long ago.
I have a picture of her still.
Would you like to see her?
Yes, the same Timex that makes watches.
Released in 1982 and sold fully assembled at a time when computers were often sold in kits that you had to assemble yourself with a soldering iron, she had a starting price of $99.95 ($275.00 in adjusted dollars). The processor was a Z-80 running at 3.25 MHz. Memory was an enormous 2K adjustable to 64K RAM max.
Those sexy stats certainly put the sin in Sinclair, don’t they?
My brother’s friend’s mother actually bought two of these for her son, the lucky b*stard. But he never appreciated those beautiful ebony twins and eventually gave one to my brother.
I spent as much time with her as I could, gently caressing that wonky membrane keyboard, typing out little love programs using the built-in BASIC language. She opened my eyes to the adult world of computer programming and I will be forever grateful.
I don’t remember what happened to her.
Okay, okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little (just a bit), maybe this is a little weird (just a bit), but if a woman can marry the Eiffel tower, is early-eighties computer love really so taboo? The heart wants what the heart wants.
If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.Luther Ingram
That little computer–barely a calculator–caught the technical imagination of many early eighties programmers, phreaks, nerds and hackers. For me those early experiences eventually led to a career in development that has served me extremely well (despite my sometimes vociferous complaining). Later, I had torrid programming affairs with other computers as I grew older like the eclectic Coleco Adam and the Tandy 1000 HX sold by Radio Shack.
But you always remember your first.
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