Happy Father's Day

Illustration for article titled Happy Fathers Day

Two years ago I toured the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., and if you ever have the opportunity, I very much recommend a visit. It was edifying both in what it taught me that I didn't know, and for the nostalgia that reminded me of what I once did. And on my way out that day, passing an entrance to one of the exhibits, I came around the corner and got a jackhammer right in the kisser.

It was a Commodore 64 - the greatest personal computer of its generation, and one of the greatest ever - hooked up to an 11-inch black-and-white TV with a hoop UHF antenna, a gate-latch 1541 5 1/4-inch floppy disk drive, and a 1526 dot matrix printer. The spitting image of my childhood desktop. It took me straight back to rainy Saturdays I spent with Dad, inputting programs from the back of the old Compute!'s Gazette magazines.

I'd be sitting at the desk, 11 years old, by this time a touch-typer after learning first on the VIC-20 Dad bought my brother and me for Christmas in 1982. And Dad would be on the twin bed to the side, with a long pillow under his legs because of his bad back, holding up the folded-over magazine and calling out the programming for some game I wanted to play. Oil Tycoon. The Enchanted Journey. Baghdad. Beekeeper. The Frantic Fisherman. The Freeze Factory. Canyon Cruiser (or, as my brother called it, Intestine Flyer).

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Think about that. For those of you who are pushing 35, like I am, like Dad was that year, think about giving up a Saturday afternoon to help an 11-year-old with data entry. For BASIC programs, we had a checksum auditor that tipped us off to syntax error; for machine language we had an assembler that was a bit more on the ball. But both of these, mind you, had to be programmed in BASIC themselves. And they only caught problems at the line level, saving you from entering the entire program, typing RUN and being left to wonder what the hell was wrong. For every typo I made or, God forbid, error in the code printed in the back of the magazine, Dad and I would still have to go back and read through the code, parsing every character for clues. Any number higher than 255 was a giveaway.

The video games were tedious enough, but nothing like our grandest project. One weekend we buckled down, from mid-morning Saturday and carrying into early evening Sunday and entered, literally by hand, the word processor that I used up to my sophomore year of college, the one that truly nourished my love of writing. SpeedScript was its name.

Dad called out the code and I entered it. I swear I can still hear him now: "127 ... 099 ... 086 ... 254 ... 181 ... carriage return."

"Check."

"Next line: 101 ... 211 ... 050 ... 245 ... 112 ..."

Thank you Dad. Happy Father's Day, and I love you. And to everyone reading Kotaku, Happy Father's Day to your dads, too. Show them some love in the comments.

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Compute!'s Gazette Index: July 1983 to April 1987 [Classic Computer Magazine Archive]

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DISCUSSION

Well, the only console my dad bought was a Pong clone that had a plastic rifle attachment (for skeet shooting). If he had lived long enough he probably would have been an early adopter (he died in 1974, thanks to a drunken driver).

As for the C64, yeah, that brings back the memories alright.

I had one after I had a Vic-20, and I attempted to use the

old Gazette programs (sometimes they worked, sometimes, well...not ^_^). I picked up a 64 again around 1994 and had the floppy drive, the printer and the cassette drive. But later in the year, I got the most influential gift, which was the 1200 baud modem. I tried the Commodore disk, but by then they either got snapped up or became AOL or something. But I did not despair. Columbus had The Greater Columbus Freenet, and I was able to use Telix 3.21 to access it. So after becoming a member, I was able to access Teh Internets! ^_^ Doing Archie searches and WAIS! Discovering the wonders of Webcrawler! And all with the wonders of ASCII!

And my world was never the same again. (hell no I'm not going back to ASCII graphics ^_^).

But I am sure that if my dad was alive today (he would have been 79 this year) he would have been messing with either target shooting (he didn't hunt), or fishing (something he didn't have time to do after the herd was born (for the record, I'm number 8 of 9)) on a computer.

So Happy Father's Day!