Sunday, October 4, 2009

Learn to Take Care of Yourself

Sometime in the early 1980's, Mandy (whom you have already met) and I visited her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew in a very small town in southern Illinois.

Nephew Jim was of junior high school age and his parents wanted to buy a home computer for him. They knew nothing at all about computers and had little to spend on them, and enlisted my help. By far the least expensive computer available at the time was a Commodore 64, on sale at a local K-Mart for $69. It was also about the worst around, but their budget just didn't stretch beyond a hundred dollars.

BIL and I headed for K-Mart on Saturday morning and made the purchase. That computer only accepted keyboard and cassette input, and we picked up a couple of cassettes containing games, at least one of which was an "adventure" game. We're talking about the early days here, and such games consisted of text and still pictures, a step up from the very earliest games, which were text only.

It took just a few minutes to get everything hooked up and Jim behind the keyboard. We popped the adventure game in and I explained the concept to Jim, who was hot to trot.

We all watched for a moment as he encountered the first danger, which was in the form of a snake guarding a door. In no time flat Jim had been bitten and died, and had to start the game again, a severe penalty as loading data from the cassette was slower than cold molasses.

We four adults adjourned to the kitchen for coffee and conversation, and every five minutes or so we would hear from the living room a frustrated "Dang!" or "Aw geez," or "WHAAAAT?"

But at last Jim's voice floated into the kitchen, amusing us with an exaggeratedly casual "Y'oughtta learn to take care of yourself, Snake."