It’s okay to be lazy (sometimes)

I go through phases where I mentally beat myself up for not getting done all the lofty plans I make for myself. I was laying in bed this morning before the kids woke up and found myself thinking, “Okay, how can I put this unknown amount of ‘me time’ to use before Dad mode has to kick in?”

Then the more I thought about the projects I could start or continue working on, I thought to myself, why do I have to fill every waking moment with some sort of accomplishment? Getting the kids up, dressed and to school on time is an accomplishment, having a productive day at work is an accomplishment. Finding time to play with the kids between making supper, doing laundry and hopefully staying on top of keeping the house clean is an accomplishment. That last one sometimes slides for a day or two! I came to the conclusion there in my bed that it was okay to take a few unknown number of available moments and let the world exist without me trying to improve it in any way.

So what do I do? Grab the computer and decide to blog. Another thing I’ve been putting off forever. Haha. What a hypocrite!

Don’t worry, I’m not writing furiously. I’m pausing a lot to take in my surroundings and bask in the tranquility. I hear the sound of Luke’s radio in his room. It’s funny how he sleeps with a radio, and Emma doesn’t. The hum of the refrigerator. And the faint sound of birds chirping through the closed living room window. The sun is just on its way up and I look forward to the mornings here in just a couple weeks where I can sit in this spot on the couch with a warm cup of coffee and open up the window and let the outside in. We’re not quite there yet. It’s 31 outside this morning!

A stark contrast to last night. I’ve never fallen victim to a panic attack, but I definitely hit my sensory overload yesterday. Luke had some friends over and they’d been playing, but it was getting close to supper time so everyone headed home. Luke was sad and angry that his friends couldn’t stay and that energy was being directed my way. I was folding laundry and wanted to get that task accomplished before I moved on to supper myself, and Emma asked for a hot dog. I informed her we were having ravioli and she lost it, and started crying like her dog died. She’d been a little short on sleep the night before, so she’d been quite the pistol all day. I also made my own mistake of having a YouTube video in one ear while I was working on laundry.

So all at once, I had an angry 9 year old accusing me of being the reason his friends have to eat food, a 3 year old crying desperately for a hot dog, and guy trying to fix a Commodore 64, all hammering at my mind simultaneously. It was so frustrating in the moment. Like everyone had a problem that I was supposed to fix for them, and I had my own stuff too!

I pulled the earbud out of my ear first and just stood there for a second, listening to the sobs of “Hooooot dooooog! Hooooot dooooog!” I looked at Luke and asked him to give me a hug. He’s pretty easy to talk down with hugs and that worked. Emma I just calmly doubled down on the no hotdog business and started the ravioli water boiling and went back to laundry.

Emma wandered into her room and continued to cry, not for a hotdog, but now mourning the loss of the hotdog that could have been. I’m not sure how long she cried, but I finally noticed she had stopped sometime halfway through the ravioli. I went in her room and she was passed out in her bed. Tuckered out from the day. The meltdown wasn’t really that I wouldn’t give her a hotdog, but rather, she was just tired. But being as it was only 5pm, I thought Oh Hell No! Were not going down for the day at 5, she’ll be up at 3am! SO I had to lure her out of bed. But I couldn’t offer her a hot dog of course, so I settled on a cookie. The offer no kid can refuse.

Luckily she hadn’t fallen hard asleep yet and the cookie didn’t spoil her dinner. We all ate ravioli, and Luke’s friends showed back up after supper time, so he got to go back to playing. And everything sorta just took care of itself.

It’s so hard in those moments though not to just get angry at your circumstance. To feel like “this isn’t fair”. And in those moments I just try to think instead, “this is happening right now”. Disassociation is definitely my favorite coping mechanism!

As it got later and friends went home, bedtime routines here got started, I really wanted to finish my SE/30 video I’ve been working on. But I decided to play some Minecraft instead with Lucas after Emma went down. Later as I tucked him into bed he said his prayers and he thanked God for getting to play Minecraft with Dad. Nothing quite melts your heart like hearing something like that. I ended up feeling pretty good about my choices for the day.

It was now about 10:30. I still had high hopes of getting the rest of that video shot, but before I knew it, it was morning. I made the mistake of laying in bed until Luke fell asleep, and darn it if I didn’t end up asleep too.

So Sunday remains. Will I get that video done? I dunno. I mean it will get done someday and in the meantime I’m going to probably get a lot of other useful things done too. Everything has an opportunity cost and you have to come to grips with not being able to do everything in the world ever. Choose goals that are important sure, but don’t forget to choose what’s important in the moment too when life presents you with the choice.

Youtube and Things

I’ve started a journey that is sure to detract from the blog even more than Twitter has already done. I’ve started creating videos for YouTube. I’ve posted some videos on YouTube in the past, but I’m starting to create content that is somewhat… watchable? Well, at least entertaining to an audience. Now that is certainly a very small audience, but one that if they ever find it, will really appreciate it I think.

My content is a bit all over the place, so I was trying to think of a theme that ties it all together. I didn’t really want to box myself into making one certain kind of video. After a while I imagine that just feels like work. I don’t see YouTube being my primary source of income ever, so it better be enjoyable as a hobby. So I decided the theme should be “Being bad at fixing things, but succeeding anyway”.

The inspiration has just come from so many people that say, “I wish I knew how to do ____ like you do.” Well you can. You just have to tolerate being bad at it.

I’m now 24 hours into trying to create some system disks for my Macintosh SE/30. It’s been a video series that I started, did a really bad job re-capping the motherboard, but so far it’s working anyway! I’m sure that some people would see my method and cringe, even get angry that I’m “destroying” a classic computer. But if it works? Plus I think a lot of people would dive into whatever that thing is that they’re interested in, but there’s so much gatekeeping that goes on with the elitists in that field, that people are way too intimidated to even start.

Even if you don’t have all the experience, or the best tools, or whatever. Who cares. Take on a project and see how it goes. It won’t be perfect, but to expect your first project in something to be perfect seems like a pretty unrealistic expectation.

Just like making these videos. I know the sound and editing isn’t the best. But you publish them anyway, and hope that you learn something to make the next one better.

I’ve been enjoying it so far. It’s been a little frustrating at times, but most of the things you truly care about should frustrate you at times. It means you really care.

So I’m going to get back to this video. As for right now, to see the content just search “Matt Althouse” on YouTube. Right now I have 35 subscribers, so give me a boost! I think if this continues to be a focus I’m going to have to open a brand channel so I have a few more options with what to do with it.

Okay. Back to “work”, which by work I mean my hobby. Which is a pain in the ass sometimes. Like work.

The Van

Since I’ve been a single dad, I started thinking about picking up a second vehicle for hauling the kids around. I have the Silverado, which is an extended cab. The back is roomier than the extended cabs of yore, but on a long trip, that back seat is really cramped. Emma’s feet touch the seat in front of her no matter how far forward you move the front seat. So I started looking at older SUVs, and even minivans.

Looking cool wasn’t a priority. I really wanted something roomy and with the kids traveling 4 hours twice a month, I wanted something they’d be comfortable in. As I was browsing local listings, a couple of these vans would pop up into my search. But most of them were rusty, or busted up. So my focus kept going back to SUVs and minivans. I almost bought a Toyota 4Runner, but it already had 250,000 miles. There were several minivans in my price range, but the more I looked at vans, the more I kept seeing conversion vans.

Then suddenly, this van popped up on Facebook marketplace, and it was in Great Bend! I messaged the seller right away and even though the listing hadn’t been up for a day yet, he said he had 4 people coming to look at it the next day. Maybe… maybe not. You never know. But it was a nice looking van from the photos. So I made time to go look at it that night.

I had the kids wait in the truck while I looked it over. It was definitely old. 1993, but there was no hidden rust, all the fluids checked out. It started right up. If nothing else I figured it was worth the risk. So we bought it that night. The kids LOVED it instantly. So much room inside. They thought they could run around inside while I was driving, but they were a little disappointed when they found out that they had to stay buckled in their seats. But when we got the van back home, they got to unbuckle and roam free. They put all the shades up, and down, and up again, and back down, and then Dad told them to stop.

They loved the fold down bed. Again they were bummed that they couldn’t lay down in the bed while we were driving. But if we decide to go camping some time, this will be better than a tent!

The story of the van involved some long trips to Denver in the mid 2000’s for cancer treatments for the previous owner. Then the van set for a long time, like 10 years in a barn. So that’s always a little bit scary when a vehicle has sat for a long time. The biggest problem was the tires. As best I could tell by reading the codes on the tires, they were from 1998. Yikes! That’s some old rubber. They looked fine, but I didn’t want to risk a blow out with my family on the road. So the van sat for a couple weeks until I could get some tires.

I decided that I wanted to save a little money since I sorta blew my budget on the van itself. So I ordered tires online. I figured I could just swap out my own tires. When I was a kid I replaced my own bike tires all the time. WEEELLLL. This was a little harder. These tires were super old and had become “one with the rim”. I tried busting the beads loose with my shop press, and nothing doing. But after a trip to Harbor Freight for some tire changing tools, I eventually got it done. And still saved about $200 from going to a tire shop. I definitely worked for it though!

Much to my satisfaction, the tires didn’t leak air, and honestly below 70 miles per hour, they are balanced great (total accident).

Since then I’ve been driving the van quite a bit. I take the kids to school/daycare and they love it. The only other immediate problem I had was that the heater didn’t work very well. I pulled off the heater hoses and flushed out the cores with a garden hose and a bunch of brown nasty water came out. After that the heater worked AWESOME! Here on the last trip the heat started to fade a little bit, so I bet there’s still more sediment in the coolant that is getting caught up again. I might have to flush it a few more times as we go, but it’s easy to get to right under the hood and only takes about 20 minutes.

Non immediate stuff includes the “party/mood” lights. They blow a fuse instantly when you try to turn them on. So I have to try to find the short there. That’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. And the rear blower fan is seized up. That’s a pretty cheap part, but so far I haven’t found any way to get all the trim panels removed without destroying everything in the process. So that’s going to have to wait until the kids are gone for a little while before I attack that. I suppose that I could just go back to the truck for kid hauling purposes, but the front blower does a good enough job keeping everything nice and toasty.

So it’s been the butt of a lot of jokes. I’ve heard them all already. But it’s spacious, it’s comfortable, and it gets pretty much the exact same gas milage as the truck from what I’ve measured so far. There’s plenty to work on like any old car, but I kinda dig that stuff. I took the kids 2 hours to meet their mom this weekend, and Luke said he felt like he was in an airplane. Haha. Perfect.

Adventures from Computer Reset: Chapter 1

So I had a lot of items to choose from for my first project from my Computer Reset trip. I decided to go with one of the oldest machines I picked up. A Pentium I Micron Millennia from 1996. Now Computer Reset was a computer repair / reselling shop. So there’s a good chance that everything that’s in there is broken, and sure enough this one needs some help right off the bat.

When I opened up the case, I was surprised to find how clean it was inside. The volunteers at Computer Reset have done a lot of work, but it’s still far from the cleanest place on earth. I did see a few cockroaches scatter when I moved certain boxes, and a lot of stuff was covered in a varying degree of what we will just call dust. If you want to get more specific, your imagination is the limit. So when I opened this up, it was honestly cleaner than most of the PCs I work on for people in their homes!

There wasn’t anything too surprising or unexpected in here. It was a decently equipped machine for 1996. Plenty of RAM, CD-ROM, a Diamond Stealth 3d video card and a 10BaseT ethernet card. We didn’t get our first Windows PC until 1997, but even then this machine would have blown it out of the water. The only real problem it has is that the hard drive appears to be dead.

So swapping a hard drive is easy enough, except that over the years most of my IDE hard drives have either died, or been shipped off in old computers as hand me downs to other people. So I picked up about half a dozen IDE drives at Computer Reset, but I went through every one of them and they all appear to be dead. Some more convincingly than others. One actually started transferring files then suddenly started making a violent shrill sound that sounded like it was going to send shards of the platter hurtling into the room at any moment.

I got 5% through formatting the disk before it met it’s horrific end.

The inevitable doom of every spinning hard drive is something that in life, probably makes me contemplate my own mortality more than any other. You see, hard drives dying isn’t a new thing. I’ve had many die on me over the years but when one did, I always just went and got another spinning hard drive to replace it. They were ubiquitous. But now as more and more of them give up, and there aren’t really any to replace them that aren’t themselves already about to die, I can’t help but think about how no matter how normal and mundane every day may seem to be, there will come a day where you can never have a day like that again. It may seem normal, or even frustrating for my kids to leave the table a mess, smear applesauce all over it, and leave their toys around, but someday not only will that not exist anymore, but I won’t even be able to re-experience it again save for some pictures, videos and memories. Eventually, everything comes to pass.

That got pretty deep.

So after trying six hard drives including a 150 Gig one that showed up as an 80 Gig in BIOS here, I didn’t have any luck. The best I could get is that the install disc would create the MSDos partition and then hang on reboot. Once it did that, that drive was hosed (at least on this machine) I’m sure I could format it in a different machine, but I would have to get out ANOTHER PC that has an IDE controller in it and I haven’t been up to that task… yet.

Instead I ordered a compact flash to IDE adapter. I love the sound of spinning hard drives, especially these ones from the mid 90s, and the clicking of the heads. But as much as I love working on these things, I don’t want to wonder if I’m going to have a new project on my hands EVERY time I power a thing on. This should be reliable, and easily swappable to other machines. I can easily back up hard disk images on my server for most of these old machines that don’t require that much space at all.

So that’s coming Tuesday. I look forward to spending some time learning my way around that and getting it up and running with a classy Windows 95 setup and maybe even trying to play games or send a Tweet or two from the Micron Millennia!

Long Long Time

I still think about this blog from time to time. Believe it this is the first post of 2020 here. That’s pretty incredible. I’m not going to bother going back and recapping what’s happened since the last post. You can check out my Twitter @kartmaster for that. I think I decided to pop open the blog mostly because I wanted to write on the new MacBook Air.

I ordered this thing a while ago, and so far I’m pretty impressed. I’ve had some old Macs… back when they called them Macintoshes… But this is the first contemporary Mac I’ve ever owned. With all the new specs and what not. It’s an “M1” Mac, which is Apple’s basic processor that they use in the iPads and whatnot. Such a weird experience, because this thing is honestly fast! And I’m used to comparing mobile as slower. I know there’s going to be faster machines that come out in just a month or two, but for now it’s pretty neat to be able to use a machine that’s so snappy and responsive towards basically anything that I ask it to do.

Definitely still getting used to MacOS though. Everything is just sorta opposite that it is in Windows. Almost like one is trying to make it look like it’s trying too hard not to be the other one. Not saying who’s copying who. Haha. But other than the growing pains of learning a new OS, I’m getting along okay.

Also just got back from Computer Reset in Dallas! How cool was that! Just stack after stack, after stack of vintage PCs and stuff! I wish that I would have brought home more, but I was pretty happy for what I ended up with. Plus it was a fun trip. It’s been a while since I headed out on an adventure. I covered almost 1,000 miles in two days! Dallas seemed pretty cool. Definitely would like to go back there when time permits.

Man, I’m starting to drift off while I’m writing. I’m going to have to call it a night.

No. I’m not dead.

So Many Pies

I feel like I’ve got a little bit of something in everything right now.  “A finger in every pie” I believe the saying goes.  I’ve gotten the opportunity to dive into a few more projects here recently, and some still waiting to get done.

The Basement has been sitting in pre-construction phase for a while now.  After the flood and ripping everything out, then flood 2, I’ve been a little gun shy to put it all back together.  But my Dad kinda has been leaning on me to get past the fear that it might flood again, and start rebuilding, so I have.  We got some drywall put up and I almost am done putting in another in-wall shelf that Andrea and I have talked about for years to go under our TV.  We’ve been making some visible progress, and that feels good!  We should have some help coming this weekend to finish off the drywall.  That would be fantastic.  Then it can really come together after that.

basement1

For fun I’ve been having some good times with the Apple IIe from the side of the road, cleaned up and restored that.  Stopped short of retrobriting it because a) It’s not too yellowed, and b) I’ve seen some of those projects go bad.  So I’ll leave it be.  I’d like to find some junk electronics to test the process on and see what works.

appleii

Another side project is an old Dell server that I’ve absconded from work.  It was taken out of service several years ago, and honestly doesn’t even have a TB of storage across all the drives.  But it’s a thing I’ve been playing with, the ultimate goal is to set it up as a file server, and VM box for emulating retro operating systems.  So far I have Windows 95 up and running.

server

I’m still studying spanish, though more passively.  I need to get back to it actively, I still expose myself to spanish media, my devices are in Spanish.  But I want to make another hard push leading up to the new Animal Crossing game coming out in March.  I have resolved to play that game from the beginning in Spanish only.  It should be fun!

ac

Basement is the big looming thing though. I want to get that put back together to the point we can get the carpet ordered, which is still a few months away at this point with all the painting to do even after the drywall is up.  So I’m trying not to look TOO far down the tunnel.

After that, it will be time to tear into Andrea’s ATV and see what’s up with the engine.  It runs, but it makes an awful noise.  I don’t know if it’s a bearing, a piston, or what.  Won’t know until we tear it apart.

It all gets done… slowly!

The State of Things

I am in my zone. For whatever reason I feel like a lot of stuff has been coming together.  Yeah sure there’s a lot out of place, but nothing that I feel like is out of control.  We’ve had a tree fall on our house, well a big part of one.  A flood.  ATV problems.  Car problems.  Budget problems.  But all that seems like stuff that we can knock out just given enough time.  All the imporant stuff is great.

Emma is growing so fast now.  Every day she is picking up new words and phrases, she is starting to be able to communicate.  It’s a little bit of a relief.  Every stage is a lot of fun with kids, but communication sure makes the job of parent easier in a lot of ways.  She wants to be involved in everything, absolutely everything.  Yesterday I was going to run out to the shop real quick to get some tools for the basement, and she absolutely would not stand for letting me go alone.  She had to tag a long and see what’s up.  And then she followed me down to the basement and took some screwdrivers and went around touching it to various things and promptly exclaiming “I did it!”.  Then she grabbed the hammer and put a couple new dents in the walls before I could notice…. oh well.  It’s all getting rebuilt anyway!  At least I have an expert in demolition on my team.

Luke is in 2nd grade.  That’s incredible.  I hope he’s enjoying growing up.  From about 3rd until 5th grade I remember having the time of my life.  He’s a smart kid but takes a little pushing to get going.  But it’s so cool when he wants to learn about something and gets totally into it.  For the longest time he was all about Titanic.  It was Titanic everything.  Right now he’s getting into games and stuff.  I had my first parent scratching my head at a video game moment when he wanted to play Robox.  I had just assumed it was a Minecraft knockoff.  But when I started to read about it… I was way off.  If anything it seems more like “Second Life” for kids.  People can create these different scenarios that you can play and partake in.  And that means that people can create ANYTHING, and the internet being the internet… it’s not all wholesome, even if it is wrapped in this kid themed playground.  So we locked down his permissions.  He can’t chat with anybody, he can only play approved scenarios.  But you know, he’s 8 years old.  He’s a good kid, but at 8, you still trust pretty much everybody.

Andrea and I got to go on a little impromptu trip together a couple of weeks ago.  The kids went to stay with Andrea’s sister, and we decided we were just going to go hop in the Jeep, camp at Wilson then drive.  We had the top off the Jeep and got a bunch of sun on day one.  I myself got a little crispy.  I think Andrea did okay though.  It was hot as balls at Wilson Lake.  Not bad in the shade, but there wasn’t hardly a tree big enough to catch any.  We ended up spending time sitting on the ground in the shade of the Jeep drinking all the water we brought with us.

After that it was fun just to explore the countryside.  We generally stayed off the highways.  We found the Geographic Center of the United States completely by accident.  Just little stuff like that.  Exploring, being together, wind in your hair sorta thing.  It was a good time, but I think we both also appreciated home when we got there.

And on the homefront the basement is the big looming project.  It feels really daunting to be honest.  We are still doing de-construction and clean up.  There’s so many little things, and I want to make sure all the mold is as dead as I can get it.  I know mold can always come back if it gets wet down there again.  But I just don’t want mold to find a way to start going again under normal circumstances.  It doesn’t smell all musty down there anymore, which is a good thing.  I think we’ll get to the point here in a couple of weeks that we can start hanging sheetrock again.  We want to build some shelving into the walls for the media stuff while were at it.  Kind of like the bookshelves under the stairs.  I guess it will go quicker if we don’t have to be careful this time!  Haha.

But where’s all the money for it come from?  Well, we have some savings, but we’re pretty good about earmarking our dollars and what they are saved for.  We have some money saved up for an insurance deductible.  We think we can use that and take some from a few of our other goals to get this done.  I’m planning on doing all of it ourselves, except for the carpet.  I love learning new skills, but carpet is a job that doesn’t look fun, or sound fun, and if I mess it up, I’ve wasted a lot of expensive carpet.

So that is the current state of things.  A little off balance it feels.  But excited to have the projects that we do.  Now I just need to get cracking on all of it instead of playing Rocket League and Octopath Traveler in the evenings… but those are goals too!

Mi Coche “Hermanito”

I need to spend some more time practicing writing Spanish.  I can read and listen pretty well, but when it comes to choosing my own words, I still have much work to do. So much to my vergüenza here’s a short blog in Spanish.  It’s really bad Spanish, but I’m trying.

Después mi coche negro y durante mis anos de escuela, tuve un coche rojo. Este coche no me gustó. Por supuesto yo estaba joven y tonto. El coche era muy confiable pero tuvo solamente una problema. Era muy feo.

El nombre oficial del coche era Pontiac 6000. Pero lo llamé “Hermanito”. O en ingles “Lil’ Brudder”. Se recibió su nombre de un dibujo animado se llamado “Homestar Runner” del internet. Hay un personaje perrito que tenia solamente una pierna y “el corazón del campeón”. Eso nombre lo quedó bien porque el carro vivó una vida muy difícil.

Se chocó mucho. Un pickup a la atrás. Una chica conduciendo en el nieve atrás también. Un trailer a la derecha. Y una cierva en frente. Pero el carro se mantuvo. Los gases del motor rellenado dentro del coche mientra conducí. Tenia que abrir las ventanas para respirar. Cuando la temperatura estaba tres grados y mis ventanas estaban abiertos yo sabia que era la hora para vender el coche.

Se vendó por 50 dólares. Un precio muy justo.

 

 

 

What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 5: Welcome To The Information Age)

If all my computer experiences before this were anything, they were the foundation in which I would interact with computers from this point forward.  Because once Windows 95 was out, and I was a part of it, like for many people, it became the environment that I would live in and evolve with until the present day.

It was 1997 for sure.  I remember it well.  I was 15 years old.  The year before we had just gotten the N64.  Then the next year, we got a … brand new computer!  I was freakin’ JACKED.  The specs of it I can’t really recall for sure.  It was either a 133Mhz or 166Mhz AMD K2 processor.  16MB of RAM at most.  Hard drive?  You got me.  But it had one.  And a floppy and CD drive.  What a time to be alive.

The early days were mostly just poking around.  Checking out the software that either came with Windows, or also some Word processory sorts of things.  I’m sure there was a spreadsheet application in there somewhere.  I don’t really remember playing too many games on it, though I’m sure that I did.  I’ll have to dig a bit deeper in my mental archives to see if anything pops up.

The funny thing about this machine was all the problems we had when we first got it. My parents had bought this machine assembled from a local computer shop.  I don’t know if was the same guys, but this shop was at least at a different location than we’d taken the old Apple IIe to.  I want to say this shop was on 2nd Street downtown in Dodge City.  I scrolled through Google Maps, but I couldn’t find for sure the place, but a couple that it may have been.  The funny part, was when we took the computer in after we just couldn’t stand the freezing anymore.  While they took it into the back to check it out, we were able to freeze absolutely every floor model PC they had on display, just by clicking around in Windows.  Whether they gave us a different PC, or our money back… only my Mom could say.  But I know we ended up getting a new machine one way or another.

The new machine still crashed.  But nothing like the old one.  You know, the standard Windows 95 just decides it’s done crashing.  But oh man, Windows 95.  In the way that the Original Super Mario Bros. game made it seem like there was a whole world hidden inside your TV that just begged you to come explore… Windows 95 felt like more than the machine it was on.

I want to try to draw the distinction as clearly as I can.  My old computers, it was all about what your computer could do.  What were it’s limitations.  With Windows 95 it was more like where could this computer take you?  You could meet new people, learn new stuff, make things, sell things, share things.  It was absolutely insane how it networked people together, made forming communities possible.

Our ISP that we used in Ingalls was United Telecom.  Or “ucom” for short.  Even just typing “ucom” brings back memories.  You’d dial into the actual local number, hear that all too familiar modem handshake.  And boom.  You were Connected!  Ucom in retrospect was a fine enough ISP.  Like a lot of places it was them, or nothing.  They definitely weren’t cutting edge.  We started out with 14.4kbps.  To put that into perspective that would take you 8 seconds to download this picture of a dial up modem.

modem

As slow and clunky as it was though, that internet was something magical.  Just talking to my friend next door on ICQ felt completely awesome.  Building my first website on Geocities really did feel like sticking my flag in the ground of this new digital homestead.  When I got my first email address of my very own, not shared with the family, it was a huge part of establishing my own identity.  I feel so fortunate to be there for the birth, the wild west of it all.

It’s crazy to think about how far we’ve come.  Every device is connected now.  Phones, thermostats, game consoles, TVs.   But back then, you had one.  One portal to this online world.  Full of insane ideas, and honestly great people.  I remember having to share computer time with everyone else in the family.  I remember having to get a second phone line installed in our house because literally no one could call us or use the phone.  It’s definitely a thing I take for granted now, having the internet wound into so many places of my life.  It’s my calendar, it’s my work flow, how I take notes, how I take pictures, you name it.  But those old machines… Slow.  Noisy.  Unreliable.  The things they could do still impress me today.

What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 4: The 386 and AOL)

This will be a brief entry as this was a pretty brief moment in time.  Like all of the other computers, we got an old 386 laptop way past its prime.  I say we, but I’m pretty sure this was the first computer I bought with my own money.  Also saying it was a 386 makes me think that what I thought was a 486 in my previous post was actually a 286.  I may have to go back and edit that.

This 386 laptop came installed with Windows 3.1.  I wish I could remember the model of the laptop, or even the brand, but for as much as I can retain, those details are lost.  I just remember it had a black and white backlit LCD screen and a pretty compact form factor.  Its size is really the reason I bought it because I thought it was a slick looking little laptop.  I did a little searching around and I couldn’t find anything that looked exactly like it.  But it was similar in size of what you might call a netbook these days.

The reason I bought it though was because of Windows 3.1.  Windows 95 was a thing already, so I was keeping the idea of running hardware a generation or more behind.  But the OTHER reason I bought this was because… it had a modem.  Windows 3.1, and a modem and I suddenly entered the arena of being compatible with the thousands upon thousands of AOL floppy disks you got in the mail, at the grocery store, pretty much everywhere in the 90’s.  So I picked one of those bad boys up with what I remember being 40 free hours.  By the end of the 90’s AOL was begging people to come over with like 700 free hours.  But 40 is what we had… so.

I remember setting this laptop up, literally on the telephone stand in the living room at Ingalls.  Went through the installation and of course at the end, you have to choose a phone number to dial into.  Well as you can imagine, in Ingalls, Kansas there were no local AOL numbers to call.  So we ended up having to call a Wichita number.

“Is that long distance?” I remember Mom saying.

“Yes… but we won’t be on very long!” I said.  Heck we only had 40 hours.  haha

We logged in, hearing that crunchy modem beeping and buzzing away.  Several long seconds later, the screen slowly refreshed to reveal the classic AOL starting page with all the different channels for news and fun.  All in glorious monochrome display for me though!

aol_v4-1

The amount of “things you could do” was a bit over whelming right off the bat.  So my friends and I went straight to the darkest corner of the early internet.  … Chat Rooms.

This was 1995 or 1996. So the internet was still “new” but it was catching on to the point that everybody kinda knew it existed.  The things you could do.  So we also knew the rules.  Don’t give people your real name, don’t give out your location.  You’d be proud to know that I lied on every A/S/L request that popped up in those chatrooms.

I’m sure you didn’t have to go far to get into the real nasty chatrooms, and while they all were somewhat coarse depending on who was online at the time, for the most part, everyone was there just to goof around, waste time, and have fun.  Or argue…  I don’t remember ever seeing anything that was absolutely shocking in a chatroom back then.

We popped around, we played some games.  But honestly we didn’t spend too much time on AOL.  Didn’t even hit those 40 hours.  It was just too expensive with the long distance charges.  Luckily soon enough we were entering the Windows era, and ISPs would make the internet available whenever we wanted it!