What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 1: Apple IIe)
I’ve been feeling really nostalgic lately. More so than usual, which if you know me, I exist as a fairly perpetual statement of the past through my life choices. I mow my yard with a 40 year old lawn mower, listen to 25 year old music, type on a 35 year old keyboard and drive a 20 year old truck. If anyone has done a good job in keeping the past alive and kicking in the year 2019 it’s me.
I’m super glad I live when I do though. It’s so easy to go back and relive so many things that may otherwise slipped my mind, lost from my own personal reality. I’ve been following some guys on YouTube (LGR and The 8bit Guy) who spend time taking old 80’s and 90’s computers and get them running again. It’s a nice way to re-experience some of those feelings, and let them carry the burden of physical space that all of those old machines require.
Our first proper home computer was an Apple IIe. I remember going over to my dad’s Boss’s house to look at it before my parents bought it. This would have been the early 90’s, so the IIe was already outdated by then, but I knew what it was from the elementary school computer lab, and I’m sure that my parents thought that it would be a good educational thing for me and my sister to have in the house. Maybe they had dreams of printing out family newsletters to stick in Christmas cards, I don’t know. I just wanted to play some Oregon Trail.
Early on my parents expanded the memory in it. I can’t remember if they expanded it to 64k… added 64k… I don’t know. I just vaugely remember there being some discussion about whether or not it was worth the cost. I guess it was, because I still remember where that old computer store was on Gunsmoke in Dodge City where we had it installed.
We had that computer for a long long time. Almost all through the 90’s. I remember playing games like Wheel of Fortune, Card Sharks, and more. The thing came with quite a bit of software, and I remember going through every single disk to see what it was and being baffled about what anyone would use a spreadsheet for. My aunt actually worked for MECC Software, so we got hooked up with all the good stuff. Oregon Trail, Odell Lake, Number Munchers, and like four or five other titles.
But probably some of my fondest memories were with The Print Shop. I would print out thank you notes and birthday cards on paper that you’d fold in quarters to create a little card shape out of a single sheet of paper. Or we’d print out banners on that constant feed perforated paper with the holes on the side you’d tear off. You’d listen to that printer just hammer away on that paper for like 15 minutes to crank out a banner, and hope that your ribbon didn’t run out of ink halfway through.
Old computers like that where so mechanical. The drives whizzed and thunked away. The keys had long travel an ca-chunked on every stroke. The printer rocked the entire desk. You really felt like you had a machine that was DOING something.
I even remember taking the old color Amdek monitor with me to college because I didn’t have a TV and I could hook my N64 to it! Whatever my folks paid for that Apple IIe… I think we got our money’s worth out of it!