We just bought a new iMac. I don't feel any different, and I'm a little disappointed. Am I not supposed to turn into a silhouette and start uncontrollably boogieing to a trendy beat? Why do I still have dried baby drool caked across the left shoulder of a fraying t-shirt I've had since 1997? Isn't having an Apple supposed to instantaneously make my hair stylishly shaggy, my clothes Abercrombie-esque, and my kids, I don't know, smell less like molasses? Well, none of that happened. Steve "I need a real" Jobs will be getting an angry email from me soon.
This new computer does, however, send my mind fondly back to my first computer. It was 1990. The spring trees were blooming, the birds were chirping, and Michael Bolton was giving mullets and big noses a bad name.
My computer was stunning... ly clunky and off-branded. Using only the 800-page user's manual, I learned how to masterfully navigate DOS and troubleshoot the problems I created when trying to load the six or seven computer games I got for Christmas later that year. I was a sharp little 'tween.
I even started my first novel on that computer. I got 15 pages in and then realized I didn't really have anywhere to go after the main character lost his arms in a space fighter training exercise. No one wants to read a book about a guy with no arms. Unless it was Vanilla Ice. I bet if Vanilla Ice's arms fell off, people would want to read a book about him. I'd personally want to see him race jet-skis with no arms, but that's just me.
By 1994, computers had CD players. So I got a new computer with a CD player because I was in high school and they had CDs with entire encyclopedias on them, and my parents wanted me to read encyclopedias so I would get into college.
I didn't perform many academic tasks on this new computer, but I found it had the power to run sophisticated video games and I reasoned that colleges generally admit people with good problem-solving skills and hand/eye coordination, so I spent my weekends and Christmas vacations hammering my way through King's Quest and Wing Commander.
I have a vivid memory of speaking on the phone to a very attractive red-head from a school across town one Christmas break. She casually invited me over to her house for pizza and fuseball -- just the two of us -- and I remember actually feeling torn between A) the exclusive company of a beautiful, petite young woman and B) playing Civilization II alone in my room surrounded by empty two-liters of Dr. Pepper and the smell of boy.
Sadly, those days are behind me now. I have a couple computer games collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. Sometimes I think about settling back for a relaxing few hours of riveting civilization building, but then I remember I have kids... and that they'll want to play too. And since I haven't really learned to share yet, and since their whining would spoil the whole gaming experience for me, I just keep quiet and eat my peas.