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April 17, 1997

DOS Years...
Copyright 1997 - Greg Bulmash - All Rights Reserved

I've been thinking that if there's anything shorter than a dog year, it's a DOS year. Think about it. A dog doesn't become obsolete for about 9-11 years. A computer... well, not that many people cried during the scene in "Old Amber" when they had to take the TRS-80 out back and shoot it.

Bring a computer and a goldfish home on the same day now. You're likely to need to upgrade something before Goldie gets flushed to God.

But still, there is that sense of nostalgia. Last time I wrote about an old computer, I received a barrage of memories from readers. Memories about TI 99's, Timex 1000's, Apple 2's, 8 inch floppies, and acoustically coupled modems. Heck, if you owned a Commodore Amiga, odds are you still have it.

It's like virginity, I guess. You never forget that thrill of your first poke... "33,40" into an Apple 2. I remember Jr. High with the homebuilt computer where we would load Hammurabi from tape and get reports of rats eating our grain. A few months back reader Carolyn introduced me to Larry Lasker, the man who wrote "War Games." I was in awe. Oh so many years ago, when I got that little voice synthesis box which I plugged into my Commodore 64, the first thing I made my computer say was "would you like to play a game?"

"How about a nice game of chess," my computer asked.

"No," I said, "I want to play Global Thermonuclear War." That movie introduced "Global Thermonuclear War" into my vocabulary. And the funny thing is that even now, when you buy a sound card and get that cheesy voice synthesis program included with the obligatory utilities, it sounds no more realistic than it did in "War Games." In fact, it sounds almost exactly the same. They have improved every single thing your home computer can do, but consumer grade voice synthesis is still stuck in 1983.

Of course now, instead of targeting Las Vegas and New York, I'd instruct WOPR/Joshua to level Redmond, Washington and Mountainview, California. The fantasy is hard to resist. A couple of well placed warheads and I wouldn't have to upgrade my browser for a while. Windows 97/98/99 would go from vaporware to vaporizedware.

But I'm going off on a tangent. I've been talking about the progression of technology. Heck, I'm not even one to talk. I started off in the days of cassette tapes and 160k floppies. There are readers of this column who used punch cards. Quick age check. How old were you when you last had to be warned not to "fold, spindle, or mutilate" something?

Yet, almost reassuringly, certain things persist. We still have to fill in the whole spot and nothing but the spot with a #2 pencil. Despite the dedicated efforts of the software industry, I still haven't balanced my checkbook. And best of all, M&M's still melt in your mouth, not in your hands.

See ya next week.


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