Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 1    December 1997

Just Rambling on about Atari 8-Bits

Ernie Reaves

Let me confess -- my first computer was an Atari 8-bit. I selected it after comparing it to all of the other computers on the market at the time. I was much younger and more gullible back then; I actually called Atari Co. to order or at least reserve a 1450 XLD. I could not understand why they would not take my money. I ended up with an 800 XL from Montgomery Ward for less than $200.00. Little did I know that a computer without a storage device was virtually useless.

I got an Atari tape drive next, and then a 1020 plotter (I still think that this was perhaps Atari's greatest product). Then I got a 1030 modem, and finally an Indus disk drive that cost $500.00. You know, most of this stuff is still working! Now I have several Atari 8-bit computers, several disk drives and a lot of other Atari-compatible stuff, as well as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of disks full of programs.

A computer is a tool. As long as it does the job for which it was designed and purchased, use it. You don't throw your old screwdriver just because you got a new one. Same with computers. If my old, reliable Atari still does what I need it to do, why go out and get this week's latest "must-have" wonder? You can bet that there will be another terrific, overly hyped product next week. If I use my computer to type a few letters a month, why would I need a 233 MHz, $3,000 computer? A pen would do, or a pencil, but since I have a computer, why not use Atariwriter and my old dot-matrix printer? I don't need to get the latest Office program, one that costs more than my whole system is worth; all I need is a way to format my deathless prose, and a spell-checker. Why anyone would want or need all the bells and whistles on the all-inclusive word processors is beyond my comprehension.

Too often we get caught-up in the "mine is bigger, better, faster, and stronger than yours" syndrome. Almost every computer ever made has at least one feature that sets it apart from the rest of the hardware out there, so we tend to focus on our chosen computers' strengths and ignore any faults that they might have. If we were to look at a computer as a tool and not as a way to keep up with the neighbors, perhaps we would have less unused computing power on our desks and more money in our pockets.

The great graphics that the newest computer games feature are used to show gore and violence at the drop of a hat. I'm sure that you have all seen the Doom-type games. They remind me of Monty Python's Black Knight. You hack some poor, computer-generated character's arm off, and the blood sprays all over everything. I'm surprised that this doesn't attract piranhas to chew the toes off to create more blood to attract the sharks, to attract the giant squid, to attract the killer whales, to attract Moby Dick, to attract Ahab; boy, what a screen-saver that would be.

The old days were not necessarily better -- just simpler. Pac-Man had ordinances passed to keep kids out of the game rooms during school hours. Now you have Internet troubles: who can see or have access to what. The more things change, the more they stay the same! -- ER