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Friday, December 15, 2017
Article written by Mike Bryant

Oh Boy! A New (to me) Toy!

I am a very happy man this morning. It feels like Christmas and Santa has been good. You see, I made a purchase this past weekend that has me very excited—I now have another computer to play with. Now those of you who read my articles regularly or who know me personally know that I am, er, somewhat of a geek. So you may not be very surprised that I am so excited over the purchase of a new computer. But, that’s the thing: it isn’t new. It’s over 20 years old and I paid only $5 for it.

There was a huge 50-mile long yard sale this past weekend. Not all, but many houses, churches and businesses along the route of KY Highway 52 had decided to participate. For those who love to shop for used clothing or go antiquing, it was wonderful. I am neither. However, I was bored, so the kids and I were driving along the highway checking out the scene. On a fluke, I decided to pull in to a school and see what sort of stuff they had to sell. My heart leapt when I saw a Commodore Vic-20 computer sitting on a table. It was in the original box, with original owner’s manual and a programming guide. Also, there was for sale a Commodore tape recorder so programs could be saved to cassette tape. Wow. The owner told me that he wanted $5 for both the computer and the tape recorder. What a deal! I bought it without hesitation.

Is this computer useful? Not really. The Vic-20 had only 3.5 KB memory capacity when it was introduced in 1981 and could only be programmed in BASIC and machine language. Many calculators today have more processing power than this. So it serves no useful purpose—I can’t use it for my software business; I can’t even use it to check email.

So, why did I spend my $5 on it? That’s easy to answer… I remember with misty-eyed nostalgia the long hours of my youth spent in front of a TV screen (this was when you plugged your computer into a TV, no monitor needed), typing away on some computer program. Many weekends I would not go to bed until the wee (very wee) hours of the morning happily hacking away. I had a TI-99/4a computer in my youth and was hopelessly addicted to it. A friend had a Commodore 64 computer that we would hack on, and another friend had a Vic-20. Back in the days when Bill Gates was trying to get someone, anyone, to listen to his crazy business idea, my friends and I were busy typing away on some program that was the focal point of our lives at the time.

Of course times have changed and so have I, for the most part. Sometimes, even today, I find the morning sun coming up to remind me that I should probably stop banging away on a keyboard and get some sleep. It is truly a joy when one realizes that he has been blessed with the gift of his greatest hobby becoming a career.

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions for future articles, please email me at mike@MikeBryant.com.
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