All I wanted was an electric typewriter.
That was back in 2001. I was writing a lot lately and my old manual Underwood just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
So I started naively asking around. “Hey… If you know anybody who wants to sell an electric typewriter, I’m in the market for one. Nothing too fancy. Just something that works.”
Everybody just responded with a glassy eyed stare.
“What the heck do you want an electric typewriter for? Why don’t you just get a computer?” they said.
“A computer? What’s a computer?” I asked.
Okay so I didn’t say that but I might as well have since back in those days I knew absolutely squat about computers. In fact if you asked me what RAM was I probably would have mumbled something about an uncastrated adult male sheep.
So I figured okay, a computer… What the hey?
So I started naively asking around. “Hey… If you know anybody who wants to sell a computer, I’m in the market for one.”
“What kind of computer do you want?” they said.
They also said:
“Do you want an Apple or a PC?”
“What kind of CPU do you want?”
“How much hard drive space do you need?”
“How much memory?”
“SCSI or IDE? Or both?”
To which I responded with a glassy eyed stare. “A hard memory apple with a PCU scuzzi what now? HUH?!? I don’t know! Whatever. I just want something that works.”
I then realized I’d have to spend a considerable amount of time researching this whole computer thing before I could even buy one. Dang it. You know, all I really wanted was an electric typewriter.
Fortunately a friend of mine who had been into computing going back to ’92 came to the rescue. He had a closet full of outdated computers that he had collected over the years of his personal struggle with upgrade-itis. He opened the closet and showed me a waist high stack of desktops, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers and whatnot almost all of which was in perfect working order.
“Robert”, he said “You can have everything in this closet for FREE if you simply take it all off my hands. I have no need for these anymore but I can’t bear to throw any of it out.”
I took one look and I said, “Deal.”
Several cab rides later, my own closet was now stacked waist high full of desktops, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers and whatnot almost all of which was in perfect working order.
After a bit of wrangling and a couple or three phone calls to verify which whatchamacallit plugged into which thingamajig, I managed to get an 8088 with a green monochrome screen up and running.
The next day I went to work.
“Hey guess what,” I announced. “I got a computer.”
“Oh yeah? What kind of computer do you have?”
“An 8088 with a green monochrome screen!” I beamed proudly.
Not really getting it, I continued. “It’s got DOS 3.1 on it but I’m thinking of upgrading to DOS 3.3. I heard it’s better.”
(*more uproarious laughter*)
“But- But it’s perfect for my needs,” I stammered. “I’m running Word Perfect 5. It’s really cool…!”
(*uncontrollable fits of hysteria*)
“…n-no more messing with Liquid Paper whenever I make a typo. Like… Y’know…?”
I shrugged thinking, Okay I’m not really getting this joke but whatever. The thing was, I was incredibly thrilled about typing stuff out in digital format. It was all so new and wonderful to me. Producing written material using a typewriter was often a humongous hassle. Sometimes a single typo on one page could ruin a dozen or more successive pages of perfectly typed material.
But I figured, okay, maybe they’re right. Maybe my computer was a little old. So I dug into my closet full of newly acquired old computer parts, found a 286, mixed and matched it with a slightly bigger orange monochrome screen (which back then seemed to me like a big improvement) and fired it all up.
“Okay, now we’re talking,” I thought. “And this thing runs DOS 6.22! Cool!”
Back at work a few weeks later…
“So Rob… (*chuckle*)… how’s your new (*cough*) ‘computer’ coming along? (*snicker*)”
“Oh really good!” I said. “I upgraded to a 286. I’m running DOS 6.2 now. And I’ve got a 33 MB hard drive!”
(*glassy eyed stares*)
“Uh Rob.. Listen.. You can’t even get on the internet with that thing. Like… y’know?”
I thought… What the..? Now that I’ve got a computer, if I can’t get on the internet, I’m not cool? Man.. When does it all end? Sheesh! All I wanted was an electric typewriter!
Alright, alright…! …(*groan*).. So I started looking around for a computer that would be powerful enough to get on the internet. During my travels I ran into a 486 laptop with a 400 MB hard drive and 4MB of RAM. 50 bucks, cash on the barrel.
Wow! 400 Megs of hard drive space, I thought. Man, I’ll never fill that up!
“I’ll take it!” I said.
Back at work a little later…
“Hey guess what! Now I’ve got a 486 laptop with a 66MHz CPU, a 400 MB hard drive and 4MB of RAM! It’s really cool! I’m running Windows 3.1! I’m looking to buy a modem so that I can get on the internet…”
(*glassy eyed stares followed by peels of laughter*)
Finally, my boss got wind of what I was doing lately and just couldn’t bear to see me putzing around in the stone age of computers (even though I was perfectly happy). He told me his wife was upgrading to a new system and I could have her old Pentium I that had a 166 MHz CPU, a 2 GB hard drive, 16 MB of RAM and Windows 95 installed on it. State of the art.
In 1995, that is.
Okay so what that it was now 2001. Damn the torpedoes, I thought. “I’ll take it”, I said and rushed out to buy a 33.3K modem and then off to my local ISP to sign up for dialup internet access.
Alright, I thought, rubbing my hands with glee. In your face everybody! Now I have a Pentium I and I’m on the internet!
I have arrived!
Or so I thought…
Soon I started thinking, Hey why write a book when I can make a website? Let’s see, I’ll need an HTML editor and a graphics editor… Hmmm this Paint Shop Pro 9 looks really good. I think I’ll try it out. 58 MB download, eh? Sheesh. That’s gonna take forever on dialup access. Oh well, it’ll be worth it.
Half a day of downloading later, I finally noticed the fine print:
Paint Shop Pro 9 – Minimum system requirements: 300 MHz processor or faster, Windows 98 or better, 256 MB of RAM, et cetera ad nauseam…
When does it all end?!?
Okay so I need a better computer… sheesh.. Hey I got it. Why don’t I just take a big wad of cash and throw it at this my-computer-isn’t-up-to-date problem and make it all go away once and for all? (Little did I know…)
So I went out and purchased a top of the line (at the time) AMD Duron 1200 with a 40 GB hard drive and 512 MB of memory. $550, cash on the barrel. Wow, I thought. Now my computer officially kicks freakin’ butt. And I’ve got a 40 gigabyte hard drive. Sheesh! I’ll never fill that up!
I have arrived!
Or so I thought…
Six years of rampant upgrade-itis later, I now had two closets stacked waist high full of old computer parts. One full of the really old computer parts my friend gave me back in 2001 and the other full of ‘new’ old computer parts that I had purchased, used a little bit and then eventually left by the wayside including but not exclusive to:
- Three CRT monitors (none of the major computer stores sell these anymore, it’s all LCD now)
- One AMD Duron 1200 desktop (perfect working order but a complete dinosaur by today’s standards)
- One Athlon 2800 desktop (perfect working order except for a noisy CPU fan)
- One External USB 56K FAX dialup modem (perfect working order but I had to abandon dialup and get broadband so I could load my friends’ MySpace pages)
- Two printers (both in perfect working order but had to get a better one)
- A wide assortment of serial cables, parallel printer cables, power cables, 2 button mice, 3-button mice, memory sticks all in perfect working order.
- A brand new video card that I never actually used because I upgraded to a better computer that it wasn’t compatible with before I got around to installing it. (I’ve now forgotten why I bought it in the first place).
And in all that time, the only computer part that ever actually broke down on me was the CPU fan on my Athlon 2800. A $15 fan. Actually it didn’t really break down. It just got really noisy. Of course when that went on the fritz I couldn’t find a replacement fan to save my life. Everywhere I went I got the same answers:
“Sorry. Out of stock.”
“They don’t make those anymore.”
“What’s that for? A 2800? Sheesh that’s ancient..”
Ancient, I thought? I just bought this motherboard and CPU a year and a half ago! Top of the line! (*grrrrr*) Okay, to heck with it. I’ll just buy a new motherboard and CPU and slap all my old computer parts onto it. (Little did I know…)
Back down at the local computer store:
“They don’t make DDR1 memory anymore. You’ll have to upgrade to DDR2.”
“All the new motherboards are designed for SATA hard drives. Those old IDE hard drives are going out of style.”
“Don’t you want a dual-core processor? Everybody’s got dual core now.”
“Yeah but I’m just a webmaster,” I said. “I don’t need all those computing resources. My web hosts do all my heavy lifting. What the heck am I gonna do with a dual core processor and 300 gigs of hard drive space? Run the dashboard of the space shuttle? AAAARRRRGGGHHH! You know, all I really need to do is replace a $15 CPU fan on my Athlon 2800.”
“A 2800?!? Sheesh… That’s ancient. You should get a better computer. Besides they don’t make that CPU fan anymore.”
As an afterthought, I asked, “Hey, you don’t by any chance sell electric typewriters, do you?”
(*more uproarious laughter*)
With a strange feeling of deja vu, I thought, “Okay. I’ve got a great idea. I’ll just take a big wad of cash and throw it at this my-computer-isn’t-up-to-date problem and make it all go away once and for all.”
Soooo… $700 later, I now have an AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ Dual Core processor with a whopping 2 gigabytes of RAM and a ginamagantic 320 gigabytes of hard drive space. Now with this computer, I can load every program I can think of all at the same time and have them all merrily popping and fizzing away and still be using less than 1 GB of RAM. And I’ve barely made a dent into the 320 GB of hard drive space. This is officially way, way, way more computing resources than I could ever possibly hope to put to good use.
So to the computing world, I say shaddupa your face already with this upgrade business. I’m there. I’ve finally arrived. Go away now and leave me alone.
Well, at least for six months anyway.
You know, all I really wanted was an electric typewriter…
So about a year ago, I started thinking, hmmm, I’ve always been into video games… Ever since I was little. I think I’ll start a website about video games. Of course, first I’ll have to get up-to-date on the latest and best video games out there. Hey this sci-fi first person shooter Crysis looks like a good place to start.
Hmmm… I wonder what the system requirements are?
(*checking Crysis system requirements*)
I’m pleased to announce that after purchasing a whole new computer (ATHLON X2 DUAL CORE 5600+, 2GB RAM, 9600 GT video card) to serve my new video game needs, I haven’t bought a single computer part for almost a year…
No wait, that’s not exactly true.
Last September I had to upgrade my video card to a 9800 GT so that I could record gameplay videos of Far Cry 2 for my Youtube page. Oh yeah and I also bought 2 more gigs of RAM.
But that’s it.
Oh wait, yeah okay, I bought a microphone a couple of months ago so I could add narration to my Youtube videos.
But that’s it.
I haven’t bought a single computer part in over 7 weeks.
Actually I’m thinking of getting a better microphone…
Shameless Plug Dept.
By the way, my website about new & classic PC Games is now in effect!