[See below a 1996 article from The Harold Herald, the world’s first blog, which I invented in the early 1990s. Yeah, you heard me right … The act of ‘composing at the keyboard’ is so ingrained today, one can forget when and why that started — and just how many technological eras our lives have spanned since. The newspaper that first employed me was still waxed and ‘pasted up’ on boards, with photos carved in with exacto knives…]
As I prepare to discard the computer on which I truly learned to type, compose at the keyboard and play video games, I’ve come not to bury the ol’ ATT 6300 but to praise it. After doling out the praise, however, it’s headed for the scrap heap.
For 11 years, this IBM knock-off served various housemates and myself extremely well under the most trying circumstances. I dare say, no unit still operating has endured more moves, more beer-dousings and random acts of neglect than has our intrepid ATT 6300.
Harold Herald Virtual Editor Dave Rose was the original owner, having purchased the machine via a special Wesleyan University discount deal prior to our senior year. Today, its game graphics would pale by comparison beside, say, those of any Fisher Price product. Back in 1985, however, this baby was state of the art.
In the years preceding Dave’s monumental purchase, I had no PC experience whatsoever. Hardly anyone did. For the first two and a half years of college, for example, I would write papers long hand. It was imperative that I produce a finished draft two days in advance, leaving me an entire evening to hunt and peck the final product via my enormous, ’50s-era electric typewriter, which my dad found at the dump and refurbished. These “typing” sessions were trying times for my housemates and me: evenings laced with self-loathing and profanity born of frustration and pungent White-Out fumes as disorienting (in their own way) as Thai stick.
Late in my junior year I took to typing-up papers on the university’s main-frame computer, which was painfully slow and inconvenient as it was located in the Science Library as opposed to our off-campus house. All this changed senior year when Rose bought the computer, thereby opening up a whole new world to the residents of 8 Warren St.
The video games, crude though they were, proved the ATT 6300’s most enduring legacy. Sure I wrote my thesis on this machine but, more important, I also shattered the world Digger record some 10 separate times! I am not a talented nor particularly ardent gamer but I made myself the all-time Digger champion through relentless dedication. This involved repeatedly drawing myself a draft beer (we were on tap 24 hours a day, 7 days a week my senior year), going upstairs to the room-lets Dave shared with Dennis Carboni, and “Digging” until I went off to read Xenephon or Melville.
Digger was a sort of Pacman knock-off. Space Vades, a thinly disguised copyright infringement of Space Invaders, was another 8 Warren St. mainstay. There were innumerable Star Wars-inspired, fighter-jet “shooter” games, several of which made their marks as the next late-night obsession of the future Dr. Rose and perennial roommate Carboni. Come to think of it, I associate much of the computer’s nocturnal use with Dennis, a.k.a. The Bone, That Bone, Bonish, El Carbon and my personal favorite, You Goddamned Fuckin’ Bone.
That Bone was one of the world’s great procrastinators. He never started a paper until 3 a.m. the morning it was due. Invariably, I would get up for class, poke my head into the computer room and Dennis would smile back, his eyes bleary but lit pale green by the monitor.
“How’s it coming, you goddamned Bone?”
“Oh, hey … No problem: 11 o’clock class.”
Obsessive nearly to a fault, Dennis and Dave would often become utterly engrossed in some new DOS-based computer game via the 6300 — in the same way they became engrossed in things like mail-order blow guns, palindromes, or the album art of David Bowie. Invariably, they would play new video-game pursuits late into the night. Rarely, however, would Rose outlast the Bone.
One night the two secured some flight simulator software, which enabled them to “fly” virtual Piper Cubs, in real time, with functional control panels. After watching Rose navigate his way from Boston to New York City, I went to bed. It was interesting but quickly became tedious as the screen went a dull, blank green when one cleared Greater Boston. Such primitive graphic cards didn’t show any topographical detail at all, not until one approached Laguardia.
I saw Dennis the next morning and he looked like hell.
“Bone, you look like hell,” I told him.
“Yeah. After you went to bed I flew to Salt Lake City!”
“How long did it take you?”