December 30, 2023

The "Into the Vertical Blank" podcast (didn't realize it was by twin brothers!) republished an old episode "The Best Atari Christmas Ever". I found the text of the episode on Medium.

Their story really resonated for me - growing up in the 80s with parents who didn't have a lot of extra cash, seeing computer stuff from afar, digging into the materials (I remember my mom buying me a COMPUTE! book on programming as a placeholder for a computer) - experiencing Atari 8-bit computers, and then (SPOILER ALERT) getting a jumpstart by inheriting an grownup's collection once they upgraded.

The episode talks about Atari being having supply chain problems in 1983 and so releasing stuff to stores too close to Christmas. I think my Salvation Army family benefited from the liquidations and donations that followed (the church or thrift store wouldn't be allowed to sell the gear.) So my first computer was an Atari 800XL. (The article mentions that Apple stuff was at a higher price point even then, though also IBM was making its move - which I guess split the home market into "serious" and "fun")

So my first computer was a fresh Atari, but within a few years the 8 bit wars tilted in favor of the Commodore 74 - that was the machine more kids had and could get you copies of games for, and so I'll always be grateful to the giant C=64 shipment I got from my Uncle Bill (especially the magazine-on-disk collection of Compute!'s Gazette - years later I made a whole website reviewing every game they published)

I probably learned more on the Atari though, between BASIC (And Dr. C. Wacko Presents: Atari BASIC & The Whiz-Bang Miracle Machine) and Logo, it was an easier machine to do cool graphics and sound with. (I did make a lot of sprites and plot out a lot of games with the Gazette Sprite and Character editors though.)

People's relationship with money and consumer goods was different then - and catalogs and magazines and sometimes local clubs filled in for what we get over the Internet now (Man did I get into Antic magazine)

I was a few years younger than the twins. Sometimes I think I missed out by either being a little too young or not quite smart + ambitious enough to get my stuff published in those magazine...
Some people are philosophers and some are politicians. Philosophers want to reach truth/understanding. Politicians want to win.

Helped me rethink some relationships, how hard I was working to reach the other person and find understanding with them when they just wanted to win.