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Can an 8-Bit Computer Run On Love? Or Is It Just A Desperate Bid For Attention?

Sure it looks cool and then you try to play Crysis on it

I try to show them I love them, but the love is on tape and takes forever to load…

Yesterday evening, the kiddos, most likely in a desperate attempt to get some attention from me, and having a vague understanding of my weird interests, entered my room and demanded I show them a computer restoration video.

Yes, demanded. Little foot stomping, little fist shaking demanded.

It turns out I had just noticed a 3-part Commodore 64C restoration series put out by YouTuber RetroManCave. Each episode was on the order or 20 minutes long, and much to my amazement, the kiddos not only stuck it out, but were genuinely interested.

You should have heard the excitement in their voices after the first video ended and I mentioned there were four more episodes.

And their annoyance when I later had to confess I was wrong and there were only three episodes.

I was tickled pink and moderately alarmed at the same time by their interest in such an arcane subject. But since I got to watch some “cool” videos and they were content to watch with me, it seemed prudent to refrain from rocking the boat about such an unlikely and convenient overlap in interests.

After all, it’s only going to be a few more years before the most I can get out of them is, “Whatever, Dad.” [bedroom door slam]

So imagine my shock this morning when they marched into my bedroom at 8:45am and woke me with loud demands that we buy a Commodore 64 to restore.

Yes, 8:45am. Don’t judge me! I like to sleep in on the weekends… I never get to anymore, but I sure would like to.

More specifically, my crack-o’-dawn awakening demon spawn wanted a C64 that we could retrobrite. They really, really want to retrobrite something.

For those of you not in the know, this is a process where you soak yellowed plastics in a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide for hours and hours in order to remove the yellowing. It’s not that far removed from watching paint peel and/or dry. And my kids wanted it. Bad.

I guess there are worse chemicals for them to crave and/or dabble with.

So bleary-eyed and in a mild state of shock, I started going through eBay listings with the kiddos, followed by a check of the types of TVs and monitors we had in the house to see if any had composite inputs (a couple do).

We didn’t bid on anything. The sheer volume of listings demonstrated, I explained to the kiddos, that there were plenty of the machines on the market and we could take our time to do proper research first.

They wilted. Visibly. And audibly.

Yes, when my kids wilt, they are not subtle or quiet about it. They sent the dogs scattering for cover at the furthest points of the house. Mirrors cracked. Wine glasses shattered. A filling shook loose from my tooth.

But I’m a firm, disciplined parent. I did not give in.

Did I waver? Hell, yes.

But did I give in?

No. I already told you that. Pay attention!

Instead, I partially caved and offered to let them help me “restore” my “vintage” Athlon 3200+ tower computer which has been sitting in my own man cave collecting dust.

Don’t think I’m unaware that some of you do view an Athlon 3200+ system as vintage. Screw you, Millennial scum!

Now there was no retrobriting because I don’t normally stock the necessary chemicals for such an undertaking. I have more than enough lye to dissolve a dead body, but peroxide? I love my hair the color it is.

But despite an inability to retrobrite (and admittedly, there was some need for it), there was still plenty of room for improvement when it came to this computer’s appearance, and the kiddos happily threw themselves into the project.

Well, up to a certain point.

First we took the disassembled casing and hosed all the parts off in the backyard. Both kids were up for that.

Then we used GooGone to remove sticker and tape residue. Still had two volunteers on board for that, though at this point my discipline with regards to photo documenting the process lagged considerably.

Then the off-brand Windex spraying and wipe-down commenced. At this point, we were down to one adult and one kiddo.

But give that one kiddo credit – he stuck with it through the Magic Eraser stage (he is now a born again convert to Magic Eraser). I didn’t lose him until the re-assembly stage started.

It was fun, the kids were really engaged with me and the project (for the most part), and when I put everything back together, the computer still worked. So yay!

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Posted by on 11 June 2018 in Life, Parenting

 

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For Whom Does the Doorbell Toll? It Tolls For Thee, Fool Using a Vintage Word Processor

My next sign will read

This is the nice warning sign. Before the cops made me take it down, I had a rig that dumped concentrated skunk venom on you. It wasn’t the dumping on salespeople the cops objected to, it was the unavoidably omnipresent smell.

“Hello, my name is Ian and I’m a vintage-aholic. My last purchase of vintage electronics was three days ago. But on the positive side, it was an old Brother word processor with a working built-in CRT and printer!”

Now if you’re anything like my wife, you’re rolling your eyes and snickering about my tendency to lust after (and occasionally buy) electronics from the 80s and 90s. But when the apocalypse comes and the only thing that will save you is a 1987 Compaq Portable III connected via null modem to a 1989 IBM PS/2 P70 running an old DOS program that controls a weather satellite, well, we’ll see who’s laughing then.

(And enjoying the blistering hot sun, jerk. You won’t be getting rain any time soon once I control the weather!)

It also comes with a built-in printer, only adding 10 pounds to the weight!

All right, you primitive screwheads, listen up. See this? This is my WORDSTICK! It’s a 5″ x 9″ amber CRT with a built-in spelling and grammar checker, Brother’s top-of-the-line.

But until such time, I have to prove to myself (and, to a (much) larger extent, the Missus) that the cash outlay for said type of machines is worth it. Which means, in the case of my Brother WP-95 word processor, I need to use it.

At least once.

My sponsor has asked for photographic evidence of its use. I think this is because she wants proof it works before she steals it from me. (Yes, vintage-aholic sponsors are quite cutthroat when they fall off the wagon. If it wasn’t for eBay, the streets would be awash in blood. Awash!)

So sure, modern computers can do a lot more than a single-function device like this word processor.

And yes, modern displays are brighter, crisper, and larger.

To be sure, a modern laptop weighs only a fraction of the 22 pounds this thing weighs. And can run on a battery. And can save files, do fancy formatting, get you on the internet, and allow you to email yourself a backup of your file.

But where’s the fun in that? When you lug a 22 pound dedicated word processor like this to a coffee shop, plug the electric cord into an extension cord so you can reach the wall outlet, and then write something, you feel a sense of accomplishment!

When’s the last time you felt a sense of accomplishment writing something on a mamby-pamby modern computer using software that practically writes the story for you?

(I’m looking at you, Scrivener users!)

Trenchcoats are surprisingly comfortable when worn en masse

What kind of fashion statement is this?

But not only do you get a cardio workout along with that satisfaction, you also get the added bonus of irritating all those bloody hipsters sipping espressos when you hit the PRINT button. Because when this thing prints out, you are magically transported back to a news room with a teletype in a time that predates decibel-levels-in-the-workplace regulations.

Fireworks freak out your dog? Nothing compared to this printer.

So I recommend getting your butt to the coffee shop, plugging this thing in, and if the line for coffee is too long, fire off a page to the printer. Those beatniks in line will flee in terror, convinced North Korea has finally made good on its threats, and you won’t have to wait in line for coffee.

It’s a win-win.

(If you need a vintage word processor, the Missus informs me that I would be happy to sell you mine…)

Here’s my justification for spending $40. Was it worth it? Let me know in the comments.

This was going to be an actual episode of Murder: She Wrote, but then the producers served me with a cease and desist letter regarding unsolicited manuscripts.

If you think this is tt;dr (too tiny, didn’t read), you should know I modified the word processor to print for microfiche.

 
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Posted by on 20 August 2017 in Art!, Life, Technopocalypse, Writing

 

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