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Who would have thought my computer career would start in 1963, when I was 9?
I got my hands on my first personal computer, so to speak, around 1963, when I was around 9 years old. My grandmother, Mimi, had taken me to an enormous shopping mall, well before they were ubiquitous - a huge sprawl of a mall in Long Island with thousands of cars gleaming in the parking lot as far as the eye could see.
We headed into a magnificent atrium (to my child eyes) with exotic parrots squawking overhead, which lead into the Abraham & Strauss where we were to get some summer togs for my cherished annual visit.
When we entered A&S, the first thing I beheld were about 50 compact red rectangular flat TVs all arranged in a pyramid just for me. I explored the dials, learning how the lines magically drew, and was in love. I just had to have an Etch-A-Sketch and I knew Mimi wouldn't say no.
Checking out the high price tag, Mimi gently called "Come, Bobby, let's go see the clothes."
I resisted, in rapture with this new machine. I decided to pull out all the stops because this was a cause - my future career was at stake here. I had never pulled a tantrum with Mimi (at least that I could recall), but this seemed worth it. Poor Mimi had to drag me away as I shrieked, red faced and tear streaked. I was stunned and horrified that she had said no, and also felt terribly that I had behaved in the extreme towards her. It was a petulant shopping trip and a very quiet ride back to her house.
All I could think of was this wonderful, personal-sized super-cool invention which put TV to shame. It would be MY TV, which I controlled. I could put anything on it, and I was fascinated by the mystery of how it worked. I realized it was a pretty pricey item, but it remained in the forefront of my dreams until October when Mimi gave it to me for my birthday.
Skip ahead 17 years to 1980, my first day at a job in a typesetting company. A woman I knew agreed to hire me, even though it meant I had to bring my one-year-old in a playpen. I was to operate a computer (finally!) and I was to be making forms -- for people to fill out their names and addresses on lines. I imagined something like my Etch-A-Sketch, but with typing capability.
Boy was I wrong! The lines had to be drawn with a rapidograph (fancy pen) over and over until they were perfect, then little strips of type were pasted underneath. How archaic and so much trouble for something so trivial, like brain surgery for a chicken. It wasn't until 1986 when I bought a Macintosh SE (for $4,000!) that the marriage of the Etch-A-Sketch and the typesetter actually existed for professionals.
Now I sit surrounded by seven PCs, up to my neck in the Internet world - with parrots squawking outside my Miami Beach window. Thank goodness, and Mimi, I've been properly prepared for all of this.