8 Bit Nostalgia

It was a long time ago in a world now almost forgotten by the younger people of today that, for the most part, weren’t even born yet, and many of my contemporaries were still concerned about finding acne scar removal products that worked when I got my first computer. It was a Tandy Color Computer 3. I remember thinking how great it was that this machine had 128K of RAM and could be had for only $300. Disk drives were another expense, about half again the cost of the machine.

This was a time when the computer’s operating system could fit entirely within an 8K ROM chip, with the disk controller containing another 8K of code that handled the disk drives. The mere idea of a gigabyte was science fiction. Somewhere around then some of the first hard drives were coming into common use with five to ten megabytes of space (amazing when you realize that most programs today use more RAM than that just to load!)

One of the things that I liked about those days was that there was almost no such thing as sloppy programming. You couldn’t afford to be sloppy because you just didn’t have much memory or disk space to work with. Every byte had to serve a purpose and code needed to be written as tightly as possible. Even though the machine had 128 K of RAM, only about 23K was accessible to BASIC. If you wrote in assembly language you could command almost all of the available RAM but even then, you still had to know or be able to look up quickly, literally everything about the computer hardware and operating system.

Fast forward to today and look at the source code for modern software. The programmers for the most part have no need to know anything about the hardware being used and can get by with looking up just the things they need for their current project. Almost NOBODY knows “everything” about their computer anymore. In fact, most people are merely “users”, content to point & click their way through life with no idea of how or why things work.

What’s my point? None really other than I sometimes miss those old days and wish that old practices such as knowing *EVERY* detail about one’s machine (both hardware and OS) was not only practical but common as well.

By the way. I still have that Color Computer in storage. When I last had it set up about five years ago it still worked.

[Tags]nostalgia, computers, programming[/tags]

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