Primitive Home Personal Computer (circa 1984-1986ish)
Modern discussion occurring in the arena of 2006-2008 (mainly for the purpose of determining retail data-gathering methodology used in market research) hinged on the propriety of applying the title ‘console’ to the personal computer. It is to this discussion we can partially credit the widespread use of the word ‘platform’ when including PCs and handheld gaming systems in the same discussion as ‘home consoles’. Probably some real rigid bros would ‘take issue’ with the inclusion of the primitive home personal computer (and subsequent PC-related entries in this chronology) among ‘consoles’ but it is essential ‘legwork’ for a thorough accounting of gaming ‘platforms’ [I was asked to do ‘consoles’ but ‘platforms’ seems more thorough].
Feels like I owned an ‘Apple IIc,’ an ‘Apple IIe’ and a ‘Commodore 64’, and of these three two out of three at a time were present in our basic ‘den.’ It is to this phase in my ‘gaming chronology’ that I credit the highest degree of magic responsible for my modern love, in a sense, of the medium. It is analogous to marrying a woman who was beautiful and ‘quirky’ when younger but became rigidly systematized and boring after having borne many children, then looking at old wedding albums and remembering she used to be rad.
Various research that I heard second-hand without qualifying it in any way has instructed me to recount with the firmness of fact that the human brain ‘changes’ circa the age of six years or so, that six forms some kind of ‘threshold’ wherein people transition to intellectualizing their memories as opposed to rendering them in images.
Therefore I can describe the ‘Primitive Home Personal Computer’ phase via imagery: a white cursor stratified by ‘scan lines’ blinking rapidly. An incomprehensible operating system that took the shape of an invisible AI that spoke in luminous green text in order to declare to young me the words ‘SYNTAX ERROR IN 10’ when I typed to it things that weren’t ‘RUN’. The Apple logo asserting itself in retro ‘spectrum’ colors in an appealing sticker on the side of the monitor, a shape that carries no relationship to the white world of cubes, iMac/Macbook/iOS et al. This iteration of Apple was probably chilling at a DIY show/leeching internet from a Brooklyn loft block while everyone else was lining up to buy a relevant ‘gadget’ from a central Manhattan Plexiglas megalopolis.
Floppy disks half coarse material half a fragile plastic membrane that ‘clicked’ around in the body of the disk if you committed the sin of poking it in an era where ‘disk’ was always spelled with a ‘k’. They had a smell/feel analogous to a vinyl record and a similar sensory magic, perhaps prompting a minor ‘movement’ of DON’T COPY THAT FLOPPY t-shirts worn post-ironically by the ‘tweens of today.’
I sat at the monitor and watched a series of fat pixels assert themselves slowly into an image from the children’s television show ‘Sesame Street’over the course of ~60-90 seconds, a time window wherein I could type a guess like ‘Oscar’ ‘Grover’ ‘Big Bird’ and receive a ‘character portrait’ on the screen if correct (resulting in the image of me on the right, age 4-5 approx, I didn’t ask my Mom how old I am here.)
Later a series of ‘adventure games’ with static graphics like cave paintings in a black-and-white so stark it was shot through with violet/pink/green in spots. They obeyed commands like ‘N’ for ‘North’, ‘E’ for ‘East’ and any number of cardinal directions after the same fashion, and things like ‘pull rope’ ‘take flower’ ‘read wall’ for the purpose of solving puzzles/advancing vague narratives I distinctly recall as having been related to the following:
Being a spy in Kabul; navigating space and encountering green men called ‘Gruds’; becoming unfairly lost in a possibly randomly-generated desert while aiming to rescue a princess from a wizard; becoming forever traumatized by elevators during a game that required a ‘timed input’ of the word JUMP in a plummeting elevator; discovering that the Caribbean is an unceasingly lethal vacation spot (and learning then how to spell ‘Caribbean’) and other likely irreplaceable experiences to be had by standing up high on tiptoes and selecting (often employing a home-made wooden hobby horse to reach high shelves) a misleading plastic-wrapped box from a tall-tall-tall closet overflowing with ‘press copies’ my father received with disinterest.