Nerds of a feather

Jan 17, 2009 • alan

My first exposure to computers was in 1981, when my neighbor “Howdy” (Howard) Petree showed me his family’s TRS-80 Color Computer. His dad gave me some sage advice: “do whatever you want to… you’re not going to break it”. I wrote a simple game called “Al-Zap”, which led the player through a series of scenarios, each followed by three choices: “(1) Eat it, (2) Shoot it, (3) Run away”. I kept the program on three hand-written pages on a note pad, and I manually re-entered it when I wanted to work on it some more.

My interest in computers continued, but I could not go bug Howdy every time I had the urge to tinker. That’s when my friend Greg Reid told me that the public library in downtown Winston-Salem had a lab with four Apple II computers. So my early years of computing were primarily spent hacking on the Apple II’s. Eventually, my dad bought one for our family.

The rest, as they say, is history.

This week, Jeff Mercer from the Triangle Linux User Group offered a working Apple II computer to whoever would come and take it off of his hands. I took Jeff’s offer, and I hooked the old computer up so I could show the girls what “old school” computing was like.

Audrey and I did a little bit of tinkering with Applesoft BASIC, and then I gave her an assignment: to print out a multiplication table. She worked on her FOR/NEXT loops, and soon she had a very nice looking 10×10 table of numbers.

I am very proud of her accomplishment, and even more proud that she took such an interest in her daddy’s past.