The future is a big black pocket calculator

I remember the way the sun lit up my brother and father when they came home from their trip to the store! My brother carried a plastic bag and had a weird twinkle in his eyes. He was looking down and held his right arm bended a bit forward while walking. Like he constantly needed to make sure the bag was still in his hand. It was January and the low angled winter light gave them, what could be best described as, a nostalgic aura. As if they returned from a wonderful magical place somewhere beyond the realm of mere humans.


I remember the way the sun lit up my brother and father when they came home from their trip to the store! My brother carried a plastic bag and had a weird twinkle in his eyes. He was looking down and held his right arm bended a bit forward while walking. Like he constantly needed to make sure the bag was still in his hand. It was January and the low angled winter light gave them, what could be best described as, a nostalgic aura. As if they returned from a wonderful magical place somewhere beyond the realm of mere humans.

I was just 9 years old and at that moment I realised that my brother was carrying the future into our home.

For the next couple of hours I was dancing around my dad and brother to catch a glimpse of this fantastic machine while they unpacked, set up and typed listings from a RAM magazine into it.
The machine itself what not very impressive; it looked a lot like a big black pocket calculator. The actual magic happened when you used the coax cable to hook it up to a tv. Then that oversized calculator became the door to a completely unknown new world!

That “completely unknown new world” was just 1K RAM by size. That’s barely enough to store 0.3 seconds of sound at telephone quality. But the size of the new world wasn’t all that important. The way it responded to your every command, exactly like you told it to, again and again, tirelessly. Even though it could only display black characters on a white screen, the infinity it represented spanned such a massive and intense range of possibilities it made the real world seem bleak.

Looking back, my brother might not have been as taken by it as he had foreseen. He really did enjoy working and playing with it for a while, but he had a hard time using it to express his ideas at the time. He was in a very creative period of his life and this machine seemed not to understand what he wanted. And after a while, he allowed me to but the box in my room so I could use it more often. We worked on games together; he would design sprites and landscape drawings in a plaid notebook. I would program the rules and physics of the game world. Together we would discuss what needed to happen if our rocket hit a cave wall, test what the best acceleration and deceleration was when pushing the membrane buttons and other “UX”. We were on a quest together, testing the boundaries of this newly found world, heading for the new frontier.

After a while, I think my brother got bored by it. He showed more interest in other things. At that time I didn’t realise it but I missed him. I kept trying to create new games but they lacked his creative input, his vision.

As a team, we were creating paintings but on my own I was just playing with paint.

I think that old African proverb also very much applies to programming: If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.