The Sixth Stage of Grief Is
Retro-computing

Paul Ford
The Message
Published in
23 min readNov 5, 2014

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Networks Without Networks

1/10 Emulation Fever

Over the last few days I’ve been crazy for emulation—that is, simulating old, busted computers on my sweet modern laptop. I’ve been booting up fake machines and tearing them down, one after the other, and not doing much besides. Machines I’ve only heard of, arcade games I never played, and programs I never used. Software about which I was always curious. And old favorites like MacWrite.

MacWrite on a Macintosh Plus

Hour after hour, this terrible fever. What the hell am I doing? I kept asking myself. Why am I forcing a fine new machine to pretend it is a half-dozen old, useless machines?

Eventually I realized: This might be about my friend Tom dying. At least I think so. I am not good at identifying my own motives. It usually takes me at least ten days and a number of snacks to go from feeling something to being able to articulate what I felt. Indeed, I got the news ten days ago, in an email from my friend Jim.

2/10 “Really sad news”

“Really sad news” was the subject. Tom died at 73, after an illness. Here is a picture of him from 1999. He is the one on your left.

Imagine having, in your confused adolescence, the friendship of an older, avuncular man who is into computers, a world-traveling photographer who would occasionally head out to, like, videotape the Dalai Lama for a few weeks, then come back and listen to every word you said while you sat on his porch. A generous, kind person who spoke openly about love and faith and treated people with respect.

We had fallen out of touch.

It was good to have known him.

3/10 The Amiga 1000
(What is it good for?)

I always knew Tom. He rented a room from my grandparents. When I was 12, my parents succumbed to my begging and bought me an…

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