1984: The Year I Fell Hopelessly In Love With Computers

I can tell you exactly when I became obsessed with computers. The year was 1985 and I was a kid growing up in Clovis, California. My stepdad owned a PC tech support company called NSI. Our garage was transformed into a revolving door of bulky beige computers, constantly illuminated by the glow of monochrome green CRT monitors.

That garage was like this mysterious playground of machines I’d never seen before, begging to be explored. It was the first time I ever remember seeing a computer, much less seeing a bunch of them!

That garage also happened to be a forbidden very playground. That’s why I normally explored it late at night. Quietly. After my parents were both fast asleep.

Spoiler: this repeatedly got me into serious trouble.

I can’t remember all the details, but I have a vivid memory of this one shelf full of plastic bins that contained 5¼ inch floppy disks. There must have been hundreds of them, all labeled with printed text or blue permanent marker. Most of them had names that were completely foreign to me, like Lotus 1–2–3 or The Print Shop. There were programming languages (probably) and a bunch of references to MS-DOS.

Our beige beasts were very similar, down to that red power switch in the back.

Insert Floppy

One night, a certain floppy disk caught my eye. It simply said “Shareware games Vol 1.” I slipped it out of its white paper sleeve, moved the lever on the floppy drive door, inserted it…

…and had no idea what to do next! But I had seen my stepdad entering lots of commands to access files on those disks. Eventually, I figured out how to access the A: drive. I figured out what <dir> did (that listed the files on the disk).

As a kid who only rarely got to play a video game at an arcade (or a bowling alley, or Chuck E. Cheese), what I saw on that disk blew my mind.

Video games. Lots and lots of video games! The names were retroactively hilarious, though in the mid-80’s I had no idea why they were funny.

These games had names like “Digger” and “Jungle.exe” and “Pack-Man” and “Kong.”

They were clones of coin-op classics like Dig-DugPitfallPac-Man and Donkey Kong. But I didn’t care. I sat out there in the freezing cold and played through every single one. Dozens of them! At my fingertips!

That floppy disk felt like having a 1984 arcade right at home. (Image from New Retro Arcade: Neon)

Those early brushes with some of the first PCs were exhilerating. Did my curiosity totally screw up some of those computers that belonged to total strangers? Oh hell yes!

Snipes!

Jason’s First Multiplayer Game

But over the years my stepdad cultivated my love for computers. He even introduced me to one of the first networked multiplayer shooters ever made called Snipes (you can play it in your web browser now). There were MANY late nights playing that one, but I didn’t have to sneak out into the garage.

Eventually, my brother and I shared our very own IBM PC. It even had TWO floppy drives which meant we could copy every piece of software we could get our grubby little hands on.

That period of time was crucial in developing my love for all things tech. Especially PC tech. It’s exactly when I became fascinated by both computers and video games. Even the sounds of those machines — the whir of the drives, the hum of the fans inside the bulky chassis, the punctuated clicks of the keyboard — left an indelible mark in my memories.


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