One of the best things about having retro computer and video games around is my children. I would always tell them about what computers were like when I was in elementary school, but I didn’t have the hardware to show them. I like to share my passion for all things related to the computer sciences with my family, and I like to teach my kids the history of these things, so that they can understand “why” we do it the way that we do, and how far we have come.
With the first restoration I did, which was a Mac SE (M5011) FDHD, I was finally able to show them the original Mac OS, even though that was really not what computers were like when I was first introduced to the Commodore 64 by my grandma in 1985. Last year, when I purchased my first Apple II (see my first blog post) I was really able to show them what computers were like before the GUI became the standard interface. Now that I have restored another Apple IIe, some more Macintosh models, a ROM01 IIgs, and acquired a third IIe (early European model) my kids really understand what retro computing is all about. They ask me all kinds of questions and now I am able to show them the answers instead of telling them the answers. Big difference there…
During this last week, I was working on restoring a Mac Color Classic, and my daughter Addyson came to see me. She started asking me about the IIgs.
“How do you turn it on?” – “There is a rocker switch in the back on the left side.”
“What can you do with it?” – “Turn it on and I’ll show you.”
Once it booted up, I stopped working on the CC for a bit and watched her eyes scan the GUI that is GS/OS. She is an avid OS X and iOS user, and she has played about every console game system out there, so it should not have surprised me that she was able to navigate GS/OS so easily. She started looking through the hard drives mounted and asking what each game was like. I told her that I had not found the time to try them all and she should try them and tell me what they are like.
She started with Kings Quest II. “I’ve played KQ1 on your Mac SE a bunch of times. I think I’ll try the second one…” she said. After she played it for about 15-20 minutes, she asked how to exit out. I showed her and she then asked me about Space Quest. “It’s like KQ, but it is outer space themed. I think you would like it.” I told her. She fired it up and gave it a shot. I was right about whether or not she would enjoy the game. She played it for at least 30 minutes. Right up until bed time. At that time, I told how to exit that game, and then how to properly close down GS/OS. We turned off the computers and monitors and then went to bed. It was really great to share my hobby with her.
I know that these old computers do not compete with the modern hardware in terms of speed, graphics and sound, and user interfaces. But what I want to teach my kids is something that I think companies like Apple and Nintendo really understood in the early 80s – You don’t have to be the fastest, have the best graphics and sound, or have the most buttons on your controller. It’s really all about creating the best experience for the user. The simplistic and repetitive fun of 8-bit and 16-bit games proves to me that this value is as true today as it was in 1980.