A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Living with a computer

Way fun: The Atlantic has posted James Fallows’s essay, Living with a computer as part of their Tech & Innovation “Celebration of 150 Years” tour. It was written in 1982, and describes his using an early word processor program, the Electric Pencil, running on 48k of memory (carefully described: “each K represents 1,024 bytes of information—each byte representing one character or digit—the machine can manipulate more than 49,000 items of information at a time.”) on an Intel 8080 non-DOS machine. I remember reading this when it first came out, or perhaps in a book of essays; and I’m glad I remembered this part correctly, because it’s a story I often tell:

For a while, I was a little worried about what they would come up with, especially after my father-in-law [who was working with the developer] called to ask how important it was that I be able to use both upper- and lower-case letters. But finally, for a total of about $4,000, Optek gave me the machinery I have used happily to this day.

I just love the idea of asking how important lower-case letters were.


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