There is a whiteboard in my breakroom at work, and people are always using it to pose interesting questions or start silly discussions. Normally these run about a week with lots of people plugging in their two cents. Last week the discussion was “Puppies vs. Kittens.” It’s hard to say which was the definitive winner in that debate because someone introduced the wild card of Bunnies.

This week, the question was “When did you get your first computer, and what was it?” My favorite reply was “1971 – Born with one in my head.” While that is interesting, I loved the response: “I had one of those, but it had trouble coming out of sleep mode.”

“Had”?

My first introduction to computers came in 1975 or 1976. The computer in question was a large mainframe computer residing in an even larger enclosure at Minot Air Force Base. We could access this mainframe with a modem that Dad would bring home every so often. We’d dial the number, hear the tone, then place the headset on the modem. Since it didn’t have a screen, it used a built-in printer and a roll of paper. And since we were kids, we loved to play a Star Trek game on it. I remember once visiting the mainframe room, and I watched one of the technicians play chess with the computer. He knew a set of moves that would allow him to capture the computer’s queen in under 15 moves, at which point the computer would quit the game.

It wasn’t until I got married that I had a computer I could claim I owned — well, owned by marriage. I told my wife that I was marrying her for her SoundBlaster card. [Such is the modern dowry. --TPK] Even if we still had that computer, there’s not much we could do now with a 386 motherboard and 4 MB of RAM.

Now to figure out the next question to pose on the breakroom whiteboard.

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