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"There are good ships and wood ships, ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships, may they always be!" – Irish Proverb

Lunch time was an awkward time in high school...

The regional school I attended held classes for all in-district students, except seniors, in the afternoon.

Students at my high school attending this regional school were granted a ten minute early dismissal from second period. This was due to the regional school starting afternoon classes ten minutes before my high school started third period, as well as to ensure that we had an opportunity to eat lunch.

This did cause some awkwardness, as I was usually the only one leaving my class ten minutes early.

My regional school peers that attended my high school packed their lunch, and would head over to the regional school to eat it there. (I can't blame them.) However, I was used to buying lunch at school, and to-go boxes were not available.

Fun fact: when I was in high school, lunch cost $1.25.

While there were several other programs that also permitted an early dismissal from second period, there were not an abundance of people eating in the cafeteria early. Being the socially-awkward nerd who didn't fit into any of the cliques, I ate alone.

Until one day... While I couldn't tell you the exact date, I do remember the day: I had seen this group of gentlemen eating together before, while I was eating alone at another table.

One day, one of them came over and asked if I would like to join them, so I did. And from that day on, I didn't have to eat alone.

I'm not sure they realize how much this one small gesture has meant to me over the years, but this was a defining moment while I was in high school. I treasure our moments of fellowship at the round table.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, the tables in the cafeteria were round. And the pizza was triangular-ish...

As high school goes, we all eventually graduated and went our separate ways for college or careers. But I am glad to have been able to reconnect with several of them on Facebook.

(And for those of you from that round table and have not yet re-connected on Facebook and/or LinkedIn, please do. And maybe one day soon we could all reconnect in person at another round table somewhere in the US.)

This is a historical post, thus I am using a bit of historical liberty...

I attended a regional school for math and science while in high school, and we were issued a school e-mail address within the first week of my freshman year.

I'm embarrassed to admit that one of my first e-mails, if not my first e-mail, was to thank the principal of that school for the clean bathrooms.

I never received a response. I can only imagine that he laughed while shaking his head when he read my e-mail.

I also never figured out why an old PC on a cart was stored in the mens room... perhaps my first e-mail should have been to ask about that instead.

This was both the first and last time I made a compliment about clean bathrooms via e-mail... or email.

...or your money back.

During the summer before my freshman year of high school, my parents decided we needed a new family computer, as I would soon be assigned homework that would need a computer to complete.

They soon settled on a setup which included a Packard Bell minitower computer, monitor, printer, and extended warranty. I don't remember the model number, but it came in the "Art Deco" style case and featured a Pentium processor.

You're probably still stuck on "Art Deco", right? The case was wider on the bottom than it was on the top, presumably because the motherboard was parallel with the bottom of the case. And the case looked rather presumptuous. Just like Art Deco skyscrapers.

We had the computer on the floor. I don't remember the desk being that small, but then again, the footprint of the tower was larger than those of today. It doesn't matter why, but it did set the optical drive up for the accident that happened within the first month or two of ownership: dad bumped the optical drive tray with his knee, while it was open, causing it to break.

It was an accident, and our extended warranty covered accidents, right?

Dad kept calling the extended warranty company over the broken optical drive. They kept promising that a repair would be scheduled, and no one ever returned the call. I think he started complaining to the store manager, who was also unable to get the extended warranty company to perform.

This went on for way longer than it should have. It was at least a few weeks, but it could have been a couple months.

One day, dad suddenly started packing the computer back in the box. We were returning the computer to Sears. Dad simply pointed out the Sears pledge: "Satisfaction Guaranteed or your money back".

A pledge to customers that started in their catalog days, when you had to place an order sight-unseen. A pledge proudly posted over the entrance doors at Sears, many times in gold. A pledge that they kept.

The store manager apologized for the poor service we were given, and honored their "Satisfaction Guaranteed" pledge. We were no longer the owners of a now-disgraced Packard Bell computer.

We then went to Circuit City and purchased a different setup which included a Hewlett-Packard desktop computer, monitor, printer, and extended warranty. It featured a slower Pentium processor, but the build quality was better.

Not that the tray of any optical drive has been built to withstand a glancing blow from one's knee...

Sad news coming from the maker community:

Maker Media, publisher of Make: Magazine and producer of Maker Faire, ceased operations late Friday, June 7, 2019.

I’ll miss Make: Magazine. Even though most, if not all, of the projects were freely available on their website, I subscribed to the magazine due to its high-quality production. Reading their magazine still is an enjoyable experience, though my collection of back issues will now have to suffice.

I would like to thank all of the former Maker Media employees for their dedication to the maker community, and wish them the best as they pursue the next steps in their career.

And if Make: Magazine ever restarts publication with the same high-quality production values, I’ll be among the first in line to subscribe.

We acquired our first two family computers while I was in middle school. They were both hand-me-downs at the right price (free).

Our first family computer was an Apple II+. One of my middle school teachers discovered that we didn't have a computer at home, and told my dad that if we would come over and get it out of her basement, it was ours.

She also warned us that the screen was green. She wasn't kidding...

I remember that this computer was well-configured. It had the full 48K of RAM, a language card, and one Disk II floppy drive. It had a decent, though very green, monochrome aftermarket monitor. And it had the Apple DOS 3.3 disk – I could save BASIC programs, yeah!

We never did get Oregon Trail for it... though I never asked for it, either.

Shortly thereafter, we acquired our second family computer, an IBM Portable PC. Mom's boss had upgraded computers in the office, and told her that she could take one home.

Portable means it had a handle.

This computer was equally well-configured. It had the full 640K of RAM, two 5.25" floppy drives, a built-in 9-inch monochrome amber monitor, and the aforementioned handle. There was an IBM slipcover box with it, which I believe it was PC-DOS 2.10.

I remember one difference clearly: The IBM didn't have BASIC...

We had these two computers side-by-side for a couple years. I do remember using both computers: the Apple II+ for writing BASIC programs, and the IBM for more mundane things.

I might have the table that these two computers sat on in my possession. Perhaps I should repurpose it for vintage computing...

The teacher that oversaw the middle school computer lab gave me a fitting nickname: MacDaddy.

If anything, my nickname was inspired by Kris Kross, not by any definition you might find today by inadvertently including a space.

He even came up with a cool little ditty to go along with it: "I want to be a MacDaddy, MacDaddy." Unlike other nicknames I was given by classmates, I wore this nickname proudly.

I guess I still am a MacDaddy, because there's a good chance I can help you with your questions about the Mac.... I have to admit, though, that I have not been a continuous Mac user since middle school.

My parents bought a PC the summer before I started 9th grade. A Mac was simply not in the budget... But since the school system started switching to PCs while I was in high school, perhaps this was for the best.

I also continued to use a PC while in college. It would have been otherwise difficult to run the required software on a Mac.

Since the Intel transition didn't happen until several years after I graduated college, the only option at the time would have been to emulate x86 on PowerPC... a slow proposition, indeed.

But within six months of graduating college, I was back to being a Mac user. And I'm glad to say that, unlike my middle school days of using a Macintosh LC running System 7, the current macOS is a powerful and stable operating system.

And Catalina is on its way... The MacDaddy'll make you jump, jump. Uh huh, uh huh.

While I was in middle school, we received an assignment to write a fictional short story. I remember this assignment was given around the time when we had to research a company, and I had recently received a copy of Apple's Annual Report in the mail.

I decided to write a story about Apple Computer that included them having a secret submarine that could dock at their corporate headquarters:

Yeah, about that: looks like I should have consulted a map first, as Cupertino, California is land-locked...

Maybe Apple had a secret underwater tunnel from the San Francisco Bay to their headquarters... they could have had a secret submarine after all!

In middle school, we had a computer lab of Macintosh LC computers, and a teacher that knew how to keep the lab running smoothly. Warranty issues, though, had to go through an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

I remember one of my classmates having an issue on the LC they were using. I don't remember what the issue was, only that it must have been a warranty issue.

A few days later, that LC was gone from the lab. Our teacher commented on the repair status: the technician said the computer needed a "Function Level Reset".

In the pause between his two sentences, I'm already thinking that sounded like a made-up repair.

Sure enough, our teacher continued commenting that he has never heard of a "Function Level Reset".

To this day, I've still never heard of a "Function Level Reset" in the context of computer repair. (I even checked the Macintosh LC service manual, it's not in there.) All I've been able to figure is that this technician came up with a fancy name for "software restore"...

I was a kid once, and perhaps I'm still a kid. A big kid, that is...

I don’t remember what led me to finding a BASIC programming book for children during one fortuitous trip to the public library. It might have happened by accident, or because I was looking for a book on the next shelf over. But I remember checking it out and taking it to school a number of times.

It was a fascinating concept to my fifth-grade mind: you can write your own programs for the computer, not just run programs from the box of disks beside it!

And the best part about the book? It says that the programs in the book will work on the Apple II+ or the Apple IIe. This was great, because there was an Apple IIe in our classroom, and it was the easiest to get time to use! While I still wanted time on the Macintosh LC, that Apple IIe became my favorite as I still had programs to try from the book.

Note that our computer time happened at the end of the school day, if there was time left over after the daily lesson plans were completed. And at some point, my teacher started a weekly chart of who could use which computer on which day of the week when time permitted, to be updated monthly... only for her to stop updating it several months later (I was stuck with Apple IIe time). Bad for my desire to explore the Macintosh, but good for my exploration of BASIC programming.

My time with that yellow book started me down a path to wanting to learn more about computers... but the history doesn't end there.

Sometime in the past few years, I started thinking about that yellow book, and wanted to locate a copy of it for posterity. I couldn't remember the exact title or the author — all I could remember was that this yellow book was a BASIC programming book for children from the early-to-mid 80's, and that this book covered six different computers, including the Apple IIe, the Commodore 64, the TI 99/A, the TRS-80, something from Atari, and something from Timex Sinclair.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the book actually covered six different manufacturers, which complicated my efforts to find the book. And yes, my first check was of the library's online catalog for books on BASIC, just in case they still had the book. (Nope.)

About a year ago, after discovering that the Internet Archive has archives of computing-related printed materials, I decided to try searching their catalog and scrolling through the results, all in the hopes that I saw a familiar-looking cover. Success at last!

I once again know the title of that yellow book from the library: BASIC Programming for Kids by Roz Ault. And I can share that book with you, right here!

And if you happen to know Roz Ault, let her know that I said thank you for writing that book.

Students in the U.S. probably take it for granted that there are computers in each classroom, if not a computing device assigned to each student. That wasn’t always the case.

I attended a different elementary school in the fifth grade, so I am unsure if some district-wide change happened over the summer, or if it had more to do with the school and/or class I was in. Nevertheless, on the first day of fifth grade, I walked into class and saw them: not one or two, but three computers IN the back of the classroom!

The computers in our classroom were an Apple IIe, an Apple IIgs, and a Macintosh LC. They were arranged as if someone purposefully put them in chronological order.

I was immediately drawn to the Macintosh, though I'm not sure why. Perhaps because it was the newest of the three. Perhaps because the fancy GUI made it look hi-tech.

Perhaps it was just because you didn't need a floppy to run the installed software, which meant the floppy drive couldn't make loud, evil grinding noises.

I was also drawn to the Apple IIgs, because it was familiar and, like the LC, had a color monitor.

The Apple IIe wasn't so attractive. It looked old. It had a monochrome screen. It looked like it could do less than the Apple IIgs. But it was easier to get time to use it. Perhaps that's because all of the aforementioned reasons made it less attractive to most everyone else.

Yes, I realize that an Apple IIgs is more capable than an Apple IIe. But the school system had not licensed software capable of using its advanced features, at least not for the elementary school classroom.

But after one fortuitous trip to the public library, my opinions on the three computers in my classroom changed...