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The first computer I ever used was an Apple IIgs, located in my elementary school's computer lab. And the first program I remember running was The Oregon Trail by MECC.

Which, of course, means that the first famous computer game phrase I remember is, "You have died of dysentery."

For a fourth grader, it was a magical experience: You picked a program from the box of floppy disks, all proudly emblazoned with the MECC logo. You slid the disk into the floppy drive, closed the door, and turned the computer on. Within seconds, you would see the splash screen for your chosen program. And you'd hope that your program disk didn't have a bad sector (an unfortunate common occurrence).

For if your program disk did have a bad sector, the floppy drive would make loud, evil grinding noises. I've since come to realize that was the sound of the drive heads being repeatedly commanded to the end stop, in order to get the drive heads back to a known location before re-attempting access to the disk...

Should your program disk be free from defects, and your gameplay wise, then perhaps you would make it to Oregon before you died from dysentery.

A number of sequels to The Oregon Trail have been released since my fourth grade days. I've refused to try any of them, because the Apple II version from the mid-to-late 80's is the only true version in my mind. It's the version my inner geek wants to play again, on actual hardware, for the nostalgic value.

The Oregon Trail is also the first computer game that I never finished... Perhaps that's actually why I want another shot at playing this game.

This was originally a speech that I gave at a local Toastmasters club, as part of the Pathways "Communicate Change" project, two days before Computer Reset closed.

Computer Reset is located in Dallas, TX. It’s a relic of the pre-to early Internet computing industry, one of a dying breed of computer surplus stores. It apparently also served as an independent U-Haul dealership… and due to the ill health of its owner, Richard Byron, its existence is now ephemeral.

To some, the store looks like the mother hoard, containing nothing but the jetsam of others. To others that see past the disorder and chaos, valuable pieces of computing history are buried treasure for the right discoverer. To the family, it’s the beginning of the end of a generation, a business they must close, and real estate that must be emptied by whatever means to maximize their return.

I was unable to find a website for Computer Reset, but was able to find Richard Byron’s sparse LinkedIn profile, which states that he has served as Computer Reset’s “General Counsel” since June of 1986, and describes his responsibility as to “Oversee a Used Computer and recycling business and an Independent U-Haul Dealership”. 

YouTuber TX DJ, who is a friend of Richard, did a live stream from Computer Reset just a few days ago. DJ has known Richard since the 80s, when Richard ran a BBS in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and in fact first met Richard at this very store.

DJ described Computer Reset as a 38,000-foot warehouse that is a treasure trove of all kinds of old computer technology. He admits that while there’s a lot of junk inside that most people are not going to be interested in, he says that there are treasures buried inside as well. There is technology that you’re not going to be able to find anywhere else for the same prices.

I would love to be able to see if there are any accessories for the Yamaha CX5M Music Computer available in this treasure trove. However, it appears as if I will never have the opportunity.

Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of Richard’s health, the family has made the difficult decision to close the business and sell the real estate. Their agent has advised them that the building will be worth significantly more if it is sold as an empty building than if they sell it as-is. This treasure trove of vintage computing history will soon close and may become literal buried-in-a-landfill treasure in a matter of days. If you want the opportunity to hunt for treasure here, you need to go to Dallas now, for tomorrow could be too late. Even today could be too late.

For now, Computer Reset is still open normal business hours. According to the U-Haul website, those hours are Mondays 10AM to 5:30PM, and Tuesdays through Saturdays 9AM to 5:30PM. DJ says to just go, as they are not answering phone calls to the store. But go ASAP. While Computer Reset is open while they solicit disposal bids, once they pick a company, the store will close, and everything will go and be disposed of however that company sees fit.

We empathize with you, the vintage computing enthusiast, who is unable to make it to Dallas before Computer Reset closes and is now helplessly watching another computer surplus store close from afar. We also wish Richard Byron the best at this time and ask that you respect the decision that his family has had to make.

The following are resources to help you continue your journey into live coding with Sonic Pi.

Sonic Pi

Download Sonic Pi, see example scripts, download materials for teaching Sonic Pi in the classroom, and more!

Live Coding Education

This is the Tutorial I used as the basis for a speech I gave at the Piney Mountain Toastmasters (Charlottesville, VA) meeting on August 30, 2017.

Getting Started with Sonic Pi

A learning page on Sonic Pi from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Music Note to MIDI Note Table

Use this helpful table to convert MIDI notes found in Sonic Pi scripts you see online to the actual music note. Remember that “Middle C” is in the 4th octave, and is MIDI note 60. (This table was found on this blog post by Andy Murkin. Andy's blog post has nothing to do with Sonic Pi, but is linked here as the citation.)

The MagPi Essentials: Code Music with Sonic Pi

MagPi is the official Raspberry Pi magazine published by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. This is an entire 109 page issue devoted to Sonic Pi, and the PDF version is free to download!

Materials for Classrooms

I thought I would include links to additional classroom learning materials that I found during my research on Sonic Pi.

Sonic Pi Lessons

A 5 lesson plan from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Sonic Pi: Live and Coding

An 11-week lesson plan for incorporating Sonic Pi in the classroom. Includes a set of short films and inspirational works by artists. KS3 in the UK roughly equates to Middle School age, for those of us in the States.

Happy Live Coding!

With a name like Sonic Pi, you might think that The Live Coding Music Synth for Everyone (their words, not mine) forgot about everyone not using the Raspberry Pi. However, that's where the name Sonic Pi might be a bit misleading — it was developed in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, so comes pre-installed on Raspbian images for the Raspberry Pi.

Sonic Pi is also available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. So how would you get started with Sonic Pi on the computer you already have? I thought you would never ask.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi loves Sonic Pi so much that it comes pre-installed on the current Raspbian images for the Raspberry Pi. All you need to do is download the current Desktop version of Raspbian from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. You can also download the current version of NOOBS and use that to install Raspbian.

If you're not sure how to write the downloaded image to an SD/microSD card, their website has instructions you may follow.

Windows, Macintosh, or Linux

For the remaining three operating systems, proceed to the Sonic Pi website and download the installer for your operating system. They also have installation directions available.

For Windows, they also have a version that does not need to be installed, but may be simply copied to and executed from a removable USB drive. This would be a good option if you need to try Sonic Pi on a computer you do not own.