We've made some wonderful things together as an industry but the author reminded me of something poignant in his last paragraph.
When I was younger I used to strive to keep my computer running as long as possible. I relished the idea that in the future, it would never need to turn off. Now I live a life where I seem to be hoping to do the exact opposite.
Nostalgia is a very subjective thing. Today, people fondly reminisce their first BASIC application or developing their first program that created a network socket. In the future, the old hats may look back longingly over setting up their first multi-server cluster or modifying an app to take advantage of parallelism or a GPU. Nostalgia isn't going anywhere.
I miss the simplicity of the first programs I wrote.
I don’t miss a single thing about the hardware.
I’ll take dual 4K displays hooked up to a fast reliable machine over any of my previous machines.
Modern machines are simpler to build, vastly faster, vastly more reliable and vastly cheaper, they win on every metric imo.
It's having access to simple and easily composable basic elements, like Legos, that made computing so accessible back in the day. Computer gaming was my big motivation.
So, this simple platform also needs a decent collection of fun and hackable games, and other useful applications.
You could actually implement this using low-end Chromebooks as a platform, just flash them with whatever simplified OS you are using. It would be a great tool for teaching programming basics.
Contrast with modern computers. Even the raspberry pi environment offers a ton more.
I picked up turtle geometry the other day and realize I don't have an obvious place to try the stuff they are doing. Which feels really really off.
Cost to entry was basically zero.
On the flip side is RISC OS on the Raspberry Pi. The OS is pretty much stuck in the 1990's with some throwbacks to the 1980's. For example: it is easy to drop into BASIC, then write programs as you would in the early days of personal computers.
One of my favorite examples of interfacing 1980s micros with electronics is 8 Bit Guy's series on interfacing with LCD character with the Commodore 64's user port.
Edit: this should work https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19943059
Even when I write in C, I still write the program to be as small and as fast as possible, although sometimes I sacrifice memory consumption for that, but I'm solving a different set of problems in those cases.
This comes from my days of assembler coding of intros and cracking software on the Commodore64 and the Amiga: one learns the value of writing small, fast code very quickly and that programming and code design style stays with one for the rest of one's life.
With its vast memory, processing power and built-in tools like AWK, UNIX®️ makes that style of programming small, fast software even easier. I spent decades studying what all UNIX®️ and its tools can do and have to offer though.
It won't play any games beyond the occasional Solitaire, it isn't powerful enough to edit modern video files (or even play them), and it's atrocious on the modern Internet unless I use a text only browser. But it is my favorite writing machine, and I'll likely never get rid of it.
When I was a kid, this was my first computer:
That's pretty interesting none-the-less.
what a steal
Sure, it's not very portable, but it isn't $600 either. And I version control with git and push ocassionaly to GitHub for backups.
That's a pretty interesting sentence, modern Macs can't work with a document created using 1980's MacWrite, but they can work with a document created using 1980's Microsoft Word, by using a modern version of Microsoft Word.
I remember this feeling.
Meanwhile, from the everything-old-is-new-again department, note the F-keyless Mac keyboard ... and a Mac line largely bifurcated between underpowered-yet-expensive all-in-ones and multi-thousand-dollar modular systems priced to fleece the employers of creative professionals.
That was pretty ancient-seeming back then. At least, as a kid, I couldn't fathom what they were thinking. It made the old Apple II seem better, and certainly anything from Commodore blew it straight out of the water. That was my impression then anyway.
Had a similar Mac SE with 1MB RAM and 20MB HD. From the university store it was student priced under $2500 with the standard ADB keyboard (iirc $130 and normally not included!), an Imagewriter II printer ($600), Microsoft Word 4 ($300), and SuperPaint ($100). Still pricy but just to give folks an idea on the retail markup on Macs back then. Plus the dealers often quoted more than sticker.
A former colleague wrote this on a 36-year-old computer earlier this year: http://wayne.lorentz.me/This_TRS-80/
The tl;dr version is that it has a better keyboard than any modern laptop, runs forever on AA batteries, and is a distraction-free zone.
I’m glad that this article is out there, though.
A lot of that is from the hardware being 30 years old. Fans and drives get louder.
There's probably a Linux equivalent, too.