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Comment Re:Commodore 16. Still beautiful in my eyes, (Score 1) 857

This was my second computer. It had a great BASIC interpreter, with some really nice graphics and sound capabilities. (And a VAST improvement over the Intellivision ECS I was coming from.) By contrast, you had to use a series of PEEKs and POKEs to do the same things on a C-64. While it was mostly hardware compatible (it worked with all the serial port peripherals the other Commodore machines could use), it lacked a way to expand the hardware like you could on the C-64. There was no way to add a modem, for example (that I was able to find). Software-wise, it wasn't really compatible with anything, which was a shame.

I've read somewhere that the C-16 was supposed to be a replacement/upgrade to the VIC-20, but it didn't sell. The one I got my parents won at some condo presentation. It's a shame, too, because the C-16 had the makings for a great computer. But it's limited RAM and lack of compatibility really hurt it. I think I gave mine away to Goodwill as I was moving out of my parent's house. Nowadays, I'm regretting that decision.

Comment Re:IBM PC (Score 1) 857

I had one as my third computer. My grandfather worked for IBM, and they had a whole bunch of specials and discounts for employees when IBM discontinued the PCjr. He bought it for himself, but he also had a full-sized IBM PC on-loan from IBM for his work. So one day he loaned the PCjr to me. It never went back. I decided, after having it for a year, to buy it from him.

I spent a fortune expanding that thing. I bought a Racore expansion unit which gave it a second floppy drive, a full 640k of RAM and a parallel port. It also gave the PCjr DMA, which the PCjr did not have natively. But the apps that really required DMA would check to see if it was running on a PCjr and kick you out if you were, despite having DMA enabled. That was a bummer! I also put an NEC V20 in it, which gave it a nice performance boost. I beat the crap out of that thing (figuratively speaking), and it mostly kept up with what I put it through.

I wound up selling it to a second-hand computer store before a major move. I don't regret doing that, and lord knows I don't miss it's artificial limitations imposed by IBM because they didn't want to hurt PC sales. But that was a good computer if you could see past it's flaws.

Comment Intellivision ECS (Score 1) 857

The very first "computer" that I could program and that I owned outright was an Intellivision ECS. It came in two parts. First, was the Intellivision II game system, which my mother bought for me as a gift for graduating Jr. High school. Then, one day I was in KB Toys and saw this "Intellivision ECS". Then I saw the price (it was like $40) and nearly wet myself. I bought it and got it home.

It was terrible. It had 2k RAM, hookups for a cassette recorder, and that's about it. The keyboard wasn't great (the current crop of keyboards from Apple remind me of the Intellivision keyboard). It had a slot where you could plug in Intellivision games and either play the game itself, or go into the ECS and interrogate the graphics and sound on the cartridge and use them in your own programs. That was kinda cool, but with 2k, you really couldn't do much with it. Besides, those features were not very well documented and were confusing to use. It had a BASIC language, and the computer would colorize the lines of your program to signify that you entered it correctly, which was pretty cool. If something went wrong (either a syntax error or you ran out of memory, which happened to me a lot), it would color the whole thing grey. Also, all of the keywords were 4 characters. So instead of "PRINT", it was "PRIN". Instead of "GOSUB", it was "GOSU". But you could enter the complete keyword and it would just ignore the last character(s). Yes, it was a pretty horrible little machine, but it was mine, and I did have fun with it.

In the documentation, there were "redacted" parts talking about an expansion module with would give you 32k RAM and a printer port (if memory serves). All of that would have made for a far better computing experience. But they put stickers over those parts of the manual because they never did come out with such a thing. I limped along with that thing until I got my next computer, a Commodore C-16.

Comment Re:Upsell Downside (Score 1) 176

I worked for them for a few months in '89/'90. I HATED it! They treat their employees like crap! They expected us to sell but didn't really give us the latitude to make good sales, especially if we happened to work at a low-volume store. They would track to see if we got customers names and addresses, and if we didn't ask the question enough they would give us a hard time. I hated asking for that info because I felt like I was invading their privacy. It was also Russian roulette if, when we asked for the customer's name and address, we would get a hissy attitude or a reaction of delight, especially since those on the mailing list would be sent the Radio Shack catalog every year, which was much coveted among loyal customers. Oh, and there was a way to override the system if the system said the name and address was required (usually when issuing a refund), but it wasn't abundantly clear how to do that, so it was easy for most salespeople to miss that feature. But if they were saying it was required as part of a regular sale, they were probably lying in order to keep their bosses off their backs.

As an employer, Radio Shack sucks! But if you needed an odd electronic part, audio/video component or battery, it was a great place to go. In a way, it's a shame Radio Shack is apparently going away; it marks the end of an era. But given how the company was run over the years and how they treated the people who worked for them, it isn't a surprise, and I wont shed too many tears over their apparent demise.

Comment You are paying for your local channels (Score 1) 112

What a lot of people don't realize is that, when you pay your monthly cable/satellite bill, a portion of your money goes to your local stations. Same goes for the non-prime cable channels. This is why, every so often, we see these fire-and-brimstone things saying things like "you are about to lose X channel...". Usually what happens is the cable/satellite companies raise their prices, and the station/channel owners see that as an opportunity to hit them up for more money. If the cable/satellite company doesn't want to pay them more, they'll cut the channel off.

I am of the opinion that, if you run commercials on your station/channel, you don't need to receive anything from the cable/satellite companies. If you can't make your station/channel survive without getting that money from the cable/satellite companies, you have no business being on the air. The simple fact of the matter is, if you are able to receive your local channels via an antenna, you wouldn't be paying anything to them in the first place. This is why these fees are absurd, especially to the local channels. But if you are in an area that has very poor reception of your local channels, you either have to pay for cable/satellite and pay a premium, or go without.

You can thank the Telecommunications Act of 1996 for all of this. I really wish it would get repealed. No good has come from it. It rewards local TV stations and cable channels for having shitty programming and running the same 6 shows all the damn time!

Comment I started while in 5th grade (Score 1) 515

My mother got a job at Tandem Computers in 1981. While programming wasn't a central part of her job (computer science was not in her background), it was important that she knew how to do it. So she took a distance learning course from the local community college in the BASIC programming language. The lectures for the course were broadcast on a television station owned by one of the other community colleges. I would sit and watch the show with her, and was fascinated. After she finished the course, I borrowed the book that came with the course and would pour through it. Every so often I would go to work with her. She would set me up on one of the terminals and I would "play"; that is, I would write programs in BASIC.

By the time I took my first official computer course in junior high school, which ranged in subject matter from application use (word processing, database applications, etc.) to programming in Applesoft BASIC, I already understood much of the programming part of the course.

But it wasn't until I went to college and took my first course in C that I learned how to properly structure a program. BASIC is fine for covering the broad strokes in how programs work, but it's terrible for learning how to properly structure programs. I also took courses in 8086 Assembly Language and Operating Systems, which changed my world.

Years after college, I took an extension course in Perl. I've taught myself other languages since then. It's easy to do since the mother tongue of most programming languages today is C; all you have to do is learn the particular dialect quirks of the language you want to learn. I've also picked up SQL as a result of the jobs I've had over the years.

Comment Don't like it? Tough shit! (Score 1) 564

Ultimately, Microsoft will be able to get away with this, and there isn't thing one anybody can do about it. I'm sure this type of thing is covered under their EULA (yes, even the Win7/8.x EULAs), and they're response will be something like "Don't like it? Don't use Windows".

And the tragedy of all of this is most people will just go along with this and accept it. I've said for a long time that most people use Windows because they don't know any better. I often get a lot of flack for saying that, even on tech boards like this one. But anybody who is seriously surprised by Microsoft's actions with regard to Windows 10 has not been paying attention. Microsoft has been aiming for this scenario for decades, and what they are doing now is a Bill Gates/Steve Balmer/Satya Nadella wet dream! Most people will have to go along with it because so many custom or specialty apps are built for Windows. Those who are motivated might port their apps over to MacOS or Linux, but it will be a long time (a year, maybe two) before such apps would be available to end-users. In the meantime, Microsoft will be able to run roughshod over their entire user base and flip them off in the process.

I stopped using Windows as my main operating system in 1998, and I'm SO glad I did! I'm not touching Windows 10 with a 10-mile pole!

Comment Re:Software industry is a joke (Score 1) 119

No, just as it wouldn't be Microsoft's fault if someone came in and disconnected all of the fans inside your PC so it could overheat and die. There are certain things Microsoft has control over, they've just been lazy (or stubborn) at doing something about them. Having a macro language that has the ability to install and execute a virus, or malware, or ransomware on your PC just isn't necessary. I mean, it's a fucking document! How much power do you need in a macro language for documents?!

Nobody would advocate to having car doors removable because it would be "totally cool" to see the road whiz by as you're driving 65mph down the highway. But some of Microsoft's software features in their products are tantamount to this very thing. It's silly, and it causes real harm to people and businesses.

Comment Crap topping on a turd sundae (Score 3, Insightful) 119

This is typical of Microsoft. They introduce "features" which sound really cool, but in actual practice are ill-advised. Then they introduce band-aid solutions that are supposed to make up for these deficiencies, but really don't do anything except get in the way of normal usage, and insult the intelligence of users. The issue with Office macros has been around for about 20 years, and they have been attempting to fix the security holes ever since, to no effect. This is why Windows is such a sieve when it comes to security, because they've designed Windows with the same philosophy as all of their other products, including Office.

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I think there's a world market for about five computers. -- attr. Thomas J. Watson (Chairman of the Board, IBM), 1943