Sunday, September 12
In defense of dirty windows (and old computers)
Imagine how the above picture would look if the window were spotlessly clean. A dull, boring, out-of-focus shot of a tree’s foliage and a big granite boulder. I haven’t washed any windows all summer. They preserve a history of what’s happened: bird splats on the outside, bug splats on the inside, spider potty, fly dung, everyday human abode grime. It’s a chronicle of LIFE! An archaeologist’s dream window.
I do lots of things that future archaeologists will love me for. First, I resist the temptation to throw really cool things away. I have my first computer, a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, in its original box, a machine that was the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas in the early 1980s. It had 16 kilobytes of memory, programs and data were stored on an audio cassette recorder, and it displayed through a modulator on either channel 2 or 3 on an old television set. I taught myself programming in Basic using that computer.
A Commodore Amiga 2500 is next in the lineup of saved stuff, a breakthrough computer that could drive a display to show an astonishing 1,024 colors, four times as many as other computers. Even today there are Amiga aficionados who revere its simplicity and brilliance in design. Maybe they can make me an offer. I still have a Canon computer that came with a gargantuan hard drive—40 megabytes! And one of the most maddening operating systems, Windows 3.1. My first Apple computer, a Power PC 8500, was so badly made that I had nearly all of its innards replaced under warranty. (Steve Jobs hadn’t yet returned to Apple.) I joked that the only thing left that was original was the paint. I kept adding memory chips to make it run faster. Laine, the very smart (and very attractive) woman who helped me so much at her Apple shop in Fresno once asked me why I wanted to buy even more RAM. “Tom, you already have forty-eight megabytes!” Over time and after spending gobs of money I managed to boost its memory to over 170 megabytes! The computer itself cost over $4,000 which included a mouse. The keyboard was another $150. The color monitor was $1400. There must have been some powerful motivation at the time to spend so much, but I forget why. Glad I did it, though. Twelve-year-old daughter Hilary used it to write her book, Never a Dull Moment. We’ve been Apple fans ever since.
Back to the original premise of future archaeologists and anthropologists loving guys like me, I can only warn you to not try this at home. Most people don’t have as much space as I do to fill with life’s detritus. But those who do will be loved by future scholars of artifacts. So my advice to you if you want credit: Put your name on everything! And stop washing your windows.