ASCII Star Wars Portraits & Other Weirdness From BASIC-Era Computer Magazines
A Stack of BASIC-era Computer Magazines Including
Publisher: People's Computer Company, Menlo Park, CA
Discovered at: Berkeley estate sale
The Cover Promises: If you drop $599 on a TRS-80, you might be able to design droid needlepoints.
"Level II BASIC at last!! The long awaited successor to Level I has finally arrived, and the improvement in capability and performance is truly awesome."
You know the way we are trained to view as revolutionary every incremental design innovation in the various screen-bearing devices that have come to dominate our lives? Digging through these stuffy yet grandiose computer magazines confirms that that's the way things always have been, at least since the days the folks at Tandy and Radio Shack started trying to convince the world that playing Oregon Trail would result in better grades.
Seriously, they did everything they could to prove that, right down to precarious child stacking:
That's science, there. See, hunt-and-pecking "10 PRINT" into a screen the color of Mountain Dew made kids much smarter than dumb ol' books ever could.
What's more, computer education advocates promised that this revolution in learning would be fun, a lie exposed by the software that I turned up at the same estate sale where I grabbed these magazines:
Of course, computers weren't entirely un-fun. Just look at what a dedicated Star Wars fan could whip up with just hours of labor and a stack of graph paper:
The scariest Stormtrooper is an italicized Stormtrooper!
While those might look like squares from the Death Star Memorial Quilt, they actually are the ASCII "graphix" of Daniel Browning, as printed in that People's Computers magazine. What's remarkable is that in the DIY age computer graphics had such a handmade quality. (For serious geeks, I've scanned and posted the entire article on the third page of this post.)
Next: Why women, though frail, need not fear the microcomputer.