Cleaning the Abyss
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to finally clean up my home office. Over the years it has sort of become the designated “junk room” in the house. I blame this outrage on the fact that the door to the attic (also known as the “Portal to Non-Being”) is in my office. Things that are one infraction away from being banished forever into the attic seem to end up in my office. In that regard, my office is sort of a halfway house for junk. Junk is given one final opportunity to prove that it has some value to society before being banished to the limbo of the attic.
Oh, I try valiantly to keep some order in the room, but you know how it is. Things accumulate. Then accrete. Sedimentary layers appear. Then strata. The next thing you know, archaeologists are in your office in pith helmets and kerchiefs tied around their necks, wielding trowels, picks, and hand brushes.
Well, in order to fulfill one of my New Year’s resolutions, I became that archaeologist. The time had come to try and find the floor of my office (if, indeed, there was one).
I began emptying storage bins and, while working hard to overcome my mild pack-rat tendencies, I began chucking things into two piles: trash and recycling. I’m happy to say that the recycling pile was winning. Score one for the green team!
I found some very interesting archaeological finds that I’d like to share with you all.
The first of these was a box for a Kodak EasyShare CX7300 3.2 megapixel camera (complete with accessories within).
Sadly, the camera is long gone, but the box lives on (though I’m not sure why). What possible reason could I have for holding onto such a box? Well, I’ll tell you why. I have been conditioned by stores that sell electronics to keep the original packaging that things come in. I have been burned so many times by getting a piece of electronic gear that didn’t work, trying to return it, and then finding out that I couldn’t without the original packaging. So, I developed a sort of 30-day retention policy regarding the boxes that electronics come in. However, this particular box survived well past the 30 day mark and lived to the ripe old age of 12 years old (according to my 30 seconds of Google research into the introduction date of this camera). But now its time has come to pass into the next plane. God speed, little box. You have fulfilled your destiny (of taking up space in my office for 12 years).
The second item up for your consideration is a classic! It is a Diamond Supra Express 56K modem. Except, unlike the camera box above, this box actually contained the modem card.
Ah, what sweet memories finding this fine piece of technology invoked in me! How well I remember the wave of emotions that would swell within me when I’d click “connect” in some program or another and my ears would be treated to the symphony of whines, whistles, shrieks, strange boings, and pops! I would cross my fingers and rock back and forth and chant, “Please connect! Please connect!” And roughly half the time it would. And oh, what a treat to attempt to surf the web at a whopping 56000 bits per second? However, 56K was wildly optimistic. Typical speeds were in the 36K range due to phone line conditions. Modern Internet speeds are in excess of a million bits per second, so you can imagine how long it took to download a simple picture at 56K bps. And heaven forbid that Microsoft would decide that your PC needed a Windows update! You might as well go to bed if that happened, but not before getting on your knees and praying that the modem would stay connected all night long during the update. Otherwise, you’d get up in the morning and see a “disconnected” window and a status message from Windows saying something like “3 of 75 updates installed”. It was enough to make us cry out in the same screeches, cries , and boings that the modem makes when connecting.
The next treasure is a classic game called “CEO”. It was endorsed by CNN, no less!
I must confess, I never actually played this game. I was going to, but I started reading the manual (remember when software came with paper manuals?), and my eyes rolled back into my head and I had to be revived by a martini with 2 olives (stirred, not shaken … because I was a rebel) thrown in my face.
The system requirements for this lovely game was as follows:
Remember DOS 5.0 running on a 486? Man, those were the days! Personally, I’ve never really enjoyed PCs since Intel broke with the 486 architecture and went down the Pentium road. My favorite computer was a 486/66 running DOS. I knew that machine like the back of my hand and could write software for it, script for it, interface things to the hardware, and, best of all, play Doom on it. But now … sheesh! I’m running Windows 10 on a state of the art laptop and frankly I’m happy if Word starts up and remembers where my files are.
Moving on …
This next item up for your consideration is one that it actually pained me to have to throw away. It was my beloved copy of Eagle Automated PCB Design 1, 2, 3. It pained me because I actually had to pay good money for this software.
A long, long time ago I started my own business designing electronic things for hire (I was a sort of migrant engineer worker). This was the only PCB (printed circuit board) software I could afford. I think I paid about $595 for it, which was a princely sum to me at the time. It wasn’t a top-of-the line router, but it was good enough for my purposes. It even came with a license dongle, so that’s how you know it was official. Sadly, I lost the dongle, so even if I had a computer that could read a 3.5″ floppy disk AND run software written to run under DOS, I’d be out of luck for lack of a dongle. To paraphrase Richard III, “A dongle, a dongle! My kingdom for a dongle!” As an added bonus, dongle is a funny word to say.
We’re walking …. we’re walking …
Next up is my beloved copy of Microsoft Visual C++ (Standard Edition).
I also bought this while I was a self-employed engineer. I actually preferred Microsoft Quick C (the predecessor to Visual C++), but I was writing a program that was so big that I broke Quick C. So I had to upgrade to Microsoft Visual C++ (and port over all that code I’d written in Quick C). I never really did take a shine to Visual C++, but one must use whatever tool works. Oddly enough, even though I payed dang good money for the above software back in the day, you can now get a free version of Microsoft C++ on the Microsoft website. I sure wish that had been true back then!
And, finally, we come to my old copy of Microsoft Word 2.0.
You can see I paid a whopping $129 for it. I was able to buy the upgrade version of it because I had some ancient version of Word Perfect on my painfully slow 386 computer at the time. WordPerfect was such an abomination that I nearly gave up writing because of it. Luckily I still had my pens and notebooks.
But anyway, there you have it. All of the beautiful items above, things I paid good money for and used faithfully for years and years, are now sitting at the bottom of my recycling bin (except for the modem board and floppy disks, which are in the trash). I threw away much more than that yesterday, but these were just the most interesting items I found. And by “interesting”, I mean not interesting at all.
Thank you for being patient while I droned on about my archaeological dig in my home office. The excavation will continue over the next couple of weeks. If I find more interesting things, I will let you know. (Unless you beg me not to, or send one dollar in a plain, unmarked envelop to me c/o WordPress.)