Stone Age Computers

Things weren't always like this
Maybe you've got an iMac. Maybe you've got a Dell running Windows 7.

Whatever kind of machine you've got, you might take a moment to remember that computers weren't always this sweet.

The mesmerizing microchip marvel you're using to read this blog post stands on the evolutionary shoulders of generations that came before.

A brief overview of the fossil record...

Texas Instruments
There was a time when Bill Cosby was the spokesperson for nearly every product on the market. Here, he explains why the 16K Texas Instruments computer is the one.

Before dancing with wolves, Kevin Costner helped sell Macs...
Hey, is that an Apple Lisa?

Commodore 64
Believe it or not, back in the day, the Commodore 64 was the big dog of the PC pound.

With total lifetime sales of 17 million units, in the mid-1980s, this computer outsold Apple, IBM PC and Atari.

The Kaypro -- the Complete Computer for $1295
If you ever saw a Kaypro you know that referring to it as complete was a stretch. The screen was so tiny you had to scroll vertically just to see a whole page.

It was no lightweight, though. This puppy weighed 29 pounds!

And where would you have bought a computer back in the stoneage?

At ComputerLand, of course. This retailer booted up in 1976 and boasted some 800 outlets by the mid-1980s. Of course, all things must pass. ComputerLand didn't last long enough to have to worry about Y2K. It shut down in 1999.

Is there a demo they missed in this commercial?

My Brief Conversation with John Lennon

john lennon

John: "Whot's 'appenin' brutha?!"

Me: "You're John Lennon."

John: "That's right, mate."

In an interview, John said he got two questions all the time while living in New York -- "Are the Beatles getting back together?" and "Aren't you John Lennon?"

Though John Lennon was world famous, identity was a frequent topic for him.
In his song Nowhere Man -- which he wrote about himself -- John seems to be asking Who am I? Who is John Lennon? The lyric answers that question with another question -- Isn't he a bit like you and me?

In A Hard Day's Night, there is a scene where a woman suspects John may be THE John Lennon. But after talking to him, she assumes she is mistaken...

hard day's night

MILLIE: Oh, wait a minute, don't tell me you're ...

JOHN: No, not me.

MILLIE (insistently): Oh you are, I know you are.

JOHN: No, I'm not.

MILLIE: Well, you look like him.

JOHN (examining himself in the mirror): My eyes are lighter.

MILLIE (agreeing): Oh yes.

JOHN: And my nose...

MILLIE (starting to walk away): You don't look like him at all.

Sometime in New York City: The Night I Met John Lennon
Until long after midnight I wandered the streets of mid-town Manhattan. I was a kid in a candy store, on my own for the first time in my life in a city that made my own Chicago look like a small town.

I couldn't believe that a city could be so alive, so filled with people, lights and action after 2AM.

I wanted to see it all -- Fifth Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, Broadway...


More lights, the roar of traffic and the constant hum of people all hurrying somewhere in the middle of the night. But further down on Broadway there was dark building that caught my attention.

The Ed Sullivan Theatre
I approached it and saw that it was the old Ed Sullivan Theatre. David Letterman's Late Show is broadcast from there now but this night, so many years ago, it was empty, dark and abandoned.

I stood there under the historic marquee, peering through the entrance door windows trying in vain to see inside.

All the time I was thinking, this was where the Beatles first performed on their first American tour when 73 million Americans tuned in to see the Fab Four on television.

A car approaches...
It was then that I noticed that a car had pulled up behind me and parked at the curb. The rear passenger window rolled down slowly. I could hear laughter and talking inside. Someone stuck his face out of the window and spoke to me.

It was a man who I had seen on television, in movies, in magazines and on album covers. It was the man who had taught me how to play guitar by listening over and over to the dozens of hit songs he'd recorded.

It was the man who -- with the three other members of his band -- got his superstar start in the very building that we were now in front of.

The Liverpool accent was unmistakable.

John: "Whot's 'appenin' brutha?!"

Me: "You're John Lennon."

John: "That's right, mate."

The face receded from the car window. After a few more moments of laughter and chatter, the vehicle pulled away.

What just happened here?!, I thought. Had I just met John Lennon in front to the Ed Sullivan Theatre? Was that possible?

And if it was possible and if it had indeed happened, couldn't I think of something better to say than what was clearly obvious to him?

Me: "You're John Lennon."

Disbelief, Doubt...
When I got back to Chicago and told my friends what had happened, they didn't believe me. It didn't make any sense. It was too surreal to be true.

After awhile I almost began to doubt it all myself. But there really was no question...

Seeking out the Master
It was many years later that I read that while John lived at the Dakota in New York City, new bands would seek him out. Aspiring rock musicians all wanted an audience with the man who had helped to change the face of music.

And sometimes he would take them on a tour of his city. But there was one place they all wanted to see -- the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

By some strange coincidence, the night I roamed the late night streets of New York happened to be a night that he was, no doubt, giving some new band a tour.

And all I could come up with to say to him was...

Me: "You're John Lennon."

Identity and the Last Dark Day at the Dakota...
But I was reminded of that brief -- though in retrospect quite poignant -- conversation a few years later, reading about the night John was shot.

He was semi-conscious and bleeding profusely as the police rushed him to the hospital. Officer James Moran tried to keep him from slipping into the darkness by talking to him, trying to keep him alert.

"Do you know who you are?," Officer Moran asked. John, moaned and nodded as if to say ... yes.

My very brief conversation with John Lennon suddenly took on special meaning to me.

Yes, indeed John... You're John Lennon...

John Lennon 1940 - 1980


Pleasantville Revisited: The Wonderful World of Color

ike carter

Something happened to the world sometime between the 1950s and the 1970s.
It changed from black and white to color. Images captured on film in the first half of the 20th century were in shades of grey.

Time Barrier
In a way reminiscent of the movie, Pleasantville, black and white film is a time marker separating the distant and inaccessible past from all that is more recent and more relevant.

1920s Fashions - In Color
That's why this clip seems somehow anachronistic. The 1920s aren't supposed to look as vibrant as this. The people shown in films from this earlier time aren't supposed to look

Tomorrow we may both be gone...
The beautiful, young women in this video may no longer be with us yet the color of the film seems to bring a living glow to them. And the lyrics of the soundtrack are poignant, are they not?

Life is so uncertain
And no one seems to know
How long we have to linger on
Tomorrow we may both be gone
Love me tonight...