Just before Christmas of 1983 my family moved from (state1) to (state2).  I’m happy to announce I was an Air Force Brat and didn’t move to either state voluntarily.  I would normally make jokes about why anybody would live in (state2) on purpose, or suggest that if anybody ever wanted to make a prison colony in the United States that we make a wall around (state1).  This is pretty Christmas-y so far right?

Let me setup the fall of 1983 for you.  The cold war was raging.  The base I moved to in (state2) was full of B-52s that were made could carry air launched cruise missiles. In September, a Korean Air Lines flight from New York City to Seoul (via Anchorage), with 269 people aboard, was shot down by the Soviet Union.  Later that same month, Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, may have saved the world.  WarGames was in theaters, and probably only because my parents had not seen it, they relented and got me a Commodore Vic-20 for Christmas.

I have received a number of truly great Christmas presents over the years.  Among them are:

  • A remote control R2-D2 in 1978
  • My first electric guitar
  • My first son coming home from the hospital on Christmas Eve (after a rough entrance to the world 3-week hospital stay)

However, the Vic-20 holds a special place, because it probably kept me from saying “Would you like fries with that?” any longer than necessary.  When you’re a military kid, if you move when school is out it is difficult to meet people, so I learned to program in BASIC pretty quickly.

I would give some stats on the Commodore Vic-20, but it cannot be compared to any modern device.  I imagine any graphing calculator from 1993 was actually more powerful and had more memory.  I suspect there are kitchen appliances that have more RAM than the Vic-20 did.   I received a Commodore 64 the following Christmas, which was a far more usable device, but the Vic-20 set the hook.  And certainly you can see why here:

When coupled with the Commodore 1530 Datasette – which allowed you to save your BASIC programs on a cassette, you really had something.

So, thank you Mom and Dad.  This wise decision probably played a large role in me not still living at your house.

Merry Christmas!