Saturday, April 24, 2021

Snapshot & memories: All kids do these days is play video games

Note: I started this post three years ago and just let it sit in my drafts. It's time for final revisions and publication!

This snapshot is circa 1982 or 1983, and that's Yours Truly in the Philadelphia Phillies T-shirt and ineffective haircut, grinning while playing the Atari 2600 in the den of the house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. We would have been visiting from Montoursville at that point, unless it was after Summer 1983, when we moved to Largo, Florida. Two of the Atari games I most remember playing at that house were Night Driver and Breakout, but those are both paddle-controller games and I'm clearly holding a joystick. So perhaps I was playing Combat, or some other 2600 game.

The small den, which was my grandmother's (Helen's) office toward the end of her life, doubled as the TV and gaming room for the four grandkids during visits and also after Mom, Adriane and I moved into the house in early 1986. 

There was way too much furniture stuffed into the little room, including a television, a cot-sized bed, a large wooden cabinet (which is now my bedroom in Arizona) and a metal desk, which was nestled tightly between a pair of built-in bookshelves protruding from one wall.

My proportions are a bit off, but at right you can see how the room basically looked. Between video gaming, the TV (which was hooked up for cable) and various PCs sitting on the desk, family members spent a lot of time in this room from 1980 onward. And after my grandmother died and Mom lived at Oak Crest Lane alone, she spent a lot of her time there, mostly surfing the internet and checking email.

So the room saw a lot of America's fast-moving videogame and computing history between 1980 and 2015. In addition to Atari 2600 cartridges, there was an early IBM PC clone; later PCs running various iterations of Microsoft Windows; dot-matrix printers and then inkjet printers; Sierra On-Line games, the Oregon Trail, early genealogy software, mahjong games, Infocom games and more. 

Meanwhile, the walls around all this technology remained the same, filled with artwork from world travels many decades previous. A lot of the artwork was sold or donated when Mom moved out of the house. And we got rid of almost all the rest after Mom died in 2017. But I've kept a few pieces. My bedrooms in both Dover (first photo) and here in Florence (second photo) have some faint echoes of that tiny den where I sat and played Atari.

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