We were gathered around a blazing turf fire, sharing a companionable beer when a lull fell over the conversation. We’d been talking about the idea William Burroughs had to build a robot out of hashish and teach it to say Nothing to declare.
Now there’s a thought.
To each his own thoughts as we gazed reflectively into the whispering flames. Four men at ease in their shared silence.
Atari, muttered somebody.
Did you ever have an Atari?
Jesus, said someone else. Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
That’s when they all woke up.
You had to type in about ten thousand lines of code and when you were finished, what happened?
A monkey on the screen jumped up and down.
And the next time you started it, you had to type the whole lot in again.
Unless you recorded it on a cassette tape.
My Ma had one of them. She used it to remember four phone numbers.
Wouldn’t it be easier to write them into a book?
Yeah, but it was modern. Cutting edge.
What if you lost the tape?
No more phone numbers.
Then there was the thing in the pub. The table tennis thing.
That’s it. You could bang a little white dot back and forth.
While getting drunk.
On a half pint of beer.
Yeah. Or you could shoot down Galaxians.
Now you’re talking. I often spent the whole night shooting down Galaxians.
You must have been great fun. I’d say the girls loved you.
Shut up. I was unbeaten pub champion for three full months.
I got laid non-stop for those three months while you were shooting Space Invaders.
Galaxians. Please. They weren’t Space Invaders.
Did you ever meet a personal Space Invader?
What, like that smelly guy who sits in next to you and pokes his ears with his car key?
That sort of thing.
Pity you can’t shoot him.
That’s when a burning sod of turf fell out of the fire, infusing the entire room with its delicious smoky aroma, redolent of quiet men with pipes and rolled shirtsleeves, content in their own thoughts as they worked the sleán.
God, I love that smell, said someone. It smells of …
No! Jesus Christ. It smells of an ancient age when all we had was DOS. Do you remember those days?
Do I remember? Will I ever forget? You could only run one program at a time unless you got that fancy memory thing but then you had to stay up all night guessing where it should all go and you’d probably be wrong anyway.
That’s right. And you couldn’t see what your typing would turn out like because, well, because you just couldn’t.
Steve Jobs fixed that.
He did indeed. Stealing the Xerox graphical interface was the mark of a true —
Didn’t he make the money to set up Apple by phone phreaking?
We won’t talk about that. Steve Jobs gave the world the very first machine where it was possible to play a good game of poker and for that, he deserves every credit.
So Microsoft had to react and they gave us what?
It was shite.
It was. I suppose the real breakthrough came with Windows 3.1 when, for the very first time, the world was able to play a proper version of Solitaire.
Ah, Solitaire. We fell back into our reverie as the soft smoke curled up the chimney. Minesweeper, muttered someone, quietly to himself.
In twenty years’ time, said somebody, will we look back on what we have today and laugh?
I don’t think so, replied someone else. Nothing has changed much since 1995.
What about the internet?
It just got bigger and faster.
We had them.
Same as Windows, Mac and all the rest. Just a different flavour.
So, what will they think of in the next twenty years?
If I knew that, I’d think of it now and I wouldn’t tell anyone.
Yup. If you really wanted to know what will be invented in the next twenty years all you really have to do is gain access to the Pentagon and the CIA. I guarantee you, they already have it.
People are getting restless.
Yeah. Why not?
So, who’s the greatest computing pioneer of the 20th / 21st century?
That guy from Oracle. The fella with the porn mag.
Larry Ellison, you idiot, not Larry Flynt.
Whatever. Is it him? Leisuresuit Larry?
No. The greatest genius of the 20th/21st century is of course Steve Jobs. Ask me why.
Because he sold the same rubbish as everyone else but persuaded the world to pay twice as much for it.
That’s a hell of a trick.
It sure is. And people still fall for it. Pint?