Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Kingdom for a C-Prompt

For the last few days, I have been reading about “Vista”, Microsoft’s new operating system that is due to be released the beginning of 2007 (or whenever). I’m especially intrigued by the minimum — that’s minimum — system requirements just to get this thing installed on a computer. Five hundred and twelve megabytes of random-access memory. That’s four times the memory that is on the 8-year old computer that I usually use at home.

Ah, my home computer. 128 meg of ram. 10 gig of hard drive space. A zip drive for backup. And Windows 98. State of the art when I purchased it. It’s as old as my refrigerator. Almost as old as my pickup truck. Only half the age of my house.

But in computer years, it’s ancient. As old as the hills on Grandma’s chest. Older than dirt. It’s so old, its serial number is negative. The last time I called Dell’s customer service, the guy on the phone just sorta chuckled when I told him my model number. I just hung up. He was no help.

So here I am with a moderately functional computer and an operating system that’s six versions behind. No upgrade path. No residual value. Scrap value of maybe a couple of bucks if you melt the silver out of the motherboard. But hey, it’s paid for.

While reading about Vista, I became more than painfully aware of the limitations of my computer. Last month, Microsoft officially stopped supporting my operating system. According to, almost 87% of all personal computers run on Windows xp. 2.7% run on my operating system. I have never been in such an ignominious minority. For a middle-aged white guy, that hurts.

A long time ago, I was a C-prompt guy. The computer waited patiently for me to tell it what to do. And then it did it. One thing at a time. I didn’t have to point at anything or drag anything. It didn’t connect to the Internet behind my back and download viruses. It just did what I told it to do.

Sometimes I long for those days. Sometimes I just want a computer to ask me what I want it to do. Then I can type in a command and it will do it for me. Sigh. It’ll probably never happen again in my lifetime.

I’m saving up for a new computer. By the time I can afford one of those new-fangled giga-ram computers, Vista will be three of four versions behind. It’ll take twenty gig of ram to load the operating system, which will probably be code-named “Leroy” or something like that.

If I had a kingdom, I would give it up for a computer that had a C-prompt and an operating system that could run on a meg of extended memory with a 32-meg hard drive. Then I’d type on a black screen with green letters in a fixed font.

And life would be good.

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