Happy 30th birthday, PC era

I may be a hardcore Apple fanatic now (and, well, for about the last 20 years), but back in the ’80s, I lived in the “IBM-compatible” world, as it was called back then, in the days before Microsoft Windows.

IBM-compatible, of course, meant a computer with the same basic architecture, and capable of running the same software, as the (literally) definitive Personal Computer — PC — IBM introduced on this date in 1981. I have so many vivid memories of the ’80s IBM PC experience that I’m at a loss where even to begin to discuss them. So many games. Such terrible graphics.

I never actually owned the IBM PC, the model 5150 (not to be confused with this), myself, but my uncle did. It was always a treat in the early ’80s when we’d visit him and he’d let me go into the spare bedroom where he kept his PC. He was the first person I knew who owned a computer. It was dazzlingly futuristic, and I eventually learned some rudimentary command line skills — just enough MS-DOS to get myself into BASIC, where I loved to write stupid, pointless little programs.

Eventually, in 1987, I got my own PC-compatible computer, the Tandy 1000 EX that I’ve mentioned here before. The Tandy 1000 was an odd beast. It boasted a better graphics card than the average PC, allowing it to display a whopping 16 colors instead of the usual 4, but in almost every other way it was already hopelessly outdated at the time of its release. It was never able to run even version 1.0 of Windows, so we got Tandy’s feeble semi-GUI, DeskMate, instead. But I still thought it was cool.

It all began with the IBM 5150 PC, though. Without that, Apple might have become the world’s largest (technology) company 25 years earlier. But in the end it all worked out OK. The iPhone 4 I carry around in my pocket now is (approximately) a kazillion times more powerful than the 13-pound metal box IBM gave us 30 years ago today.

Still, I have fond memories of so many games I played on that old Tandy 1000 back in the late ’80s. Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

I brought my Tandy 1000 EX to college with me in the fall of 1992, but the campus computer labs were dominated by Macs (except for a couple of the high-tech labs in the physics building that were full of NeXT cubes), and it wasn’t long before I was a convert. I bought my first Mac — an LC 475 — at the college computer store in the spring of 1994 and I haven’t looked back. Except when I have. That Tandy 1000 EX is long gone but my love of those old games I played in junior high and high school lives on.

You can’t hear my latest song

But that’s just because I’ve submitted it for consideration for inclusion in Ramen Music, a new subscription music service — a “zine” I suppose, in late-’90s Internet parlance — that brings independent musicians and artists together in what looks to be a very cool web interface. I’m excited to get the first issue, and even more excited about possibly being a part of it.

Ramen Music is the brainchild of my fellow indie musician and web guy, Sudara Williams, who also created alonetone. It’s a great idea and it looks like it’s got the right kind of support behind it to make it a success artistically, and hopefully as a business venture as well.

As for my song, well, it’s 5 1/2 minutes of upbeat electronica, probably the best track I’ve recorded to date in that style (at least, I think so). It’s called “Sembei,” the Japanese word for a quintessentially Japanese snack food: rice crackers. I’ve gotten addicted to the things — there are some excellent options imported straight from Japan at United Noodles here in Minneapolis — and it just seemed like a good name for a track I’d submit to a project called Ramen Music.

Here’s where I’d say, “Enjoy!” and link to the MP3. But in this case I’ll say… Subscribe! There’s no guarantee at this point that “Sembei” will be included on the first (or any) issue of Ramen Music, but it’s still worth it to support great independent music.