Computer addiction circa 1982

Monday, August 2, 2010

In a long article in The Atlantic from 1982, James Fallows talks about his computer, a $4,000 setup with a monitor, keyboard, tape drives, and a printer. While it's fun for a computer geek like me to read about what amounted to a word processor with 48K of RAM, even more interesting is this passage about how he has become addicted to the machine:

I can hardly bring myself to mention the true disadvantage of computers, which is that I have become hopelessly addicted to them. To the outside world, I present myself as a man with a business need for a word-processing machine. Sure, I have a computer: I'd have a drill press if I were in the machine-tool business. This is the argument I make frequently to my wife. The truth, which she has no doubt guessed, is that I love to see them work ...

... My computer already competes with wife and children for my affection: can our family stand anything more?

Online services were available at the time but Fallows hadn't subscribed to any of them. He used this computer only for writing articles and programming some tax accounting software, yet he still feared the power it had over him. The more things change in the era of Twitter and instant online gratification, the more they stay the same.