Thursday, July 23, 2020

Floppy Memory

The year is 1983. Sitting at the borrowed Apple IIe computer in the old garage converted to a shop/playroom is a shaggy-haired kid clicking away at the mechanical built-in keyboard. He's playing Global Thermonuclear War, but has yet to see the movie that inspired it.

The machine is similar enough to the TI99/4a he's been programming that it feels familiar. The Apple has something the Texas Instruments machine doesn't, though: a floppy disk drive. The TI has only a built in cartridge for read only programs, and requires a tape recorder to store any programs. The Apple is nothing at all like his Timex-Sinclair 1000.

The floppys hold over 100k of data, and the Apple has 128k of RAM. That blows away tape drives, which become more unreliable the longer the program. The TI has only 32k RAM, anyway, and the Timex is only 2k! Plus, loading the program from a tape is tenuous at best. Wait while the program plays on the cassette player, and it still might not successfully load into memory. These amazing floppys work almost every time and take seconds to load.

The kid knows the world has changed. Everything can be converted to 1s and 0s, then stored for almost instant recall. The 1s and 0s can do all the math a normal human would ever need to do in a lifetime in the time it takes him to blink while thinking about it.