A Personal Persective on @'s Acquisition at MoMA - What's Yours?

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Bill Loguidice
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MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design has "acquired" the @ symbol into its collection, which you can read about here. It's an interesting article all on its own, but it got me thinking about my own youthful exposure to @. Since I'm heading towards 38 this year, I was obviously around well before personal computers became ubiquitous in both homes and schools. Back in the mid-80's, when I was in junior high school (now a middle school--another change) in keyboarding class - where we were learning to touch type on electric typewriters - our teacher one day drew the @ symbol on the chalkboard. She then asked us what it was. I immediately raised my hand and said, "it's the 'at' symbol." Somewhat taken aback, she said, "You looked ahead in the book, didn't you?". I didn't. I happened to get "lucky" in that I had read about the little used symbol in some book or context or another that slips my mind at the moment.

In any case, her accusatory reaction to my response puts in context just how little used @ was at the time, with no electronic mail standards to speak of and certainly no Internet as we came to know it in the mid-1990s. Now, that little symbol is one of our indispensable daily tools, be it its use in e-mail, twitter, or any other situation where "directional" shorthand is needed. Transformative indeed.

Do you have a story of your own for @ or anything like it? I'd love to hear it.

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Bill Loguidice
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Back in my day...
Matt Barton wrote:

Hehe, nice story, Bill. I'm sure most of us have stories like it. It seems like my teachers always assumed I was (like most other kids in the class) pretty much illiterate. I was irritated then by the easy assumption that all kids are so ignorant and know nothing but what their teachers force painfully into their heads. Quintilian said it best - if a kid doesn't want to learn, it's not the kid's fault, but the teacher (and I'd add to that the parents). Kids love learning about new things if only they have someone patient and encouraging in their lives to help them reach that goal.

I get amazed everyday by what my 5 year old and 3 year old daughter respectively discover and learn about each day. Watching the process in action is wonderful. There's nothing worse than squashing curiosity and experimentation.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Hehe, nice story, Bill. I'm

Hehe, nice story, Bill. I'm sure most of us have stories like it. It seems like my teachers always assumed I was (like most other kids in the class) pretty much illiterate. I was irritated then by the easy assumption that all kids are so ignorant and know nothing but what their teachers force painfully into their heads. Quintilian said it best - if a kid doesn't want to learn, it's not the kid's fault, but the teacher (and I'd add to that the parents). Kids love learning about new things if only they have someone patient and encouraging in their lives to help them reach that goal.

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Bill Loguidice
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Obese computers
Chris Kennedy wrote:

That 5150 was definitely built like a tank, and the weight also reflects this. It weighs a TON! The power supply inside is huge. The power switch is on the side at the back. I remember flipping the switch and feeling like I was restoring power to a small island rather than booting a computer.

I wonder if your power supplies have anything to do with your problem, Bill. Does it try to boot (floppy disk seeking and all) but only display the green line? Do you turn it on and see the green line without any disk activity? I wonder how much troubleshooting documentation is out there for the machine.

I believe there's a good amount of info and knowledge out there I can tap. No, neither one powers up the disk drive. The drive light flickers on power up, but that's it, no spinning. The IBM monochrome monitor plugs into the back of the unit, but even with it unplugged it still does the same thing. I should have a spare power supply in my spare parts specific to those units. Also, since I have two of the exact same 5150 (original models with 256K instead of 64K), I should be able to swap parts around until I get a working combination, assuming of course they don't have the same issue.

As for the weight, either the IBM 5150's or the TI-99/4a with Expansion Box buckled my gray table! Both are monstrously heavy.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Chris Kennedy
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Hmm

That 5150 was definitely built like a tank, and the weight also reflects this. It weighs a TON! The power supply inside is huge. The power switch is on the side at the back. I remember flipping the switch and feeling like I was restoring power to a small island rather than booting a computer.

I wonder if your power supplies have anything to do with your problem, Bill. Does it try to boot (floppy disk seeking and all) but only display the green line? Do you turn it on and see the green line without any disk activity? I wonder how much troubleshooting documentation is out there for the machine.

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Catatonic
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The "pipe" / "vertical bar"

The "pipe" / "vertical bar" character is what confused me when I was learning MS-DOS. I think, on-screen it appeared with a break in the middle (or maybe it was a solid line on-screen and broken on the keyboard?)

Bill Loguidice
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Not that's it's totally

Not that's it's totally on-topic with your story, Chris, but I was disappointed that neither of my two IBM 5150's worked when Rick Thornquist came to visit. Oddly enough, they both exhibited exactly the same technical issue, which was essentially a green dash in the upper left of the screen and that's it. Of course since these systems are built like tanks, I'm hopeful I can get them working if it's nothing too serious. While I realize the keyboards were offshoots of the successful IBM Selectric typewriter keyboards, they really are fantastic to type on. I've always loved them, even with their clackity natures (which is arguable is part of their charm).

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Chris Kennedy
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My history

I was rather young when I first learned what the @ symbol was. My interest in computers started fairly early. It was probably before I even started kindergarten. I think I was mesmerized by all of the keys on the keyboard. I was lucky in that my dad had an IBM at home (IBM 5150), and I got to play around on it despite its cost.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f1/Ibm_pc_5150.jpg

As I looked at the keys, I saw the @ symbol and asked what it was. My father wrote for a newspaper, so he was quite familiar (and fast) with a typewriter. Fortunately, the PC went with the same configuration. I certainly asked a lot of questions on the subject. One thing interesting about that keyboard was that the function keys were on the side. It was as if they took a typewriter keyboard, needed to add function keys, and asked, "what are we going to do with these?" It made the function keys appear that they didn't belong, but it also made it really easy to slap a template on the fat part of the left side. The function keys would eventually be moved to the top of the keyboard, and that is where they remain today.

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