In 1980 you could probably count on one hand the number of 40 year-old single mothers who desperately wanted to own a computer. I knew nothing about them except that you could correct your typing errors with an easy keystroke or two, you could move whole paragraphs from here to there and back again, and you could get software to add and subtract flawlessly so I could keep track of my finances.
I wanted to earn a living as a writer, but I was a terrible typist. My writing skills were marginal enough that it often took many drafts before something worthwhile emerged (if ever…). With a computer editing was painless, even fun. And I could keep track of my puny finances without having to take off my socks.
The Apple was available but seemed like just a toy; I wanted to play with the big boys.
So I got me a Vector 3 – a CP/M machine with (wait for it) 56Kb RAM (!!) and a 340Kb (!!) external floppy drive. As you can see, the 72-key keyboard and 12” video screen were all one unit. You loaded the program you wanted to use from a floppy disk, and saved your files onto another floppy.
I also bought a big honking Diablo 630 printer, which created beautiful proportionally spaced output (unlike dot-matriz printers where every letter was given the same width) about twice as fast as you could go on a Selectric typewriter (if you could type).
Vector Graphics Inc was started by two San Francisco housewives in the late ’70s, Lore Harp and Carole Ely – how cool is that! Harp’s then husband was technical director. The Harps’ divorce ultimately brought the company down. Lore Harp took a brief left turn and invented a funnel women could pee into when it was inconvenient to use a toilet, and then became a big gun at IDG (which owned Infoworld, among other tech publications), and now is a venture capitalist with lots of bucks and a position on the MIT board of trustees.
But I digress. The computer and printer plus Magic Wand word processing and Execuplan spreadsheet cost an absurd amount of money ($8,000 if I recall!) but I never regretted it for an instant. It paid for itself in the articles I sold, technical editing I could do, and jump start I got on computer literacy, because believe me the road was rough and rocky. Tech support? No such thing.
I finally sold the system in 1985 to another Vector owner who wanted a backup for spare parts should her system have problems.
I’ve been a geek ever since, owning countless computers over the years, many of which I built myself. It must be said, however, that I no longer much enjoy getting under a computer’s hood. I just want it to work and keep working. And when it doesn’t it’s all I can do to keep my zen cool.