The Trash 80

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I bought a Tandy Radio Shack model 80 computer, the now venerable antique 'Trash 80,' in 1979. I didn't have any particular use for it, but I guessed it might be a useful learning tool for my sons, who would soon begin high school. Good guess. They quickly taught themselves Basic and started writing their own computer programs, a learning and application process that never ceased for them as better and better machines and software came on the market. (Today, one designs software and the other designs robots.)

The personal computer did not appear in a social vacuum. The decade of the 1970s were not just turbulent, they were murderous, fearful, and relentlessly in-your-face: the Cold War, Vietnam, rioting, drugs and madness, inflation, wage and price freezes, spiraling oil costs, all emanating from the District of Criminals. People were desperate to find sense, sanity, and security, and gurus popped up everywhere to dish out feel-good advice for money; evangelists became millionaires. Where would it have ended if youngsters like Jobs, Wozniak, Allen, and Gates had not followed their own inclinations and brought a new world to the marketplace?

Meanwhile a few thousand people were searching for answers to the social chaos on their own, and it wasn't easy. I subscribed to The Objectivist Newsletter while it lasted; I believe the total circulation was around 20,000 at the time, but I only knew a handful of subscribers personally. Reliable information was hard to find. Then I stumbled across Andrew J. Galambos, and slowly began to build a library of books that made sense. By the time I bought the TRS80, I understood quite a bit about the state and social dynamics, but I still knew only a handful of people I could discuss it with.

I didn't hear about the Internet until 1990, and then it was too arcane to be useful to me. I bought my own personal computer that year and used it to write instead of using a typewriter. Unbeknownst to me, Tim Berners-Lee transformed the Internet that year. Seven years later, I had finished my novel, and I went on-line for the first time with my own website.

Almost immediately I started to meet like-minded people online. They were scattered all over North America and Europe ' and I mean scattered. I lived in rural northern California , and my early correspondents lived in Virginia , England , and Spain . I learned new words, like libertarian and anarcho-capitalism. More and more new web sites came online, gathering places for like-minded people from around the planet; search engines and directories proliferated and improved. Suddenly I was no longer isolated, and information sat at my fingertips.

We who visit websites like Strike The Root are Nock's 'remnant' who, without the personal computer and the World Wide Web, would be just as isolated today as we were only a decade ago. Now that the state has regrettably caught up with the technology, and bought its technical Quislings to use against us, that's exactly where they want us once more, isolated and invisible. We owe an unmeasured debt of gratitude to the innovators and entrepreneurs who brought this technology to the marketplace, and I owe a personal one to the old Tandy Corporation. Now it remains to be seen if we can keep this mote of liberty.

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Robert Klassen's picture
Columns on STR: 14

Robert Klassen retired from a career in respiratory therapy, and is the author five books, two of which describe a solution to political government.  Please visit his website.