Green or Gone

I thought I’d start the new year off with a little humor. In a blog post, Jason Scott said that for him, the combination of green text on a black background invokes a feeling of nostalgic calm. This may relate to the joke below.

Recently, a friend and I had a conversation, and as we sometimes do, we began reminiscing about our old computers. He had an Apple II/+ and I had an Apple II/E. This would have happened around 1983-1984. They both still work! What great machines.

We both taught ourselves to program in APplesoft BASIC because we enjoyed it, and because we had to. Back then, if you wanted to make your computer do something new, you probably had to write it yourself. I can still recall my “Ah-ha” moment when I realized I could make the computer do whatever I wanted by programming it with instructions. I knew right then I would have to learn to do it, and what I wanted to do when I grew up.

These computers had more limited configurations. We laughed about this in our conversation. My II/E had 64K of RAM, which I had upgraded to 128K and felt like the king of the world. Now my arithmetic would have twice the precision!

My friend then brought up another point. “And they only had those monochrome monitors – green or gone. I remember hooking the computer up to my parent’s color television so I could play games in color.” I then had a sudden very funny realization. “Now wait a minute. I learned how to program graphics – switching modes, plotting pixels, changing color, etc. The code looked right and I could see it in my head, but sighted people never seemed impressed. You mean to tell me that the whole time, it just came out all green?” “Yes, unless you had it hooked up to a color television. Green or gone!” I laughed and laughed.

I wrote this code which I imagined produced some pretty cool graphics – curtains of deep ocean blues and vibrant organic greens, weird waving lines of magenta and cyan, showers of red and yellow sparks like stars, just all kinds of cool stuff. Nobody cared. It looked better in my head. Green or gone!