I WAS BORN in 1983, the same year as Microsoft Word. It was also the year the first mobile phones went on sale in the US, and Apple introduced its graphical user interface computer, the Lisa. Not quite a decade later, my parents lugged home a Hewlett Packard 360. It came with a specially shaped opaque dust cover, which my mother insisted on. Most of the time it looked as though we kept a plastic camel hump in our spare bedroom.
The HP 360 mattered to me for one reason: Gorillas.bas, a QBasic game that ran on MS-DOS. Two players, represented by gorillas atop skyscrapers, would set the desired gravity in metres/second, then enter the angle and velocity of their banana bombs and loft them across the skyline, trying to blow each other up. Angle and velocity meant little when I was ten, but the idea that I was controlling these pixelated gorilla terrorists was hypnotic. I played Gorillas.bas daily, until it was somehow erased – the fate of pretty much every DOS program. Despite my tears, my father couldn’t bring it back. It was an early lesson: technology giveth exploding bananas, and technology taketh away. Control is an illusion.
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