Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Morning

One of my earliest memories (if not the earliest memory I have) is of a Christmas morning…but it’s not actually much of a memory.

If memories from this week are pristine Hi-Def recordings and memories from my early teens are slightly worse-for-wear VHS tapes…this memory is a short cutting of cine-camera film that’s been left on the floor and walked on for a few decades.

The memory starts outside the living room door from my first house in Liverpool. I know I was two years old, because we moved away from Liverpool when I was three. I may have been one, but I doubt it.

It goes like this: I remember standing outside the living room door with my mum and dad. Someone pushed open the door and I ran into the room, past the Christmas tree and skidded to a stop on my knees next to a white metal-framed rocking horse…then the screen goes blank. Then there’s a brief flash of sitting on the couch, eating a piece of hot buttered toast while Paul McCartney’s ‘We all Stand Together’ played in the background.

That’s it, the whole memory. It’s more of a feeling than a memory…but that’s what most of my memories of my time in Liverpool are like…short, out of context bursts of experience populated by faceless people.

It’s weird, but I remember that rocking horse in vivid detail, but I have no idea if it was for me or my brother. It’s strange how some details stand out while others are completely lost.

My favorite Christmas memory, however, was Christmas 1995.

I’d spent years lobbying for a PC. I’d tried everything, pointing out how it would help with schoolwork, and I’d need one when I started college. My Commodore 64 just wasn’t going to cut it.

I didn’t hold out much hope. We were never anything approaching poor, but we weren’t what you’d call rich either. I knew from experience that when it came to Christmas presents, $100 was usually the upper limit, and this was at the time when even a basic, entry-level PC was around $1500.

To my complete and total surprise, my parents agreed. Apparently my Dad had a Christmas bonus or something coming, and they said they’d get me a PC for Christmas on the understanding that while it was ostensibly ‘my’ Christmas gift, the whole family would get to use it.

This was in October and I was on Cloud f**king Nine. Like I said, we never had a huge amount of cash. When my friends had Super Nintendos, I had a Sega Master System. When my friends had Amiga’s, I had a Commodore 64. Suddenly, I was going to have a PC, the holy grail of gaming. (Yeah, I know I told my parents how useful it would be for schoolwork, but 99% of my computer time was taken up by X-Wing and TIE-Fighter…I was 15, sue me).

Then, shortly before Christmas, after visiting various computer stores with my parents to pick out the one we should get… disaster struck. I got in from school one afternoon in November and my Mum told me that Dad’s bonus hadn’t come through, so they wouldn’t be able to get me the PC for Christmas.

I was crushed. They told me that they were still going to get me a PC, but it would be in February or March.

I’m pleased to say I took it with good grace. As long as I was going to get one eventually, I didn’t care. I’d been lobbying for a PC since 1992…another three months wouldn’t kill me.

In fact, I was a very laid back kid. One year when I was about seven or eight, I’d asked for a radio controlled car and got up on Christmas morning to find it wasn’t there. It was two hours later and I was having a blast painting pictures with the set of poster paints I’d been given before my dad finally snapped and asked me why I hadn’t asked where my car was and I should probably look behind the couch.

Hey, sometimes Santa brings you what you ask for, sometimes he doesn’t. I’d just figured, hey, no car…but these paints are really frikkin’ cool and I got a couple of new comic books to read when I was done.

Anyway, I bought their story hook, line and sinker. You see, my parents had never been squeamish about talking to me about money. On a couple of rare occasions, when there was something I’d really wanted, I’d forgo a ‘big’ Christmas present so I could get what I really wanted on my Birthday in January when my parents could take advantage of the January sales.

So I bought their story. In fact, it’s a credit to their acting ability that when my asshole brother tried to ruin the surprise for me by telling me they had bought the PC for me a week before Christmas, I didn’t believe him for an instant. Their story was bullet proof.

On Christmas morning, I got out of bed, came downstairs and unwrapped my presents. One of the gifts was a package of floppy discs and another was one of those disc storage boxes. My mum told me that they’d bought them for me to show me that they were definitely going to buy me the computer in March.

It’s tradition in the Malone Household that after we open our presents, Dad makes everyone tea and toast, so I was slightly surprised when my Mum asked me to go put the kettle on.

You can probably see what’s coming.

I opened the door into the kitchen, and there, on the floor was a gigantic box with words like ‘Pentium’ and ‘Megabyte’ on the side. I literally dropped to my knees in shock. Not only had they bought me the PC, it was the one that I’d looked at as my ‘dream’ computer, which had produced a smirk and a ‘don’t even think about it’ from my Mum when I’d pointed it out.

I was a Pentium 75, with 8 megabytes of memory and a whopping 500mb hard drive. Sure, there are cell-phones that leave it in the dust today, but back then it was state of the freaking art.

It was the PC I cut my teeth on and I used it right up until I moved to the USA in 2003…of course, in that time, I upgraded every single component in the thing at least twice, including the monitor and the case, but it was still that same computer, I don’t care what anyone says.

1 comment:

Evan 08 said...

Your first system sounds eerily similar to mine... I got an IBM Aptiva, P75 processor, Windows 3.1, 1 Gig HD... don't even remember the RAM... maybe 16mB? Just like you, I upgraded everything a couple of times before tossing it. It certainly served its purpose. If I hadn't bought that computer, I would not be a computer geek today.