Personal History : 1984

  • Ronald Reagan is still president
  • DeLorean cars ended production last year
  • The Space Shuttle ‘Discovery’ launches for the first time
  • Arcades are still popular
  • Mtv is still a thing
  • And I’m 15

It’s 1984. I’m still in Longmont and still in the house at east 4th and Lashley. I started High School this year, 10th grade, a sophomore.

The first page of my 10th grade yearbook, which details the first day of the 84-85 school year… And has a bonus shot of Godfather’s Pizza, and yes *everyone* hung out there.
From my 10th grade yearbook – I’m the kid in the ball cap in the upper right.

As you can see, I’m now attending Skyline H.S.. Skyline is the super modern school that opened just five years ago a half mile east of my old junior high.

Skyline is totally amazing; it houses the multimedia wonderland that is the Vance Brand Auditorium (VBA) where, two years ago, my dad and I worked with Scripps Howard on the cable TV presentations that successfully brought cable TV into Longmont.

Before this cable thing, all we had was a couple of local TV stations and microwave HBO and Showtime.

I’m not supposed to talk about it, but my dad and I built a pirate microwave receiver out of a round metal snow sled, three threaded rods, a coffee can, and a home-brew down converter – and have had HBO and Showtime at the house for a couple of years… You know, because science.

Anyway, I’m pretty enthused about being in Theater Arts with such a high-tech setup as the VBA being attached to the school. But so far, the class has just been lots of after-school prop work… I get that one has to work their way up, but it’s frustrating to be limited to painting 2x4s black for 2 hours after school every other day for a year before I can even touch a light.

Skyline also has a computer “class” – if you can call it that… Computer Operation and Data Entry are electives and both are integrated into the math department. And even though the school has had a dozen Apple IIe machines for a few years now, the class is really self-study because no one has a clue what to do with the systems. The computer lab is right off of the library though, on the second floor, so it’s easy to get books and take them to the desk for reference.

Most of the self-study course work uses Apple Logo, which bores me to death but I can get the lesson done in 5-10 minutes, do the typing drills really quick, and then move on to my own projects…

My dad also bought me a super cheap Commodore VIC-20 back in ’82, and I’ve been working in 6502 assembly for the last year using the VicMon cartridge on my VIC-20 (I blew past BASIC in a couple of months because BASIC eats up too much of the limited VIC-20 memory).

So, most of my time on the school’s Apple IIe machines is either learning stuff I’m interested in (D/A converters are my current thing, I want to build a robotic arm), working on my own programs, or reverse-engineering games to see how they work… One of which was using a hex editor and one of the Apple IIe machines to remove the copy protection from “Karateka” – which was my first software “hack”.

A couple of times now I’ve been so focused on whatever it was I was working on that I missed my next class, which is Graphic Design. Fortunately, that’s another elective and I’m not too worried about it. But overall I’d really like to spend more time with the computers and less time writing essays on stupid stuff just for credits.

For my machines, I’ve been thinking about seeing if I can talk the parents into springing for a Commodore 64 now that they’ve come down in price to about $300 – mostly to get my hands on the 6510 and its extra I/O lines… But then I saw some news about Atari’s new “XL” series, and they look pretty sweet.

Apple’s ad for the “Macintosh” was amazing and the whole ‘mouse’ and graphical user interface thing looks killer. There’s no way I can get one though as they’re really expensive; $2500. I’d *really* like a 68000-based machine though… Someday.

Music-wise New Wave is all the rage on the radio and Mtv. I’m still rockin’ to groups like Def Leppard and Van Halen. But I’m also into groups like U2, Men at Work, Duran Duran, Eurythmics, Flock of Seagulls, and Thomas Dolby… The era though is quickly being defined by one hit wonders like Spandau Ballet’s “True”, Naked Eyes’ “Promises, promises”, The Tubes’ “She’s a Beauty”, Madness’ “Our House”, Kajagoogoo’s “Too Shy”, Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, After the Fire’s “Der Kommissar”, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen”.

Musically this year and last year are pretty amazing with lots of new sounds and musical textures powered by lots of grandiose synthesizers, digital drums, and intricate guitar work.

“Ghostbusters” came out earlier this year – and it was amazing! Everyone is quoting lines from the movie and Halloween was pretty much nothing but Ghostbusters stuff.

Other than that, school sucks, the economy sucks, El Nino sucks, AIDS sucks, war sucks – but we aren’t giving up. The music is awesome, Mtv is awesome, computers are awesome, and people are pretty awesome. We’ll be okay.

The final pages from my 10th grade yearbook, which closes out the year with some poignant thoughts.