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        For reasons I've never really understood, computers have always fascinated me.

      Back in the '60s, I had a part-time employee whose regular job was at a nearby bank.

       Alfredo Quintero (a very bright young man from Colombia) would tell me about working nights in the basement, maintaining the bank's computer (which filled the whole specially-built, dust-free, air-conditioned room).

       Fascinated by the vision of a lone soul working all night in a room full of flashing vacuum tubes and whirring tapes, I asked if I could accompany him sometime - but was told that authorized personnel only were allowed.

      So I never got to see the mysterious machine in the subterranean room.

      Nonetheless, I remained intrigued, and in the early 70s began to go to the occasional "computer show" that would be held locally. (These were the so-called "mini-computers" which were about the size of an average filing cabinet.)

      Then, in 1977, when the first "personal" computers appeared, I couldn't wait to get one. I bought the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I, which had 4k of RAM and a 16-line by 64-character black and white monitor (which could only display capital letters). I fell in love with it.

(Amusing Little Poem About This)

       The only software that came with this little gem were two games (backgammon and craps) and something called BASIC (a programming language).

             It also came with a manual which showed you how to use BASIC to write your own programs.

      I soon learned to write programs which would help calculate prices for my business, as well as do a few other bookkeeping chores. (I had to prove to my wife that this was a real tool and not just a $600 toy.)

      The following year, I wrote my first article on computer use and sold it to "Signs of the Times" (a trade journal for the signpainting business). I've been writing about computers ever since.

       In the early 90s I submitted an article to a local weekly called the Fallbrook Enterprise. They said it got so many comments from readers that they asked me to do another. I asked if they'd like to have one every week. They said yes - and that's how Chip Chat was born.

      A Southern California newspaper syndicate later bought the Enterprise and made it possible for the column to reach a much wider audience.

      PC Chat (previously Chip Chat) began its 9th year in April of 2002. It has always been written with the beginning user in mind - in particular, those folks who retired before computers came into general use and who tend to find them confusing and sometimes intimidating. (These folks also comprise the vast majority of my tutoring clientele.)

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