2 bit post.

Friday, January 13th, 2006

Okay, let me explain the joke right off. In the oldest days of computerdom, the dots on the screen were either on or off—there was no in between. It was a very black-on-white or white-on-black world. And one of the earliest computers that let you work with graphics—albeit in this very binary way—was the original Macintosh. It’s screen graphics were 2-bit—tiny black squares on white. And what’s amazing is that these early files (which yeah, of course, I’ve saved) can run on my most up-to-date, 21st century Macintosh. In some cases, they’ll run under Classic…but the most fun is to download and use an emulator called Mini VMac, which makes this little window into history, an original Mac running 1983-1984 vintage software, on my modern G5.

Why would I want to do this, you ask? Well, it’s usually when I’m in a mood to get back in touch with how far things digital have progressed. I’ve finished reading one of my Christmas books, Revolution in the Valley by Andy Hertzfeld, and my head’s filled with stories about getting this then-revolutionary software to work in the tiny memory space that the original Macs had (and yes, I purchased one of those in the very first days from a tiny computer store in Gainesville, Georgia.) Behold my ancient Mac, sitting next to a similarly ancient Apple //e and an IBM Selectric (actually, Electronic Selectric) typewriter. So now, here in my 21st century home, I need only click once to return to those thrilling days where everything was either a black square or a white one.