By Garry Shirts who passed away this year - see the Sandpiper May 2011. This piece appeared in the first issue of the Del Mar Spectator, February 1983. Reprinted here courtesy of Jan McMillan and Cozette Shirts.
I can’t believe the number of my friends who’ve bought a computer recently. Here we are in the heart of the most severe recession since the depression and people are spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars on machines they hardly understand.
It reminds me of the CB fad of just a few years ago. People bought CB radios for their cars just so they could play with them. There’s nothing wrong with that except I wish people would be a little more honest about such things. Instead, when you ask them why they bought their CBs they would say things like, “Safety. If I run out of gas in the middle of the night I want to be able to call the police for help.” Or, “I need to call my wife on the way home from work so she’ll have dinner ready on time. I have to have my dinner on time you know.”
I wish they would just say, “I don’t know, everybody’s getting one and they look like fun so I thought I’d get one as well.”
I bought a CB radio myself but my circumstances were a little different. I do a lot of cross-country driving and it helped me keep track of road conditions ahead of me the same way truckers do. But most of my friends bought them, I’m sorry to say, simply to participate in a fad. I wonder if it isn’t the same with the current computer craze.
I saw a friend unloading a computer from his car the other day and I asked him what he was going to do with it. He looked as though I’d asked him how many miles to the planet Saturn. Clearly the question had never occurred to him. He’d bought his Apple IIe with double disc drive without the slightest idea of what he was going to use it for — just the way a person would buy a Frisbee or a Hula Hoop. But instead of admitting that he was buying it because all of his friends were buying them and he didn’t want to be left out, he said, after several false starts, “I bought it for my daughter so she can do her homework on it.”
Really, That’s like buying a Greyhound bus so your child can drive herself to school. I asked a woman friend a similar question. Without a second of hesitation she said, “to balance my check book.” Is that amazing? It would be cheaper for her to hire a CPA to do her checkbook for ten years than buy a computer. [...]
On the other hand, there are some of us who actually have legitimate reasons for wanting a computer. I think it’s important to distinguish between us and those people who are buying them simply to keep up with the neighbors.
I’ve pretty well narrowed it down to a Kay-Pro II or an Apple IIe. I love all of the software available for the Apple but the portability of the Kay-Pro II would allow me to take it on business trips. Besides, the Kay-Pro is a locally owned company [located first in what is now part of the Lagoon Restoration Project before it moved to Solana Beach] and won’t my business partner die with envy when he sees how portable my machine is compared to his bulky IBM.
More important, it will be such an asset to me, especially the word processing. I’ll be able to write letters to my kids, put my Christmas card list on a disk and let’s see what else can I do with it? Oh yes, I can play some games on it and then, of course, once I get it I’ll probably discover all sorts of important reasons for using it.
(Garry designs training simulations for business and education. His columns have appeared frequently in local newspapers, and he recently enjoyed success as moderator of the Powerhouse Park debate on Del Mar’s community cablevision.)