A Christmas story by David Randolph

December 25th 1980 something and I wake up to the snow outside but I couldn’t see it because the sun wasn’t up yet. See I had gotten up before anyone else because I knew it was Christmas and honestly I didn’t get much sleep wondering what was under the tree for me that morning. The sense of magic and wonder was in the air. It was Christmas after all. I sat there knowing the rules and waiting for everyone to arrive and trying to sneak a peek at the big box under the tree to see if it had my name on it. It did! But I couldn’t let on that I knew it was for me, that would be breaking the rules. Then my parents took their seats and much like the horses at Churchill downs me and all my siblings were waiting for the bell. Ding! And I was off! Making a dash for the big box and ripping off the wrapping paper as if it was nothing but an obstacle between me and whatever magic laid inside. The same paper that the night before my parents wrapped so carefully and precise that to this day I can not match. What was inside this magic box that kept me up the night before you may ask? It was the brand new Commodore 128D. A magical machine that would define the next 30 years of my life. See I had a friend up the road from me that had the C64 and all I would do was play on that machine every day after school. It opened up a whole new world to me and this was before the internet or even BBS’s were even really a thing. So I opened up the box knowing how to set it up already because I had been studying and thought I knew everything already. Plugging in the keyboard with that weird Centronics connector but no mouse since it wasn’t an option yet. And wiring up the video with its amazing 640x200 resolution and a built in 5.25 inch floppy disc. I flipped the switch on the monitor and on the computer and I was excited to see the prompt. So I typed in Load “*”,8,1 and saw an error. I type it in again, and again, still the same error. I pulled the manual out of the box and frantically started reading it in hopes that I could figure out why it wouldn’t load Bubble Bobble. Nothing was in there. I started to panic and the panic quickly turned to tears. My face was flush and tears were streaming down my face. A day that started so magical had now become a day of misery in this young child’s minds. I was angry, sad and frustrated. So much so I’m putting it back in the box and telling my parents we will take it back and I’ll get a bike. This was my thinking at the time. My backup plan was a bike so I could ride to my friend’s house faster and get on his computer sooner.

The following day my parents loaded the van and the computer in the car and we headed down to Sears to return it. Back in the day if you wanted a computer you had Radio Shack for Tandy machines and Sears for Commodore. We walked in there and it’s been 24 hours and my face is still red and dripping tears. My parents said before we go to the return counter lets go talk to the guy in the electronics section. So we did and the guy there was really nice and listened to my problem and sat down in front of the store Commodore 128D and he said to hold down the Commodore key while I flip on the machine. The computer turned on and now the screen looked just like my friends Commodore 64. It was at this time that the tears stopped rolling down and a sense of optimism rolled down my face. I type in Load “*”,8,1 again and it loaded right up! My Christmas was saved by the guy at Sears taking the time to address my problems.

In addition to launching my career for the next 30 years the lesson I learned that day was service matters, knowledge matters. While Sears may not have the customer service that they once did there are still places that do. At Printed Solid we actually do believe this and we strive for it every day. This is why we represent companies like Lulzbot and Ultimaker. We believe they also represent these values and carry them forward to their customers. We constantly get asked to carry cheaper printers and cheaper filaments. But I always think of that kid on Christmas morning, crying and sad. We carry the products we carry because we believe in them and so do the many users out there and the communities around them.




David Randolph
David Randolph

Author

I have a background in film and television engineering and IT with over 9 years with 3D printing and laser cutting. I've fought robots and even have a Guinness world record for worlds largest video game controller. My nerd cred is strong.



1 Response

Don Dagen
Don Dagen

December 23, 2017

Ah the memories…my computer life started with a VIC-20 and then a C-64, and similar to you my neighbor was eventually the ticket to Compuserve and a whole new online world.

I remember the VIC-20 phase as cartridges (like the later game consoles), and saving programs to a cassette tape (yes, that is right, no hard drive!). We would spend days typing in a program from a magazine, and then weeks finding syntax errors to get a program running! And then corrupted file transfers were the source of our tears…as a future mechanical engineer, I was fine leaving the program coding to someone else.

The glory of color came along with the C-64, and better sound generation, and a hard drive (less than 20 MB?).

The experience you had created a grit and determination that we all learned through disappointment and tears…eventually giving way, to those that pushed through, to joy and elation. I experience this cycle on almost every 3d printing project! So grandparents, and parents TAKE NOTE! I believe the challenge of 3d printing can create a trajectory in adulthood that leads to great jobs, great hobbies, and participation in great communities!

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