Sharing a Computer

This article on Slate brought me back to the mid/late 1990s and early 2000s when my brother and I shared the family computer (which was really my dad’s computer; my mom never had any interest in it). I don’t remember what the computer itself looked like, but I remember that the monitor was one of those huge, ungainly CRT things that my dad pulled out of the garbage at IBM, where he worked. Beside the computer was a stack of floppy disks, another stack of computer game CDs, and an Artemide Tizio desk lamp, on which my brother and I used to hang action figures and small stuffed animals. I remember that my dad hated when we did that because the lamp was expensive. We had Windows 95 back then, and to this day, I still believe it is the best operating system that ever was.

My brother and I spent so much time playing games on the computer, and those are some of the best memories I have. We’d play all day during the summer, and we would attempt to take turns on the computer, which sometimes became a fight that my dad would have to break up. Then I’d go to my room and read when it was my brother’s turn, which, to a great degree, was better than all the silly games we played on the computer.

The article talks about how playing (or working) on the computer was once a shared family past-time but is now a solo endeavor because where there used to be just a family computer, there are now computing devices for every family member. Laptops, cell phones, and tablets all make the Internet portable and personal, so one can easily retreat to his bedroom or another enclosed space with his device, with no need to share it.

Back in the day of the family computer, you had to interact with people to share the use of the computer. You were the audience when your siblings were playing games. Nothing you did was really private because a parent or a sibling could walk up to you at any time because you had no claim over the computer. It belonged to everyone. I think it should still be this way. Computers and the Internet can too easily be used for evil or for aimlessly wasting time. Sharing a computer can prevent “ownership” of the device and remind us that we are still in a world with other people. Maybe those people would like to “play” with us, so we’d be better off turning away from the screen.

7 thoughts on “Sharing a Computer

  1. It was the same way with TVs “back in the day”. I am old enough to remember our one family TV in the “TV room” that was so special it was actually in a carved wooden TV stand. We had to take turns watching what we all liked, or not at all. That is why I spent so much time reading books – my tastes often did not match the rest of the family. Best wishes for a happy new year in your new home!

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    1. I think we only ever had two TVs in the house… one in the living room, and one in my parents’ room, and the one in my parents’ room was off limits. But I liked the computer and books better than TV. Happy New Year!

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  2. TVs, as stellalucentellc says, and and telephones, too. I had one friend in high school who had his own (very small) TV in his bedroom, and I think he had his own phone extension, too (back when you had to pay for every extension on the line). That seemed incredible to me.

    My parents and I watched TV as a family — watching separately would have been as weird as if we’d eaten dinner separately in our bedrooms. (Of course, every day after school I would wheel the TV into my bedroom to watch Dark Shadows — but trying to explain Dark Shadows to the uninitiated would have been a chore 🙂 ).

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  3. I just saw this quote online, about televisions, and then a little research showed that it was originally said about telephones:

    Utility is when you have one telephone, luxury is when you have two, opulence is when you have three – and paradise is when you have none.

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