Richard Pini

1) I believe the first computer I ever touched was a NEC PDP-8 at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT somewhere around 1980. Whether or not I was supposed to touch it remains unanswered, but there you have it. It was on this machine I watched, dimly comprehending, as the resident AI wizards played Space War, one of the very first computer video games (if not the first), developed at MIT. (!) A friend (William Malik) and I often spent late nights and early mornings there, when we should have been studying for exams or working on problem sets.

I also need to give full disclosure here. Even though I attended MIT from 1968-1972, I may have been the only person there who studiously avoided taking any computer classes. The reason? Everyone else was doing it and, contrarian that I am, I just didn’t want to go along with everyone else. I do recall watching work being done on IBM punch cards and paper punch tape, but I wanted to part of it.

2) The first computer I actually owned would have been an Apple II+, that I used mostly to do some writing as well as to maintain a mailing list for our company Warp Graphics in the very late 1970’s or early 1980’s. I wish I could recall why I chose that over any other machine available at the time, but I can’t. I do recall it came stock with 48KB of RAM, and it was recommended I spring some hundreds of dollars more for an additional 16KB. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I kept the mailing list on a bunch of 144KB 5.25-inch floppy disks until it became clear I needed to consolidate everything onto an external 10MB hard drive that measured about 12x12x6 inches and weighed a lot of pounds. That II+ was supplemented by a couple of Apple IIc portables (that needed to be hooked up to a TV).

3) The first job that required me to use a computer would have been, of course, when I went to work for IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York. I shared an office with another fellow and we each had our own terminal (as I recall, a 3270) on which we did whatever it was Big Blue paying us to do. But my time at IBM is a blur, because by the time I started there in 1979, I was also hip-deep into Elfquest, and that little project was starting to morph into a major time-sink. I was only at IBM for two years, when I made the decision to quit and devote full time to our own company.

So I really consider Warp/Elfquest to be my first job requiring me to use a computer, because by the time we hit our stride it was 1984, and we all know what happened to the world of personal computing in that year. Along with my first (of many) Macintosh, came the birth of desktop publishing with PageMaker 1.0, and we’ve never looked back.

4) The first time I recall going online was via a BBS called BIX (for BYTE Information Exchange, created by BYTE magazine in the mid-1980’s. A fan of Elfquest who was active on the service suggested I give it a try. I dabbled in it for a couple of years, but it never grabbed me. I also recall joining CompuServe in its early days (and can still recall my low-number login ID of 72077,12). AOL came (relatively) much later.

5) For a long-seeming time, working on Elfquest didn’t require internet access. We would prepare files for printing (actually, paste-up boards for traditional printing plants) but that was still a physical, bring-to process. I’d have to say, in retrospect, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that another Elfquest fan strongly suggested that we should stake out territory on this thing called “the Web” if we wanted to take advantage of the opportunities afforded there for promotion, marketing, and so on. As a result, and very quickly, we acquired the domain, and became the first dedicated comic book domain presence on the Web. (Marvel and DC Comics of course had internet presence before us, but they – like everyone else – were using AOL as a gateway, and had “rented” areas of that ISP. We were the first comic book property to have a dedicated URL. After that, of course, there could be no going backward without completely disappearing.

6) The subsumption of individual identity, creativity, and expression, by use of data-mining algorithms, into the vast, homogenizing, ghettoizing juggernaut that is social media (aka Facebook and Google, which between them own an ungodly – and unhealthy – percentage of internet traffic and revenue).

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