We Are One
We Are One
Mar 7, 2021
(S1E6) 8-Bit Computers, Mental Health
Play • 33 min
What was your first computer? If you can't immediately answer that then you didn't live through the late 1970's/early 80's. Melody, for example, had a nameless PC compatible by some unremarkable manufacturer. Computers nowadays are pretty much all the same. During the heyday of the home computer market when Tom was growing up, every computer was its own universe. One computer from company A would not necessarily be compatible with a computer from company B, and in fact neither with another computer from the same company A; compatibility was not the norm. This led to everyone having their favorite brand and be fiercely loyal to that brand, similar to the way some are loyal to the Xbox or PlayStation consoles. The big four home computer companies in the US back then were Atari, Apple, Commodore, and Tandy/Radio Shack. Tom is a Commodore guy, ever since he first used a computer in high school. His high school had mostly Commodore PET's and a few Commodore 64's, and that's where he taught himself to program in BASIC. The first computer that Tom owned was a Commodore 128, which was compatible with the Commodore 64 but had twice the specs. His father bought it for him, along with the associated 5.25" disk drive and a Commodore dot matrix printer. Tom saved up his birthday and Christmas money to buy the matching Commodore monitor (he used a black & white TV until then). The Commodore 128 had a Commodore 64 mode that could be accessed with a BASIC command (GO64) or holding down the C= (Commodore logo) key on boot, and that way it could run all the software of its predecessor. Tom mostly used it to play games, to be honest, but he also learned about how computers worked. He learned how to code in 6502 Assembler, and poured over the disk format block by block with a software called DiSector. His mom used the software Print Shop to generate custom greeting cards that she printed out in black & white (the printer did not have color). Tom used to share software with his high school friends who had a Commodore 64 or 128 computer. Another striking difference to modern computers is booting up: an 8-bit computer of the era would boot up literally instantly on applying power. They would drop you into their version of the BASIC language, and that was your user interface. In the episode Melody mentions that she was introduced to BASIC by a friend, but later off-mic she told Tom that he was that friend and she was hoping he would remember. So on these 8-bit computers everything had to be done with BASIC commands, even to load your game from disk. On Commodore computers the entire screen was used to enter commands or lines of BASIC code; contrast with MS-DOS or Unix shell where you are only editing one line. Another difference to modern computers is the user manual. You would be lucky if your new PC came with a single setup sheet. The Commodore computers came with a hefty user guide (180 pages for the "Commodore 64 MicroComputer User Manual", 2nd Edition 1984) that explained everything about the computer, including how to program in BASIC and how to use the computer's graphics and sound features in BASIC. And programming graphics and sound on a Commodore 64 involved poking and peeking values in specific memory addresses which could be done in BASIC; the Commodore 128 introduced advanced BASIC commands to do this. However, as a user interface, BASIC was not the most friendly. Tom had been impressed by the graphical user interface of the Apple Macintosh, so he was very excited when Berkley Softworks came out with GEOS or Graphical Environment Operating System. It is very impressive that they could get a GUI to run in a Commodore 64. It was later bundled with the redesigned Commodore 64C, which my brother was gifted by his father along with the new Commodore 3.5" disk drive. Sadly, after Tom got his Commodore Amiga his 8-bit system fell into disuse. He donated most of his software collection to a friend who would be using his Commodore 64 for a while longer. Tom still has his and his brother's Commodore 8-bit systems, and hopes to get them up and working some day. For this episode's YouTube Shout-Out, Tom wants to highlight "The 8-Bit Guy'' channel by David Murray of Dallas, Texas. Tom met him once at an Orlando Maker Faire. David is very well known in the community, and does retro-computer videos weighing heavily on the Commodore line.

Melody has a history of anxiety and depression, more the latter than the former. She tried an SSRI to treat perceived social anxiety, but stopped treatment after having a disturbing dream. She did not address her mental health again until college, where she took advantage of the complimentary mental health counseling on campus. After about three appointments, she was unsure if it had improved the state of her mental health. Melody and Tom have found that with counseling you get out of it what you put into it. After college she did not prioritize treating her mental health until years later when depression overtook anxiety in her life. Tom needed to address his depression also. Acknowledging their privilege in having insurance coverage for mental healthcare, some good luck finally brought them to the right counselor. Melody believes you have to be ready to address your mental health state. After noticing improvement in Tom's depression symptoms, Melody chose to see the same therapist. She needed to first address her mental health as a prerequisite to achieving her overall health and fitness goals. Melody has discovered three principles that help her: patience, the reverse Golden Rule, and forgiveness of self. The first step is becoming aware of a negative thought, then you counter it with one of these principles. The brain acts as a muscle, as you put in practice these principles the brain develops a muscle memory and they become automatic. Melody recommends counseling to everyone that has access to it, and if someone does not have the means she recommends at least visiting the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy subReddit.

*** YouTube Shout-Out ***
The 8-Bit Guy https://www.youtube.com/user/adric22

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