Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leif - Fort Sheridan, Illinois - May 1989 - Age 14

Leif was dressed up for his graduation from Northwood Junior High School and we took a bunch of photos of him horsing around and with our computer setup. He's acting silly, pretending to eat one of the hanging capiz shells on the lamp like a cookie.

The computer setup was a focal point for me, Peter A. and Leif. On the right was our Atari 1040 STf computer and on the left was an Apple IIg. We used them both heavily, though we weren't getting new software for the Apple, just using what we had accumulated in Japan and Hawaii. The Atari we bought in Hawaii when Peter A. convinced me that it was the "poor man's Mac." At that time, Mac was not in color and the Atari 1040 was. There was a lot of good software for it, and we had a great time doing to Northbrook to the store that sold it. The three of us used a word processor, a database program, and a lot of great games.

I especially remember Leif loving the car racing games he played with a joystick, but he also liked a Star Trek game we had, a flight simulator, and one that was really silly called "Death Sword." That was a sword fighting game that was so gruesome it was actually funny. If you were good enough, you could whack off the opponent's head and an ugly little troll would come out and kick it off screen trailing blood that looked like red snakes.

My favorite game was similar to the arcade game Qix (which I loved and would love to have on my Mac) but I don't remember the name of it.

We also had a lot of simpler games that came along with my magazines like STart magazine. Some were a great deal of fun.

I enjoyed having the computers in common with the boys. They gave us something to share and talk about (not that we ever lacked that). I wrote my first novel on the Atari. That was Imagicat. The main character, Jeff, was in some ways an amalgam of my brother, Donovan, and my two sons, Peter A. and Leif. Leif was thirteen when I was finishing the first draft of it at Fort Sheridan in 1988 (though it didn't get published until 2000). He and his friend Robert would come by after school to see what was happening in the story and then they'd get their turn on the computers.

Leif was only 6 or 7 when we got our first computer in Japan and he loved them all his life. He always wanted the best, something powerful for gaming, and he was a heavy user of the internet. Back in Fort Sheridan, there wasn't any internet as we now know it, but there were "bulletin boards" and online services that were nearly exclusively text, such as the one I subscrived to, GEnie. Leif had a taste of that, then, too.

I particularly remember the day I was talking to him about the group of children's writers that had their own "category" on GENie and some were talking about what happened when you put various weird things into the microwave. Leif was fascinated that supposedly responsible adults were doing such things as putting marshmallows and Ivory soap into the microwave just to see what happened. He decided to use my account to ask them something to this effect, "What are responsible adults like you doing putting things into the microwave and blowing them up?" I was thrilled to get an answer from well-known author Bruce Coville, who told him, "I refuse to join the adult conspiracy," and went on to the effect that he might be "grown up" but he wasn't an "adult." Leif got quite a kick out of that.

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