Back in May of 1984 I was a struggling, newly-college-graduated, part-time employee at a local bank. I had applied for a full-time position at the bank as a “manager trainee” upon obtaining my degree. At that time the bank President personally interviewed every candidate for a managerial position, so I went in to meet the President, a man who held god-like power over the employees of his bank. During the interview he asked me what my degree was in, so I said “Physics”. He said “Business? That’s nice.”

“No.” I said. “Physics.”

He looked puzzled for a minute and again said “Business?”

Another manager in the room for the interview said: “No sir, he said ‘Physics.'” then he paused and looked at me. “You said ‘Physics,’ right?”

Nevertheless I got the job. It was the first full-time salaried job I had ever held, up until then all of my jobs had been hourly positions. And it was a decent salary, I thought at the time. So after I got my first paycheck, feeling very, very rich, I went looking for a home computer.

There was this “new thing” that had come out recently called the “Macintosh” computer. It was from Apple. I had been using Apple IIs and IBM PCs for months at work, and had been programming computers of various types since my college roommate had purchased a “kit computer” back in 1979, so I knew what I wanted.

Or so I thought. Then I walked into the computer store and saw that Macintosh, and started playing with it. They had this awesome program called “MacPaint” and another called “MacDraw” that simply blew my mind. No color, but the resolution was stunning compared to the computers I was used to, and it came with a printer that could print images at the same resolution, or even better. And the user interface was intuitive, visually stunning and so far beyond the other computers that I had used that I simply instantly fell in love with it.

I just had to have one. So I took out a $3,500 loan and purchased the Macintosh (with 128K of RAM), an ImageWriter printer, and a 300 BAUD modem. I wasn’t even sure what to do with the modem, but the salesman said that I could use it to connect to mainframe computers and I knew I wanted to do that. I also received a free three month subscription to a service called “Compuserve.” I wasn’t even sure what “Compuserve” was.

Then over the next few weeks I discovered my first massive online user community. I still remember my Compuserve ID. It was “74266,2044”. Soon I had discovered “MAUG” or the “Micronetworked Apple User Group” which was the largest online user group in the world.

Soon I discovered posts on the forum from people who talked about “downloading” programs and documents that were freely available. So I posted a message on the forum asking how you do this “downloading” stuff.

And they said “You need to get ‘MacTEP’ (Macintosh Terminal Emulation Program).

“OK” I said, “but how do I get MacTEP if I don’t HAVE MacTEP?”

A guy named Dennis Brothers answered and said “you have to start with the file ‘Get MacTEP’ and then type that in to your MacBasic emulator which will then use your modem to download the MacTEP file.”

So I went and found “Get MacTEP” which was a BASIC program that ran about 80 lines or so. I had to open the file, and when it was displayed on my screen, I did a screenprint to my printer, scrolled down to the next 40 lines and did another screenprint and did that until I had printed all the code out.

Then I typed it into MacBASIC, logged back into Compuserve and ran the program.

Within a half-hour or so, I was launching “MacTEP” itself, and that’s when the true potential of the online world truly was revealed to me. By that evening I had downloaded MacPaint files, game programs, code examples and audio files.

But I will never forget that all of that started by screen printing three pages of BASIC code that I typed in by hand.