I get moments of gut-wrenching, heart-squeezing sentimentality when I think of the computers I grew up with. Not because I was a nerd (though I was), but because computers were a wonderful escape into new worlds and -- later, when they became more sophisticated -- they allowed me to created my OWN new worlds, which is something I still love to do.
The beginning, for me, was the Atari 2600. I was probably 8 years old. I vividly remember the smell of the rubber joysticks which everybody chewed but few admit it. I'd sometimes play unsatisfyingly abstract games of Breakout, but my imagination was held most by the maze games we had: "Adventure" and "Maze Craze." I must have been a bit autistic because I was ENTHRALLED by mazes, I used to draw them and imagine them and write about them all the time. To this day I still get a thrill looking at a maze, and I have absolutely no idea why. Someday, to illustrate my mania, I'll post a picture of the ridiculous multi-page maze I spent months drawing in public school. You'll understand why my mating pool is so small.
I also get a thrill thinking about the Atari 2600. I haven't played one in about 25 years, so -- after some depressing auctions of the original article -- I've settled on an "Atari Flashback 2." It's pretty much the real thing with all the original quirks, and it's certainly more tangible than an emulator. I want to play these games on my TV...while chewing the joysticks.
And now, with experience in broadcast signals and assembly language, I better understand the terrifying process that went into creating these 4K games. I also understand why the Pac-Man ghosts flickered so horribly, and why the playfields tended to be horizontally symmetrical.
I don't have it yet, and maybe I'll be bitterly disappointed when I get it, and it will probably sit unused after the first few weeks...but I'd rather spend a small amount of energy and money on a throw-away toy than continue feeling my heart get squeezed like this.