Christmas was yesterday. It's one of a few times in my life it's been on a Sunday. For the most part, they haven't been that memorable, especially the older I get. Once you get past a certain age, Christmas just isn't what it once was; although you still get some enjoyment from it, you don't have the wide-eyed wonder for it you once had.
There are a few Christmases from childhood I remember vividly. But for pure enjoyment, I believe my tenth Christmas is the one I remember with the most satisfaction. Every year, my brother and I would get a spending limit. If we didn't exceed that, we were okay by Santa Claus. In previous years, I'd look through the Sears catalog (remember Wish Book?) and find lots of things I thought were neat.
But that year, I wanted a computer. Maybe in my heart of hearts, I wanted one of these (as I used at school) or one of these (which I always thought looked way cool), but they were far beyond what my parents were willing to spend. I'd made a futile effort earlier in the year to save up for one of these, but gave up when I actually got to try one and found how unsatisfying it was. But in late 1983, K-Mart was running an unbelievable sale on these: $88 each. One of my teachers swore by his brand-new C-64 (whose introduction had sparked the blowout prices on the VIC-20), so I knew Commodore made a good machine. I therefore put that on my wish list for Santa. Also on the list were several old-time radio cassettes from a mail-order catalog. I forget what else I asked for that year, but those in particular stand out. Just before I went to bed that night, my father told me to bring my little black-and-white Zenith up to the den so Santa could work on it during the night.
Now this was the next-to-last Christmas before all our gifts were wrapped and we'd have to wait for our parents to wake up. This was back when we'd wake up on Christmas morning, go to the den, and find the things for which you'd asked had magically appeared around the tree during the night. When you're a kid, "magical" is the only thing to describe that. And so it was that morning when I awoke to find on the coffee table my little Zenith attached to a brand-new VIC-20. It was all mine, all ready to go, and even had a few game cartridges and paddle controllers too. Also under the tree was a cassette case containing all the old-time radio cassettes for which I'd asked. Oh, it was a glorious day.
I've had many Christmases in my life, but I can't think of many whose bounties brought such long-term satisfaction. For years to come, I'd spend hour after hour hunched over the keyboard of that VIC-20, playing games or coding BASIC programs into its tiny memory, only to be wiped when I turned the thing off. I didn't care, though. I had a computer and I was happy as could be. Often I'd while away the hours of coding listening to one of those cassettes, teaching myself BASIC while happily living in yesteryear. It was great.
I've gone through many computers since then, but none of them have the place in my heart that little Commodore does. I still have that VIC-20, still in its original box, with all the cables and the switch box for the back of the television, the power supply, everything. It's been through a lot, but the last time I fired it up, it still works. And I still have all of those cassettes, too. They all are reminders of what, for me, was probably the most satisfying Christmas morning I can remember.