PET shop boy

I remember my first encounters with PET. Our neighbor across the street was a classroom aide for a local school, and somehow she was allowed to take one home for the summer. I’m still not sure WHY a school would allow a classroom aide to take, what at the time, was a very expensive piece of technology home, for an entire summer no less. She had it though, and we were drawn to it like junkies to heroin. Like Eduardo most of our experiences revolved around playing word games, basic math drills, and what not. We had a game called Oregon Trail, which I’m assuming was similar to what Eduardo came to know as Trails West. The game was basically designed to make you think about the provisions you’d need to take on a journey west, and the events that could happen on such a journey. Seasons, theft, angry Indians, anything and everything could happen to you on your way—and it was all brought to you through the wonderful world of text only. We still loved the game, and played it constantly. It was nice to have it at home, instead of at school with tons of kids fighting for the 1 or 2 computers available.

In class we had kids that were slow, poor readers, and had trouble even getting passed the beginning of Oregon Trail.

“Whud’s this say? I dunno what’d do?”

They always struggled, and never played the game. They always got bored, and ended up trying to figure out how to mess with the computer.

“Hey, I made it go crazy…” kids would say as they viciously hit buttons and causing all kinds of random error messages to come up.

“QUICK type Run…” someone would say, as if that were the magic-fix-all word that would restore the computer to normal.

“It ain’t workin’…” The kid would say—the word ‘run’ typed over and over.

Eventually, panicked, the kid would just shut the power off on the computer, and raise his hand.

“Mah com’ uter shut off?” he’d say.

“Oh…” The teacher would respond.

In the early days older teachers were both baffled, and frightened by this new technology. There was NO tech support at the local district office to call to come and fix it. The machines were new, and nobody really knew how to operate them. It wasn’t until the smarter kids figured out how it worked that ‘in house tech support’ became available. If any major problem was happening that couldn’t be solved by simply turning the machine off and back on, the machine would sit unused for weeks, maybe months.

At some point during our summer vacation with PET, someone pushed too many buttons, in a fit, and caused PET to lock up–and of course, nobody knew how to fix it. My friend’s mom, the school aide was clueless–she didn’t want to call the school, and admit she busted the PET, so it sat, without function for the last 2/3 of the summer.


Sometime in the late 80’s early 90’s computer games started to get better graphically–less text, more pictures. With the advancement in gaming came a whole slew of games for every interest, and every age—including adults. The Leisure Suit Larry series was created by Sierra games. Pecos had heard about it, and said it was a game that had nudity, and sex! in it–and for every kid in his early to mid teens this was an AWESOME advancement in gaming. It had to be better than the games we were currently playing.

The game centered around a goofy character who had no luck with the ladies. His whole goal was to ‘score’ with the ladies, and the game centered around his mission to do so. Thegame compared to current standards, and games was VERY MILD. A PG-13 rating maybe.

The problem was obtaining a copy of the game. We were confident nobody’s parents would take them, and actually allow them to BUY a copy of the game, so we needed a plan.

Eventually, if I recall right, Pecos took a day off of school, and rode the bus to the downtown mall and bought a copy of the game. It was a time before ratings on games let you REALLY know what the game consisted of, so the lady behind the counter had no trouble selling him a copy. He returned home, and thus was born our afternoon activity everyday after school.

We would gather at Pecos’s house at about 3 and play the game for the 2 or 3 hours before his parents got home from work. Usually someone was a lookout, because for whatever reason, we were deathly afraid of being caught with the game. Pecos had gone as far to create secret directories for the game to hide in, so his parents wouldn’t be able to see it when they were on the computer.

If his parents came home, we’d quickly switch to Paint, or some other decoy program we had fired up.

I wonder if his parents ever wondered why a bunch of early teens would be SO fascinated with a basic paint program. We were on it every day.