The Life and Wonderful World of Og — Chapter One

In the beginning there was OG. I needed a place for him to live, to exist and survive, so I created ERT. I liked to keep names simple, this was a primitive world after all, with limited internal memory and an Operating System with a maximum character limit—only uppercase. So his name was OG and his home was ERT.

ERT started out as a simple place, a 64 by 64 square pixel grid to be precise. The manufacturer had settled on the 64 x 64 resolution as a matter of economy. It would have cost them an additional twenty-five dollars to create a more standard, rectangular display, which would have cost an additional two-hundred to the consumer. In the end, they figured it was more effort and expense than they wanted to risk for their introductory computer, so they went with the 64 x 64 display.

After six months of abysmal sales, the few electronic stores who had stocked the computer dropped the price by $100, then another $150. Finally, at an affordable $350 price tag (the lowest on the market) along with some deals with the education sector (the tax deductions were more profitable than the sale) the electronics stores were able to clear out the computers and make room in their storage space for newer, more practical models.

I found mine for a good price at a pawn shop—$75, which took me almost two months to save up, thanks in part to a five dollar birthday gift from my grandma, and the tireless Saturday efforts of my lawn mowing enterprise. It was such a low price because some of its internals had been damaged and the case was falling apart—both common issues also attributed to the “economical” nature of its manufacturing. I spent another month poring over cryptic electronics and repair manuals that I would find and read at the electronics hobby shop. I couldn’t afford to buy the books, and I could only go in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays after six, when Jimmy Porter worked the night shift. The other shop workers didn’t tolerate my loitering, which I found out quite quickly and painfully.
But that’s all tedious backstory, let’s get back to OG.

He started out as an experiment. Once I finally got my SVT-150 in working order (complete with custom used peach crate case), I filled three recordable cartridges with practice programs: a simple calculator, a copycat that repeated everything you typed, a simple conditional menu that spit out funny phrases based on numerical input. They all seemed so significant at the time, and despite the cost of recordable cartridges, I didn’t delete any of them—just in case.

So, on my fourth and final cartridge, I decided that I should make it something worthwhile. I labored endless hours in my room with a lined notebook and a ballpoint pen, sketching out concepts and writing out psuedo-code. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing before I sat down at the keys and started writing the actual program code. Finally, one filled-up notebook and a handful of barren pens later, I had it.

I was nervous as I typed out the instructions, meticulously copying each line from my notebook. It should theoretically work, I had gone over it a dozen times at least, but nothing was certain until the final line was inputted and the “ENTER” key was pressed. My first notepad version was great, but when I counted the total characters, I was thirteen over the system limit. Four sleepless days later, I had a new version—it was four characters over the limit. I thought about just taking out a few features, but in the end, the thrill of the challenge overtook me and I resolved to make my code even more efficient. Success! My third attempt was five characters under the limit. I almost put that into the computer, but I wanted to see if I could do it even more efficiently. Finally, after another week of revisions, I made it in thirty-five characters under the limit. I was feeling good.

I felt even better when I put it into the computer and hit “ENTER”; it ran flawlessly.

And so, OG was born. He was simple and he was alone, but he existed.

That night, I slept until about 3pm the next afternoon. I resolved to clean up the pigsty that was my bedroom, but the empty Coke bottles, living pizza remains and piles of crumpled, rejected notebook papers overcame my resolve, so I slept again until one the next morning. Then, I sat down to see what OG could do.

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