Originally created 09/07/00

Some prefer simpler computers



DALLAS - Greg Goodwin understands the fascination car buffs have with such classics as the 1957 Chevy, although he realizes they aren't for everyone.

"Many would prefer to get a newer car; after all, a newer car can do everything the '57 Chevy does and more. Yet, there is a mystique to (the car) that can't be explained. For some, it takes them back, and for others, it is either fun or cool."

But Mr. Goodwin's spare time isn't spent in the garage under the hood of a classic car; he invests his off hours in classic computers and heads up JYBOLAC (Just Your Basic Online Atari Computer), a Dallas-based users group for junkies of old Atari devices.

"Like a restored car, many like to buy various computer parts, bring them together, make a sharp-looking and efficient computer system, and then show it off to their friends who are also into that sort of thing," Mr. Goodwin says.

"Sometimes such users even have a `show and shine' and even pop the hood of their `hot rods' to show electrical modifications that were done on them to make them go faster and quieter or look better."

Mr. Goodwin might not be part of the mainstream, but he's far from alone. In a time when the focus often seems to be on acquiring the sleekest, fastest, newest technology, Mark Stodola is more than happy to play with the dinosaurs - and as vice president of the Amiga North Dallas users group, he sees plenty of others who feel the same way.

"People have a lot of different reasons" for using the Amiga, which was manufactured from 1985 to 1994. The first machines had a half megabyte of memory, which was increased to 1MB in 1989. Today's personal computers often come loaded with 128MB.

"It's very efficient, very good for multi-tasking, and it's a very easy-to-use operating system," Mr. Stodola says. "It falls somewhere between a Mac and a PC. It can be as easy as you want it to be."

Many people have never even heard of the Amiga, and Mr. Stodola says he hears it mispronounced - or sees it misspelled - frequently. Emerging in the same era as Atari, Commodore and the Tandy TRS-80, Amiga is among the gone-but-not-forgotten computer products still used in the homes of die-hard fans.

"People who use it like it because it's more intuitive than a lot of computers. It might not be as fast, but it's simple," he explains. "You can't buy a new (Amiga), but there are some new things that are being developed for it in terms of hardware and software."

Old-time tech buffs such as Mr. Stodola don't necessarily shun new technology, but they prefer to go with what they've known for years. Mr. Stodola bought his first Amiga in December 1989 and has been with the brand ever since. There are definite challenges - "You can't just go into Wal-Mart and buy a part for it" - but there also are certain pleasures.

"I use my Amiga mostly when I go online," he says. "I've been online with it since 1996, and it's just easier for me than using a PC." The technology cache in his house includes two IBM PCs that he purchased because the Amiga can't keep pace with the demands of his children.

"They wanted to get games that you can't play on the Amiga, so I knew I'd have to get PCs eventually," he says.

Older technology may be more prevalent than many people realize, fanatics point out.

"Here in Dallas, we have been such a hub of computer activity that any computer rapidly grows old and outdated," says JYBOLAC's Mr. Goodwin.

"Outside the metroplex, and in areas of the world not quite as developed, some are just happy to have a computer since they aren't as attainable in those areas as they are here. So in many places you'll find a business running a database off of an Atari 800 XL, a writer using a Commodore 64, a school using Apple II computers and a musician with an Atari ST."

Mr. Goodwin himself boasts a large collection of technology that many people have all but forgotten existed. His passion began with an Atari game system back in 1977; now he also has a Commodore 64 setup, a Newton message pad and says he has been "into" Macintosh since 1988.

Mr. Goodwin plays old games on his Atari 800 computer but also owns an Atari 400 and has a few computers that he has created, Frankensteinlike, from Atari models discarded by friends. Although they may not have the lightning response that many users demand, Mr. Goodwin argues that the older equipment still has what it takes.

"Computers never stop doing what they were designed to do. Many of them could probably get the job done even today," he says. "What changes is what we add to the job they have to do. We add pictures, applets, media files and operating systems which tax even the best systems.

"We want bigger and better, and that's really all right (because) technology must move on."