An old photo, a little time capsule…

petpictureoldthumbToday it seems, we take technology for granted: when we see the latest smart phone that has features x, y and z that it didn’t have before, we rush out to the store and buy it (or at least, that’s what they want us to do). When the latest console from Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft hits the store shelves, we’re overwhelmed with adverts tempting us to spend our hard earned cash on the next generation of ever more powerful entertainment systems.

Things in the past were quite different though, as the latest in technology was in many cases also the latest in prices, or rather, the highest in prices, so a quick buy was usually out of the question. I remember my father taking a picture of my mother and me in front of our new color television back in the early 70s. Those were the things you did back then, preserving those moments for eternity as you finally had saved enough to go out and by that new TV or stereo system. And if you didn’t take them as a memento of that glorious occasion that your family household was now part of the club of new technology owners, you probably took the picture because you noticed that the film roll in your camera was almost full, so you could snap one or two last photos before getting the pictures from your Summer vacation developed.

It is such a picture I noticed on eBay a few weeks ago. Someone had found an old 70s photo of a Commodore PET along with a 3040 disk drive and put it up for sale. I bought it on the spot as it was one of those things that describe exactly what I mentioned above: someone wanted to make sure that that moment in his or her life was captured for eternity, that moment when they probably first had a computer in their house.
It’s clear that it was not taken for any professional use (i.e. in a magazine) as you can see the reflection of the flash in the window and the room itself looks like it’s from a small studio apartment with the bedroom and living room all being basically the same room.

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I’ve looked for clues as to where and when the picture was take, but alas, the papers next to the disk drive show some writing, but the image is not sharp enough to make out what’s written on them. Perhaps this was a picture taken by someone who worked at Commodore and this was his or her flat and the scribbling on the paper might me something work related.
They could afford a 3040 disk drive, and these peripherals were quote pricey back in the day, so perhaps indeed, this was someone’s computer from work or someone who could afford their first glimps of the world of computers at home.

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What gives us a clue as to the “where” is the model of the PET machine. It’s marked CBM and not PET, and looking closely at the text on the right, it sais “Computer 3032”. So, the picture was most likely made in Europe because in the late 70s Philips was producing a system called the “Programm-Entwicklungs-Terminal”, and had owned the trademark rights to the name PET. To prevent a possible lawsuit, Commodore removed the PET name from their 2001 series computers, and renamed them in Europe as the CBM 3001 series.

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Still, all this makes me cast my mind back to those early days, the time I got my first computer, the time we were in awe when someone mentioned that in the future, computers would have megabytes of memory, the time that we went and played at one of our friends’ house because he or she just happened to have the newest game or one of those new computers, the time that the era of the computer was about to begin.

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