How the Kaypro Changed My Life

Thank you Andrew Kay.

September 7, 2014

In 1983, I was a an academically struggling high school freshman. My Dad, a professor, brought home a Kaypro computer.  

It weighed 24 pounds, had a 9 inch internal green screen monitor, and two disc drives.  

Most importantly, the Kaypro had a copy of Wordstar.

There was something about this beast of a machine that I clicked with. It was hefty and solid, made of metal and able to be safely shuttled between my Dad’s and my Mom’s house across town.  

The screen was big and clear enough that I could see my thoughts unroll as I typed. The keyboard was solid and responsive. I think that maybe the state of the art in word processing peaked at Wordstar.

I often think of this Kaypro luggable computer when I ponder the course of my own academic career.

Until my Dad got me this computer I was a pretty marginal student. One of those kids with lots of ideas but with a limited ability to express them.  

Since 4th grade I had been required to leave my peers during the day to attend special tutoring sessions with an educational specialist.  

Much of these sessions consisted of me trying to learn how to handwrite legibly. They gave me special pens with special grips. They had me do hours of penmanship exercises. At one point they even tried calligraphy. Nothing worked. I still can’t read my own handwriting.

The computer, or what I could do with it, enabled the first piece of evidence that I might actually be smart at some things.  

My writing, while never polished (and seldom grammatically correct), was at least of interest to some of my teachers.  

There was something tactile and connected about the experience of writing with a Kaypro.

I’ve heard people say similar things about typewriters.  

The Kaypro was the first technology that allowed me to find some talent that I previously didn’t know I possessed.  

The first technology that, in enabling me to write, helped me to learn.

Andrew Kay, the inventor of the Kaypro, died on August 28th. He was 95.

I’m sure that Mr. Kay heard from many Kaypro enthusiasts about how wonderful his machine was. How important his 24 pound luggable Kaypro was on the road to the 3 pound ultrabook.

If I had met Mr. Kay I would have told him that his computer helped me to understand that I was smart, and that I could be good at school.   

That his Kaypro computer is one of the reasons that I work today in learning technology.  

I would have said thank you.

Did you ever own a Kaypro?

What technologies have most influenced you in your life as a learner?


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