Excerpt From The Diary Of An Atari Nerd

Note: Here is a piece of creative non-fiction.  I’ve changed the names, and compacted some events, but everything is true that happened.  I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a fictionalized diary based on real events for a long time.  The article in the last section is the real article printed in the newspaper.  This was also inspired by The Diary Of Adrian Mole.

-Steve Fulton

Thursday Nov. 17 1983

A weird thing happened to me today in computer lab.  I was helping a class of kids in my grade with a writing assignment on Bank Street Writer.  I always hate to work with kids in my own grade.  It’s much better to help 6th and 7th graders.  It’s easier to be someone else around them. To kids in my grade I will always be me, but to younger kids I can be like a superhero, showing them how to do things they can’t do on their own.  Anyway, there are not enough computers for every kid, so the classes pair up. After the last time a class of 8th graders came in, Ms. Brown told me  that I  “had to” ask everyone if they need help.

I walked around behind everyone, whispering advice about loading files, and saving text.

As it turned out, Bryce and Chance were working together, a dangerous combination.  So I waited until the last possible minute to see what they were up to.  Predictably, they were both struggling over a single paragraph about surfing.

I asked them if they needed any help.

“Bro, how do you spell ‘barrel’?” Byrce asked, not turning his head

“Dude, I don’t think ‘gnarly’ starts with an ‘n” Chance interjected although not actually responding to his question.

I told them that they should use the spell check.  I reached over them to the keyboard and  I selected the word “narlly” and pressed the Apple key.

Bryce looked at me and said “Smell check!”, and then snorted a laugh.  Chance joined in, and laughed like it was the funniest thing anyone had ever said.

When they were finished, Bryce looked at me.


“Seriously bro, what happened to you?”

“Yeah dude, you could still be cool” Chance continued,

“Get rid of this black sweatshirt, cut your hair”

“And stop playing with these computers all the time” Bryce added

They both laughed again together again.


“Okay guys, sure” I told them.  Then I left as quickly as possible.  I hid in the last row of computers for the rest of the period.  I put my projects disk in the Apple disc drive and loaded up the Koala Art program to work on my drawing.  When Ms. Brown looked over, I pretended to help the kid in the computer next to me.  From her vantage point at the front of the room, Ms. Brown could not see that the seat was empty.  


Friday Nov. 18th 1983

Actual school classes were uneventful today. I played one game of handball at snack time, but at lunch I  spent my time by volleyball court #8, you know, the one way at the end by the old shed that holds broken lockers.  The court  with the sagging net and ripped upper-right hand corner. We’ve been coming down to practice sometimes  at lunch since the beginning of the month. John Sheldon has this idea that we should enter the March tournament as a team.  To be honest, we’ve been force-fed volleyball since  the day we entered 6th grade, all of us: John, Dave Gregory, Christian Bolden, Shane Tanaka, Barry Kendon, Rich Marksson, my brother and I, we are pretty good at volleyball…for a normal school.  However, this is not a normal school.  The high school we feed into regularly wins State Volleyball Championships.  The city prides itself on volleyball.  The beach is filled with pro volleyball players on any given day.  If all we did was play volleyball every minute of our lives, we still would not be good enough to compete on any level.  Still though, John wants to play in the tournament, and, secretly, I do too.

As we were playing the second game today, Brad Fenders and Brent Jacobs grabbed the volleyball from the sideline as they walked by.

“Hey look, the ‘tards are playing a game” Brad said.

“Give us the ball back” John replied.  He said it in a tired, bored voice.  The kind of voice that said ‘we’ve been through this many times before and it got old in the 6th grade.’

Then John did something I’ve never seen him do.  He walked right up to Brad and tried to take the ball.

“Woah there Godzilla!” Brad said

He passed the ball to Brent in the air, just out of John’s reach. who proceeded to hold it behind his back, again, just out of John’s reach.

The rest of us stayed silent and still.  I wanted to help John, but I also wanted to stay out of firing line of Brad and Brent and their group. I think everyone else felt the same.  We liked John, but we also didn’t mind that he was the focus of the wrath and not us.

Brent taunted John, “You volleyball stars gonna enter the tournament year?”

John did not answer.

“What’s your team’s name gonna be?” Brad demanded.

“Just give me my ball back” John said, ignoring the question and lunging towards the ball.


“I bet it’s The Metalers!”  Brent yelled back to Brad as he held the ball high.

“Come On Feel The Noise!” Brad said, as he pulled the ball away from John yet again.

“Quiet Riot is not even a metal band, now give me my ball” John yelled. jumped higher than ever, just missing it.  


I think Brad and Brent sensed that they had squeezed enough out of the their ball kidnapping, and finished with a final shot.


“Whatever spaz” Brent said, as he turned and drop-kicked the ball to the lower soccer field.

“Faced!” Brent yelled.

“I was just kidding.  Can’t you take a joke?”


They both laughed and walked towards the #1 court.

John and Rich ran down to get the ball.  By the time they returned, lunch was over.


Saturday Nov. 19th 1983

I was up most of the night thinking about the incident with Bryce and Chance.  I had been good friends with both of them in the past.  Bryce, my twin brother and I started the 5th grade pretty much inseparable.  Bryce invited us to an open house at his dad’s work (a defense contractor that made satellites). All three of us plus Ricky and Mark were in the talent show together  We performed a skit we wrote  named “What happens when your mother is away.”  My brother and I played the kids, and Ricky was our dad.  He kept messing things up, and he did stuff like leave the iron on too long.  Bryce played a door-to-door salesman  who ended up getting a pie in the face.  Mark played  the pie machine. As far as I could tell, it was a huge hit.  Bryce also performed a solo version of “Puff The Magic Dragon” that his mom insisted he sing.

Soon after, Bryce’s attitude changed subtly.  He stopped calling to hang out.  However, he still responded when I called, so I thought everything was okay.

That same year, Chance invited my brother and I over for sleep-over, and we trick or treated on Halloween together.   He seemed like a really cool guy, and it was nice to have a new friend who filled some of the gap left by Bryce.

Later in the year, things changed.   Bryce and Chance hung out more and more.

They both cut their hair, and rode skateboards everywhere.    One time in class our teacher was talking to us about how to be nice to people that you don’t like.  Bryce shared his method.  When he didn’t like someone any longer, he stopped calling them.  He would still respond if they called, but he would not go out of his way to call them.

I felt like a garbage truck hit me.  Bryce was not my friend any more.


The nice thing is, that realization is like a bee sting.  It only really hurts badly the first time you feel it.  Once it happens over and over with different people. you get used to it.   These days, I expect it.  When I meet someone new, I try to figure out how long it will be until they are no longer my friend.  If they last longer than I expect, it’s like a win all around!

I spent the morning watching  cartoons in a daze.  I played “ghetto baseball” with my brother outside.   I didn’t even attempt to take nap, as I have not been able to fall asleep during the day since I was 3 years old.

TV tonight was all about NBC. On Silver Spoons Ricky daydreamed that he was the president of the United States and then proceeded to start WWIII!  Weird.  There is this movie named “The Day After” that everyone is talking about.  It’s on tomorrow.  It’s about World War III.  I can’t wait to see it.


Sunday Nov. 20th 1983

I poured over the ads in the sunday L.A. Times today.  Still, no one was selling the Atari 800XL yet.  It was supposed to be released months ago.  How could I get one for Christmas if no one was selling it?   My dad finally caved in and told my brother and I he would get us a computer this year, but everything seemed to be against the idea.  Where are the computers Atari?

I sat on the couch all morning watching The Tom Hatten Popeye show.  It bled into The Family Film Festival’s showing of The Swiss Family Robinson before I realized 1/2 the day wizzed by.

I thought about Chance and Bryce again.  I decided that, in their own way, they were trying to be nice.   I mean, they suggested ways for me to be more like them, right?  The trouble is, I don’t want to be like them.   Why would I want to act stupid all the time and spend lunch time at school pouring over issues of High Times looking at photos of marijuana buds?   Plus, to me, surfers were the enemy.  My older sisters had told me over and over again how the surfers had ruined everything.  The surfers were the ones who threw food at them at school.  The surfers were the ones who beat-up their friends.  The surfers were the ones who invaded the punk clubs and invented slam-dancing.  The last thing I wanted to be was a surfer.  The one thing I admired about them though, was that they had chosen something to be.  When will I find my thing to be?

Listened to Dr. Demento tonight.  The top-5 were as follows

  • #5 Stinky Breath – Doctor Badbreath
  • #4 The Scotsman – Bryan Bowers
  • #3 Marvin I Love You – Marvin The Paranoid Android
  • #2 My Bologna – “Weird Al” Yankovic
  • #1 Ice Box Man – George Carlin

Note: “Ice Box Man” by George Carlin may be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

Holy Shit.  

“The Day After” was just about the scariest thing I’ve ever watched.  Even scarier than “Carrie”, and that’s saying a lot.   

I can’t get this one scene out of my head.   The nuclear bombs hit, and then there is a flash, and seconds later, people just disappeared.  Like they never existed.

Never existed.


Monday November 21st 1983

Still reeling from “The Day After”.

I only had dreams about nuclear war last night.

Not much else I can say today.


Wednesday Nov. 23rd 1983


This was printed in the Begg Flyer today.  My first published work. Note: my job in the lab is a computer aid, so I really tried to pump up my work.  

It not this glamorous, believe me.


Computer Lab :  Begg Flyer, Nov. 23, 1983

By Steve Fulton

In the back right hand corner of the Learning Lab, Room 23 are the Begg School’s very own Apple computers.  Although not used to their full potential, these computers help students with learning problems, to do better in whatever subjects they are sent to work with.  They also provide a course of information retrieving never before available  to Begg School.  This source is called software.   Software is the disk program that can be run on the computers.  This software includes science programs, math programs, English programs and many others.

How can these computers be operated?   How can students be taught how to use the computers or programs?  The answer is Computer Aides.

The Computer Aide is one of the small groups of students that have been trained to teach other students how to use computers.

A Computer Aides job are as follows:  1. They must see if any student need help using the computers. 2. They see if the teachers need any help. 3. They use utility programs and work on their own programs.

Most of the Computer aides use the third job, to play games or use Logo (a graphics program), but the Aides that are really into computers and programming make their own programs.  Two of these programs are Spelling Magic, a spelling educational game, and Arithmetic Clash; a mathematical space game.

The prime reason of the computer aides is to introduce computers to students at Begg School, and in my opinion, they are doing a pretty good job of it!

So the next time you are sent to the Learning Lab, ask the teacher if you can use a computer. It might change your life!


Begg School has recently received 25 new computers donated by a company named Pertec.  As soon as they are set up, you may be using one with your English class.

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