Honoring Uncle John, Vet & Gamer, & his Commodore 64 – Memorial Day

Honoring Uncle John, Vet & Gamer, & his Commodore 64 – Memorial Day

My grandpa’s brother, John C. Hatala, who like him was a World War II vet and a gamer who loved his grandkids, passed away before Memorial Day 2022 at the age of 95. Uncle John was the last of his generation in our family. It’s sad to see both a life and an era come to an end. But, our family also has four new babies  — including ours! — to remind me that our family’s chapter continues. And this is a quick little story about how his old Commodore 64 monitor connects me to my past and future, today.

Uncle John Hatala Funeral

My cousins honoring my Uncle John at his military burial. Was glad I could be there to send him off, too.

My Grandpa and Uncle John, the Commodore 64, and their “Little Buddy”: Me

Grandpa and Uncle John were in the 60s when I was little, but they were two of the most dedicated computer experts I’ll ever know. And I’m so lucky they gave me start in this world of technology (and gaming!) we live in today.

In the mid ’80s, the words “mo-dem” and “on-line” were hyphenated (and meaningless to the average person), and the only people with a computer were industry insiders and/or hardcore hobbyists. My grandpa and great uncle were both, and they became enamored with a new, affordable home computer: the Commodore 64.

Commodore 64

I still remember, even though I was four, the excitement of seeing my first C64 game, Trolls and Tribulations, inside my uncle’s dimly lit, cozy office at his house. I was Grandpa’s “little buddy”, as he called me, and I loved the wonders of technology that they loved. Atari was OK, but something about the complexity of the games and utility of the Commodore itself, and all the other stuff it could do, hooked me on the world of gaming and computers forever.

Trolls-and-Tribulations Commodore 64

I’ll forgive you if this doesn’t excite you like it did me as a four-year-old in 1986.

We Can’t Measure the Influence the Relatives Who Loved Us Had On Our Lives

Over the years, I can remember so many technological wonders my uncle would show Grandpa and me. The visits to Uncle John’s to see the latest games and computer were so fun and exciting, and more and more of the office filled with computer-part boxes, floppy-disk cases, CD spindles, and seldom-used peripherals.

N64 PC Emulator

Uncle John had an N64 emulator on his ’90s overclocked Celeron, which Nintendo themselves still cannot get right today.

Uncle John, through his job, even had a single-speed CD burner, at a time when they cost thousands of dollars. A CD does indeed take an hour and 40 minutes to burn at 1x! It seems like eternity now, but it gave us an excuse to enjoy each other’s company for a whole afternoon, and I looked forward to just as much as the CD.

Both Uncle John and Grandpa seemed like they could fix anything, too! In the last decade, I’ve learned to maintain, fix, and mod my archive of videogame consoles, cartridges, and CDs. I feel a connection to them any time I take on an electronics project, and I hope that they’d be proud that I’m carrying on what they showed me about self-reliance, perseverance, and problem-solving.

I hope my daughters Josie and June will find their own interest in classic videogaming and maybe even my business of making people happy through these experiences someday.

Uncle John's Commodore 64 Monitor

Uncle’s John Commodore 64 monitor is the first thing I ever saw real videogames on, and I’m so glad I can give it new life with my business! If you know of a tube TV smaller than 27″ that needs a home, let me know!!

Like my Commodore 64, VideoGames Connect Us to Happy Times of our Childhood

Today, it’s an amazing feeling to talk to so many people at our events and learn what gaming meant to them in childhood, and how more recent games like Wii Sports, Just Dance, and Guitar Hero / Rock Band have given them a powerful way to connect with family.

Duck Hunt Family

I set out Duck Hunt in the bar area of our most recent bar mitzvah, and the kids figured out that you can control the ducks with a controller to screw up their dad’s shot! That’s what it’s all about!

I bring the Commodore 64 monitor to small events all the time, and seeing enjoy original Nintendo at Games Done Legit events on this monitor will always make me happy! It’s been in my family since 1985, so I guess it’s officially an heirloom!

I’m truly lucky to have family who started me on my path that led me to discover what I’m truly passionate about, and gaming will forever be a way I can keep them close to my heart. It’s a blessing that I don’t take for granted that because of them, today I help others connect to their childhood through my work!

If you want to hear more about how gaming has helped me through personal struggles and/or all the great things it can do for us, feel free to read more on my blog.

Reach out anytime if I can be helpful in creating that spark you’re looking for on any event!

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