To commemorate the stepping down of an icon and the end of an era, this is my story. Nothing at all to do with Bhutan, but this is my blog, so I get to decide. Thanks Mr. Gates, they may have called your empire evil, but your vision of a personal computer on every desk in every home has changed my generation.
And the geekification began thus.
1984. Not the Orwellian novel. I was all grown up at eight. My family moved out of our government-built apartment (where Dad, Mom, brother and I, shared one room, fun times) into a larger one. One day, Dad brings home a strange-looking device. A new TV? Hooray! No. It was a computer. A Commondore 64. But as far as my 8-year-old self was concerned, it was a mutant TV-typewriter breed. The TV part of it was crap. Monotonous green characters flashing across a black screen. Dad spends afternoons in front of it, pouring over the manuals. I had more important things to do.
1987. We move again. This time to a house with a garden. The Commodore moved with us, migrating along the way from Dad’s room to the kids’. Geeky son of Mom’s friend who lives in the neighbourhood introduced us to computer games. Space Invaders. Asteroids. Hoo-boy. My favourite game at the time – Who Wants to be a Millionaire? A trivia quiz game. Brother and I fought constantly to get the highest scores.
1988. Dad buys a new computer. I secretly watch Dad use DOS. I learn my first real computer command
dir. Makes the screen scroll with a list of stuff. Very cool. Dad was pleasantly surprised and decides to send me for the free introductory computer course that came with the purchase. I start to acquire some computer chops. Type
windows.exe and this fancy windowy stuff came up. I think it was Windows 2.1. But it wasn’t really useful since WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 ran in DOS. Brother and I compete furiously on typing games and taught ourselves BASIC from Dad’s manuals. We attempted to write our own Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game modelled after the books we were reading at the time. Brother also wrote a small program generating random numbers for the lottery so that he could get rich quick.
I chose a more practical money-making option. Earn extra pocket money typing out assignments for Mom and Dad on ChiWriter. The rhythmic beats of our dot-matrix printer as it spits out the outputs of my efforts was a comforting soundtrack for many afternoons. A year later, I could touch type like a pro.
1992. I join the school computer club to race little robotic mice in a maze. Windows 3.1 takes off. This GUI thing was turning out pretty cool. Because of the way the computer was placed at home, I was a right-hander that could use the mouse only with my left hand. I brought home Wolfenstein 3D, the first ever first-person shooter game, thanks to friends I made through the club. I spent way too much time shooting Nazi soldiers.
1993. Brother and I decided to form an unholy alliance, the first and last in many years, to play Doom co-operatively. Navigating in the 3D levels was making us woozy, so we decided to play it relay-style, handing off the game play to each other whenever we started to feel sick. We got through the levels in record time.
1995. I start college. Got my first access to networked Windows NT workstations and a Unix account. Sent my first email from Pine and spend too much of time chatting on talk (we later graduate to ytalk). Discover the Internet. Went quickly from Mosaic to Netscape Navigator. Taught myself HTML from viewing webpage source codes.
1998. I graduate from college with a business degree. And then went right back to do a post-graduate in Systems Analysis. My geekification is almost complete.
1999. I graduate and begin working life in the Industry. The dot-com boom takes off.
2000. Subscribes to broadband at a blazing 128kbps. The tech gods take pity on me and replaces NT4 with Windows 2000. Acquired a beautiful sexy little PDA known as the Palm Vx. And my first digital camera, the iconic Canon G1. My geek transformation complete. There was no turning back.