Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An early adopter, every step of the way

When I was in elementary school, many of my classrooms had an Apple IIe.  Unfortunately, the teachers never let any students use them.  It always remained off.  I was always fascinated with them however, I never got to see it in action.  I really think it would have impacted my knowledge in computing had any of my teachers let me turn on the computer in the classroom.  I was pretty good at figuring stuff out.

My father brought home a used Amiga and hooked it up to our TV.  I spent, what seemed like 8 hours, programming a few hundred lines of code from a book, to have it draw a smiley face with a mouth that moved.  It was fascinating.  We didn't have any components that would save anything we had typed.  So when we turned it off, everything we had typed into it would be erased.

When I bought my first real computer, I went to the computer store to buy a Macintosh.  But the computer salesman told me that I can get a color computer for cheaper if we decided to go with an IBM clone.  It was a decision that changed my life.  We brought home a 386 DX 40Mhz with a 80MB HDD and installed Terminator 2 the game.  I was amazed when it played a very pixelated posterized movie clip.  We upgraded the computer by adding a 200MB second HDD and a 2400 baud modem.  I had no clue what to do with the modem for the first couple of months.

In high school, I took my first computer programming class.  A few students liked hanging out there at lunch time so the teacher let us play with a computer that was hooked up on some kind of a dial-in network.  There was a listing of existing email addresses.  We randomly emailed someone at Mt. Pleasant because it sounded like people were nice there.  Amazingly, we got a response back a few days later.  It was amazing.

In high school, I spent a lot of time chatting with people on BBS's.  Then I found America Online.  AOL chatting was so addicting that I ran up my first AOL bill to around $144.  My parents were angry because we were poor at the time and it was serious money.  I eventually started researching information on the Internet.  I wondered, maybe one day, all the latest information will be on the Internet, and we would never have to not have an answer when we were curious.

My next computer was a 486 DX4 100Mhz.  I took it to college in 1996 and put a 10bit Ethernet card on there.  I discovered MP3s while browsing the LAN.  Unfortunately my computer couldn't play MP3s in Stereo but I still enjoyed the music in mono.

I got a new computer during my sophomore year.  It had an integrated Voodoo Rush card.  A graphics card specialized for 3D games.  It was mind blowing.

Surprisingly, the computer science department at UCSD was still using terminals.  A computer lab would consist of about 25 computer terminals hooked up to a unix server.  I never got comfortable using vi, and I always used pico.

After building and overclocking countless desktops, I now use a i7 Toshiba laptop I bought 2.5 years ago for $500.  I upgraded it with a 256GB SSD with 16GB ram.  It still runs like a dream.

I wonder if kids today will experience the same kind of excitement as new technologies present themselves.