Computers and Me

(I know I wrote this in 2003, but not when in 2003)

I’ve had a computer since I got my Atari 400, Easter, sometime early in the 1980’s (1982 or perhaps 1983?), I was around 11 or 12 years old. That was followed quickly (only now do I wonder how spoiled I was as a child) by a 48K ZX Spectrum, either the same year, or the year after. My memory is terrible.

I played games on the Atari, and wrote software on the Spectrum, until eventually, the Atari fell by the wayside, and I used the Spectrum more and more (for both games and writing stuff).

I discovered BASIC very quickly, and while much of my time was spent playing games on the Speccy, I learned a massive amount about writing software using that thing. I wrote several database style programs for storing roleplaying information on (for example, all the monsters from the Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks), a hugely complex slot machine game type-thing, and a bunch of other weird and wacky stuff (much of it roleplaying oriented).

On both machines, I remember a particular game which I played to death. On the Atari, it was Defender, which I remember playing for many hours without a break as I got better at it. On the Speccy, it was Bards Tale, which wasted what felt like an entire summer, mapping and writing details of the places in the game. I don’t think I ever finished it.

As school progressed, I got to play with BBC B machines, and I distinctly remember playing Grog, and listening to bad versions of Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics. The computer was used by our school’s new fledgling Business Studies class, and I wrote a pretty basic share purchasing application which allowed you to play at being a stock broker. It wasn’t very good. I also discovered Shades on Micronet.

I was still messing with the Speccy up until 1989 when I went to University. The Speccy stayed at home. I’d been at uni, doing a Computer Studies degree for about a month or so, playing with these new fangled PC’s, when it became apparent I needed one. It wasn’t long before I got my Amstrad 1512 (with a 21MB hardcard no less), a mate purchased a 1640. And that was it, F19 Stealth Bomber and Links Golf for the rest of the first year. More software development, now using Turbo Pascal to write more roleplaying and database related applications. More messing with machine code (I’d done bits on the speccy and on the BBC B). By the end of the second year at uni (1991), I needed a better machine. I took out a special loan that Barclay’s were providing at the time, and purchased a 386, with 2MB of memory and an 80MB hard disk.

That machine warped over the following years, gaining motherboard upgrades, case replacement, memory upgrades, sound cards, modems, tape drives, hard disk, etc. I still have the floppy drive, it’s the only bit left from the original. The keyboard died in 2000. More pascal programming, the discovery of Bulletin Boards, and then finally, the discovery of the Internet, for me, sometime around 1995.

I got on-line with Demon at first, using their DOS software and quickly moving to Trumpet Winsock and Windows 3.1 based stuff. That changed, and I remember the first time I configured internet access in Windows 95, compared to getting stuff going with Trumpet Winsock it was a dream.

In parallel to that, I left Uni with a first class honours degree in Computer Studies, and got a job initially writing software, although I moved into first line support quickly afterwards, and I now work in third line support, for a different company.

The home network is getting silly. When Grete moved in, we shared a single PC. We coped. When we moved into our own house, we realised we wouldn’t cope 😉 And so we bought one for her. We networked them using thin ethernet, and used various apps to share the ‘net connection out over the two machines. Eventually the two machines got upgraded to PII 400’s. A couple of old 486’s got added to the list, and eventually a Cable Modem connection, with a linux-based firewall. Then, recently, the two PII’s got two slow, and we’re now both using P4’s of various speeds, and the home network consists currently, of around 6 machines.

Computers and me? We go back a long way. I’ve been ‘doing’ computers since I was 12. Not professionally, but I’ve been looking at a screen with text on it, and typing stuff at keyboards, and using mice (yes, I bought a mouse for my Speccy), for nearly 20 years. Every day that I have been employed, my job has been about computing, not just using them to get something done, but doing computing, a job about computers.

I’m comfortable with computers. I think we know why.