assignment 3 now online
here it is.
twenty five years old. a bit strange. but then again, aren't we all?
My first introduction to computers (as far as I can recall) was through my uncle, who at the time worked for IBM. I was very young and only remember playing a few very simple games and knowing that the confusing box with a screen and keyboard was very important to his job. The elementary school I attended had an IBM lab and an Apple lab. The only thing I ever remember using the former for was Writing to Read in first grade, a program that combined workbooks and computer activities and probably confused about as many kids as it helped. The Apple lab contained a selection of IIe and IIgs models and was a place I always looked forward to going because all we did was play games. Even when the school acquired (limited numbers of) Macs with vastly superior hardware and flashy CD-ROM games I still preferred to sit and play Spellevator and Oregon Trail. In fifth grade I clearly remember one day in class when the computer teacher told us about this thing called the Internet, which allowed people to connect computers from many different places together and communicate through them. She gave a short explanation of e-mail and showed us a few Web sites. I ended up helping out in the lab some that year and attending a short computer camp the following summer, where I learned how to use some basic applications and gained some more knowledge about computers in general.
Another important introduction I experienced in first grade was that of home video games. The Nintendo Entertainment System was going strong and everybody either had one or wanted one. I had no idea at the time that it was a computer, but the thought of pressing buttons on a small pad to make things happen on TV was as intriguing to me as it was to many children my age, and Christmas 1990 started an addiction which has been with me ever since and from which I have no desire to be free. The changing times have brought new systems and more complex and advanced games, but the basic idea remains the same.
In middle school computers were a bit more common and we used them more frequently. We were taught how to use them for research and to type papers, as well as basic database and spreadsheet operation. The Internet became more popular and I started riding my bicycle to the public library to use their computers with access, getting a tiny taste of what would become another obsession. I obtained an e-mail account and began e-mailing my friends and chatting as well as browsing the few sites I knew about. During this period I also became good friends with Jason Shaver, who had had quite a bit of experience with computers and taught me a lot through the following few years, fueling my interest in technology.
The high school years brought some changes. Computers were much more common and quickly evolving, prices were dropping, the Net was exploding, and many of the Macs were giving way to PCs, of course running Windows 95 and 98. My parents purchased our first family computer shortly before the beginning of my freshman year, so I finally had something of my own to experiment with and learn about. It was a Compaq Presario with a 300 Mhz Pentium II, 64 MB of RAM, and an 8-gig hard drive. Pitifully slow by today's standards, it was quite fast at the time, and it came with a large selection of games and other things to keep me occupied for a while. It also had a dial-up modem, which I started using to connect to a local BBS and browse and play games, although I had hardly a clue of what I was doing. I also used free dial-up Internet services for a short time (NetZero before they started charging) and started learning basic HTML and making Web pages, albeit crude simple ones. The learning process continued through high school, as things including broadband Net access, MP3's, Instant Messaging, and CD burners made their way into the mainstream and into my life. The Texas Instruments graphing calculators we all had to buy for math classes also proved to be quite useful toys, and we filled them with games. Some of us also started experimenting with editing existing software and writing our own programs for them using their BASIC-like programming and the Graph Link computer interface.
Once high school was over I needed my own computer to use once I started college, so I purchased the HP Pavilion I am unfortunately still using today. It has performed well enough and required little hardware maintenance (I've only upgraded the RAM, added HD space, and replaced the power supply), but I have outgrown it and cannot yet afford a new box. I have done the vast majority of my learning and experimenting using this same computer, and although there is still much to learn, I finally feel that my overall computer knowledge is at a fair level.
Lately my interest has been in making things better; figuring out how to make my PC and other computerized devices (Xbox and cell phone, both of which are connected to the computer/network) perform the way I want them to as well as efficiently and trouble-free as possible without costing more money than I have to spend. A major step to accomplishing this, I learned over time, was a switch to different software. Winamp became my music player of choice, easily knocking out Windows Media Player. Mozilla took over the job that scary, dangerous blue "e" used to have. OpenOffice found its way onto my hard drive (which originally came with no MS Word or PowerPoint), as did AVG Anti-Virus. These programs were all free, yet they performed better in many cases than did the alternatives, some of for which I would have had to pay dearly. I had heard about Linux a few times in recent years but knew little more than the fact that it was a different operating system.
I had finally gotten things running somewhat smoothly, but my displeasure with Microsoft grew, and other options began to seem more and more attractive. Finally, in the early Spring of 2006, my friend Chris Midcap gave me the bit of motivation I needed to attempt to make the jump by suggesting a few Linux distributions I might be able to start out using. I downloaded Fedora Core 5, installed it, and was pretty much lost, so I mostly stuck with Windows for the next few months. Summer break provided plenty of free time, and I was able to read many manuals and howtos and get my system set up to do basically everything it could do in Windows. XP Home Edition still lives on my hard drive, but only in case of a need for Windows-only software.
My computer and the Internet are very much a part of my day-to-day life and likely always will be. I use them to communicate with friends and family, do research for school, type papers and print various things, find out virtually anything I want to know about any subject, and (of course) waste plenty of time. Computers have evolved quite rapidly during my lifetime thus far, and while the future may be uncertain, they will most certainly play a major role.