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Growing Up Geek

Commodore 64 computer (1982). Post processing:...

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Engadget has run this series of post called “Growing Up Geek“, where the editors tell their story about becoming a geek. It has been interesting to read those stories, because they have a lot of resemble to mine. So here it goes.

I was just around five years old (1985) when a local appliance chain in my home town decided to sell “real computers” for a really cheap price. For reasons unknown, by parent decided to get one. Maybe because my mother had worked with hole cards and mainframes in the 70’s. The computer was called “BASIC 2000“, which had a 3,25 MHz processor with 1 kilobytes of memory. Just to give some perspective to non-technical persons, I have a memory stick in my pocket, which can store 32 billion times more information and my iPhone has probably over one million times the calculating power.

The computer’s operating system was only a simple BASIC-interpreter, which meant that only thing you could do was simple  programming. As you can imagine, this was quite hard for a five-year old who could barely read and write. Somehow I managed to copy the code listings that came with the manual. One of them was a racing game, which took few hours to type in and even the smallest  typo could mean that you would lose of hours work. At one moment I had an eureka moment, noticing that the track was repeating itself and I found it hidden somewhere in the code. Then I made the track completely straight to get perfect score. But the learning curve was a bit deep.

Then two years later, Commodore 64 came to the markets in Finland and I got it as a christmas present. It was technical leap. External tape or disk drive, more powerful processor and a separate SID chip to produce sounds. It had the same BASIC interpreter. But the games, oh my god they were amazing. I remember waking up early on weekends to put in the game cassette in, typing LOAD “*”,8,1 and watching the hypnotic loading screens. Eventually you would spend the loading times reading comic books like Donald Duck.

Then around 1990, I got the Commodore Amiga 500. It was another leap in home grade computing. It provided my first experience with a window based user interface, called the Workbench. It had some cool tools for drawing, like Deluxe Paint which resembled Photoshop of the early days. Mostly it was gaming again, but I learned managed to create my tool diskettes with necessary utilities with disk copiers and antivirus tools. Somehow the computer started to feel a useful tool, in which you could write documents, spreadsheets and do creative stuff like music and graphics. I really do not know what happened to Commodore. Maybe I should get this book about it.

Rest of my geekdom is boring PC stuff with some Mac on the side. I was not much of an Apple fan, but the first iPod Touch kind of impressed me. It happened to be today when Steve Jobs passed away. I would say that Apple has clearly been the absolute trendsetter since releasing the first iPod and Mac OS X back in 2001. My guess is that Apple will have some hard times ahead, because lot of the products culminated to Steve Jobs and his visions.

During my 17 years playing around with computers I have also quite radically changed the way I see information technology. Before I would interested in technology itself but now when I see something new, I immediately start to think “what is it good for” or “what useful things you could do with it”. I think that information technology in general should help people to do mundane tasks efficiently to let them concentrate what they are good at, not wasting their valuable time.

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