Posted in Growing up/old

The history of a geek

So I finally drank the Kool-aid.  That is, I drank it again.  You see, a long time ago in a Nebraska city far, far away, a recent graduate of Lincoln East High School was in the market for her very first computer.  Having grown up learning to use Macs, ubiquitous in schools back then, that’s what I wanted.

I had a bit of money that my grandmother had left me when she passed that had been earmarked for “school,” so I headed down to our local Apple store, which was a tiny place (nothing nearly as grand and stylish as the Apple stores these days) and checked out the single box-type Mac.  As I recall, they wanted around $1600 for it, and it didn’t even come with a hard drive–that cost extra, of course.  And this was in 1990.  So, saddened, I went home to tell my folks that it didn’t seem like a Mac was in my budget.  My dad and I ended up going to Sears and getting me a dedicated Brother word processor that served me well during my freshman year; after that, I used the computer lab or went over to Scott’s and typed up papers on his custom-made PC, that was, as I recall, an 86.  Not a 386, or 486, but an 86.

Yes, we are old.  Old enough to remember when computers first came into schools.  At Andrew Jackson Elementary in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, they were Texas Instruments computers that had a few educational games on them.  You had to sign up to use them during recess and lunch, and I did as often as I could, because I have always been an indoor girl, and my 2 years at Jackson were ones I spent as the victim of what seemed like constant peer harassment, being the new kid, a little chubby, and having a wonky eye.  In any case, I found solace in playing with TI Logo, using BASIC to force little “sprites” to move across the page in a format, direction, and speed of my choosing.   Oh, the power!  If for some reason you wanted to save any data, there were cassette recorders next to each computer.   And if I’d had an inkling then of what I know now, I would’ve stuck with the programming.  Damn.

I got my first PC my senior year of college; this would be 1993-94.  My scholarship money had come in, and so Scott and I headed off to Best Buy to see about getting me my very own computer with which I imagined I’d write fabulous papers and create brilliant materials for my student teaching gig. (Which I did, of course.)  I got myself a very fine Windows 3.1 machine, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  The display was in color and it came with a hard drive standard (unlike the Mac I’d wanted 3 years before), plus there were actually programs on it.  I swore that day that I would never need another computer; this computer would serve all my possible needs for the imaginable future.  I mean, seriously, who could ask for more?

I hear you laughing.  I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself.

We held on to that computer for a few years, through the wedding and my first year of teaching.  Both of us used it, as Scott’s computer, with its 5.25” disks of which you needed nine to run any program, had lost its shine.  (Though I will always remember it fondly for introducing me to a Tetris addiction that lasted for years.)

My second year of teaching, I switched jobs and was teaching in Annandale, MN.  One day I went into the teachers’ lounge and there was a pile of fliers by our mailboxes advertising educator discounts on Apple computers.  I brought the flier home to Scott, and we decided that we would get one, despite the fact that they were still overpriced.  But they came with hard drives now, not to mention a TV tuner, and ClarisWorks.  (Anyone remember ClarisWorks?)  It was a beautiful machine, and we loved it and used it daily.  It had a great internet access/e-mail program that eventually faded away.  As a matter of fact, that Performa lives still, out in Scott’s studio.  We don’t use it anymore, but the TV tuner still works, so we keep it.  I did fire it up a couple months ago to look up something I knew I’d saved on it, and while it took about 15 minutes to boot, it still worked.  13 years old, and still functioning–not bad.

The years passed, as is their wont, and there were upgrades to a PC desktop that we shared, but by then, both of us were so involved with the internets that sharing had become untenable and I got my first HP laptop.  We’d made the jump to PC after the iMac came around, and with it, changes that made all our peripherals unusable.  Given that, at the time, dual-platform peripherals were almost unheard of, and the Mac versions inevitably cost twice what the PC versions did, we were more than a little torqued.  So we turned our backs on that bastard Steve Jobs and sold our souls to Bill Gates, comforting ourselves with the money we saved.  We were still both teaching at the time, and there were few enough dollars to go around.

A few years ago, the HP crashed and burned spectacularly, taking all my data with it.  It, too, lives out in Scott’s studio, where he imagines that one day he’ll replace the hard drive in it.  (I’m pretty sure he’ll get to that right after he puts together the scale model of the U.S.S. Constitution I got him for our first married Christmas, because he’d spied it in a store, and being a smart new wife, I went back and got it for him.  Did I mention that we’ll be celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary next month?)  And so I upgraded to a fancy Gateway laptop, which had already been purchased and put through its paces by Antiguo.  I figured his recommendation was good enough for me, plus the tech support of a guy who loved to tinker and figure out his computers would be invaluable to me.

The Gateway has served me well, despite rough handling by yours truly.  It’s been dropped a few (dozen) times, although some of those times, it was technically dragged when I tripped over this cord or that, and I lost the USB ports in the back to such accidents, as well as the hinges, which gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago.  Being the practical sort, and possessed of a good supply of man’s only true miracle in this world–duct tape–I proceeded to solve the problem of the screen flopping open dangerously and at high velocity at the slightest provocation the best way I knew how:

When Scott saw my workaround, he was seemingly unimpressed with my ingenuity.

“Time for a new computer, huh?”

“What?  This one is fine…now.”

But it wasn’t entirely fine, and the seed was planted, and then there was the fact that I’d been coveting the Mac Scott got last summer after an epic battle with Office Depot over his extended warranty.  (I shan’t recount the entire saga here, but suffice it to say that since that time we are engaged in a lifetime boycott of Office Depot.)  And so it came to be that last week I ordered a reconditioned MacBookPro, and returned once again to the platform that I once loved so dearly.

I had been convinced of the move by Scott’s utter delight with his new machine, and I have to say that even a little bit of use has impressed me.  Everything is SO. DAMN. EASY.  Drag and drop and fuhgeddaboutit.  I asked Scott to help me set up my mail to download to the mail program native to the Mac, and he pulled up the dialog.  All I had to do was enter my Gmail account and my password.  I looked at him and said, “It can’t be that easy.”  He said, “And you’ve been using a PC all this time why?”  I like easy.  I like easy especially when it comes to technology, because when my gadgets don’t work, I tend to devolve quickly into ape logic.  There will be a learning curve, of course, but I occasionally have to use a Mac at work and it’s not completely foreign to me.  I’ve only been able to play with it a little bit so far, including this post.  I am home sick in bed as I write this, as last night I came down what seemed for all the world like a slight case of polio, and I am still weak today; fortunately, this MacBook is 2 pounds lighter than my gateway.  So I’m trying it out between naps.

Which brings us to why you’re reading my blog here today, instead of at my WordPress site.  I’ve got a 60-day free trial of the .Mac business, and a very easy web-page design application called (inevitably) iWeb, which promises me that I can add pictures and video and who-knows-what-else to my blog effortlessly, plus it gives me more interesting themes than WordPress seems willing to do, so I’m going to test drive it, and see if I want to make the switch, either for my blog or my website entirely.  I may find I want to retire my personal website and make the switch over here.  That domain name has outlived my amusement with it, anyway.  Anyway, I may play around with video blogging and whatever else is available.  We’ll see just how ambitious I get.   But the possibilities are tantalizing.



I've been doing some form of creative writing since 9th grade, and have been a blogger since 2003. Like most bloggers, I've quit blogging multiple times. But the words always come back, asking to be written down, and they pester me if I don't. So here we are. Thanks for reading.

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