A Tale of An Elder Millennial: How I Started My Tech Journey — Part 1
The Good Old Days…
From the tender age of 5, I have been using a computer. I’ve had most of the old PC’s from the x086 to a Pentium 5. I’ve used MS-DOS from the start, command line and all. I remember Norton Commander. A simple sleek 3 color UI with just tables. Two Panes for two different folders. something that now sounds trivial with all the complex UI designs out there today.
Not sure I can remember the first program I ran or what it was, but I do remember: Digger, Alley Cat, Commander Keen, Jill, Jordan vs Larry Bird and Old Car games I can’t remember the names of. You can’t reminisce about the old’ times without recalling quests. I was addicted to anything Sierra published. Whether it was Police Quest, Space Quest (Go Roger Wilco!), Leisure Suit Larry, and more.
Check out which ones you recognize here.
The Sierra quests required typing in commands for the character you were playing in order to advance. So, you would type things in like “open door” and such. As a developing child, these sorts of games are what helped shape my ongoing journey in the technology industry. It also helped me improve my English reading comprehension at an early age (even though I am a native English speaker).
I was a very avid gamer (and hope to make a comeback if my wife lets me. Love you D. ;-). I had every console, starting from a simple NES system. Megason (NES compatible), GameBoy, GameGear, N64, GameCube, PS2, Nintendo Wii, and my final console Xbox 360 — were the weapons of my choice. I played a ton of games on these consoles, but there is still a few running titles I’d love to play, like Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War, Zelda and a many more.
But alas, my life today won’t allow me such luxuries. However, I’m getting ahead of myself… Anyway, where was I? Video games and adolescence… OK, so most of my social connections with friends back then were based on the love of video games and computers (other relationships were formed on the love for extreme sports, but that’s also for another time). Around 1990 I remember 2 of my friends ran BBS’s (Bulletin Board Systems). To this day I have no recollection as to where they got their content from, but they had all the goods: the newest games, the latest software and the latest images.
For all you youngsters out there, back in the good ol' ’90s, before the dawn of the internet, the only way to connect computers through a wireless network was with a janky old modem. Back then, these modems would make very funny sounds and you’d get a peer to peer connection. If you had the right number to connect to a BBS and they SysOp (system operator) would accept your connection, you had access to said Bulletin Board System.
All this was done solely through the command line or more via MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). The commands from back then are still prevalent in today's Microsoft ecosystem. You can still write
dir in the command line prompt in Windows and get the detailed list of the directory you are currently at.
I remember every PC game I bought, before running it, I had to mess around with the bios configuration in order to allocate enough memory for said game. But even before this, you had to install the game. Installation back in the day consisted of running the first floppy disk and changing disks every few minutes. It was excruciating.
Every time I fucked something up with the OS I had to reinstall it. When it was Windows, it took ages. I think version 3.11 was something like 20 or 30 floppy disks. Again, for those of you who might be too young to ever hold a floppy disk, the capacity of disk space for each was 1.2MB. Later, the smaller “hard” floppy disk was 1.4MB.
Storage was a pain point back then. There weren’t many affordable solutions. I recall ZIP drive, another “hard” disk with 100MB of storage. Not many people I knew back then had it, so I’d go to my friends with the drive in order to share files. I remember when I got my first backup tape — it stored a whopping 320MB! But, it was not an external component like the Zip drive.
Today, with Moore’s Law, storage is a non-issue almost. You can now get 1TB on a tiny micro-SD card. To me, that’s freaking amazing!
Back in elementary school, I was one of the few kids who handed in printed papers. I used an old text editor program called “Einstein”. Printers at that time were really janky. They took forever to print and the pages were connected to each other with a dotted tear line. Not having one of your text lines being cut off was nothing short of a miracle.
When Microsoft Windows came out, it was a game changer. No longer did computer users need to know how to run things through the command line, but now they could just click an icon and launch a program.
I jumped on the Windows bandwagon on about version 3.1, but the OS was around since around 1985. It was incredible back then! The ease of use was a giant leap forward towards easier adoption for anyone wanting to use a computer.
Soon came along the dawn of the Internet or more accurately the “World Wide Web”… And that is a start of a whole other chapter for the world, humanity as we know it, and for me.
The 90s started off with new game consoles, web chats, opening the opportunity to connect, consume information and new forms of communication. But I’ll get to that in the next chapter of the series…
I hope you’ve enjoyed it thus far, as I’ve really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Please let me know if you did by clapping and commenting :-), that’ll give me some of the juice I need to start writing part 2.