Azure Jane Lunatic (azurelunatic) wrote,
Azure Jane Lunatic

One Lunatic's history with computers, copy of a comment.


My first encounter with a computer was when I was too young to remember it properly: it was my father's office, with the lights off and that yellow sticker by the lightswitch to remind him to turn it off when not in use. There was a giant cabinet in the room, and it had blinking lights and things that moved. It was his computer, and it scared me.

The next computer was a Compaq Portable with a tape drive and a floppy drive. It may have been 1987 when he brought it home. He programmed, so he had need of a portable computer. I could almost lift it by myself. There were also computers in the classrooms by then: a whole computer lab full of Apple IIes, and, excitingly, new Macs with mice half-bought with a promotional program where we saved receipts. I loved Print Shop the best, and would print up fantastic warning signs. There was a giant poster about LOGO and its controls, and giant typing layouts with colored zones on the keyboards. I hated Oregon Trail because I always died. I loved a little math strategy game with a character in a cart rolling through a mine of some sort. Since it was simple math, it was little more than a game with trivial CAPTCHAs to me, but other kids were threatened by it.

In the 4th grade, after my parents discovered that the worst thing about school for me was my execrable handwriting and my thorough loathing of cursive, I wound up typing certain crucial assignments, with my parents reassuring me that after a certain point no one cared about cursive, and it was more professional to type anyway, fuming and steaming the whole way, but happy to be able to type instead of horrid horrid writing. There were templates that fit on the keyboard so you could remember what key did what with what program, and the one for the F-keys reversed so you would have a guide for some of the major programs. I used WordPerfect a lot. I loved WordPerfect.

I learned about Bold when my father's great big rooster, Gong Ji, flew up onto the keyboard and hit the correct F-key. That was the beginning of my introduction to markup language.

My father bought a Mac, a Quadra 660 AV that I promptly dubbed Majel, in 1994. (She could speak to you and had speech recognition, so it was obvious.) The following year, he bought a Gateway 2000, a lovely massive tower. He had planned that the children would use the Mac and he would use the Gateway, but we sort of took over both, much to his consternation. He occasionally interrupted my writing to have me do little computer-related chores, like install programs. One fateful day he handed me the stack of Windows 95 disks and told me to install the new operating system and get the computer set up for use again. All our files were saved to disk, and I sat there with a book, feeding the machine disk after disk. I installed all our programs, then I tried to use the thing.

After it bluescreened when I did the wrong thing with the disk, I got mad. I continued trying to use it. By the time my father returned, I let him know that for his convenience, I'd reinstalled Windows 3.11 on the box, and if he wanted to use '95, he could install it himself. I think he recognized how spitting mad I was, and the Gateway remained on 3.11 until '98 came out.

I used that machine as my own personal desktop publishing platform. We had WordPerfect and Presentations, and I knew what to do with them. I desktop-published the draft of my first novel, complete with cover, page numbers, gutters, and everything. I animated two movies with Presentations. I dove into Reveal Codes on WordPerfect, which taught me everything I needed to know about markup languages and clean coding.

My father eventually got a modem and a MosquitoNet account. I had already started to explore the internet through a stunning variety of various school computers: I had a HoTMaiL account (and had to reassure my nervous mother about the nature of ad-supported services), and kept in touch with a friend that I would only meet in person nearly a decade later. (She was the girlfriend of a camp friend.) I discovered the Bujold Nexus and its glorious List. My parents later mentioned that they'd been a bit nervous about me communicating with strangers over e-mail, but I couldn't imagine a better community to raise a teenager new to the net. They were hilarious and wise and caring and inclusive, and I got a glimpse of how other adults besides my parents conducted themselves (an important thing for a child raised in semi-isolation in Alaska). I ran into The New Hacker's Dictionary in the humor section of the library, read it cover to cover, and realized that I'd come home to my people. It was like a checklist. Yes. Yes. Yes. Most of the time. Yes. I realized that I'd been raised to be a geek by a geek, even though I didn't have the hard programming skills. I discovered internet smut, then fanfiction (long live Gossamer!). Someone on the List pointed to the Sith Academy, and I discovered slash (Mulder/Skinner and Mulder/Krycek hadn't done it for me, but Maul/Obi-Wan did), and cheerfully lied about my age to read the smutty stuff.

I knew I needed a computer before I moved out on my own, so I enlisted the help of a friend to pick out and order a laptop. (The friend became a fiancé and was instrumental in my relocation to Arizona for college.) At college, I discovered that the business parts of my original major, Business Information Systems, did not do it for me; the Information Systems did it, and I was helping idiot kids in Computer Information Systems some ways ahead of me in debugging their stupid programs. I switched majors. College didn't work out (and neither did the fiancé) but I was left with a solid grounding in computers, and an abiding love for program design and sharing my utter glee in computers with people who thought they'd never be able to understand them.
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