I do everything on my phone and laptop. These two masses of metal and chipsets are my most prized possessions. With the advent of IPads, smartphones and computers being priced within almost everyone’s reach, it’s easy for even my grandpa to maneuver technology. Just fifteen years ago, that wasn’t the case!
In 1993, I was given an amazing gift from my stepdad that would help mold me into the person I am today-his Tandy 1000 and a dot matrix printer (remember those? You had to line up the printer notch-holes to the sides of the paper or it would jam?). The reason I got it was because he stepped up and got the ULTIMATE in computer prestige and glory: Windows 3.1.
Ahh, Tandy. How did I love thee? Let me count the ways…
Now back in the day, you didn’t just insert a
CD floppy disk and BOOM the game started to play. You had to type a lot of commands to get to play games of the golden age: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?; Oregon Trail; Sid Meier’s Pirates! and Colonization (the latter being my two favorite games of all time) Remember DOS? Not only would you have to remember what the “play” command was for the particular game (I think the Carmen Sandiego one was C:/Carmensd if I remember correctly), but if you were using another program before that, you had to change the entire directory (forgive me uber nerds who are reading this saying “THAT TERM IS WRONG!!!!” I’m doing this off of memory, damn it!).
Me in 1993, just without the beard.
I only had one other friend that had a computer, and she had a really nerdy older brother. One night I was staying at her place and she asked,
“Do you want to chat on BBS?”
“BBS. You talk to other people on the computer”.
You can DO that?
I watched her open a program, heard some weird ass buzzing inside of her computer like it was going to explode, then a box popped up that said “online”. Cool! Everyone had a handle (young’uns, that means “screen name” or “ID” in today’s terms). My handle? PJReznor! I used that for years!
The following summer the media was abuzz with news about Internet service providers America Online, Prodigy and Compuserve being the wave of the future. See, back then you had to use an ISP to go online-no clicking on the Internet Explorer button and the web popped up, noooo. I was way excited to use the Internet so I could talk to other people, but my parents said no way. I think the price tag of $39.95 a month plus the great unknown of the “World Wide Web”, whatever that was, scared them a little. I was SO ANNOYED!!!
One day I was fooling around with my stepdad’s computer when my mom wasn’t home (something I did all the time-what the hell is this Windows? Will it catch on?), I opened up his file cabinet and found gold. An installation CD for AOL.
By this point, I knew that installing something on Windows was pretty straightforward, so I made sure to make a folder with a boring sounding name like “Images” inside another folder so my stepdad wouldn’t know the software was on his computer. Once it was installed, a box popped up that said “ONE FREE MONTH!” How could I resist”? I entered in my details, picked out a local number to dial-up with my modem, and then the credit card information was asked to be put “on-file”. Uh oh. I was 13, I had no damn credit card! Off to my mom’s desk for some snooping…
I found a credit card bill-back then the entire number was displayed on the bill. I took it into the other room and entered it. No checks and balances like today, no signature code, just the credit card number and I was in. Now all I needed was a phone line. I unplugged the phone cord, pushed the computer forward so I could see the back of it, and found the phone jack. Success! Now my computer was making the weird ass buzzing sound!
I even had to walk ten miles in the snow before I could log on.
For 29 days, all I looked forward to was my mom leaving for work so I could secretly go online. I can’t even tell you what I did, it was just so cool to go on and talk to people. People! On your computer! On the last day before my mom’s credit card would be charged, I went into the folder and clicked “uninstall”. That was a sad day indeed. I would casually mention to my parents that other friends had AOL and it wasn’t a big deal to try and assuage them, but they wanted no part of it. By the middle of the summer I was making out with guys, so I could care less about my computer or the Internet.
“But…but…I was your first love! Why Hed, WHY???”
One day shortly before school started, I walked into my front door with my friend, and my mom was holding a piece of paper. A bill. It turns out that the mere act of uninstalling AOL from the computer wasn’t enough, I had to actually call the company and uninstall. Oops! My parents had been charged over $100 for my 29 days of fun. And I was grounded-after just coming off being grounded for sneaking out with my best friend! (Boys were like crack that summer, I am telling you)
Now, with the gentle mouse-click of an icon, I can go on the Internet and roam as I please-instantly. I don’t ever chat to strangers (unless you count my blog friends!), and I still have a DOS program on my laptop so I can play old school games.
My parents still have AOL e-mail addresses and pay $10 a month to use the service. I point and laugh at them now for it, but back in the day it was a badge of freaking honor to even have an e-mail address. I wonder what my kids are going to beg and plead for when I get too old to care about technology? Oh who am I kidding, that will never happen!