Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I was a nerd before nerds were cool!

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!

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  1. I was a nerd with internet before you. Google "US Videotel". Yea I am an old nerd.

  2. Trick, please. Playing Oregon Trail on my Apple IIe, and lovin the green screens.

    Man, if those things made an error noise, they rattled your bones. *HHRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRNK*

  3. I remember the Tandy 1000. And DOS. And boot disks. Ah, the good old days.

  4. OMG, its genetic. Terrifying! You do know that your cuz Corey is one of the top dev guys in the country? And your cuz Joel is a programmer for Microsoft? So funny, Torin's dad still has an old Tandy that he programs just for fun and we have all the floppys for games! Good times and I think it is genetic--your gramps was a computer guy back when they used those giant reels, he understood Cobal and Fortran. Crazy....

  5. Heh. I ran a BBS from my barracks room in the Army in 1991. Good times, good times. This post brought back some seriously fun memories. :)

  6. hahaha hilarious post! my mum jst recently started getting internet savvy :p

  7. It’s not that I hold the fact that I was playing games from 1990 onwards (since I was 5) starting from Wing Commander as some kind of badge of honour, my problem is back then anyone who touched computers were treated as social lepers. Kids would give you a hard time, hell, even your parents would give you attitude, and for what? Now they’re all online. All that attitude, the years of snide remarks, now they just pretend it never happened. Which isn’t surprising really, because how do you even begin to say “oh gee, sorry for ostracizing you for the last decade which likely led to crippling emotional problems, looks like you were right after all. Boy do I have egg on my face har har har!”

  8. thank god i discovered pot...
    or i may have become a nerd...

    oh whats that you say?


    i. was. a. nerd.

    and knew nothing about puters...

    but i played a ton of oldschool D&D

    we are all nerds in some way...

  9. Talk about a walk down the technology memory lane!

  10. Haha that's awesome. My best childhood friend had one of those and we would play Wheel of Fortune on it. Good times!

  11. All that comes to mind for me is our Commodore64. Does that make me old?

  12. Actually I think you're right about the Carmen Sandiego run command. I totally forgot about that game.

    The first time I ever used a IRC chat I started receiving these files I didn't know how to open from this guy. I got my step mom to open them for me....and you guessed it. This dude with massive reddish afro with pubes to match. My step mom and I PISSED OURSELVES LAUGHING!!! I got creeped on (I was 13 or somewhere around there) the first time I used chat. fuck.

  13. OT-I e-mailed you the YouTube video of that. I am just blown away at how absolutely CORNY that was!

    Idaho-Ahhh, old Apples! The cornerstone of my elementary school computer edumacation!

    Stacey-BOOT DISKS! GRR! The funniest thing in the world is that floppy disks hold 5MB tops. They can't even hold a song!

    Roxy and Cyclometh-Well, I know it wasn't my mom's side that gave me nerd blood! They can't even use a REMOTE CONTROL correctly!!! :)

    Kitkat-Our kids are going to know how to program an IPod before they can walk, am I right?

    Drake-I feel you completely. Us "early adopters" knew the power of teh Interwebs and no one believed us!

    Bruce-Were you a level 5 magician? HAHAHAHAHAHA D&D NERD! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Love you!)

    Rest Mgr and Soapbox-Glad you enjoyed!

    Jess-omg, I had that and Jeopardy and Classic Concentration, and my favorite was Family Feud. The internal sound on those old games was just terrible!

    Heather-Hee hee no, Commodores were probably more popular than Tandys!

    Ckrets-That's awesome! It reminds me of the Family Guy episode where Alexander Graham Bell invents the first phone and within minutes there is an obscene phone call!

  14. Oh my gosh yes! I met one of my first boyfriends on AOL. Of course I told my parents I met him at my job or something lame like that. I think it will be a loooong time before technology gets ahead of us.

  15. I remember the old days of dial up. I was too young to really care about it when it first got started but when I did get my connection I was hooked. :)


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