Wednesday, July 27, 2005

My ascent into “e-literacy”

One fine day, when I was in first grade (I guess I was 6-7 yrs old at the time), I told my dad I wanted to be an engineer like him. He then told me about this thing called a “computer”, that he said would change the world. I mulled over this for a moment and asked him if being a “computer engineer” would fetch me Rs 10000 a month (My dad actually earned less than that at that time). When he assured me that it would, I instantly made up my mind that I would be a computer engineer without ever having seen a computer. (sigh.. if only decision making were so simple now)

It was to be several years before I would actually see a computer. Sometime during middle school in fact. My first encounter with a computer is worth mentioning. I remember looking at it with awe and wonder as if it were GOD. I remember touching the keyboard as if one press of the wrong key would obliterate the entire world. I remember sitting very erect and still, as if the slightest vibration would cause the computer to eat me alive. I remember scraping the CPU with my nail and then waiting with my heart in my mouth for my teacher to send me out of the class for defacing that GREAT and POWERFUL machine. (It was a black/white 200 Mhz DOS machine btw.. with no mouse). I remember carefully entering a LOGO program to draw a circle (A one line program) and then chuckling with delight as the cursor moved on the screen feeling as if I had just made a scientific breakthrough of gigantic proportions. I remember my teacher repeating the expansion of BASIC- “Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code” over and over again until he had made sure we would remember it long after we were dead. My first encounter was fun no doubt, but more memorable events were to follow.

In my seventh grade, the managing director of my dad’s company invited us for dinner. When we got there, he led me and my sis to his computer. It looked much better than the ones I had seen at school, but more importantly his computer had a mouse and WINDOWS (Windows 95 to be precise) installed. After explaining how to use the mouse, he opened up an encyclopedia and left to entertain my parents. Over the next three hours me and my sister opened, minimized and closed windows on the screen not caring much to read any of the stuff within the windows. (Of course one hour was lost in fighting for our turn for the mouse). It took a hell of a lot of time to close a single window. The “arrow” would head towards the ‘x’ button and then suddenly miss the target. When I missed my sis would let out her most sarcastic laugh and of course I retaliated when it was her turn. Clicking was much worse. We never really mastered the concept of “left clicking” and “right clicking” and were very puzzled when menus popped up. After expounding many theories (each more illogical than the next) to explain the popping up of menus we gave up.

The highlight of the evening was when I heard my Dad yelling for my sis and me when it was time to go home. I was feeling very indebted to our host for letting me use his “personal computer” as he had called it. I very badly wanted to do something to return the favor and decided to save him some power. I looked around carefully and finding the point the computer was connected to, promptly switched it off in spite of my sis telling me to “leave things alone”. Feeling very pleased with myself, I walked into the living room and proudly announced what I had done expecting a pat on the back. What I got instead was a lecture on “shutting down” a system and how a computer was different from a television. Wishing the ground would open up and swallow me, I mumbled my apologies and ran to our car.

Sometime in tenth grade, I came across several articles in the newspapers and magazines about this thing called the “Internet” that was revolutionizing the world. I was highly cynical and found it hard to believe in the concept of accessing information remotely. But very soon a friend took me to a net centre and helped me open my first email account. Seeing is believing and when I started receiving replies to my mails I went gaga over the Internet. From that moment on 75 % of my pocket money was spent on browsing. I went on an email account creating spree and created around a hundred email addresses for myself. Wonder how many of them exist today…. The other side of the Internet was brought to my attention when I was in 11th grade. I was playing pool with a few friends when one of them said he had something to show us on the Internet. So six of us crowd into a cubicle for one and then I get a shock. My first glance at porn on the Internet. The pictures were more explicit than any I had seen previously in TV/movies. Now, I’m not a prude but I was shivering with fright. I was certain we were all going to go to jail… lol..

It was only in my first year of engineering that I got a PC at home. Then began a period of several crazes. First it was the music downloading craze. I remember spending a month of study holidays most usefully; downloading 227 songs, spending over a 150 hours online to do so. (Today I could have downloaded as much in less than half an hour.) This was followed by the music organizing craze. I created an imposing nested directory structure with more levels than the LIC building in Chennai. I spent hours naming songs, entering track and album information and typing out lyrics. The irony of it all is that I haven’t found time till date to listen to any of the songs. But the worst craze was yet to come. For one semester I ate, slept and played Age of Empires. And did NOTHING else.

In spite of all these crazes I somehow managed to graduate from college finally fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a “computer engineer”. My entry into America further broadened my horizons what with high speed T1 lines and powerful laptops. Every single day I find something new that I can do with a computer. When I watch DVD quality streaming video or when I talk to my mom and dad on skype, I still feel the same awe that I felt so many years ago when I first set sight on this most remarkable machine called the computer.

Computers of the world… I salute you! :-)

49 comments:

Ms. V said...

Wow! A beautiful account indeed. You described every stage so wonderfully. And I definitely felt your awe.

I personally hate my computer as much as I love it.

Divya said...

hey nirmal... a really nice post... i am still laughing...

Leon said...

Thanks Vidya, I hate certain things about computers too.. But then, that would be a different post.. ;-)

So you prefer Nirmal to Leon huh?

Ms. V said...

If that question was directed to me, then yes. Just like you prefer Vidya to Ms. V! ;)

Also, it sounds very similar to the cute kitten, Nermal in my most favourite comic strip - Garfield! :D Do you need any more reasons? :p

Leon said...

[Divya] Thanks.. :-)

[Vidya] I'm not sure if I like being equated to a kitten... Do you have any other reason that you think I'd like?.. ;-)


By the way, this may be meaningless drivel, but it just struck me that your names are anagrams... lol

Ms. V said...

The key word was "cute"! Uhm, how about the fact that I like the name? Sounds good enough???

Prasanna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Prasanna said...

well...how come most of us have the first encounter with internet thru porn...and feel the same shiver and fright then?

Prasanna said...

well by mistake posted the samething twice..anyway deleting it made me post again...anyway i end up with one meaningless comment for the post!

Leon said...

That's good enough for me Vidya.. :-)

Prasanna, thanks for your valuable contribution to the comment count.. ;-). You're welcome to post and delete as many as you'd like.. :p.

Ms. V said...

You're an easy one to please. Good for me! ;)

Siddhu said...

Nice post! Reminded me of my first PC - a Sinclair ZX Spectrum that was connected to a TV

Leon said...

[Vidya] I'm may not be that easy to please in other matters. For instance, I'm going to be VERY critical of your black forest.. unlike your mom.. ;-).

[Siddhu] Thanks.. Wow you've seen much worse than I have.. lol

Parna said...

well said Leon.
and i am reading this caause of something which your father believed in 'a long time ago'
:)

Ms. V said...

Haha! Really?!? You might change your mind when your criticism causes me to stop baking cakes! ;)

Leon said...

[Parna] Thank you.. :-)..And he was right like he always is..

[Vidya] Tsk.. Tsk.. You would give up cake-eating to prove a point to me? :p

Jam said...

Hey Leon,

Have blogrolled you. Would appreciate it if you could do the same to me also.

Cheers........jam

ioiio said...

But the worst craze was yet to come. For one semester I ate, slept and played Age of Empires. And did NOTHING else.


Heheheheeh :) My roomies had the same problem with GTA. Thank god.. I dont play video games..

Ms. V said...

Where in the world did you get the preposterous idea that I would stop eating cakes??? You however might have to worry about it! :p

Keshi said...

w.o a PC I wud be dead right now lol! Nice write-up Leon!

btw I'm a s/w engineer :)

Keshi.

Leon said...

[Jam] I hope that's your way of telling me that you liked what I wrote.. ;-)

[Satya] I don't play much either. Just that one damned game.. (sigh)

[Vidya] You mean you would bake cakes and eat without giving me?? :-(.. Hasn't your mom ever warned you about the "stomach pains" you would get if you did something like that??.. lol.

[Keshi] Thanks.. :-). Hopefully I'll be a s/w engineer in a year or two myself..

silverine said...

This is exactly the same way I was introduced to computers. In my case I was given a computer by my Dad , shown how to switch it on and off and left to my own devices. I learnt everything from MS office to browsing the internet on my own. The crush became a life long affair :))

Ms. V said...

Of course she warned me. She said "No sharing anything with boys because you'll only end up with stomach pains" ;)

Leon said...

[Silverine] "life long affair"? Is there place for someone else? :p

I chose to name my laptop with the name of one of my biggest crushes... ;-). Now I'm still wondering which means more to me... lol.

btw your "bride" posts are still fresh in my mind.. ;-)


[Vids] "Anything"? did she have something specific in mind? :p

[Divya] You told me to change the bright green color at the sides. So I just removed it... ;-).. Fine now?

Ms. V said...

Nah. I don't think so. Because sharing of anything eventually leads to sharing of everything which eventually lead to... You get the drift, right? After all, you weren't born yesterday! ;)

hope and love said...

computers were an enigma for me for a long time.. being a doc and that too older than you i was not exposed to them during my college days..
i lernt evrything myself.. ya iv fallen in love..

Leon said...

[Vids] Yeah.. yeah.. I get the drift.. :-). Btw I'm still waiting for "something meaningful" about why you don't write "anything meaningful". Don't think I forgot.. :p

[hope and love] Computers always seem to be more of an enigma for older people.. It was not very easy to teach my mom to use email.. :-)

Jinguchakka said...

It could have been anyone's story of this generation. Because almost every one underwent the same process, more or less! A good post!

Ms. V said...

I can write a meaningless post on why I don't write anything meaningful. But I don't think that's what my critic is looking for! Sigh.

Sayesha said...

Awesome post! I can identify with so many things in here! :)

Neon said...

It was a really good post, Leon. There was a proper Windows 95 comp in my home since I was 2yrs old but I never bothered to use it. Became computer crazy when I was in the fourth std what with introduction of Cricket games on the PC.

Leon said...

[jinguchakka] Thanks.. I agree about everyone having similar experiences. I just thought I would pen mine down.. :-)

[vids] I guess I'll continue with my criticism after first thinking up a meaningful post for my blog... ;-). Any ideas for a next post?

[Sayesha] Thanks a bunch.. :-)

[Neon] Might I suggest a migration from cricket to Real-time strategy if you want to see how it would be to flunk a few subjects.. :D

Btw, I was called Neon by a lot of people at school. It used to irritate the hell out of me.. being associated with an inert gas.. lol.

Pavan said...

i once had the good fortune to actually see leon's music archives. those days i didn't have a pc, and i just thought that this was one of the things that people with pc's do !! you know, maintain track info, singer info etc etc. in school we had a great game installed on some of the pc's - Jill - i wonder if you remember. it was like 'prince' in concept, but had much better graphics. in my undergrad, my best use i put my lab pc's was gaming. aoe, aoc and aom. too bad i don't have the convenience of a hostel LAN now - i am reduced to playing against the comp.

Ms. V said...

Ideas for a new blog? I myself am sitting and wondering what to write about next!!!

Anonymous said...

How about describing dorm life in the next post?

Leon said...

Pavan: I do remember.. are you being sarcastic about the graphics?.. hehe.. I also remember that you never let any of the games govern your life and your grades.. :p. How about playing AOE against me over the internet buddy.. I'll thrash you anyday.. lol.

Vids: But you still posted today.. :p

Anonymous: Are you from my dorm? ;-).. I'll make you a deal. If you'll reply to this comment with your name.. I'll very definitely do as you suggest.. What say you?.. :-)

Anonymous said...

Not from dorm at all! In fact just stumbled onto this blog. Me is in Darjeeling, India. My name is Wangjay Gangtok.

Anonymous said...

Well, I replied with my name. Your turn to keep your word. Period.

Divya said...

hi... ur page looks much better!! atleast to me:)...

Anonymous said...

Hope you will keep your word!

Leon said...

"Wangjay Gangtok" my foot.. lol. But that was a really good one. Of course I'll keep my word. Just for thinking up that name, the next post is for you Gangtok!!! Me and my big mouth.. hehe.

Anonymous said...

Hey don't you like my name?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for dedicating your next post for me man!!!!!!!!!!

Ms. V said...

For the sake of humour, I hope that really is his name :p

And you have 24 hours mister. I demand a new post on your blog. Your time starts now!!!

Neon said...

Neon is a "Noble" gas too. So i dont mind it when ppl call me Neon.

zephriss said...

I could just imagine the blogger with his white "TIDE" washed teeth on the background of his dark skin.. (no offense intended...)

I just couldnt stop laughing....
Indeed this is one of your best blogs .....

I hope you would come up with something more with lot of homour and fun filled in your coming blogs

Leon said...

I'm still wondering where the white "TIDE" washed teeth fit in with this post. But thanks a lot for visiting and your kind words. I'm glad you liked it. :-)

Zephriss said...

The white "TIDE" washed teeth was directed to your smile when you found out new things about the "personal computer" of the gentleman who invited your family for dinner.

JJ said...

Similarities here also!!!

But you got the first statistics ALL WRONG!!! 200MHz computer in std 4? What you kidding?

I'm 22 (about 12 yrs after Std 4) now and the most hi-fi computing facility I own is a 166 MHz Pentium :-((((((((((((((((((((((((

I've even seen a 75MHz 486 in working condition a few weeks back.

Those comps we used to do LOGO and BASIC on were I'm sure even more ancient that the 286!! I even doubt if it's the X86 family!!!.... stuff we learned in our microprocessors course!!!


I AM INSULTED!!!!