You could say that I was never properly introduced to computers. At school we shared one between three and the other boys seemed to know them much better, negotiating them as they would girls at the school disco. As such, I hung back, dreading my turn. We’d bump teeth, I thought, step on each others toes.
It wasn’t until my dad brought one home unannounced from God-knows-where (probably the same place he got my mountain bike or the VCR) that we got know one another. The Amstrad PC-1640 sat on the dining room table, eating actual floppy disks; sometimes it took two to get going and you had to pull a latch down over its mouth so it didn’t spit them out.
My dad had no idea how to use it, but somehow it fell for my lines and showed me a rudimentary Paint programme and eventually a Bruce Lee video game, which I amazingly accepted as playable.
A year or so later, my uncle handed down his old Windows 3.1 laptop. And while I was initially impressed with its mobility, the feeling soon evaporated when he explained the battery and the power cable were both faulty. It still worked, mind you, but only when you kept your foot on its power cable.
So while I couldn’t take it into school, I could swap its not-so-floppy disks with my friends. I traded a ‘perfectly playable’ Bruce Lee video game for some pixelated photos of Gillian Anderson, which loaded on my laptop’s greyscale screen, one line at a time, coming into focus to reveal a frowning FBI agent in a trouser suit.
My network grew with the advent of a new PC - the Advent ‘Astute’, which ran Windows 95, CD-ROMs, like the Encarta Encyclopaedia, and the revelatory Internet. It was with this that my love of computers grew. I couldn’t get enough. I ripped demo CDs from magazine covers, I clogged up the phone-line and ran up the bill. “You hang up,” I said to the Internet. “No, it replied. “You hang up!”. And I made what was probably the wisest investment of my life: a box of old .Net magazines from a car boot sale for just a pound. At the back of each issue was a section on how to code your own website. Now, 12 years on, I’m making a living doing just that.
We were never properly introduced, but computers, the Internet and that box of old magazines changed my life.