I went to school during the best time in history for the growth of computers. At least that's what I think.
As I was growing up, user interfaces were evolving. The black and white menus of the desktop were adding color. People were able to multitask now, run several programs at once. You could be legitimately working and at the same time, be playing solitaire. Minesweeper was invented. We saw the new era of computing and it was good.
I built my computer from parts my brother and I procured. I would have the phone book open and the phone in my hand, dialing and dialing all afternoon. I am sure I put some of those parts brokers to shame during those afternoons as a 10 year old, reasoning and haggling with tiny shops all over San Diego.
But I was left behind! When my classmates started running Windows 3.2 on those machines their dads bought from Sears, I was running my brothers copy of DOS 5.10. I had WordPerfect 6 for DOS and a monochrome screen. I was making book report covers with ASCII art coded in my BASIC editor. You could spot my report form miles away due to the tell tale perforations on the sides of a dot matrix printer. That and the slightly heavier weight and different color in a sea of superbright ink jet paper.
They had clip art, I had magazine clippings and a Kinko's color copier. Watching my Dad and I put together my projects the night before the due date was like watching 1950s Ad men trying to make the press deadline.
When Windows 95 came out is when I made my move. My brother and I procured all the parts I needed for a killer system. This was the system that would make the difference in my life. It was the piece de resistance, the 486. It was so fast, it could run video! I had a superVGA card, so my graphics rivaled the best. The sound card took me some time to actually configure and make work, but I'm a better man for it. A little work never made a man weak.
Although my machine was faster, though, the kids with Compaqs still thought they were better than me. They did, after all buy theirs from Circuit City or Best Buy. How can you compete with that?
In many ways, they were right. The day I got Windows 95, I started to wane in my computer proficiency. I slowly lost interest in programming. Information was too easy to access. My blazing fast 56k modem took me into another world of distraction.
Where would i have been if I had stayed behind, just a little bit? What would have happened if I had actually had to pay for that Windows 95 disc (or 10 floppies)? It was very long after I built that system and people were playing with the variations of UNIX we now call Linux. A whole world of text based browsers and actual system configuuration would have been open to me.
It's pointless to have regrets about anything, but I do believe in a therapeutic step backwards. You can expect, in the near future, to see me build the system I would have had during that time. What if it gets me by even now?