When was the first time you did it?

January 23, 2006

I could answer it in one line, but thanks to my Social Studies teacher, I know how to make it worth a post for my blog.

The wheel turns back, the birds stop flying and start backwards, the waves stop and go backwards, you get it: its flashback. It was 1986-87, when my dad bought a Nitendo portable game with King Kong II loaded (it was a dual screen, but different from the way it looks now), and a Casio personal digital assistant/diary, with a 1 line display, from Germany. It was programmable, and had BASIC loaded in it!! Today, I googled till the end of the internet, but could not find more info on them (both the gadgets are still in working condition, but at home).

As a kid, I was more attracted to the game (that was just when the craze for ATARI was picking up, and I caught on). KingKong was a decent game, but I maxed the score quickly, making the once tough 999 score now a piece of cake. I was bored, but wanted more. So, I started playing with it. I had a bad reputation for opening (dismantling) stuff, and a worser reputation of not being able to reassemble the thing back. I had killed numerous pens, radios and other stuff in the process. So I could not afford this Nintendo, atleast my reputation was at stake, and my parents might send me to [insert your worst fear, mine was the nether worlds, called paataal lok].

So, I took its batteries on and off repeatedly (by making contact and taking it off), and was playing to see what would that do to it. Suddenly I noticed a fun thing: If I maintain an improper contact of the batteries to the circuit, but proper enough to get the screen and game work, I went into a mode which doubled my points right from the start (which was the case after 300 points in the clean version). Another thing was that the game was faster than the usual slow pace, and this was to my advantage too as I was a pro now, and could probably beat the creator of this game himself.

That kept me occupied for a while, but then that was short-lived. I then turned my attention to the Casio, which was kept away from my hands. It was only if I was good for a week or so that I could lay my hands on it, on a Sunday, under the supervision of my dad, and probably for an hour. And I used to look forward to it. I could never figure out the programming part, eventhough it was accompanied by a book (manual). I used to enter the commands as they were presented without ever understanding what it was. It had lines of code to create your own game (I never could get to that).

Fast forward to 1994, and this was when I did it. I laid my hands on a real computer.

I was in VIII grade then, and our school had a new computer lab that year. It was in the middle of the year that it got fully functional, but the lab was being set up right before our eyes. During the lunch breaks and after school hours, I used to go to the lab, bug the computer teacher, literally beg him to lay my hands on the system eventhough he said I could not do much with it as it did not have any OS installed. It did not matter to me as long as the energy star came on switching it on!

Then the D-day came, it got DOS installed on it. It revolutionized my world. My first command was "date" (maybe I meant to look for a date, a girl) and I was amazed how it returned that day's date! The computer classes helped me learn the basics of the inside of a computer, the ALU, what a CPU had inside, how the computer used to do its magic effortlessly. We started with Turtle, which allowed us to draw simple geometric shapes. It got dumb (for me) and we moved to BASIC, and then QBASIC. We never wrote any real big programs, but it was fun.

Fall of 1996: The first time I heard about the internet! I started high school and took Computer Science as an elective. I was taken through the same drill, which I was happy to have gone through. We started with DOS again, repeated the BASIC, QBASIC drills and got to learn Fortran and Pascal, C and C++, DBase over a preiod of 2 years (which were some of the best). I enjoyed going through my teacher's computer (he was more of a friend than a teacher, Mr. P.Narasimhan, to whom I owe a lot). I used to play with the files on his system, learnt how to see his hidden files, and played with attrib commands and stuff. I was first exposed to internet through my friend in Bangalore, it was when VSNL (the national phone company) introduced internet to the mainstream, and gave student connections at subsidized rates. My first site? It was Yahoo! and my first search? Aishwarya Rai (which I regret now).

Back in those days, 7.5" disks with 720kb disk space were in, and I used them to get "gif" images from Bangalore to my school (This is another reason I was liked :), hope you understand the slang for gif). I did not have a gif viewer, and we were contended by seeing the thumbnails in Windows 95. Later came the 1.3MB disks which are close to being obselete now.

During my undergrad, I was exposed to data structures and that was when I really appreciated the intricacies of CS. I alongwith another friend made a dumb program in C for determining if two people were compatible or not, by entering their names, and crossing out alphabets: called the FLAMES game. It was nice and it worked.

Back to present (yes, the birds resume their flying, the waves continue their jouney, and wheel now moves forward). Now, in my graduate life, I get more to play with computers and internet than ever before. And thanks to Machan and another friend, I knew what Linux was, and am now not repenting my decision for having kicked Windows from my laptop after that umpteenth crash. And the fact that my major is Mechanical Engineering has more reasons for me to love computers, as I find more and more ways to play and incorporate them into my work. And I am hopeful that this love would grow exponentially.

So, when was the first time you did it?

Footprints:

"If you are to be a cobbler, be NIKE"

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