My Computing History
When I was about four years old, I noticed an old-ass computer in my father’s (I no longer consider this man my father. This is one of the advantages of being adopted, if you don’t like your parents, just don’t consider them family, simple! “Go on do a DNA test!” you could tell other people.) home office. I asked him what it was, and he told me that it was a computer that he had gotten from work, but he couldn’t figure out how to make it work, let alone be to use it, so he never used it. When I was home alone, which wasn’t often at the time, or my mother was taking a nap, I would sometimes get a chair, and put it in front of the door to my dad’s home office, climb up on it, so that I could reach the door handle, open the door, climb down, put the chair back, go inside, close the door, and look around. So I get up to this computer (I don’t remember what sort of computer it was, however I’m sure it was some cheasy 386 or 486 box) and look around, OK there’s some weird thing with lots of buttons with a cord going under the desk. I do a little “research” and figure out that the weird thing is called a “tastatur” (The Danish word for keyboard). Every day I looked forward to my mom hopefully needing to take a nap, so every now and then I would sneak into my dad’s office and look around all his stuff, although I’d never touch it, because I wanted to be sure he didn’t notice me. This computer of his seemed very very interesting, so almost every time I was in there looking around, I would get up on his office chair, which was challenging at times, let me tell ya, and just sit there and push the buttons for fun. Unfortunately this old clunker was never fired up, so I didn’t get to see what OS was on there, although I can almost guarantee that it was Windows 3.11 or some crappy OS like that. One day when I was in there just typing away for fun on this old box, I was shocked to hear the door get opened and my dad coming in, apparently he was came home early that day (Which happened about as often as you see a shooting-star on the night’s sky). He stood there looking at me for a few seconds, being extremely surprised that I was in his office, since I couldn’t reach the door handle. So he asked me how I got in, and I told him how, and what I was doing. I also told him, that I was playing with this weird thing with lots of buttons. Then he just started laughing and smiling, and then he picked me up and we went out in the kitchen to have some late lunch.
In 1994 when I was five years old, we went out to visit some of my mother’s friends, my mother’s friend’s husband showed my dad his computer, and then asked me if I wanted to play some games on it, and I was like a shining sun and answered yes, and I played some old DOS racing game. About a year later my dad got a new computer with Windows 95, and this one actually worked. I assume he received some lectures at work on how to use it, since he could actually use it to write stuff, but that was about it, although I never really saw him use it. Today when I think back, I think he got it because he was hoping I could figure out how to use it, and then teach him.
Once again I snuck into my dad’s office, and looked around this new computer. I look at the front of it and there’s a button. I push the button and something starts whirring, and this glass thing on top of the computer starts lighting up, and pictures starts appearing on it. Wow this was exciting, I felt like exploring a new planet or something! I get to some weird green screen with small pictures on it. I accidentally push the mouse with my elbow, and realize I could use it to move around. So I click around and manage to find a painting program. So as I’m sitting there, drawing some of my uncle’s cats, and again my dad catches me being in his office. This time he just smiles, and laughs, comes over and looks at what I am doing, and then he just says “go on, go on!” and then walks out to get something to eat. I finish drawing the cats and, get down from my chair, and goes to play Game Boy, and watch some recorded Disney cartoons.
At this point, my dad allowed me to freely use his computer when I wanted to. At some point he bought me some games for it, along with a joystick (Which was a pain to get working, we had somebody help with that). Although as I tinkered more and more, because I wanted to learn, the machine started having problems. My dad had to get it fixed on numerous occasions, which he got tired of at some point in 1998. Instead of getting angry, he bought a new computer (450 MHz AMD K6 CPU, 64 MB RAM, Voodoo2 graphics card and a 10 GB hard-drive) with Windows 98. Along with this one, was a lot of new games and stuff, although I did manage to break this one as well, although not as much as the shitty Windows 95 machine that my dad got rid of eventually.
At the time, we didn’t have internet connectivity at home, so pretty much every Saturday, my dad and I went to the public library of Silkeborg, where you could use the internet. A lot of the computers that the library had at the time, were Macintosh computers. I ask my dad what these are, since they’re different to what we had at home. He says that this was a different computer called a Macintosh, and what we had at home was a PC. It used some other “operating system”, so naturally I ask him what an operating system is, he basically knows what it is, and explains that it’s what makes the computer do stuff. He also adds that there’s another one called “Linux”, which was a gratis operating system developed by some guy in Finland. Although I never really gave it much thought. When I started making my own websites, I would see Linux as an option for web hosting, but I never really thought about using the operating system myself, for some reason the idea just didn’t occur to me.
Fast forward to the summer of 2003, a few months after my confirmation, for which I had gotten a new computer, which replaced a Pentium 3 machine (800 MHz Pentium 3, 128 MB RAM, ATi Rage 128 Pro graphics card and a 30 GB hard-drive) that my mom had bought two years earlier. Now in seventh grade, a couple of my friends and I started talking about Linux, and at the same time, I was started to get really really frustrated with Windows XP’s amazing instability and insecurity related to spyware and stuff like that. In the beginning I was a little hesitant, because I thought of Linux as a very commandline oriented OS, and at the time I didn’t know how great a commandline could be. At some point I saw some HOWTO videos on the net, showing how to crack Windows passwords. KNOPPIX STD 0.1 (A security oriented version of KNOPPIX), was being used, and I caught some glimpses of KDE on there, which I thought looked really nice. So in November of 2003, I downloaded it and tried it out, and thought KDE was really nice. In February of 2004, I installed Mandrake Linux 9.2 on the old Pentium 3 box that I had sitting around, and just played with it, and still thought KDE was really nice. In June of 2004, I started having serious problems with Windows XP crashing and crap, and I also managed to get hit by the Blaster worm, since I didn’t have a router, and my firewall program crashed and within 5 mins. I got infected. After having 10 blue screens in one day, I just got so pissed off that I took my Windows CD and smashed it into pieces. Went out and downloaded Mandrake 10.0, and switched to GNU/Linux. I had Windows around in a dual boot configuration until the middle of August, but then I killed it.
About a week or two after switching, I ran across a documentary by J.T.S. Moore called Revolution OS, which tells the amazing story of the development of the GNU system and the Linux kernel, and why they were created. I’ve always been interested in history in general, so I went and bought the DVD, to get to know more about my new operating system. Richard Stallman’s ideas of software freedom really caught my attention, which I have come to really appreciate today. Initially I switched to GNU/Linux, because it didn’t have the issues of stability and security, however that focus changed pretty quickly. Today my reasons for using it and the BSD systems, is because of the freedom I get from them, the guaranteed privacy by having full access to the source code, safety from any sort of government backdoors or stuff like that. Also, the ability to not have to be “hush hush”, about sharing software with a friend was also a definite reason.