Tech Geek: Technology That Shaped My Life – Part 1

Photo Courtesy of "The Bode"

I was packing up my iPad the other day when I had an interesting thought, “This device has changed my life in so many ways. What other technology has altered the course of my life throughout the years? What gadgets have changed the way I developed, and grew into the person I am today?” So I decided to do two things, make a couple top ten lists, and ask the internet because it’s always fun to do that. These are not actually in any order, number 10 might be just as important as number 1, and the reverse may also be true. I’ll do 1-5 today and 6 – 10 tomorrow.

1. My first PC: I’ll come clean and admit that my mother purchased my first computer for me from the Home Shopping Network. Places like Circuit City, Fry’s, and Best Buy didn’t exist back in those days, let alone internet marketplaces like Tiger Direct. So people really didn’t know where to buy electronics from the future. I guess the Home Shopping Network looked as good as Sears at the time. Anyway my first GoldStar 286 with 256k ram and a 20mb hard drive running DOS 3.0 was the shit! On it I learned to use word processing software, run video games using DOS command lines, and program in basic. My mom loves to tell the story of when I installed my first sound card, without her knowing it. She came home to find her new computer spread out across the living room while I was still in mid installation. I’m not sure if the shock of finding out her son was a hardcore nerd or having her new $1500 computer dismantled gave her a worse shock. My first PC was a pretty big step for me into the Geek world, I’m pretty sure life would have been a bit different if I had never gotten it.

2. The Commodore 64: Growing up my family had an Atari 2800 and ColecoVision, but my grandmother had a Commodore 64, with disk drives! It didn’t rely on the TV to run programs, and it had more than just games. For little 7 year old me it was the first time that I realized how interactive computers really could be. My cousin loved to make copies of games and programs and mail them to me. When I learned how to do the same my poor grandmother couldn’t pry me off of it. She had a color dot-matrix printer and printing software. I made banners, and greeting cards, and all sorts of random crap. The Commodore introduced me to a world of computers that responded to commands, and could do more than run cartridges with video games on them.

3. The Velo 1: Back in the day I had the most awesome mom any kid could want. We had a candy cupboard, a trampoline, and one Christmas when I was in the 8th grade, she got me a Velo 1. The Velo 5 had already come out when I got my Velo 1 but I didn’t care, I was the only 8th grade kid with his own hand held computer. It really wasn’t anything more than a glorified pocket scheduler with a seriously cut down version of Windows 95 on it, but it imprinted on me one thing: technology could be both small and awesome! When I used my Velo 1 in class I felt like James fucking Bond with one of his marvelous gadgets, saving the world by keeping track of my homework due dates. Four megabits of memory, a black and green screen and a 14.4k modem made me fall in love with tiny tech.

4. The first ATI “All in Wonder” video card: Mech Warrior 2 was my game back in 1995. I was a member of a ranked team over at the now defunct Mech Warrior 2 Registry, and I could tear it up in my Madcat with 2 sets of LRM20s and a smattering of small and medium pulse lasers. To this day I still think of Mech Warrior when people mention MW2 (Modern Warfare 2 be damned!) Nothing could have increased the amount of love I carried for that game. Nothing, that is, except a brand spankin’ new ATI “All in wonder” video card with 4mb of dedicated video ram. It came with an “Enhanced” version of Mech Warrior 2 that was jaw-droppingly beautiful! Clouds moving through the sky filled with multiple hues of blue. Reflections in the mech’s cockpit windows and the glass buildings in the cities. This experience with the “enhanced” version helped me realized how much beauty could add value to a video game. Many people deride beautiful games for their lack of game play, but when a game gets the right mix of beauty, story, and playability magic happens.

5. The Sony PSP: I will admit that I bought fewer than 20 games for my Sony PSP, and I only owned about 5 movies on UMD (Universal Media Disk). But while the Velo 1 made me fall in love with small electronics the PSP made them look damn sexy! A portable device that played good looking videos games, had DVD quality movies on disk and allowed for the download of digital video, played MP3, could view images, and connected to the internet all packaged in a sexy black case that almost fit in my pocket. For me the PSP made me believe that portable gaming is viable, sexy, and can be packaged in a way that offered more than just game play.

There you go, 1-5 done. I’m sure some of these might make sense to many of you, one or two of them might not. Feel free to leave a comment with one or more piece of technology that has helped to shape who you are and how you see the world.

Tech Geek Out

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