Tuesday 28 September 2010

I'm going back to the start (#geekjoy)

Some of you will be too interweb young to know about text adventures, or indeed multi user dungeons, or the history of social media - and I mean the true history of social media, not the history that many think is the history.. I haven't been here from the start, but I've been......around. A digital whore, picking up systems, playing with them and dropping them again, staying with some for long term relationships, Ctrl+C'ing out on others after a brief dalliance on sheets littered with zeroes and ones. This is my #geekstory, tell me yours?

>Users in the college library computer section: zero
>What year is this?

1993 was the year I first saw a computer. None of my friends had computers. None of my friends were remotely geeky. I was so uncool in school, even the dungeons and dragon players seemed unapproachable, settled in the library with their incomprehensible analogue systems. I went to college and left the uncool behind, somehow, but the curiosity for computers didn't start here. My first interaction with a computer was with a Pentium 286 (I think?) running Windows 3.11, standalone. I learnt how to start software by clicking the .exe and that was it, because all there was was Word and it didn't really fan the flames. It was a box. I could write words on it and they would print out.

Underwhelmed, frankly.

>Users in the Babbage computer labs, ground floor, University of Plymouth: Many
>What year is this?

Two years. We didn't know then that the speed of development and change would carry on at the same pace, but so much changed in those two years that I got a glimpse, even then on the tour of the university campus, of what the future would look like. And it looked damn fine to a hick from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere in Somerset, let me tell you. Sparks. Curiosity. Macs before they got colourful or white, still at this point a dull beige. Aesthetically unattractive. But.

Netscape. The beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with something I later learned was a web browser. Pages with grey backgrounds. All black text. No understanding of how to use it, playing, clicking, following the spidersweb across the world. Back then, you had two options. Using a directory, the name of which I can't remember but I think might have been Yahoo, which listed, and yes, I do mean actually physically listed, in lists, every website known to man because there were that few then, or to follow the trail of little blue underlined words.

It felt like falling down the rabbit hole.

I can still remember the feeling. I was absolutely completely consumed with following those links. Disappeared into them for hours, coming out two continents and 7 conversations later with people on the other side of the world, asking them incessant questions, them asking me questions too. Nothing seedy, not yet, the incessant wail of Age/Sex/Location (ASL) hadn't filtered through the ports yet, just an innocence as people tried to find out what it was like to live on the other side of the world from real people who were really, actually, talking back. In real time. Type something, hit enter, there the words appeared for both of you to see. My partner in crime during this time? Another girl, as mesmerised as I. I don't know where she is now, but I hope she still geeks well.

>Users in the Babbage Sun lab, 2nd floor: Less than downstairs
>What year is this?

Another two years. Email is becoming prevalent but it's definitely not the first thing you ask someone for. Web addresses of companies are making their first debut on buses on the streets of Plymouth. Things are.....emerging from the underground? Was there ever an underground? I don't know. I sat with hackers, geeks and cool kids in a lab for 7 hours a day, playing with the tech, learning to use a command line and getting my head around the lack of windows, the lack of pretty pictures.

I discovered Bulletin Board Systems, chat zones, I crossed the country to meet other geeks, I talked into the small hours about absolutely nothing and I made friends that stayed. Friends who have gone on to change the world. Friends who have stepped off the world and off the grid. Friends who have pushed the boundaries of neurological exploration and disappeared down the rabbit hole too. Friends who own Ferraris and friends who build the games we play. Even, perhaps, friends who hacked the Vatican though I never knew if he was lying. The tale was funny to tell all the same. More importantly, I was in a group of people who understood my incessant curiosity, who tolerated my cross examinations happily and who were all, to the very last man, smarter then me. Because this was a lab full of men and I was the token girl, and this was a situation to become replicated later, many many times.They even danced on podiums next to me to Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold. They lost it next to me on the dancefloor to Bon Jovi and Nine Inch Nails. Geeks. The few. The hardcore. But happy.

To be continued.......

No comments:

Post a Comment