30 December 2010

The Birth Of A Computer Nerd -- Part One

(This wasn't meant to be a two-part post, but it became rather long during composition...)

As you have probably figured out by now, I'm a bit of a computer nerd.
Okay, I'm a regular computer nerd.
Okay, okay, I'm one of the most obsessed self-taught computer nerds you might ever meet.
It wasn't always that way though. Ten years ago my family didn't even have a computer. To me, windows were those glass panes you look out of to see the boring treeline across the road, and an apple macintosh was the dyslexic term for that slightly crunchy reddish fruit. I would have assumed that Linux and DOS were acronyms for some political 'undertaking' or (in the case of Linux at least) perhaps a new brand of toothpaste. Computers were those little beige TV screens that apparently were madly intelligent and going to take over the world.
My only exposure to a computer before age nine was playing a side-scrolling plunger-shooting game on my best friend's family's computer. (It's aimed for the younger set, but it's still slightly addicting if you're not wanting to think much for a few minutes.)
When I was nine, my grandmother (always farther ahead of the times than my parents, whether she understood the technology or not) got a brand-new computer. At the time that meant Windows ME and probably at most an eight gigabyte hard drive (I don't know how much exactly, but the tower's in my possession now so I could look it up. Come to think of it though, I don't think it works anymore).
Probably one of my most ridiculous memories of childhood was when my little sister and I got to use our grandmother's computer for the first time.
We were enthralled by Solitaire and even managed to figure out Spider Solitaire. We also played a bit of Minesweeper, but we couldn't figure out the point of the game and therefore just kept clicking squares until one turned red and it wouldn't let us click anymore. We knew to click the face at the top to start over, but we bored of that quickly because of the seeming lack of purpose behind it. (Flash-forward: I didn't know what the goal of Minesweeper was until I was probably about fifteen. But I digress.)
We also discovered Paint. As a result of this, my grandmother's computer became inundated over the next several years with random doodles created in Paint by my sister and me.
However, we eventually got bored with the computer and wanted to turn it off.
There was, in Windows ME, a neat little button in the Start menu that said 'Shut Down Computer.' Perfect.
My grandmother and I (my sister had wandered off by that point) clicked it and a little box came up.
It read, 'What do you want the computer to do?' then displayed a drop-down menu with the options Shut Down, Sleep, Hibernate, and Restart. We didn't know what Sleep and Hibernate were, but we knew we wanted it to shut down, so that's what we selected.
Nothing happened. Several times we selected the Shut Down option, and the computer gave no indication that it was doing anything resembling turning off. We tried selecting Sleep and Hibernate, but to no avail.
Even with my complete lack of experience with computers, I knew that you never pressed the power button to turn it off. Never. Ever. I didn't know what would happen if we did, but I didn't want to wreck my grandmother's nice new expensive computer.
So we closed the dialog box, thinking maybe it didn't 'take' (or something) and tried again. We clicked 'Shut Down Computer,' selected the 'Shut Down' option, and waited.
Nothing happened.
The only buttons along the bottom of the dialog box were 'OK,' 'Cancel,' and 'Help.'
We clicked Help, and (as I've come to realise is typical of Microsoft's Help files), learned nothing.
Finally though, after quite a while, my little nine-year-old mind had a thought.
'If you click 'OK' to make the other boxes do something, what will happen if we click 'OK' here?'
Brilliant, I know. And it only took half an hour.
Anyway, I suggested it to Grandma, who, lacking any better ideas, tried it. Lo and behold the computer shut down.
From that day forth I never forgot how to shut down a Windows 95/98/ME computer.

1 comment:

Brittney Biotite said...

One of my earliest memories is of the new computer my Aunt bought...my dad was showing her how to work it, and went on paint. He drew my name with what was supposed to be a ballet slipper. I remember being really dissapointed with my dad's artistic abilities (that is, until I tried it my self and realised how hard it is to draw on paint). So yeah, my history with computers goes back pretty far, but still, you easily know more now then I intend to ever learn about them- kudos! :)