Moving Forward at the Speed of Life: Where we are is only interesting in relation to where we came from!

Here is another article from the archives that I came across this morning while procrastinating.  Judging by the laptop I discuss I wrote it in early 2006, although the exact date is harder to pin down.  Like the last one it is a glimpse into the past from the past, and I love those articles.  I hope you like it too! –M

Let’s face it… we do not work in an easy industry.  Technology changes so fast and if we want to stay current we have to spend a lot of time running to keep up.

I do not pretend to remember the good old days of IBM’s guaranteed seven year life cycle, but I do remember my first three computers.

My Atari 800 was probably obsolete before I bought it but I enjoyed it and did more programming on it than I would on any subsequent machine – games, utilities, hacks, whatever I could think of.  It lived in my basement for three years from the time I was ten until shortly after my thirteenth birthday.

In October of 1985 I bought an Apple //e clone and I literally ran it into the ground – it lasted until I my last year of high school and was a combination of word-processor, dumb-terminal (the dawn of my BBSing days), and game box, even though from day one to day last the only two colours it would produce were black and amber.

My first Intel-based system was my pride and joy – an 8088 system which my buddy claims made me avant-garde, the first in our circle to have a 3.5″ drive as my primary device – even though the 40 Meg hard drive did most of the storage work for me.  I remember the day I bought it from Steve and was secretly intimidated by it – here I was, a kid, buying a system that was not really meant for games.  I had been playing with PCs for a year or two at the various computer stores where I worked, but could always go home to the safety of my amber Apple.

What set these three systems apart from every other computer I have had since is the length of their tenure in my life – I have probably had thirty computers since and only two – my first Pentium 180 and then my trusted Gateway – can measure their usefulness in years rather than months or weeks.

Of course it is different for children and teenagers – especially when they are earning their purchases at minimum wage.  Today I regularly have meals that cost more than my average weekly income through high school, which is probably normal because firstly the dollar is not what it once was and frankly if you have seen me you cannot suspect me of starvation.  What was once the most important and expensive purchase of my young life is now almost a commodity – a fact I realized one day recently when I realized that the systems littering the floor of my den are on the one hand junk, on the other they would have been silicon gold to the boy I once was.  Perhaps that is why I was so eager to help the now defunct ReBoot Montreal to put machines like those into the hands of kids who would not otherwise have computers.

Between my server, my laptop, my Media Center PC, and a smattering of portable hard drives my personal storage capacity recently exceeded a terabyte (steadily) for the first time.  I routinely work with files that would not live on the 40 meg MFM drive that ran my first PC.  My cell phone (not a smart phone or mobile PC) has a capacity over five times the RAM of my Atari’s once astounding 48K.  We transmit wirelessly hundreds of times the speed of my original 300 baud modem.  I think of where we came from and wonder if we’re there – or if in another twenty years I will ponder with fondness my first x64 machine that was once the forefront but would not today be powerful enough to do the most routine daily tasks.

Ferris Bueller (another fond memory of the 80s) said that ‘Life moves pretty fast… if you don’t stop to look around, you might miss it.’  I wonder if that is good advice in this day of light speed leaps and bounds.  Regardless, I am happy with what I have now and think I will stick with it a while.  Will my (Acer) Ferrari (4005) outlast my Atari?  Probably not… but you can be sure that it will give me a good ride along the Information Superhighway into the future!

Have a great week.

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