I was a high school computer lab rat

At high school I was lucky - our maths teacher was a computer buff so we got to use the school's computer in class. It was some ancient Olivetti thing that must have been cast off by a wealthier school.

At high school I was lucky – our maths teacher was a computer buff so we got to use the school’s computer in class. It was some ancient Olivetti thing that must have been cast off by a wealthier school.

It can’t have come from a business because it was of no practical use. Its user interface consisted of a keyboard for input and paper tape for output. Just multiplying two numbers required a ludicrous number of operations. It was a truly hateful thing. On the basis of my experience with this behemoth I concluded that computers were never going to do much for me.

Fortunately, in my senior years the magnificent Apple II (and a year later the IIe) arrived. The top-end IIe’s came with 64K of memory. What on earth were we going to need all that memory for? The possibilities were limitless. Best of all, some of the guys were writing some pretty good games. I realised that my earlier assessment of computers had been made hastily and in error. Computers were cool. Nerd culture was de rigueur. I became one of my school’s first crop of computer lab rats.

Looking back through all the technologies, hype, successes, excesses and failures since then, my most significant computing memory is of the day I got wired and discovered the internet. The internet isn’t about technologies or vendors or any of those things. The internet is about people.

Swanson is IT manager at W Stevenson & Sons. Send email to Jim Swanson. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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