Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The evolution of the Computer

This particular blog type is going to span 3 entities, which I think have evolved during my growing years. - The computer, the television and the phone. and I assure it's going to be an interesting read. The time when each of the posts will come will of course depend on my enthusiasm, as of my readers :)

I still remember my first computer- I was lucky to be in the 2nd standard, when we got a computer at home. It was very very expensive, my mother took it on a loan that would take 8 years to pay (:p), but on a cost-benefit analysis, it was more beneficial to her business [ before that, she used to contract a small computer services for the same]

The specification: 80286 box with maybe 8 or 32 mb of disk space [ yes not RAM, this was about the total disk space] . It ran DOS and the first thing I remember was that DOS prompt which said c:\> . For about 2 years, we used the computer as instructed on a sheet of paper by the engineer who came. I remember that he was no unprofessional that he would sit with a Marathi newspaper crossword when he came, and he would run something, get back to his crossword and then look at the computer after he solved the clue. Perhaps the pre-cursor to people using twitter at their workplace :) .

After a while, Ami took her first computer course [ I was in 6th standard then], and I learnt commands like cd,md,rd, and most important copy con . I was so thrilled by the idea of typing and creating my file, and in the hey days of Kapil Dev, came across a news article which listed all of his 431 wickets [ I was in 7th or 8th standard then], I went through the tedious process of creating a file which listed all of them using copy con. The limitations, if you made a mistake in one line, just redo the whole file . But somehow, it didn't seem tedious since you had never heard of better tools. I mean, even though, you could not correct your mistakes, this was a hundred times better than a typewriter...wouldn't you agree?

And so I did that. Then we made an upgrade. The newer computer was so fast, an 80386 box after all!!!!! It seemed faster, simply because when you typed a command in DOS, it would respond immediately as opposed to the 286. Yes, this was it- a 'fast' computer.

Those days were funny. Funny in the sense how a 3rd grader would respond to someone telling , there's a virus on the computer. My sister Ami was in 7th then, and she was learning about viruses in bio, as microscopic organisms. I remember that once my cousin brought a game on a floppy and it infected the computer with a virus. I had this strange feeling that micro-organisms would crawl out of the floppy disk as I put that in my hand :)

The world of the multimedia/windows was introduced to us by a guy called Manjeet at Tangerine store (Compaq). One visit there, and the world seemed changed. Color monitors, using a mouse, pictures, photos, encyclopedias, I just felt that if I could get that computer , I could just live doing things on it for the rest of my life. And so, after some thinking, Pappa decided to get one for us. It was 486 [which meant super-fast], ran windows 3.1, and it was just so much fun. The Encarta Encyclopedia had a Cheetah video and we must have showed it to everyone who came to our place . Well- yes, people came to our place to see the multimedia computer :)

And then came the internet. A shell account. 500 rupees for 500 hours plus a huge phone bill. It's interesting how in those days [ I was in 9th standard], having no knowledge of 'shell' or 'tcpip' we would tell people, 'Oh, tcpip accounts are too expensive, shell accounts are cheap and pretty good to use'. A shared mailbox between me and my sister, a chat client, and most importantly, the fact that we could send an e-mail to anyone in the world FREE!!! Perhaps seemed too good to be true. Mom made me call VSNL and confirm that we would not be charged for emails sent to the US :).

I sometimes feel lucky at having seen this wonderful process. Having lived in a world without computers makes you aware of the importance. I still feel great when I open up a chat window and chat to someone on the other side of the globe.