30 May 2008

OK computer

It's ten years since I bought my first PC, but I'm still learning about computers and the Internet all the time.

That first system was a second hand PC purchased cheaply from my Viking FM colleague David Johnson - the first web expert I ever knew. My first email address was courtesy of Freeserve, and I used Pegasus mail as my default mail outlet, eschewing the glamorously newfangled Outlook Express. While sending and receiving emails were never a problem from the start, this particular novice took six months to discover how Pegasus would put attachments on an email.

My first IE Homepage was Media UK (it's still on my Favourites list now) and I had one of those irritating dial-up modems which went wrong whenever there was an A in the month and would often disconnect itself for no reason whatsoever. Plus I was making an 0845 rate telephone call whenever I went online, paying regular rates, so I started to receive incomprehensibly large telephone bills as I grappled with cyberspace.

The reason I bring this up is that the first online 'friends' (I put it in inverted commas as I don't think you can be a friend of someone if you've never physically met them, even though I like all of these people greatly) were a group of individuals scattered around the world who had a love for a certain Channel 4 television programme in common. I found a website run by one of them, which led me to a messageboard and a whole new world.

It also led to a chatroom, and like Johnny Vegas, I have to admit that for a short while I got drawn into chatrooms to the extent that I chose to spend way too much time on them. Do they still exist? I used mIRC because that was where the group's room had been set up and soon I was using lamebrain expressions like 'k9 op' and using 'wd' for 'well done' and the like. I'm just grateful that, unlike Johnny Vegas, I never got involved with a chatter called Jezebel in a room called Beauty's Castle. I stuck to my 'friends' and our subject in common.

Well, these 'friends' remain, albeit only occasionally. They are now my only link to the computer-illiterate me of 1998. Recently I emailed them all collectively for an update on their existences and most have replied. They're in the States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - the television programme in question is British (though now exclusively American) and yet I was the only Brit in this group.

I'm on my third PC now, having upgraded from the first PC to a new second, then chucked out the second one when a virus ripped the thing apart before my very eyes. I even have a laptop, although I've yet to work out how to get it online via my mobile phone, something I meant to learn years ago. I'll never be Theo off of Die Hard but I've progressed - slowly. And now my parents rely entirely on me to cure their own computer problems, which shows just how little they've learned for themselves...


Mark X said...

Whose Line Is It Anyway? I can't think of any other TV shows likely to fit that description.

The other day, I found an internet magazine from 1996, and it's a different world to now. Everton FC's official website lived under the less than catchy address of www.connect.org.uk/everton/ (many Premiership teams didn't even have their own official website at the time) while your very own .co.uk would cost you £125 per year. If you wanted a whopping 6 megabytes of webspace to use it with, that'd be another £125.

That was around the time I'd first hit the web. A rubbishy Compuserve connection rattling along at 2kb per second (on a good day), an email address along the lines of 321645.65469@compuserve.net.uk, then having to pay £25 for a browser(!) when I moved to Demon Internet. Plus, having to pay your ISP around 3p per minute online, on top of your monthly subscription, on top of the cost of the phone calls. All on Direct Debit. Lovely.

It's a wonder the whole thing ever took off, really.

Mark X said...

Oh, and before that, paying a fiver to sit in Wrexham's first Internet Cafe for an hour. And in all that time managing to actually view about four unfulfilling webpages over the glacially slow network. The girl working there was really nice, though. Mmm, geeky mid-90s cyber babes.

Louis Barfe said...

Ah, dial-up nostalgia. I bought my first PC in 1997. £1,100, it was. I cleared the case out of the loft and took it to the dump a few weeks back, but I've still got the AMD K6 200MHz processor (bought because my mate Conor in the IT department at work told me it had better floating point performance than the equivalent Intel. I still have no idea what he meant) and the hard drive: a whopping 2.5GB of storage. Careful now. The other day, I bought an external 500GB drive for my backups. £69.99 to you, squire.

I'm now on desktop machine number 3. Or is it 4? The only surviving bits from when I bought it in 2005 are the case, power supply and 80GB hard drive. As for laptops, they have their uses, but I hate the fact that I can't fix them myself.