Do you remember your first impressions of a computer?

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Everyone, nowadays, in a technical role uses a computer. It saves us a lot of time and energy. I’m not a number crunching expert, a speedy mailman who can travel the world in an instant or a writer using calligraphy, so I let the computer do it. My impression of a computer now is a lot different to that when I was a child. Is yours?

My first use of a computer was when I was about 10 years old, when the home-computer explosion was beginning. I remember old BBC Micros with there typewriter style keyboard. I remember Commodore 64 with it’s very steep keyboard layout with lots of funny characters on it, and the Sinclair Spectrum with the very ‘unergonomic) rubber keys. I remember having to load everything in by tape, which seemed to take ages and I sometimes needed to play with the azimuth screw on the Sharp tape recorder I had. Computers were simple, but so was the relative experience of their users. Games were produced by kids in their attic rooms (think of Richard and David Darling who started Codemasters from their bedroom.) I sit back with a sense of nostalgia, and gratitude that we’ve moved on from those days!

To be fair, most of these early home computers were really programmable games machines. My computer was just a complicated console, and I didn’t really care for, or understand, it’s impact and penetration into business. Computers had been around for many years in business before I naively played with mine at home. I once had a Commodore Plus4 which had 4 built in business applications like a spreadsheet, but what the hell was a spreadsheet to me back then as a 13 year-old? Maybe if I was a drug-dealer or something, it might have been more obvious to me.

When I did understand more about how computers are applied to business, I saw it as a black art. This is because a) they weren’t games machines and presented lots of jargon/gobbledygook that I didn’t understand, and b) I didn’t have business context. The mystery of this was a bit scary, as by that stage I had decided to take a technical route in my future career. Ignorance, for once, wasn’t bliss.

It was only when I hit college and started to use mainframes did I begin to understand what all that crap meant. The wonder and mystery of the computer became less and the importance of them grew in my mind. Perhaps from a sentimental perspective, it saddened me. Computers weren’t just for fun, they meant business.

But nowadays, following the Internet revolution, the dot-com boom and bust, and Web2.0, it’s begun to be more exciting again – the potential behind computers is exploding once again in my mind. I think this isn’t just because technology is more powerful and diverse, but because my understanding of business context and their application has grown. The Internet has opened up computers to the world and made them more accessible than ever before. The combination of widgets and gadgets opens up possibilities to anyone who can get access to a computer. I am beginning to ‘wonder’ again.

How about you?

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