As long as I can remember, I’ve been deeply interested in computers in some form or fashion. In my first few years of school, I can still remember sitting there, counting the minutes until I had the chance to go to the “computer room” and play math and English games on some all-in-one type computer that had a green/black monochrome screen. I can even vaguely remember filling in some type of blindingly-green honeycomb structure and being more excited than a kid my age should have been about learning English letters. Though, sadly, I can remember neither the model of computer nor the names of the games so I can reminisce properly.
Alas, green and black games weren’t my destiny anyhow. As I aged, so too did the technology around me. Windows 3 was released, but I was oblivious. A couple years later, 3.1 succeeded in convincing my parents that now was the right time to purchase a “family computer.” Slightly different than my green and black reveries, this new “DOS” thing that I watched my mother install, disk by disk, minute by minute, came together. The buzzing and clicking of the floppy drive still something I can’t forget. After what felt like hours, and honestly, it could have been, the installation was done. C:\> it said. WIN, we replied. After a few more moments, the desktop. Ugly and outdated by current standards, the user interface was glorious to my younger self! I’d never seen anything like it. This new mouse-thing was cumbersome, the Program Manger was clunky, but I managed. Solitare and Minesweeper got stale pretty quickly so I had to ask for something new. After waiting weeks to search out some new game or software, or literally anything else to do with this pile of processing, I got Math Blaster 1 – In Search of Spot. A math game. Of course it was, but I didn’t care. It was fun, and I would play it for hours. So started my journey.
Fast forward some years, through Windows 95, Microsoft Encarta, and my theme and color obsession. We got the internet. 14.4k was blazing. 28k, then later, 56k with AOL, too. The world of computing was changing, and I was more interested than ever. That little AOL running man was my companion though thick and thin until I met Bonzi Buddy. I didn’t know what adware or spyware were until much later in life. A computer class in high school, with a teacher that scowled at the mention of that purple gorilla’s name. He was determined to set me right. After making me promise to uninstall Bonzi, he handed me a CD-R with “Slackware” scribbled across it in black smudges that could only have come from a marker that had been used well past its throwaway date. This was first contact. Linux. With help, I slogged through fdisk, installed the system and got to the KDE desktop. I still remember quite well the cityscape background I chose from the default options. Tons of software. All of it, it seemed.
I lost interest for a few months until, at a Circuit City, I came across this Mandrake box in the software aisle. In a box? Next to Windows 98SE? A blue swoop, yellow star, and the iconic Tux. I had to have it. I don’t remember how much it was, but couldn’t have been that expensive since I could afford it myself. I hurried home and installed it next to my Windows partition using their Linux for Windows process. For being as old as it was, this process broke only a couple of times, taking the whole Windows install with it. Lucky for me, the same teacher from before had taught me how to reinstall both operating systems from scratch!
Fast forward again a few years. Windows XP and Vista had launched and I was working at a PC repair desk at another Circuit City. I had bought a tiny Sonly VAIO laptop that wasn’t getting much use and rediscovered Linux — Ubuntu this time. Version 6.06, Dapper Drake. How funny, I thought, that it was Mandrake first, then Dapper Drake.