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This is how it all started

April 17, 2010 1 comment

Hey. I planned this post to be about Linux, FOSS and iPhone, starting with the sentence “I wasn’t always like this”, telling you guys about my transition from Windows to Linux desktop, the problems I had back then, and how Linux desktop is in a whole different place now, where you can plug Apple’s closed-encrypted-never-designed-to-work-on-linux iPhone and it would work out of the box, as integral part of your desktop. When I started writing the introduction about how I wasn’t always a linux geek and what I was before, it brought up many childhood memories and great nostalgia, so as written in Pirkei Avot, “Know from where you came” (3:1), I’m going to dedicate this post for my past. The Linux/FOSS/iPhone post can wait for another time.

I was always, as far as I can remember, interested in computers. Beginning with my family’s first computer, Apple IIc (playing green-black “Karateka“), going through IBM XT (or AT, I’m not sure), and all the way to today’s computers, my family always provided me with latest (affordable) technology. I remember the DOS era quite well. Until ’94 all I knew was how to run and play games (meaning, pressing number and Enter, thanks to my third cousin Itay, who was the computer genius back then, and made batch files that ran our games). There was a piece of paper attached to the screen, correlating a game with it’s number so we won’t have to remember. Low-tech :). Considering the fact I’ve only learned the A-B-C in ’92 it’s not too bad. Funny thing, but till this day I remember Commander Keen‘s cheat codes by it’s (meaningless) hebrew keystrokes (“aleph-bet-space, gimel-ain-mem sofit”).

At ’94 I studied DOS. Being 10 years old, I didn’t really care about understanding operating systems, memory management, hardware interrupts etc… I got excited doing cool tricks such as changing the default prompt “C:\>”, making files hidden, coloring the user interface (long live 4DOS), using “arj” to copy games that won’t fit in one diskette, etc. I was my computer’s indisputable master. I was commanding and it was following obediently. I liked that, but it wasn’t as nearly joyful as programming. When I first discovered programming I thought it is the coolest thing ever. The idea I can communicate with the computer at such a “low” level, and build my own games, my own executables.. it was just.. magical! For years I’ve been trying to build computer games from Lego, and finally I had the chance.

Sure, it was only procedural programming, and I had limited understanding of some of the most fascinating things such as graphic libraries, TSRs and assembly code that made my SoundBlaster play cool sounds, and still, I loved my Borland Turbo Pascal. It was the ultimate creation tool. The possibilities were endless and in contrast with Lego, I never ran out of building blocks.

Another cool thing you could do back days, was to enhance your games/programs with “intros”, can you remember them? Usually they were attached to game files, shown before the game starts with cool background midi sound, showing info about the cracker or the BBS of the group released it. Damn, BBS.. the memories just keep flooding me. The ancestor of modern software pirating. I used to connect to those systems, equipped with my 14,400(!) modem, Terminate, and copy games like there was no tomorrow (using z-modem protocol). Back days, everything was different. Every new idea and concept were exciting. Copying files over telephone lines? awesome! and my innocence… I still had my innocence…

Uhm, yes. Sorry, I got carried away a little. Anyway, here is an “intro” I captured with dosbox, just for old times sake (sorry I couldn’t get the audio working):

I can keep going like that, writing about evolution of computing world, from my point of view: DOS viruses/anti-virus, Windows 3.11, TVTEL (Israeli online consumer services from ’95), early days of the Internet (gopher services, Eudora/Trumpet mail clients, Netscape browser), Linux, Windows 95, MP3, VQF and VIV file formats, World Wide Web, HTTP, DialUp, Windows 98/ME, ICQ, Napster, ADSL, Cable, File Sharing, Worms, Phreaking, Hacking, Kevin Mitnick, Liraz Siri, Programming Languages, etc…

These are just examples I pulled out of my head, a partial associative list of things I just thought about and I could honestly write about them and never even get to my transition to Linux desktop (which happened in 2006). So, I guess I better not…

I also suddenly feel very old 😦

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