introduction: evolution part one

Windows is okay, I guess. You can chuck it on a machine and let people get on with it. There's always solitaire when things get too much. Put it all in my documents, I say, and when the shit hits the fan at least you'll have that. Documents, maybe. You backed them up, right? Everything else will be tatties. All your application settings, gone.

That annoyed me a lot, as if my arrangment of things was really not important.

Win2K approached the problem, attempting to emulate the real operating systems of the world, the unixes, different beasts altogether, built from the bottom up by guys who knew what was and wasn't important in a computer, know. A user's space is sacrosanct. His home a fortress, storehouse, it's security and continuity of existence paramount, there are important things in there, the work, data.

I've stopped losing data.

I didn't know about unix. Or rather, I didn't know it, never had a chance. The first real computer I ever got to play with ran DOS, an IBM, huge thing it was. My oric was real, I suppose, the ZX-81s and Spectrums, the CPCs and amigas, toys really. I still have an oric in a jiffy bag somewhere. You can plug in nine volts and hit Z A P and it goes ZAP! Other noises, explode, shoot. A toy. These days it's XP I see most. XP is 2000, but they added a doggie with a wagging tail. I see a lot of XP users, I try not to think too much about the doggie.

I got pretty good at DOS. My friend's dad, a ex-marine engineer, bought stacks of salvage, auctioned hardware, had more money than anyone could account for and enormous garage space. Big chunks of my youth got spent in there, playing amongst the welding gear and saws and hammers, grinders; not daft DIY toys, but things the size of cars, high voltage generators, alien looking heavy pronged beasts that arced and sparked and charged batteries in under a second, rafters of untold mechanical mysteries, guts of stuff everywhere, ships engine parts and chemical drums spilling their last swill into the mire that filmed half the floor. We ventured less down there, the rafters were best, miles of it, floored on and off as need arose.

There's nowhere like that now. Not here. All the adventurous places got safety approved, poor kids. My immunity to anything toxic likely stems from that, an early soaking in the deadliest of man's industrial potions, like obelix, eternally giant immune system. We sniffed aircraft-grade ether for fun sometimes, like Victory V's it is.

This is my background. In a van that slept in the massive yard - our HQ - just one of a hundred vehicles ranging from vintage bikes to military cars, Jags and great mobile barns that perched on skinny legs and filled up with bails of straw in Summer. I think his dad just bought them for us, half the village's kids tunnelling into the mass, no one was killed, and the more I think back the more that astonishes me. I do remember a few brave rescues from six or seven bails down though, and some less memorable early erotic encounters deep within the dusty complex maze.

In the wee van we dreamed it. A computer. Big. Yeah! (bigger than our unfinished hovercraft, for sure) YEAH! HUGE! and it will have all the answers in the world!!! YEAH YEAH! G: GoTo. A: anywhere. Anything you want to know. This silly keyboard is our flight command, from this keyboard we access all data. This is exactly how we see it, will it into existence. How many minds magicked this internet into being, I wonder.

We both had this hunger. That was what we shared, Dobie and me, the love of code and logic. We tapped at our keyboards together, toying with the data. For fun, tearing games to bits, each in turn making some subtle change, the other plays. Laughing hysterically, learning our crafts. Messing with instruction sets, our mini Z80-6502 war..

The hardware came and went, crazy Wangs and mad custom consoles dropping out of the endless series of interesting items his dad would happen across, travelling round the auctions (did I mention that aircraft-hanger sized giant-garage-workshop-space was ours alone, no one bothered us there, no workers but us), then came the IBM. Up to that point we had favored our personal machines; Dobie his Sinclairs, me the Orics, toys toys! 8086 was something wee boys gasped about in locker rooms, drooling over magazines; this was reality, and apparently his old man got it for a song. DOS2.0 or thereabouts. So we drooled and got stuck in.

No more one-touch commands, no PING sounds and sprites. It beeped when you switched it on, or did something wrong, which was all the time, at least for a while. But somehow this felt closer. And no colours! just white text. I couldn't explain how this useless thing that didn't play games could feel so right, but it did, and I found myself printing endless reams of directory structures, putting these weird names in my mouth, chdir, xcopy, deltree.. memorizing them like those toy-computer whose specs I knew off by heart, Atari, Sinclair, MSX. Ask me a screen resolution setting for an 8-bit puter! ha! not today..

HELP.COM, I used that a lot. And so it went, got good at DOS for a while, made wee batch files for things, then it was gone, shuffled off somewhere for song+profit and I was back to BASIC, messing about with my oric, then girls came along, I left the scene for a bit.

I kept a puter, a CPC, and used it too. Not like my oricdaze, long summers gazing into the tiny five inch screen playing the hobbit and coding. Just quick tasks. I still have the compact cassettes somewhere I'm certain. Tools. I had started to create tools. Small, useful things, a few adventure games.

Came a time I had to make a simple choice, and chose another path. I put my puter in the bin, and took off. For this I would need the tangibility of paper, a whiff of permanence for my works. I lost a six month project to a speaker magnet once.

But our paths were again to cross, and this time, no DOS!


:o) The Writing Entity @

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