Friday, January 12, 2007

Gear Queer

My name is Ron and I'm a technoholic.

Background: You already know I built a color tv when I was 19. Before that I built a stereo amp and prior to that a shortwave radio.

But you don't know that going back to childhood I was as fascinated by what was going on behind and inside the TV as I was by what was ON the tv. I used to scare my nana by taking the back off the set and poking around in there, even when I was six or seven years old. It's a wonder I didn't electrocute myself.

When the Navy got hold of me I got to know a fair amount of electronics, certainly equivalent to an associates in ee. I also built what was then the top of the line kit-form receiver, the Heathkit AR-15 Receiver. It cost nearly as much as the tv (over $300 in 1970 dollars). It was a honey.

Anyway, I mention all that because in due course, in the late 70's, after a 6 year or so hiatus from electronics, I started hearing and reading about these "do-it-yourself" consumer computers. I was very interested. Then I met my ex. And, simultaneously, a couple of guys from Silicon Valley were flogging something called the "Apple II" computer at trade shows out west. A few "home-brew" shops started opening up in Manhattan and I used to hang around them on Saturday afternoons. I lusted after a home-brew computer, or an Apple, or a Commodore 64 or an Atari. But I was cash-strapped and my ex thought these were nothing more than "toys." I bided my time. I latched on to every chance to keep up with technology. As an office temp I got the chance to learn Wang and Lanier and Xerox Word Processing systems. They had huge 8" diskettes capable of storing up to, gasp, 180 kilobytes of information!!!

Then I got the chance of a lifetime. I landed my job on Wall Street in December of 1983. By the summer of 1984 I was putting in a purchase order for an IBM-PC XT (for the princely sum of $6,000+). In no time I was the King of PCs on the trading floor. I was the "go-to" guru for batch files and autoexecs and config dot sys files. I knew about memory stackers and ram and rom and device drivers.

They kept promoting me and giving me bigger budgets. Eventually I put the first Novell network on the floor. The file server sat under my desk, not in some remote server room where it was tended to by people who didn't care about users. I cared about users. I was a part of a "profit center." The User was King, in my book. And the Users rewarded me for it.

Eventually, though, I tired of my position and became more and more enamored of alcohol. I finally broke down and bought a home computer (one of the 1st generation of Intel "Pentium"s) and quit my job.

I lost touch with keeping on top of technology as I sank into self-pity, self-loathing and self-centered depression. Then, as I began the slow climb back to sanity, it seemed like I never had time for my once beloved technology.

But deep down, and despite everything, I've always been a Gear Queer. A fact that's been driven home to me yesterday and today as I've tinkered with this wondrous new thing in my life... my Motorola Razr cellphone.

I love it.

O Brave New World that has such things in it!

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