Friday, August 14, 2009

How I got my first computer

I can never forget a small piece of card with punched holes, almost like a bit of Braille that my friend got back as a souvenir for me from a Defence establishment at Kanpur. In those days only big offices and Government departments had computers - big, bulky machines that hummed and hawed in cold airconditioned rooms, designated as out of bounds for "unauthorised personnel" and access to which was closely monitored.

How different things are today when almost every Tom, Dick and Harry has one.

I remember the first time ever that I got a computer, it was purely by accident. I was actually looking at writing my great novel and wanted an electric typewriter. My first electric typewriter was a cute little Brother that had a small display unit where I could read about 20 words at a time. When I wanted to upgrade to a model that would let me read at least a paragraph at a time, the salesman suggested I go in for a PC or Personal Computer.

"What do you want a computer for?" I remember my five year old niece from America asking me in her nasal drawl.

"To write a book, " I replied defensively.

" Duh -uh , " she went in her American way and rolled her eyes the way she'd seen her mother do.

Knowing that this little twit had her own computer made me even more determined to get one!At that time I didn't know what a computer really was, and tried to sound knowledgeable when I went to a shop even though I thought Apple was a fruit and IBM a ballistic missile! But when my computer guy told me that he could make one specially for me, I began to get a bit interested. Wow! This was like getting a dress tailor made, something I could understand.

"Madam," he told me, " see, you can get the best mother board, the best monitor, the best tower, the best hard dick ( yes, it's true all computer guys call them hard dicks) and then you get the best computer!"

Of course when I told my Dutch friend who was a computer geek and was doubling up as my unofficial consultant ( second opinion) about this, he laughed his head off : Listen he told me, if you get the machine of a Mercedes, the body of an Alpha Romeo, the tyres from Michelin what kind of a car would you get? I'm telling you, go for a regular company piece from a reputed company. Decide what features matter to you and go ahead and buy it.

What stupid advice, I thought. I didn't even really want a computer. I just wanted an electric typewriter!

Nonetheless, I decided to go ahead with the assembled piece and when it was delivered home, we didn't even know how to put it on. For the first few hours we just gaped at it in wonderment, hoping it would start on its own. Finally, when nothing happened, I pressed the round knob in and watched the screen light up. Then, I was stuck. I called up a teen aged nephew and went through the drill of what to do next running from the phone in the next room to the computer on my desk. ( This was in the days before the mobile / cordless phone).

All this running between phone and computer left me pretty exhausted and I realised that key to operating a computer is a teen aged boy. Somehow these young and reckless people are born with the knowledge of what to do when the screen goes blank, when the computer gets infected with a virus and above all who to call and from where to buy which part !

I also finally understood what Indian mothers meant when they lovingly referred to their sons as being into computers. It is no wonder then that so many Indians went into software and developed all kinds of wonderful stuff that made them tons of money in the Silicon Valley Boom like Amay did( P.48).

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting story! I noticed you linked up on my site, did you want to plan your weekend/ blitz this way? Or was linking up an accident?


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