The story of how I became a user.·
I wasn't even a teenager when my dad made a monumental decision. He decided that I was old enough to use our family computer. These were the early years of the new millennium. The internet had already made its breakthrough and personal computing was already ingrained in everyday life.
We've had our family computer as long as I can think. I remember an egg-white computer screen with a keyboard and mouse in matching color. I remember generations of Windows in our living room. Windows 95 followed by Windows 98. Eventually came Windows XP, my very own debut in terms of personal computing.
I remember games. The Incredible Machine, Aladdin, Pinball. My dad loved pinball. Starball was pure magic. My dad, brother and I took turns, playing that wonderful game for hours. Another gem was Tony & Friends in Kellogg's Land. A neat platform game that finally allowed the world to play with our favorite Kellogg's characters. You know, the ones from the breakfast cereal boxes. What truly amazed me as a kid was that it came packaged as a goodie in my cornflakes. On a red floppy disk. Yes, red! I will never forget that.
I remember the internet. That dial-up sound when you made the connection. The waiting. And whenever my dad and I were "surfin' the web" the phone line was blocked and my mum couldn't use it. "Is it gonna take much longer?" I can remember my mum shouting. You really had to enjoy the early internet.
And I remember aforementioned monumental decision of my dad. That one day, he sat me down in front of the PC. He created a folder and called it "Nicolas". Yes, my very own folder. Then, he made a welcoming gesture and happily proclaimed "Go crazy."
The wait is over. The world is yours.
Intro to personal computing
When my dad handed the torch over to me, it gave me a feeling of maturity. It was a first glance at adolescence.
When it came to actually using the PC, I just did what felt right. I tried everything. What does this system setting do? What happens when I click on that button? How about activating that control?
Every day, when I returned from school, I turned on the PC. Every day, I explored. Within the first month I managed to try out every single program that came pre-installed with Windows XP. Windows Audio Recorder, Notepad, File Explorer, Windows Movie Maker, CMD, you name it. Within the second month I checked out every single setting in the Control Panel.
I had to try everything.
If you are 12 years old, Microsoft Office is really lame. These were tools for people working in an office.
Nevertheless, I became quite fond of Microsoft PowerPoint. As you can imagine, I didn't use it to build presentations for business executives though. I used it to create comics. Stories of characters I've made up that go on little adventures. At some point I even tried using PowerPoint to create little computer games. Of course, that didn't work so well.
The beginning of the 2000s also marked the time when I developed a taste for music. After my Euro dance phase that was inescapable as a kid growing up in the 90s, I became obsessed with hip hop music.
So obsessed, that I became a collector. As these were the times of the MP3 and I was a digital native, my collection was mostly digital. I ripped every single CD I bought and complemented my library using file sharing applications such as Kazaa.
I created mix tapes for my friends using Nero Burning ROM and spent hours on online forums, blocking the phone line so that I could inform myself about my favorite artists.
On the weekends, I spent even more time on the PC, caring for my music library. I had to tag all the ripped MP3s so that artist names, track titles and album titles were correctly identified by media players. Somehow this activity gave me a lot of comfort.
When Windows Media Player didn't live up to my user needs anymore, I tried Winamp for a while, but soon realized, it wasn't for me. At some point I discovered Media Monkey, my favorite media player of the time.
If you are curious about the Windows XP experience, you should check out Reborn XP, a Windows XP simulator in your web browser.
Call IT Support
Dealing with a computer also meant playing admin. Installing software, uninstalling software, getting rid of computer viruses and malware, reinstalling Windows. You wouldn't want to know how many times I have reinstalled Windows in my life.
By the mid-2000s I had become so proficient with the PC, that I fixed all of my dad's IT trouble. He must have been very happy that he had created that folder for me.
Word got around and I became the official IT support for my aunts, neighbors, friends, friends of friends.
To this day, I love fixing IT problems. What is the issue? What are you trying to achieve? What error message do you get? It's like playing detective.
I can let you in on a little secret: 90% of the world's IT problems can be fixed by turning the computer off and on again. At least that's always a good start.
A while ago my dad had yet another IT problem and asked for my help. When I came to help him, I followed my usual routine: I did whatever felt right to fix the problem. It's the same strategy that I developed back in the very beginning of my user story. My dad watched me do my thing and looked at me in awe. "You are playing the computer keyboard like a jazz musician playing their piano" he said.
I think my dad is really jealous of my gift. And yet, I owe it all to him.
Thank you dad.