I am a child of the computer age. The first personal computers hit the scene right about the same time I was born in 1981. My family has always owned a computer (since I existed) and I have always used computers. Each year as I grew older and learned new things and mastered new skills, computers grew with me, gaining new capabilities to help me work and play.
Not long after I was old enough to sit in a chair, my dad brought home the Commodore 64. The first thing I remember doing on a computer is playing a game basically like a digital Mr. Potato Head. Starting with a blank head, I got to choose a mouth, nose, eyes, ears and hair to create my own face. Pretty cool.
The first time I used computers at school was in 2nd grade when we had two original Macintosh computers in the back of the classroom. Each student got about 30 minutes of computer time every few days to play math games in black and white. Even though I was doing math, I remember this time as an exciting privilege and welcome distraction from regular classroom activities.
After being on the market for several years, I finally got an original Nintendo in 4th grade. I was able to acquire the console, controllers, Duck Hunt gun, and a bunch of games for $50 from a friend.
He and his brother were trading up to get the new and exciting Neo Geo, released in 1990. We all know who got the better end of that deal. In fact, I still have my Nintendo and play it occasionally…Mega Man 2 works brilliantly with a few blows into the console.
By fifth grade I was ready for something new. I saved all my allowance and eventually purchased the Sega Game Gear, which, with its large color monitor and decent graphics was the best hand held gaming device on the market in 1991. After keeping it around for years, a finally sold that piece of gaming history on Ebay for $12.50.
In 6th grade my parents forced me to learn how to touch type, marking the beginning of my working life on the computer. But up until this point, playing a little Mario Brothers here and there and typing up my school papers was about all I did with computers. Then I started hearing my dad talking about “the Information Super Highway.” My life with computers was about to change forever.
Remember Prodigy? Well I had it. In 7th grade I started signing on to Prodigy to chat with random strangers. Why? I don’t know. I guess it was just something totally new and different. After Prodigy there was AOL, then AIM. Games and typing were nothing compared to the time I spent chatting with people. My senior year in high school was when I really started using AIM, and my freshman year in college it was my main source of communication.
All this happened and I never really thought about it… I sit in front of a computer for most of the day now, every day. I think computers hit all of our lives in a similar way. One day they were just there, and now they are the center of our lives. Now that computer technology advances at an ever quickening pace, it is important that we reflect on how we interact with computers. How do they affect our bodies and minds? What do we want our relationship with computers to look like in the future?
I bet when my dad brought home that Commodore 64, he had no idea what was in store for me…