Sunday, January 28, 2007

Personal Technology History. Or How I Became the Most Famous Girl on the Internet with Her Clothes On

Yeah, so I'm not the most famous girl on the internet with her clothes on, but, well, we're getting there.

I've had an inkling to do this for some time now - sit down and trace my history with technology, especially computers and the internet. It's primarily a reflective exercise. I don't think that it will lead to anything of thesis interest, but, hey, I wanna do it. So let's get down to it, shall we?


It was a dark and stormy night when my first computer came into my life. That's a lie. It was probably a relatively sunny Friday or Saturday morning when my mother bought our first computer at a garage sale. The year was probably 1995 or 1996. The computer was a Tandy Color Computer. No printer. Hooked up to a small tv set as a monitor. No real programs, just a few game cartridges. Most notable were the hours I spent playing Dungeons of Daggorath. Good times.

Eventually the time came when we moved up in the computing world, perhaps a year after the Tandy. Again, from a garage sale, we were the proud owners of a Commodore 64 computer. It was awesome. It came with a dot matrix printer (Sears brand) and more programs (on 5.25" floppies) than you could shake a stick at. We must have bought it in 1996 or 1997 because I remember fighting the word processing program to write out papers for my eighth grade english class. That computer is still in a box somewhere in my mother's house, though I know not where.

Finally, in the summer of 1997, we got with it. A Gateway computer system with MMX technology. It was the first home computer we had that was internet capable, had decent word processing programs, and the games. Oh the games. They were so shiny and special. At last the family had entered the computer age proper.

Unfortunately, despite getting a Really Cool Computer, we did not get the internet. My parents were overly cautious about the internet. It took at least another 6 months, maybe it was even a year, before the nagging of my brother and I finally got through and we got dial-up, with our Very Own E-Mail Accounts. My very first email was penguingirl@[isp-provider].net. It was the next year that I got a boyfriend who introduced me to the world of instant messaging. ICQ was a revelation. Talking back and forth in real time with my friends and not needing to use the phone. It was way cool. I connected with people across the world using the random chat feature, although no lasting connections were made. I still have my ICQ account, Unique ID 62002450 (which I can tell you off the top of my head).

The 1997 Gateway system is still in use at my mother's house, though it is no longer the prime computer. In 2001, as a graduation gift, I got a desktop system of my own. Another Gateway system, it was better and faster than the one at home. I named it Molly.

Molly came with me to college. It was on Molly that I discovered the world of file-sharing, and went through my first major reaction to easy access broadband. Broadband was awesome. The ethernet was amazing - so fast and accessible - and I didn't need to share my computer with anyone. Molly went through a lot with me. I still have her, though I am finally contemplating letting her go before my next move.

It was in my junior year of college, October of 2003 to be exact, that social networking and blogging came into my life. I was on Livejournal, and that was back when you needed an invite code to start a journal there. Livejournal allowed me to keep up with the lives of some of my friends I might have otherwise fallen out of touch with. I soon made contacts through the community features of livejournal, and by searching for random journals. It was muy cool.

In 2005, before I moved to Seattle for grad school, LJ allowed me to connect with some others who were in my program, making the transition to a new place somewhat easier.

2005 was also the year of the laptop. As a graduation gift, I was given money toward a laptop computer. I bought the Compaq affair on which I am now typing. It is known as Beeker, though I don't refer to it as such as I do with Molly. As Molly was still fully operational when I got my laptop, the laptop didn't see much use until November of 2005. In Nov. of 2005, it rained from the ceiling of my apartment, concentrating its wrath on my computer desk. I was displaced for well over a week, and the laptop got a lot of use during that time. I was very thankful for it. (Side note: Magically, Molly survived the flood. I was worried she wouldn't when I turned the keyboard upside down and water gushed out of it, but everything still worked.) It was a turning point. The laptop is my primary computer now and Molly is hardly ever turned on.

And those are the computers that I have known.

2004, moving back a little in time, was when I started knitting. Knitting, you say? But knitting is so very.... not digital. Knitting itself is not, but knitting on the internet is huge. Massive. I taught myself how to knit using videos and instructions found online. My first real project was from an online pattern. Pretty soon my hobby became a major part of my life and I began a knitting blog. I discovered the the world of blogging knitters is huge. I started taking part in knitting communities both on LJ and off. This past year, I hosted what is known as a knitalong. This is a group blog wherein a group of knitters all working on the same pattern can have a community. That blog was my first real interaction with Blogger.

In the past year I have started accounts at flickr, facebook, technorati, bloglines, myspace,, and perhaps more. This year I've become really integrated in and interested about what is known as Web 2.0. I feel as if the social potential of the internet is way more fascinating than the repository of knowledge that I understood it to be in those tender times of 1998. Now, I have AIM, Yahoo, and MSN messenger accounts in addition to ICQ (although I manage them all with Trillian. I talk with my mother using instant messaging. She has even branched her business out into the online world, which is funny to me knowing how resistant to the internet she was initially.

I understand myself in relation to an online world. This may or may not reflect meatspace social failings, but it is what it is. (This marks my first use of the term "meatspace;" I'm not sure I like it. It's descriptive and seems pejorative, in the same way "breeders" is in certain child-free rings. But it's useful in not calling it "real life" thus implying that my computer mediated experiences are a "fake life.) I am invested in the fluid online world. I have perhaps more connections online than I do offline.


And that's all I've got for now. Though really, it's quite a lot I've said. And as I expected, I don't think it's moved me forward. Interesting exercise, though.

Edit: I fought long and hard with Blogger so I could have cut-away entries. Victory is sweet.

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