My latest short story "The Night the Lights Came On"

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Computer Use | A Memoir Essay

The first time I can remember using a personal computer, was in kindergarten. I was at my friend Austin's house, and he had a Macintosh. This was 1988, so it was something like a Macintosh classic. The computer had a rectangular shape, with the monitor mounted inside the casing; and it was all in that single rectangular unit. 

His monitor only displayed in black and white. I recall how incredible I thought it was that he could remember all the names of the folders he had to open to get to the game we wanted to play. The program we opened was a downhill skiing game. We probably only had to click on the hard drive, applications, the game's folder, and then the game icon; but to me that was a lot to recollect just to play a game.

Some years later, around fourth grade or so, my dad bought an IBM with windows 3.0. At the time this computer was top of the line; it even had a cd rom drive! I messed around on that bad boy a lot, and pretty soon I was quite good at getting around on it. I was even well acquainted with dos. My sixth grade year we picked up a computer with windows 95 on it. I dove straight into that operating system. This was also the same year that I took a typing class in school. In the class there were no letters on the keys, so you had to learn. You would follow the diagrams on the screen and go through the programs, learning where to put your hands and where all the keys were. This helped my typing skills tremendously. Now instead of using one finger to find each key, I could type quickly and easily without having to look at the keyboard. This was a big developmental step in my computing skills.

I also remember for the first time using Ctrl + C to copy, and Ctrl + V to paste. We sometimes would have to type the same paragraph several times for our class work. It was funny, the Ctrl keys had been fixed so you shouldn't have been able to use them, but if you pushed very hard on them they would click. So my friends and I would only type the paragraph once and then copy and paste it as many times as were required. I remember being in awe of these shortcut keys. I had no idea you could press certain keys together on the keyboard, or even that you could copy and paste. I was excited and amazed about this on only simple computers with only a black screen and a green display of text. I liked computers at an early age. Writing this I find it funny that I can look back and remember being amazed at green letters on a black screen; and now I'm going into the 3D computer industry as a career. I now produce 3D graphics that were unthinkable back when I was in sixth grade learning to type. It is something to think about.

During high school my family picked up a Compaq Presario, with Windows 98 and a Pentium I processor. I had fun with that. They now have a Sony Vio with Windows XP. It always has problems with spyware and is very difficult to use for navigating the internet even with a cable modem. It gets slowed down and constantly has pop-ups. I even have my own computer now with an amazing graphics card that helps the 3D programs I use run smoothly. As a little boy I never could have dreamed of having my own computer.

For pc use, that is all of my list; but it's not where my computer career ended. The first time I was able to use a Macintosh again, since kindergarten, was my freshman year when I took a sixth period creative writing class. Many times we would use the computer lab, and after class two buddies and I would stay and teach ourselves HyperCard on the school's Macs. I thought that program was awesome, and I was finally learning how to use a Mac.

My senior year I took a class called Technical Navigation. In this class we learned, with iMacs and G3s, how to use Adobe Pagemill, Photoshop, and Illustrator; along with some Power Point. I was able to learn all the shortcuts and nuances of the Macintosh operating system. Now when I wanted to close a window, open a new document, or save, I just had to press "apple" and then w, o, or s. I then learned that these same shortcut keys existed in my pc.

My navigational skills at that time became much faster than before. I think that using the shortcut keys also forced me to have more of an awareness of what I was doing while navigating on the screen. Rather than looking at the menu bar and it's following pull down, thinking about it and having all my available options right in front of me, I had to know exactly what I wanted to do. I had to push the one button on the keyboard that I knew would carry out the command I wanted it to. I hope to learn exponentially, and become better and better at using computers in the future.

These same shortcut key skills have carried over greatly into the programs I use for school and what I will use in the 3D industry. In every video editing or photo manipulating or 3D software I have used, I've found that learning and using as many shortcut keys as I can greatly increases my efficiency and speed. Also, I can get rid of several menus that appear above, below, and on the sides of the screen. This gives me more work area on the screen; more real estate. By using shortcuts I can work faster than someone else, and have more space to work with for my eyes. It's a win win situation.

One thing that I really like about working on computers is how fast time goes by when working on them. I can sit down and 3D model for hours. 3D modeling is making or constructing objects in 3D space on the computer. It is similar to sculpting in real life, but instead of moving clay around to form shapes resembling things, you move around points in 3D space. These points connect with each other to form surfaces.

I have sometimes gone without eating a meal because I simply forget or don't realize I am hungry for several hours because I will get so enthralled in what I am working on. I have even skipped both lunch and dinner a few times, which is even for me hard to believe, because of work on the computer. When I work at the labs in the North campus the security guard will poke his head in the door and tell me it will soon be time to leave. That is when I will realize that it's almost 11:30, and time to go. It is during these times that I just don't know where the time has gone. This is something I am happy about, because I will be doing it for a living someday.

In the video game industry, which I hope to get into, you hear of projects nearing there deadlines and employees getting asked to work crazy hours; staying very late to get the work done. This is something I already do at times. I would much rather have a job with longer hours which went by quickly than a job with only 40 hours a week in which each hour of every day seemed to drag by.

If we did not have computers today of coarse the world would be ok, as it always has been with out computers. But now that I work on them so much I find it hard to imagine a world without computers. I see them everywhere and in several different things being used for several different applications. For storing data alone, if that were their only purpose; even then they would be incredibly useful. This is because in one small computer you can store a warehouse full of information. They also make that information extremely easy to navigate through and find specifics with.

To think that now some actors have a computer generated model doing their stunt scenes for them in movies is amazing. I love computers, and I also love art and storytelling. I hope to use computers for these two things. Making art and telling stories in a highly visual way. I can only imagine what the future holds for the level of realism a computer will be able to generate; considering where we are right now. But I hope that there will always be someone out there not always trying to make it look perfectly real, but instead goofy and/or artistic.

This was an assignment for my creative writing class at the Art Institute of Seattle. I probably wrote it around 2004. It's really interesting to read it now. I'm pretty sure I thought we were at the cutting edge of where technology could go, and now to get these words into this blog post I took a picture of them with my phone from a printed page, which I was then able to copy the text from the photo and paste it into a document. I still had to fix the formatting, but still it's crazy how technology has continued to develop.

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