Starshine's Pages - My Nook on the World Wide Web


My Early Computing Memories

My introduction to computers really started in school. In my third year at primary school our classroom had an Acorn computer running Risc OS. I don't remember that much about it since I didn't get to use it very extensively but it might have been an Archimedes, I'm not 100% sure. My only real memory of it is the Paint program that was on it. I started school in 1997 so I guess it was a leftover from the 80s.

I have a vivid memory of seeing a Windows machine for the first time. I went to the Doctor's with my Mum when I was pretty young and on the Doctor's desk behind Her there was a computer showing the Flying Windows screensaver and I remember being mesmerised by it. I saw my Mum reading a magazine once that had a full page ad for Windows (it must have been 98 but I don't specificly remember), I kept seeing this logo everywhere and didn't know what it was.

Eventually we got to use the Computers in the library at school which ran Windows NT 4.0, strange choice for kids since the NT line was buisness focused. However, rather than being taught the basics of using Windows (or a computer in general for that matter), we were dropped into one of those Logo programs where you would have to move a turtle around the screen. I hated it and couldn't figure it out.

Most of our other activities on these computers involved writing up stuff in Word, we might have delved into the internet a bit but we didn't really get to do much else, our access was pretty tightly controlled. Where my interest in computers went from mild curiosity to proper interest was when my Grandfather got a new computer around 2000. It was a Packard Bell iMedia (not sure exactly what model) but it came pre-installed with Windows ME. This was really the first computer that I was able to use unrestricted and was actually able the learn the basics of using a computer. It was also my first exposure to the internet as my grandparents got Dial-Up internet soon after with the now defunct ISP Freeserve.

The PC came as part of a package with a HP printer and a scanner as well as a bunch of games including Rayman 2, Toy Story 2, Dinosaur Activity Center, Fifa 2000, "Rally Championship" and Flight Simulator 98. Having already been a fan of Rayman on the Playstation, I Played Rayman 2 the most extensivley but also played Toy Story 2 a lot too. It also came with an exclusive Packard Bell program called "3D Navigator", which sadly I have been unable to track down a copy/download for online and can only find one recording of on Youtube. Update: I have now found a copy of the program and have uploaded it to archive.org.

My Grandparents PC also had Office 2000 installed, I know everybody kinda hates the Office assistants but I kinda remember them fondly, My Grandad had the assistant set to "The Genius" or Einstein as we called him. My Grandad mainly used Word to write his cooking or gardening entries for the local village newsletter.

After much pleading with my parents we finally got a computer of our own at home. It came with Windows 98 Second Edition, I'm pretty sure it was custom built as it didn't seem to have any kind of branding and was in a generic case, it had a Pioneer DVD slot drive. It also came with an office program with the generic name "Office Suite" which I remember thinking kinda sucked compared to Microsoft Office. I got a decent little collection of games for it though, in part thanks to my Grandparents giving me some of the games that came with their PC, Including Rayman 2 and Toy Story 2, they also had Sim Farm which they also gave me eventually.

I have to say I much prefer the look of Windows ME and 2000 to the Windows 95/98/NT look. It has a slightly warmer colour pallet and some of the icons are a bit nicer, I think the old classic theme looks a bit drab and depressing in comparison. My Grandparents computer always felt a bit nicer to use than the one we had at home. If only I'd learned to download custom themes at that point.

Come 2004, I left primary school (which had just started upgrading their computers to Windows XP) and moved on to secondary school. Finally we got to use computers much more extensively since we had I.T as a subject twice a week. Many of their computers had been upgraded to Windows XP but there where at least two I.T labs that still had Windows 98 machines. For our first year there we had to use Floppy disks to transfer files to and from our school computer system due to the fact that not all the machines had accessible USB slots and they all had floppy drives. You usally had multiple floppies with homework and whatnot on that you'd carry around, I remember sometimes having this square shaped bulge in my front blazer pocket. These floppies would often fail and you'd often find the torn apart remains of somebodies floppy disk on the floor, frustrated that they'd lost their homework. By our second year there all the computers had been upgraded to XP and had free USB ports so people quickly moved over to USB flash drives. It was around this time that after needing to replace a failing hard drive, my grandparents computer was upgraded to Windows XP.

It was around 2005 that I decided that I wanted to start doing more productive things with computers. I started learning HTML from a book a friend gave me and started learning more about the way computers worked. At Christmas of that year I unexpectedly got a new laptop from my parents: A Packard Bell Easynote L4 running Windows XP.

So I think that covers memories that could be considered "early", I'm sure I will make another nostalgia page covering some later memories of computing and perhaps some stuff I may have forgotten to cover in this one.