I’m nearing the end of this little series, mainly because everything afterward is already pretty much documented here on this blog in some way. It almost feels like jumping over 25 years of computer use after baby-stepping in jumps of 4-5 years, but well, I’ve been blogging for a long long time.
The next machine, or machines really, are possibly the most important in my computing journey history. In 1998, give or take, I graduated High School and went off to college. Around this time period, because I would need it for college, my parents bought me my first PC. More accurately, the first PC that was “mine alone”. At the time, I want to say it was quite the beefy piece of hardware, and I am pretty sure it cost something like $1800 dollars or so, with the monitor. The machine was an IBM Aptiva, 450mhz 486pc. I may have added it but it even had a discrete graphics card in it. Just after I graduated High School, my parents moved back to Illinois and I moved in with my aunt and uncle for around 6 months while I went to IUPUI (for Engineering). I spent a lot of time on this PC in my free time. Especially as a lot of my friends had moved away to college as well. Eventually, I moved back in with my parents and went to a local Community College there before going back to University.
Probably my primary hobby on this PC was browsing Usenet, which I was super into at the time. I also was exploring a lot of other computer hobbies that would turn into moreover time. My Uncle’s PC had a TV Tuner card in it (I eventually got my own), which I would use to take screenshots of games and TV. I started getting more complex with my web design on GeoCities and such as well.
I also started increasingly upgrading parts in my PC. This is where the “machines” part of this post comes in. At some point in the early 2000s, I had a box of parts and realized that if I bought a case, for the new parts, I could reassemble the old PC again. Fun Fact! I still use that same case today. I bought it, specifically because it was ” boring beige box” and because it “held a lot of hard drives”, because even back then, I knew I was going to be a huge data hoarder. You can see it here, in this older but newish photo.
This led to my first experience using Linux and running a web server. My first Linux distribution was Redhat Linux 5. I know this because I have a book on how to use Redhat Linux 5. I started using IRC a lot during this era and tested the waters a bit by running a server so my friends and I could upload images to share.
The PC I built to replace it, was the first PC I ever built. I forget the exact specs but I know it was an AMD Athlon and I believe at least for a while a Rage 128 Pro graphics card. I used that machine through most of college, for gaming, and CAD work. Also, a lot of Usenet and IRC, as well as some web and C/C++ coding.
I mentioned afterward things got a bit crazier. A few years after leaving college and looking for a job, I ended up starting my sort of, accidental career choice of Broadcast Engineering (my major was in Mechanical), working at a local TV station. Part of this work was also taking care of IT for the office, it was pretty much just my boss and I, and the station was independently owned and operated, for the most part. There was a larger group who owned maybe a dozen stations, but they were pretty much hands-off. One perk of this job was that I ended up with a lot of older and scrapped PC hardware to tinker with. So like I said, things got kind of funky. I also went through probably half a dozen laptops, the first of which was a dinosaur of a device that I think ran Windows 98. (This was during the Windows XP era).
Another fun side effect of this job is that I’ve installed Windows, especially Windows XP, so many times, I could literally do it with my eyes closed probably. Pretty much the go-to method for dealing with major PC issues was to back up files and blow out the machine. You would be surprised just how easily your average user at the time could completely fuck up a PC.
Eventually, after getting married, we had a pre-built Windows Vista PC for a bit, with a few upgrades. I built a fresh PC somewhere in that time period and ended up actually buying some more useful laptops. That isn’t even going into laptops my wife and kids have gone through.
These days I run this as my main Gaming PC, half a dozen Raspberry PIs doing various things, a second desktop loaded with hard drives, a NAS for storage, and I rent cloud space for a web server. It’s all just sort of, built up and exploded over time.