March 22, 2007

My Life with Computers

I call this: computers,mac,pc — Posted by KP @ 4:31 pm

So I mentioned I was a dork. The story begins when I was in first grade (circa 1987), and my teacher, Mrs. Sylvan, told my mother about a camp for gifted kids at C.W. Post College on Long Island. This camp operated in the summer and on Saturdays during the school year. I attended it from the age of 8 until just before I started high school. I learned many, many dorky things from some wonderful teachers.

One of my favorite subjects was computer programming. We learned to program in BASIC, most of which I have now forgotten. But my parents were really cool and for my 9th birthday, they bought a computer from my computer programming teacher, which he loaded up with all the software we used in class, as well as some fun games and other interesting programs. So then I was able to work and tinker on my own.

In 1993, I started high school and was given a new computer which was my first experience with Windows. It also had a CD-ROM drive, which was basically useful only for playing Myst. When I got a job at 16, I had some disposable income and freedom to roam around NYC checking out CompUSA and other computer stores, and I started buying and installing upgraded parts for my Packard Bell piece of crap. When I went to college I bought a Dell, which served me well.

However, when I graduated, I knew I would need a laptop. This is where the trouble starts. At this time (around 2000), the laptop that I purchased came with WindowsME. Let’s just say that after using it for less than six months, I had decided that at the next possible opportunity I was getting a new computer, and it was going to be a Mac. I had never actually owned a Mac, and barely used one in the last decade, but I knew whatever it was it was not going to run Windows. Eventually WindowsXP came out, and solved most of my problems, but by that point it was too late. The release and continued existence of WindowsME despite all its huge flaws, as well as some fishy stuff included with a Media Player update, proved to me that I no longer wanted Microsoft in control of my computing experience.

So when I unexpectedly came into some money, I bought a Mac. It was a big adjustment at first, but once I got used to the differences in terminology and where to find various settings, I started to like it. I will admit I had always been one of those PC power users who thought Macs were for stupid people who wanted the computer to do everything for them. I found it was quite the opposite. Yes, my parents can operate Macs — that is an amazing feat that the whole Apple team should be proud of — but I also can get it to do pretty much whatever I want as a power user, either natively or with 3rd-party software. I came to realize that there’s no shame in having a computer that makes things easy, as long as you can still do everything you want. I don’t think I can ever go back to using a PC for day-to-day work and play.

So I identify myself as a Mac user, but I’m also a gamer, and those two things are not always compatible. I tried to be a Mac gamer when I first switched, but I find that the developers that do the conversions for Mac consistently turn out buggy games that do not play as well as their PC counterparts. Not to mention that you only get to choose from the few most mainstream games, and six months to a year later than everybody else.

So it became obvious that I needed a gaming PC, and my 5-year-old laptop was not cutting it. I started looking into Alienware and other gaming PC manufacturers, but I was on a budget and wanted the ability to buy exactly what I wanted for each part of the machine, to spend my money on what was most important to me, and not buy a single thing I didn’t need. That’s when I realized I would have to build it myself. I thought that was pretty cool, since I had always enjoyed upgrading parts myself, but I had never attempted to build a PC from scratch. So I did a lot of research (being a Mac user, I hadn’t even been following things like what the latest processors were). I will leave the specs and all that stuff for another post, but what resulted was a high-mid-range gaming PC, that two years later still does what I need it to do, with only a slightly newer video card when the original one up-and-died.

I also have been a Palm user for about six years, and I currently have a Treo 650. I think Palm is completely dead and has been for at least two years, but I have so much invested in software right now, and I need something that can function with the flexibility of a small computer, and I would prefer not to use Windows. This is why I’m very curious about the iPhone, but also very worried about reports that it will not support 3rd-party software. That doesn’t make it a very “smart” phone. I hope that will change.

So that’s my very long story of my background and interests in the world of technology.

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