My story with technology started in the mid-90s. I was a university student then, and I came into some money after my grandfather died. I already made a modest living teaching and freelancing, and what little I earned I had to spend wisely. So, it came quite as a shock to my family that I had spent pretty much all of my inheritance on a personal computer. It was a 133MHz Pentium PC – a top-of-the-line machine by mid-90s standards, complete with a floppy drive and a curved VGA display. Not too many people had PCs in Hungary at that time: I still remember spending a lot of time queuing up at the PC lab at the university to send my first emails.
Still, I thought it was a good investment, and one that would make me stick out from the freelancing crowd.
The honeymoon phase with my first PC actually took years. The first thing I mastered was word processing: my handwriting looked like that of a primary school student (it still does), and I was fascinated by the fact that what I write will look like the way I want it to.
Then it was games: I was an avid chess player, but couldn’t always find someone to play with. Playing against a machine was like having a chess pal who’s always in a mood for a blitz game. When I got tired of playing, I spent countless hours watching chess engines (pieces of software modules that can play chess) playing against each other.
My definition of having a great time was editing the engines’ configuration files to see how it affected their playing style – the same way how a budding chef adds some more paprika to goulash to see how it changes the taste and the colour. When I come to think of it, my daily work still revolves around the same things: new technologies, technical content, and ways how humans and machines interact (minus the countless idle hours I had then).
Although honeymoon phases have shrunk from years to just a few weeks nowadays, I am still fascinated by every new gadget I get, try or just read about. Despite of what my family thought in the mid-90s, I think my investment paid off.
PS: My son has just compiled a wish list for Christmas, and on first place it says: LEGO MINDSTORMS. At 300 EUR it should be one of the most expensive LEGO sets, and in any case quite a pricy gift for a 9-year-old. When he asked me if I think the little angels would bring him such an expensive Christmas present, I could hardly keep a solemn face befitting such a serious question.
But if angels are as good as investors as they are in delivering parcels, I’m sure he’ll be in for a very nice Christmas.