Why build a personal website? Well, I figured the time had come.
I’ve been using computers and the internet since before the World Wide Web existed, back in the good old ARPAnet days, when Geeks were not cool and computers were the size of refrigerators yet had less computing power or memory than iPods.
Even before Steve Jobs became a hippie or Bill Gates became a nerd I found myself sitting in front of an enormous dot matrix printer playing the very first Star Trek computer game with the Enterprise searching for the evil Klingons. The input was through a clunky keyboard and we used a pen and paper to plot possible locations of the Klingon Bird of Prey in the 2-dimensional grid universe. The output of each flight was the printed location of our new position on the grid. The result of each photon torpedo shot was another printed line, either Hit or Miss.
It was slow, it was unbearably clumsy by today’s standards and it took an entire freakin’ mainframe computer to run the game! But we had so much fun.
In the ensuing years I spent countless hours in Paul and Andrew’s basement, my friends from down the block. Their Dad had bought a computer from Radio Shack; a Tandy 1000. I had no idea how to turn it on or boot it up because only their Dad was allowed to perform that important task. But once it was running, we had three games to choose from, all of them controlled using the keyboard. Hours of fun. Countless hours.
Then Paul and I discovered video game arcades. Space Invaders, Asteroids, Centipede, Lunar Lander, Defender, Missile Command, Galaga and Tron (we were too cool to play Pac Man). Handfuls of quarters. Countless more hours.
Skip forward to my early 20’s when I spent a summer working for a provincial government agency. One day my boss said he would show me how to use the new computer. He pointed to where it sat on a table and told me to fire it up. When he joined me a few minutes later, the monitor screen was still dark.
Ken: “Why didn’t you turn it on?”
Long pause. Followed by a longer pause.
Ken: “Do you know where the power-on switch is?”
He laughed and reached behind the computer. There was a loud ‘ka-chunk!’ followed by a beep, some whirring sounds, another beep and then the screen flickered on. After a few seconds the flickering settled down and I was facing a black screen with a blinking light in the top left corner. The blinking light was the cursor, next to the only other thing on the screen which turned out to be C:/.
That was my introduction to MS DOS 3.0.
This was the era of the massive desktop computers which used floppy disks; memory disks so thin they were actually floppy. They were the latest technology but still held only enough resident memory to save about 20 pages of plain text.
The monitors were the size of mini-fridges and instead of a friendly graphic user interface with Windows and soothing music, all you would get was that very black and intimidating screen, with the blinking cursor which mocked you; “Hey, stop staring and type in a command. Any command. I dare you…” No such thing as a mouse in those days; it was all typed commands.
These days, we have handheld devices that will allow me to simultaneously check my e-mail, add a day-timer entry for an upcoming meeting, send a multi-version document to an entire work team at once, chat with someone on the other side of the planet and have some snot-nosed teen from a different continent destroy my character in an FPS combat game.
From a slow mainframe with paper printer instead of a monitor to smartphones with genius capabilities; truly mindboggling.
After all that time spent staring at a computer screen, I figured it was time I did something more useful with the internet than just more games.
Something other than writing boring technical documents that no one will ever read, or editing environmental plans that the construction company is just going to ignore anyway in favour of their ‘screw the wetlands; gotta git ‘er done!‘ approach. Something more productive than forwarding videos of cats doing funny things on YouTube. Something more permanent than Facebook entries that begin with, “Hey everybody. Look what I had for lunch!“
I mean it’s not like I didn’t gain any real computer experience along the way. I’ve spent virtual lifetimes working my way through DOS 3.0, DOS 3.2, DOS 4.0, and DOS 6.1. Then Windows 95, WIN 98, Windows ME (the horror!), Windows XP (the promised land), Windows 8 (Aaargh, my eyes!), WIN 8.1 and Windows 10. And lately, Apple iOS 8, iOS 9 and iOS 10.
In short, I’m kind of a digital bad ass. (I believe I just heard my daughter’s roll their eyes).
So I’ve decided the time has come to claim my own bit of digital real estate and with this website, I hereby plant my flag on the virtual landscape.
(PS. That’s not really me in the photo with the flag but thanks for thinking it might be).