In 1995 my dad bought a Gateway computer with a Pentium 133mhz, 16mb of Ram, 1.6gb HD, 4x CD ROM, Video Card with 2mb of Ram,and 3 Pass Color Scanner with Photoshop 3(?). He was out of work andconvinced my grandfather/his father to help buy it so he could get a good job. It weighed 300lbs and was as tall as a desk. I could play a CD and play ski free, at the same time. Amazing! We didn’t actually get Internet until 1997ish. There are 3 things I did on this mostly internetless computer.
I would just scan photos and play around in Photoshop, putting Jim Morrison into family photos, or giving someone 2 heads. I made 20$ Photoshopping in some kid from high school with Claudia Schiffer. I scanned money and put text on one side of it. We would leave the money good side up so people would pick them up thinking they had just found a $20, but it would say “fuck you” on the other side and have tits/dick where Andrew Jackson’s face was. I would draw characters and paint stuff. I managed to get my parents to buy me a Wacom tablet, 4x5. My dad was still unemployed so it wasn’t an easy sell.
I had truespace 3D. I would make sphere based cartoon characters. Super super simple. I couldn’t even figure out how to texture things. It was colored spheres. Later my dad downloaded a cracked version of 3D Studio Max 2.0(?). I remember looking at the interface and getting so excited I’d have to shit, I had butterflies. The idea of having a free app that professionals only had was exciting then. Not like now where everything is available and people are generally unaware of software costs. I knew this thing cost a ton of money and people used it professionally and it felt like I had been given a million dollars.
I used Sound recorder to make loops from songs and record my terrible guitar playing. I remember taking Beatles CDs and I would open up 5 or so sound recorder windows and I would record each part that I wanted from a song, copy paste bits/slow them them down by 50%/reverse them and dump them all back into one file. It sounded like shit but I was happy.
This was close 16yrs ago. I feel like I was given a head start in the digital world. The most amazing and sad part, I think, is that since then I still don’t know Photoshop well enough to use. I can barely make my way around any 3D package these days, and I have never finished an actual song in any digital form, nor do I know any software.
It was amazing pre-modern internet. The 16 year old me saw the computer as a tool but there weren’t any resources to help me learn… but there were also no distractions. As those resources I needed became available online, so did the distractions, and the options for software. I went from being genuinely excited at the prospect of making things digitally to becoming obsessed with pirating the latest versions of software, to not caring at all.
I’m typing this from a laptop that has the power to do anything and go anywhere. I sit at work on a $5000 machine made for 3D, with Maya 2011 and Motion Builder 2011 installed and I use it to about 1/140938333th of its potential. There are communities and resources and books and videos online, tons of ways to learn.
Still I just read tumblr and boingboing and 1000 other sites, in an endless loop. If my Internet went down this computer would feel as useful to me as a rock. I don’t know when I had my switch flipped or why I have never finished anything completely in my life. I do know, though, topical information on a million things ranging from solar power to human rights violations, to arduino, to 3d printing, to insect mating, to cats, to what awesome things other people are doing with their free time….