I remember I was 12 when Windows 95 first came out.
I’m not sure I’m supposed to mention this to all of you, because I’ve been told that revealing my age to you will scream inexperience. But I’m about to undergo a metamorphosis and I think it’s worth sharing even if it’s at the peril of having wounded credibility for being sub-30.
So here we go:
My father had always been a first adopter ever since I could remember. This had been partly out of necessity for his job in sales (storing and crunching sales data, transactions, etc.), but also out of his own insatiable thirst for new technologies. Despite growing up in a rural New England town of 1800 people, our house was always as wired as an office building 90 miles away in Boston.
Even before we got Windows 95, I remember that first monstrosity of a Toshiba laptop that sat on his desk which he’d let me use at nights and on the weekends, with an ISP by the name of (reaching back now) Prodigy.
Life then was pretty simple. I’d use the computer to write up a paper for school, play a primitive video game, and, after the upgrade to Windows 95 and to AOL, I’d surf in and out of chat rooms and talk with other kids from across the country in California (the only parental controls was my mother calling from the kitchen and asking “what are you doing in there?”).
Viruses, though they very much existed, to me they were something I took care of with penicillin, tomato soup and grilled cheese. Our computer ran well almost all the time (and, to my dad’s credit, I’m sure he put some measures in place to ensure that). But nevertheless, things felt safe.
Now the world is different. A few operating systems later, I’m constantly under heavy fire every time I connect to the web on my laptop. Malware comes through the swiss cheese-like layer of protection. And I’ve become obsessed with fighting it. I have a half-dozen ad, spy and virus protection (some might say this is making the problem worse, that these programs could be slowing things down even more, but I’m just too OCD to stop using them!). I scan and I quarantine and I delete. I can hear my computer hum
away as I run them from the other room of my small city apartment. It’s a disease now. When things get really bad, when I can’t bear things moving at a snail’s pace, I back everything up on an external hard drive and wipe everything away.
But now I’m tired. I can’t keep doing this and collaborate with my colleagues without having painful consequences on my PC. I finally feasted my eyes on Vista the other day, and I have to say it looks visually very appealing. But I don’t think it’s going to solve my problems (Blanket disclaimer: I really don’t have anything against Microsoft. I think they’re a good company with many brilliant people. I don’t believe them to be the boogie man many in the tech community deem them to be. Fact.)
It’s just that, again, I’m tired of doing this.
So what’s my solution? A mac? Well, maybe soon, but for now I don’t feel like buying a new computer so I’m going to have a friend of mine install Linux. I’m not taking the plunge in its entirety, because I’ll have a toggle option if I should need windows. My desktop is going to be simple, some kind of an open office suite with Mozilla. Nothing fancy.
This is not easy for me. I’m going to miss Windows (and, like I said, I’m not letting go completely. I also use it at work everyday and will continue to do so if I plan to do my job effectively). But I wonder if others are getting as fed up as I am. If I’m just an individual home user and I encounter these frustrations, what’s happening in your enterprises?
Maybe everything is just dandy with windows. Maybe I’m just a bad steward of my computer. Maybe they’ll keep releasing operating systems that continually get better.
But Maybe they won’t. Maybe this is it. Maybe this windows boy has finally grown up.