The Technology That Shaped Me – Finding A Passion

I haven’t always worked in in the tech industry. I’ve travelled a less well trodden path.

An economics degree, voluntary work with disabled teenagers and then teaching eventually led to a technology opportunity and I’ve been firmly entrenched in the sector ever since. But I’m grateful for that unique path because although those experiences were a long time ago I use them to bring a different perspective and skill set to my everyday job.

While it might have taken time for me to find myself a career in the industry, I have always had a passion for technology. There were signs; some early obsessions, connections and influences that hinted of a future to come. So strong were some of these connections that much of the tech I still own. At home this is called my museum (I am Lord President Business and the kids are not allowed to touch it), I don’t have it all but when I go through it, unbox it and examine it, I still feel a thrill, that joyful feeling of discovery from years ago.   

Atari 2600

Christmas 1980 (for the record I was seven years old). I can still remember my Dad handing my Mum a large boxed present in the afternoon, long after the standard Wade household present opening period. He had even waited until after the Queen’s speech! My mind flipped when it was unwrapped; this thing plugged into the TV and ran the same games we played at the arcade while on our annual family holiday. The arcades on Cromer Pier were now in my living room and my brothers and I didn’t need 10p to play. Looking back I realise how lucky we were to be given this Christmas gift but at seven I knew little different. I got so good at Defender the score went off the charts. All I wanted to do was know how it all worked, I had to find out. 

ZX Spectrum

Christmas 1982 (I’m now nine years old for those counting) and I was beginning to think that someone might share my passion, or at least be fuelling it, as a ZX Spectrum arrived for the family. A whole new world of games (Manic Miner anyone?) but this time a keyboard, a console I could command; I could make it do things, I could make things happen. I remember spending all day working out how to print the Union Jack on screen. It took ages but it was incredibly satisfying.

Amstrad PC 1512

Christmas’ came and went but who cares about Christmas when your Dad has an office with a computer? (I’m now eleven years old). He had an Amstrad PC 1512, which was total science fiction as far as I was concerned, and I was in heaven. Interestingly enough my passion for this machine was the disks and applications that came with it and moving data about, not the MS-DOS operating system. MS-DOS certainly had a part to play but that was to come, it was software and hardware that became interesting.

From there computers came and went, time passed and as a teenager I continued investigating. The Sony Walkman revolutionised my life (I still have mine, in the museum) and I could tell you a lot of stories, but because this list is about the technology that truly shaped my future there is room for just one more. 

Intel i486DX2-66 Processor

I was absolutely determined to get an Intel 486DX2-66 processor (I was twenty years old now). It was the king at the time. It came in a whole range of machines and every one of them was in a beige box. I wanted one of those beige boxes and in the early 90s I got one. It came with Windows 3.11. My best mate gave me a copy of an MS-DOS handbook and I was away. That computer went a long, long way. I performed a lot of hardware updates on that machine, I remember clearly installing a CD-ROM drive, upgrading it to Windows 95, extra memory, different disk configurations and countless hours of entering commands and code. I kept going with it and it kept me going for years.

Investigating and experimenting with that device gave me the confidence to share the thrill of discovery at work. On those first small Microsoft networks I built NetBEUI became a good friend, I probably had too much NetBEUI in my life but by then I had found my passion and wasn’t looking back. 

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