3 of 100 things…

Closet Geek

…that you may not know about me. … This is a continuation of a list 100 things that you might not know about me. Well, let me start out by saying, YEAH I finally got my memory installed! I have waited a long time to get this memory, and I must say, it’s nice to have.

The third thing on my list of 100 things you may not know about me, I am a closet computer geek. I started off late in life being a computer geek though. Growing up, I always heard, computers would be the way of life in the future, well I didn’t believe it very much, I was born in 1965, computers were very much not a part of my life. Analog was the way of life, TVs had a dial that you had to turn (by HAND) to change channels, the closest thing to a remote control was asking one of the children to change the channel. It really didn’t matter much, there were only a few channels to choose from anyhow.

I remember TVs and radios had vacuum tubes, if your TV or radio quit working, you took the back off the unit (no it didn’t void the warranty, and everyone did it!), remove all of the vacuum tubes, you had to tape numbers on each tube and the spot where it came from so you could get them back in the correct place. You took a handful of tubes (being careful not to break any of them) to the grocery store or hardware store. There was a machine to test your tubes, you plugged each one into the machine and it told you if the tube was good or bad. You purchased new tubes to replace the bad ones, took them all back home and plugged them all back in (you DID remember to number them didn’t you?). And viola, your TV or radio worked again.

Watches and clocks were also analog, you had to learn how to tell time by reading the hands, there wasn’t a cute little digital display that displayed the numbers. I can’t believe the number of people who can’t read an analog display on a clock. Oh, and I remember having to wind my Baby Ben clock on the bedside, you set the alarm and went to sleep by the glow of the phosphorus paint on the hands and above each number. When the alarm went off the next morning, it was a blaring, teeth rattling bell and clapper, you had to turn it off and actually get up, there was no snooze button.

By the time I got to junior high school, there began to be computers in school, though it always seemed that the grade I just graduated from would get computers, I always seemed to be a year behind the class or school that got the new computers. I do remember in the 7th grade, getting to go to a special math classroom, the room was filled with black CRTs with green characters on the screen. We were only allowed to be in there for the one day. There was some sort of stick figure game on the CRT, but you had to correctly answer a math question before you saw the stick figure doing something on the screen.

A few years later, home video games came out, exciting games like Pong… I still wasn’t interested in computers, but it was fun to play Pong with my neighbor, besides, he was cute, any excuse to get to hang out with him was a treat! Back to reality, I still didn’t have an interest in computers.

Move ahead a few more years, I was married (yes I got married young, no it wasn’t because I “had” to), my hubby purchased a Tandy 1000 computer. I still had no interest, back in those days, if you wanted to play a game on your computer, you had to buy a book that had all the code written out, you had to copy the code, character by character to the computer. You had to be 100% accurate, each colon and semi-colon, each comma and period, if and nor gates, after hours of typing, you tried the program you just wrote, chances are it wouldn’t work, you would have to go back, line by line and debug the code. You would have to find the mistake you made, maybe you typed a comma instead of a period… I could never get one to work.

Later on we got a Packard Bell computer, it was a 486, came with Windows 3.1 and DOS. I still didn’t give it a second look, until my hubby began to delete things, things that he shouldn’t be messing with. We would have to wait for my BIL to come over and fix it. Oh the tragedy, the horror, having to listen to and watch my BIL go on about how he was going to cut off my hubby’s fingers if he didn’t stop deleting necessary files.

I finally developed an interest in computers, it was self defense. If nothing else, so that my BIL didn’t have to keep coming over and fixing the darned thing! Within a short period of time, I had taught myself about DOS commands, I learned about Windows and hardware. Soon I was working in a department store selling computers. This particular store never specialized in computers (mainly household appliances), and since there is a lot that can go wrong with computers, there seemed to be a large number of returned “broken” computers in the back room. About 9 of them if I remember correctly. I was very interested in acquiring those “broken” computers, but as an employee, we weren’t allowed to buy merchandise from the back room, it had to be out on the sales floor for everyone to have a chance at it (employees as well as customers).

I offered to “clean out” the back room, get out the stuff that could be sold, in the process I stacked up those 9 computers on the sales floor with a sign that said “will not boot”, and I made an offer, I paid $350 for the lot, during that time one computer would fetch around a thousand dollars, that was a steal! My offer was approved and I took 9 computers home that day. That was my first lesson in how to build and repair computers. Most of them weren’t really broken, they just had software problems and merely needed to have the original software restored. A couple of the computers had bad parts, so I took parts from one computer and was able to fix the others.

I sold one of the computers to a friend for $350, so I was able to recoup my money on that first sale, I sold most of the others and kept one for myself and the rest for parts. Not bad for a few days work and a little cash outlay. I have built every computer I have owned since then, with the exception of the laptop I have now. The only reason I own a laptop is because I knew I was going to be living off-grid, and I needed a computer that used very little power.

The only problem with this laptop was it just didn’t have enough memory, it was the cheapest one I could buy, money was tight and I couldn’t bring myself to spend too much on this laptop. So for the year I have been out here, I have been suffering through having only 512 megs of ram (oh the horror!). I finally decided enough was enough, I couldn’t live with so little ram so I purchased a 1 gig stick of memory, I found a good deal here https://www.4allmemory.com/ the price was right and the shipping was free.

I received the memory in fairly good time, though I exactly can’t say when it came in, I don’t go to my mailbox very often, it’s a 12 mile round trip through twisty, winding, rutted, rocky dirt roads that go up and down through mountain and valley. I did get it though, and I was able to install it with no problem. Woohoo! My computer now has 1512 megs of ram and it works so much better, the closet geek in me is jumping for joy! Now I have to explain to my inner geek that we need to dump my humanure toilet and haul some water from the tank.

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One Response

  1. I can relate to your life as I was born in 1964 and experienced similar things in life. I am making the shift to writing from an operations manager and training officer of a security company.

    Most of my life has been on the fringe of self sufficient and when I married and decided to live the dream, my wife became ill. Not just a little sick, the kind of sick that she was in a coma for a month and a half this last summer and while recovering from that I had to take her to Seattle for heart surgery. She is off the oxygen now and in hopes of us making our jump off the grid.

    I try to comfort her in the progress of constant research but I know she is starting to see through my ploy. I do fear she is not strong enough for the lifestyle any longer. Having said that, I admire your grit and look forward to future articles displaying the ways we live our lives off-grid!

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