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Aug 8, 2013

Windows 95 wallpaper

How can you look back on computing in the ’90s without looking back on when Windows 95 was launched:)

My first PC bought in 1997 was loaded with Windows 95,  at same time I started my first job that involved the use of computers which the company were still using Windows 3.1 at that time LOL.

Here is the good old Windows 95 wallpaper –


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Apr 14, 2010

’90s Browser Wars

Back in the day when Netscape was the daddy,  along came Microsoft with Internet Explorer and all out war broke out.

This was many moons before Firefox and Google’s product Chrome were even a thought.

What a shame that Netscape fell into bed with AOL.

I’m sure Internet Explorer 3.0 was the first browser I used back in ’97…. outside the AOL environment.

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Apr 5, 2010

Back in 1997…

This sounds like ancient history the mention of the year 1997 but this was when I decided to get into computing.

It was in May 1997 while on holiday in Canada or to give a more precise location it was while taking a shortcut through the forest from Edgemont village which is north of Vancouver back to my hosts, I was returning from the Starbucks in Edgemenot village thinking hard about my life feeling the need to do something different.

I remembered that a Ghanian friend of mine called CK who I worked with at the local Blockbuster in Summertown, Oxford not long graduated from Oxford Brookes University and just landed his first job in the IT industry paying £24,000 per year – man I thought that was mega money and for a first job too.

Well I got back to the UK and within a couple of months invested something silly like £1,500 in a Pentium 1 166 MMX PC from a manufacturer called Tiny, it had a whacking great hard drive of 2.5 GB, memory of 32MB ,installed with Windows ’95 , a  super fast 33.3kbs modem and if I remember correctly am sure it came with a Compuserve disk, well I do remember using Compuserve as my first “ISP” and also fondly getting booted out of one of their chat rooms for reasons I am not going to post here.

The Summer of ’97 was that time of transition for me as no longer did I hold the dream of becoming a professional photographer which was an ongoing dream for the previous 7 years which was destroyed when I had my camera bag consisting of two Nikon F301 bodies, a 75mm – 300mm zoom lens , Cobra 700AF flashgun and wide angle lens not forgetting my collection of filters including skylights, polarizers and coloured filters for use with black and white film (when in Ansel Adams mode) stolen from a Starbucks in downtown Vancouver. My transition ran parallels with the landslide election of Tony Blair as UK prime minister, the continued pop phenomenon with The Spice Girls not forgetting the UK mourning of princess Diana whose funeral was beamed worldwide.

In the summer of ’97 despite never having booted up a PC before,  logged onto Windows let alone open a Word document and the internet was something new and exciting with still only a handful of people in the UK using it at the time I desperately wanted to be an “IT Professional”, this was it I was going to get into IT.

I harboured dreams of doing the mature student thing for the previous 4 years but didn’t dare take the plunge so I continued with my existence of doing two jobs one was as a general  dogsbody at the Warneford Hospital which is a psychiatric hospital in Headington, Oxford across the road from the venue of my dream student life at Oxford Brookes and also supplemented by a few shifts per week evenings and weekends at Blockbuster in Summertown which is within walking distance or where I lived at the time but on most occasions I drove.

From July of 1997 to the September of that year I was catapulted through some changes  getting an order processing job at an academic publishers located next to Kidlington airport, this was a real big move I have now got a job in an office using computers thinking ” Wow I am now doing well!” and earning twice the rate of Blockbuster. The downside was I was now working 5 evenings per week following my days in the full time job with extra travelling distance through some real serious rush hour traffic, no time for the evening meal it was straight from one job to the next and that was the routine – no wonder I was stressed all the time.

I got the evening job paying what was a decent amount at the time and the HR gave me a permanent contract and not a temp like some of my peers so what next?

With all the stress I was feeling and also for a long time of being fed up of working at the Warneford where my state of mind was so bad sometimes that if I wasn’t working there I would have ended up there as an inmate or to put it in a more accurate context a patient. I was also messed up for another reason  in the August of 1997 as a lovely nurse called Helen who I liked for the last 12 months and longer, it had dawned on me that she would never be mine reasons of her doing different things ie different direction  she was teaching English to foreign students with plans to move to France and also unavailability which is always the biggest stumbling block.

Oh well I did have an amazing conversation with her at length when I told her of my application to go to Oxford Brookes, an institution she also graduated from a year earlier in ’96  and she was the only one at the Warneford  I told as I couldnt exactly tell my peers, she told me what an enjoyable time she had there ad recommended it as a place to study but at that point I only submitted a form as a speculative application as at that time it seemed a long shot they would accept me, I mean someone applying to study a joint field in Computer Systems and Information systems with no previous courses in IT to my name, my only experience coming in the previous 2 months learning to boot up Windows 95 and getting kicked out of a compuserve chat room. OK to be kinder to myself I used the computerised tills in Blockbuster and was now using PCs in a work environment loaded with Windows 3.11 for order processing for an academic publisher.

Later that month in August ’97 Helen was working a few more shifts in her old role on the nursing team on her old ward and I now had the offer of  a place at Oxford Brookes to study IT and the opportunity to finally get out of doing this lowly job that sucked the self esteem out of me the last few years and kept my psychological state in a permanent low with my only comforts away from this permanent depression was my pride in the large collection of designer label clothing from the likes of Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Versace, Tommy Hilfiger amongst some of the brands I amassed and also the great trips overseas to Canada and the US with all the great photos I took I had to constantly remind myself of to keep sane. I managed another conversation with Helen who was still the only person on site I told about my plans to leave of my excitement plus nervousness of being given an offer to study at Oxford Brookes,  her response was ” You’ve got to accept it as they must think you’re capable of doing it!”.

Those words really did stick with me which contrasted greatly with put downs off so called mates and on enrollment I was being written off by these 2nd year girls who were helping out on enrollment day, the look on their faces when they looked at each other in response to my “no” to their question of “Have you done any previous courses in Computing?”

I was enrolled and counting down the weeks, coolly deciding to give my employers only a week’s notice which was the minimum required amount as they didn’t exactly treat me particularly well and I was also slipping down the slope of the disciplinary procedure in my final few months at the Warneford which didn’t help when a few weeks away from my designated finish date I left a few hours early on a Sunday afternoon and there was no-one to show the firemen around when they responded to an alarm on the site. Couldn’t believe it I had got away with that on each  weekend I had to work  for the last 4 years and 2 years and a bit earlier I took a walk into Headington on a Saturday lunchtime to put a bet on the Grand National and ended up drinking all day because I bumped into a guy I once played rugby with.

Well I finally handed in my notice which as promised was the statuory minimum, this sent shockwaves throughout the place that I was leaving so much so that the department I  worked in even had a management meeting over it,  I would never have guessed I was so significant because I certainly wasn’t treated as such.

I went along to my first lecture on a Monday at the very end of September or it could have been the very first week of October I really can’t remember but I remember the very first modules of my course I undertook which were Introduction to Business and as a baptism of fire a double module called ” Structured Programming & Software Development!” which had a module code called 8007. I was only mastering the booting up of Windows 95 and getting kicked out of compuserve chat rooms a couple of months earlier and now I was doing programming, this was in a very arcane looking  environment a programming language called MODULA 2 created by the same guy who created PASCAL,  I think his last name was Wirth and the syntax in each of these coding environments very similar. I think if Chandler Bing in Friends would have been in my situation he probably would have said something along the lines like ” Could my learning curve be any steeper?”

I did go through some really tough times between the years of 1997 to 2001 in my desire of reaching my goal of becoming an IT professional with extreme stress and sometime burnout of doing some really hard modules which even the notorious 8007 claimed a few victims in the 1st year which I got through with a respectable grade nothing special but I wasn’t after anything special just going the distance like Rocky Balboa against Apollo Creed in the first Rocky. That was just the beginning.

My other challenges over the next few years until graduation incuded illness with pneumonia in Summer of ’98. being victimised in my evening job late ’98 continuing into ’99 which was already stressful enough as it was especially with the modules I was doing in the daytime and having to do my assignments over the weekend. There was never any rest for me and if I though the first year was hard the second made it look like a walk in the park.

I got my first IT job in the Summer of ’99 assigned the task of designing and building an Access database for a team of editorial users, this was daunting at the time but in retrospect a walk in the park . The thing was supposed to be a simple application but it got bigger than was initially planned and from what I was later told had to be redesigned. The users simply wanted more functionality than they initially requested. I did my usual evening job in addition to this role, this was really strange to have had two totally different part time jobs within the same company.

Despite the stress of intense part time jobs, my tendency to choose difficult modules,  people trying to sidetrack me, living with one or two difficult people in a shared house in Summertown, Oxford  and in final year falling behind with my dissertation which I had  to rescue  by sleeping on campus in one of the computer room floors for 4 hours at a time I graduated in 2001 with a BSc(Hons) 2:2

I look back fondly at the mid to late ’90s and have wondered from time to time how I got though that course was it the inspiration provided by Sylvester Stallone in his movies especially Rocky you know winning against the odds, the desire of working in IT and I will say the words of the lovely nurse Helen “You’ve got to accept it as they must think you’re capable of doing it!” helped immensely when I did go through some rough patches especially when I was up against it with my bite off more than you can chew dissertation topic on ecommerce which involved not only 10,000 words but a working ecommerce application. I lost work in the days leading up to hand in deadline and on the very last day had to redo a large part of my work and was still working on it within the last 30 mins . After handing in that dissertation I got very drunk and felt burnt out for next 4 weeks with the last 3 modules to do so there was that final push to make sure I got through or the last 4 years would have been for nothing. Well Helen many thanks for your words back in ’97 if you ever read this you’ll see I got through OK and hope you’re doing well with whatever you’re doing today.

Of all the MS Operating systems that saw the light of day from my above mentioned play-arounds with Windows 95, using Windows 3.11 at work and on the University network,  Windows 98, the ill fated Windows ME, Windows 2000 and after graduation Windows XP,  there was  storing work on floppy disks and later ZIP discs before CD-RW drives became more apparent. Internet access was via dial up and had to work with that 33.3kpbs dial up modem until Broadband became available where I lived in 2002. The Pentium1116  MMX by Tiny lasted until 2002 and at the time of it’s death had a 10GB hard drive, running Windows 98 and memory upgraded to 64mb ( these mods having had taken place in 1999).

Even though my undergraduate degree consisted mostly of development work , my professional experience since has been in networking with the technology speciality being within Cisco and have worked in a couple of ISP environments and am currently an ISP  NOC engineer.

Sorry it looks like I went beyond 1997 which I didn’t initially intend to do and will review if this post is to be kept here in ’90s technology or should I create a new and separate category for this.

Best Wishes!


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Feb 21, 2010

’90s Technology

Can you remember your first Computing and Internet experiences in the ’90s?

For example did you have a PC running Windows 3.11 or did you jump on board like I did when Windows ’95 was the Microsoft Operating System of the day.

I remember connecting to my first internet account with AOL via the 33kbs internal  modem that shipped with my Pentium 1 166MMX ad massive 2GB hard drive.

I think ’90s websites could be another interesting topic here.

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