My first computer was a Sinclair QL, that I bought in 1985. Judy and I sat down together once we'd got it out of the box, with me assuring her, "This isn't going to be my toy, this is something we will do together." Yeah right. It didn't come with any programs - I don't think I even knew what a program was then. I opened the manual and started to follow the directions. I typed in a series of instructions that commanded a 'turtle' to draw a cube. You could save the instructions as a file in memory, but not onto the mini-tape drive. Within five minutes I was hooked and Judy was bored senseless.
I bought an Atari for running Cubase MIDI'd up to a synth, but more of that in the Music section. When I bought my first Amstrad PCW I really thought that was all one would ever need. Using the mail merge function of Locoscript, I found that by pushing its If...Then capability, you could trick it into writing quite complex programs by nesting the clauses within each other. Then I discovered it would run BASIC and I was off. I started filling up the floppy disks and was delighted to find they'd brought out a hard disk for it - LIMITLESS storage for a fairly steep £200, but worth it. FIVE MEGABYTES! Well the complete works of Shakespeare only take up one, and when you're only dealing with text, five megs is huge! I wrote a relational database program in dBase II called Agent that I sold to two voiceover agencies. One of them, Castaway, ran their whole business on the updated PC version until 2010!
Next came the Psion 3a. I bought it really for its electronic diary and address book, but it came with a programming manual for its inbuilt language called OPL, which is a doddle. I typed in a sample program which converted miles to kilometres and started to expand it. Six months later I'd written an immensely complex program that converted absolutely everything. Meanwhile I'd bought my first PC, mainly because I was tempted by having things in colour, and after enormous amounts of faffing, had finally displayed on my screen something from someone else's computer. I couldn't speak I was so excited. On Compuserve there was a thing called a Bulletin Board, and in the Psion section, people were posting their programs. I put up my Conversion Calculator, with a nag screen to encourage people to register for £10. Within a year I'd made over £10,000!
Of course the proper continuance of this story is that I see the dotcom boom coming, start a software company, and become a multi-millionaire. Well I started this website in 1998, and couldn't understand why people were paying thousands or millions to people to write their 'Start-up Sites'. It was just HTML and I could write a site in a day. Dur'h. I'm far too honest for my own good - I didn't realise it was all a scam. Bugger.
Still, the £10,000 meant I could always buy the latest kit and I went on to better and better computers, becoming deeply enamoured of Photoshop, Cubase, Premiere, Pro Tools and a hundred other wonderful tools to creativity (ok and I also became addicted to video games and spent sleepless nights with Doom, Duke Nuke'em, Myst, and countless other games). I wrote an Archers adventure game in a weird language called Professional Adventure Writer and made pin money from doing websites for friends. I also created two social networks, Faceliftbook, for the over-fifties, and Friends of the Deer Leap, in memory of a wonderful outdoor pool that I spent my childhood swimming in. It's now a Facebook page.
These days I'm an Apple convert. Logic Pro is completely mind-blowing and the MacBook is just the most beautifully made computer in the world. In the iPhone I finally have what I've been waiting for all my life - a gadget that does everything - and it works. I've been busily involved for years in sorting out people's PC problems - I do quite well out of it because Microsoft build their obsolescence into their operating system. Apple products are intuitive and work, sorry guys but it's true. I used to like getting under the car and fixing oily things, now I just like a car that always works. Same with computers, If I need a hammer to bang a nail in, I don't want to have to mend the hammer and straighten the nail before I do so. Same with computers. Only one thing - writing for the Psion was simple - so why, when I try to write the same thing for an iPhone/iPad app, is it SO BLOODY COMPLICATED???