I was possibly eight or nine when I first touched DOS. I was living in the world of two computer programming parents who had several of the first full-on IBM desktop computers that were released to market where I lived: large, beige boxes that made the most delicious humming noise when you booted them up and greeted you with simplistic, ever-ready command lines. Blink. Blink. Blink. There was something almost meditative about that underscore as it waited and it was then that I realized that the urge to learn was all on my end. There is something so completely pure and comforting with DOS and I still, to this day, look at it like you’d look at your parents’ front porch after three years of college. It’s home.
Being that I was a part of a household rife with technology and that advances were made and systems were purchased at an almost constant rate, I moved along with the ebb and flow of computers consistently while I was growing up. When colors were introduced with VGA monitors and when I would have my hands all over soldering tools because I knew it was time to install new bits and pieces to motherboards, I was right there, peering down into the guts. I played games like Maniac Mansion, Rockstar (let me know if you remember that!), and anything Sierra ever put out as well as fighting every Kobold you could possibly throw my way. That was how I computed. DOS gave me the ability to not deal with load-ups and issues; I just booted up, typed in a command, and was on my way.
As Windows had been released for home use, we were still utilizing DOS. In fact, we truly had no reason to think that Windows was going to matter. If we had such a heavy grip on how to get in there and run through our systems, why would we need a graphical interface? Sure, it offered options that were visual that we couldn’t really do with DOS, but we weren’t really drinking the Kool-Aid just yet, you know? I mean, if it ain’t broke…
However, it was finally time to accept that the Internet was going to be a real, living, breathing part of our futures and our computers were finally obsolete. My mother came home with a brand-new, shiny and gray Packard Bell. This thing was so small in comparison to the monsters of systems we had used in the past and yet… it held more? I was fascinated. Like a caveman to fire, I got inside that thing so many times when nobody was looking just to see how they consolidated everything I knew and loved into such a tiny box that fit right on top of the desk. In fact, the monitor rested on top of it. How did that even work? That was insane.
With my Packard Bell came Windows 95 and a glittering CD that proved as such. I stared at these things for days and just narrowed my eyes at the possibility that a computer would read these things with any ease whatsoever. Sure, we listened to music on them, but what in the hell? One of my favorite games, Castles, came with just a normal floppy and I was fine with that. But the sequel? Interplay gave you the option of using either a floppy or a CD and I, of course, chose the floppy.
All of that aside, I was blown away by the way I could utilize Windows 95 and, as someone who had Apple products shoved down my throat my entire life through school, I loved that I could get into it and not once was it dumbed down for me. When we would run out of room for something, I could easily check the source and find out what resources were taking up too much room and just where I could get in and trim the fat. Microsoft didn’t limit me like I felt Apple did and I appreciated that because this was my computer and I wanted absolute ability to use it as such.
Through the years, we saw all of these updates and changes and I went along with every single one of them. XP blew my mind with its graphical interface and the way it gave me every single tool I would need to customize it comfortably without breaking the core. It wasn’t the numbers orgasm that was Linux, but for someone who grew up wanting control without testing their own mathematical function, Windows did just what I wanted it to do. By the time of Windows XP, I was already fully capable of taking apart a computer, putting it back together, overclocking RAM, wiping systems, and partitioning drives. Yes, for a teenage girl with a heavy social life, a cute face, and a decent grade point average, this was always unexpected. Boys would call me over to their houses when they’d get viruses from opening far too many suspicious emails in their America Online clients.
One thing, I know, stayed consistent. Even with the massive clutch upon which I held onto Windows XP, the grip was because I believed in the product. Every time I attempted Apple by sitting down with a MacBook or even when I was in the market to purchase an iMac when they were first released in the ’90s, I felt like I was being talked down to. Right there, on the surface, they were telling you: “You don’t need to get in here. Everything you need is right here in front of you and that curtain is nothing. Ignore it. It’s not there.” And I hated that feeling. I hated being told that I bought a system that would help me live my life but it wasn’t going to tell me how and it definitely wasn’t going to let me get my hands dirty to make the experience suit me the best.
I’ve lived my life balking at limitations put on me and, knowing full-well that opposition will call me a “fangirl,” I state that Microsoft had me unchained from the second I stepped in. I kept my PC adoration because — like me — nothing real is without flaws, but the community around it was one that knew how to pick me up and dust me off and help me figure out solutions if I got in over my head. In contrast, the Mac world sat smugly upon its ivory tower and scoffed at those of us who were partaking in the forbidden and getting into trouble. But at least we also knew what it was like to live.
And now, we’re coming up on the next evolution of Windows and I have had my arms wrapped so tightly around the good, solid system that Windows 7 has provided. I do not walk into a new OS with any hesitation because Windows is a constantly evolving child that wants to grow along with us. Focus groups and users have all been what they looked at as they picked and pulled the pieces to come together in this new version, right? How can I be mad at that? How can any of us be mad at that?
I’m going to hold my hand out and glance off to the left and wait for Windows to take me up and I’ll guide it across the street, through the traffic, the hatred, and the vitriol that it has lived through its entire life. Why? Because it did the same thing for me so many, many years ago.