t's funny how you come full circle in life.
When I first started my college programming classes, I was actually programming on a mainframe, of all things. My first couple of years was this way. I spent a lot of time on this mainframe doing various programs and playing on Bitnet. Bitnet was a network similar to the Internet. You could also send email to the Internet from Bitnet. At the time I didn't have access to the Internet.
Later on, I switched over to using PCs in DOS to develop on. It was on here that I started to play around with the Internet itself. This was in about 1990, several years before the web existed. I remember being impressed by the fact that I could go online and FTP down programs for my PC at a staggering 1.5Mb/sec! These days I have twice that over DSL going into my home. During this time learning to program in DOS on PCs, a friend of mine gave me an account on this 'Unix' box he was on. I later found out this 'Unix' box was actually running this mysterious operating system called Linux. I was all impressed at the time, that my friend had access to one of these expensive mysterious Unix boxes. I didn't realize at the time that it was just an early version of Linux running on a PC in his home! He was an early adopter if ever there was one! On this Linux PC, I learned how to use Unix. I used it because it gave me easy access to the Internet, but I hated Linux. It was so hard to use compared to the much easier DOS.
Later on, in my last semester of college, soon after Windows 3.1 hit the scene, I was curious about this new mysterious graphical system on my old familiar DOS. So, I set out to learn how to program for this Windows 3.1. It was a fascinating experience. I was so used to simple procedural programs, that this new graphical, event based system was interesting. I learned to program it and this curiosity changed my life. From the time I graduated college, until this very day, I've been programming in Windows full time as how I earn a living.
A few years after I started my professional career, I happened to come back around to Linux. This was around 1996 or so. I happened across a CD copy of RedHat 5.1. I installed it in my computer and started to play with it. It seemed primitive and ugly compared to Windows, yet I was oddly fascinated by it. After some time of studying how it works and how it is designed, I started to realize, just how good it was from a technical point of view. It was still a major pain to install, but it made sense! Even at this point, Windows still seemed to be a chaotic mess. Sometimes you would read how to do things, and you would just wonder what the heck they were thinking when they designed it. The design of Linux, on the other hand, just made a lot of sense. I saw real potential here. I then dived into learning everything I could about it. That hunt for understanding of Linux continues to this day. I still think it has great potential. I also loved the concept of Linux being written for free by programmers. These are people who clearly love what they are doing and want to show it off to the world. I can respect that. Anyone who can put forth the effort to develop something of the quality of Linux and not get paid for any of it, must clearly love programming. This was a philosophy I could really identify with. If you love what you do, you will do well at it.
Going back to my college days, the Apple Macintosh was always present. I saw them in various computer labs throughout the campus and on occaision played around with them myself. This was another computer I liked. I liked the easy to use graphical system they had and the very friendly, cute style that the operating system had. I never bought one myself for various reasons. First of all, all my classes were on PCs, so it made more sense to buy a PC than a Mac. Second of all, the Macintoshes were a lot more expensive than a PC. On average, a Mac would cost a good $3500 and a PC would cost about $1800. A big difference. Even back then, I liked the Macs but I felt that Apple was killing themselves by pricing them so much higher than PCs. I even had a roommate who bought a PC. Within a week of trying to use Windows on this PC, he decided he hated PCs and returned the PC. He bought a Mac. I wonder whatever became of him. Did he go on to a full time career of programming for the Mac or did he return to the PC side?
In my last year of college, I can also remember seeing one NeXT computer sitting in the computer lab. It was this big black cube sitting next to a big black monitor. This this was gorgeous compared to the bland PCs that it shared a computer lab with. Since there was only one of these NeXT PCs in the lab, and it was meant for research, I was only able to get my hands on it occaisionally to play with. Whenever I did, I liked what I saw! Some years later, Apple would buy out NeXT computer and use much of their hardware and software designs in the creation of OSX.
Last year, I went out and bought an iPod, after hearing all the buzz about how cool they were. I bought it and I liked it, a lot. I used it for all of last year, and still use it today. I was never a big user of iTunes though. I liked the iPod for its ability to play MP3 files. I had a large collection of music CDs that I had ripped to MP3 and I thought it was truly cool to be able to carry my entire music collection around in my hand and be able to instantly access any song on any CD! I still think this is really cool. I never got into iTunes for monetary reasons. I usually buy CDs if there is an artist I like. I rarely buy singles. iTunes is more about buying singles. You can buy entire albums but it actually costs more to buy the album on iTunes than it does to go down to the corner store and buy a real, live CD. Buying, and liking the iPod, drew my attention back to the newer Apple Macintoshes. These were again, very cool. It didn't occur to me up until recently, how very similar these Macs where to that old NeXT box I saw back in college.
More to come...