Childhood Addiction

It was a daily ritual. I would walk over to Karan’s house and sneak in through the back door so as not to disturb his parent’s afternoon siesta. And we would tiptoe into the carpeted ‘computer room’. One of us would switch on the UAE imported a/c and wait for the hum to settle. Then we would approach the desk.

Gently unzipping the lacy, plastic dust covers, I would hold my breath as Karan removed the last barrier between us and pure MS-DOS bliss. Karan was used to computers. He had an Atari Gaming system from around the  same time as American kids. And his parents had invested in a PC right from when the first ones had rolled out of factories into the Arabian markets.

But for me, those afternoons in Karan’s small bungalow were my first encounter with PCs. And thinking back about the jet black, gleaming, convex glass screen, which booted with a small beep, still gives me goosebumps. At 10, to me, the PC was the most magical device I had ever seen or experienced. The black screen would reveal a tiny, green, blinking dash on the extreme top left; then Karan would type some mumbo-jumbo on the typewriter-like keyboard and lo: massive numbers would start rolling across the screen, dashes would fly everywhere and then there would be a calm. Karan would insert a small black rectangle into the box under the screen, turn a small plastic handle, type into the keyboard a little and this time the numbers would whir some more and the screen would tranform into a 14” window of another world.

I would dream about these worlds at night. Nights filled with flaming monsters from Doom, cats and dustbins from Alley-cat, alien spacecraft from Raptor, floor-traps from Prince of Persia, distant travelers and knights from Daggerfall.

I do remember having very strong preferences about which games I liked even in those days, bu I didnt have much of a choice, t since I didn’t have a computer of my own till 11th grade. Most of us didn’t. Only a lucky few had a PC at home  in pre-liberalised India. And if you were not from a metro, you chances were even slimmer. But I was different from a lot of other game-addicts in one particular way. I was only interested in the computer as long as it gave me access to games. I loathed all other aspects of it. The programming, the jargon-filled gibberish that was BASIC or MS-Dos. I never felt any kinship, any deisre for these things. But I did like Wordstar. And MS-Word. I liked the clatter of the keyboard under my fingers. The way that it is clattering right now.

Our childhood shapes so much. My love affair with computer games continues unabated. It is probably my worst addiction. And I love blogging.


7 responses to “Childhood Addiction”

  1. The PC was my way of connecting with my genius of a father, he was a hero who knew how to work a computer and had a laptop when most of our country hadn’t even heard of one. A small town girl like me, started playing games on it, geeky ones though, unlike your action packed ones, like Minesweeper, typing games etc etc. Also, I loved Basic and MS DOS. My father assumed I was a child prodigy, little did he know I would turn out the way I am now, an advertising beginner, still obsessed with my own beloved IBM R52 – my almost best friend, in a world where humans are not around, or allowed. You know it all, don’t you…?
    This post is close to my heart, will always be..
    Thank you for writing, keep blogging. muah

  2. your love affair with computers…. well, i think i know a bit about it.. :)…..

    well into the night and deep into some crazy dream i suddenly wake up as if something had happened, and hear that frantic clattering of the keyboard either to write some stuff for some presentation, or (as it was mostly the case) mail someone who was a bit far away… 🙂 and then you would look up to me, very nonchalantly and say, “how do you like my typing speed?”….. 🙂 smug

    by the way….. i see myself now, and i get deja vu…..
    lovely lovely post……

  3. hi!

    i remember sneaking into his house with you. I remember he also had this fortune teller sort of thing. And would bullshit us. lol.

  4. I like the description of the way the computer starts, with the glowing “dash” in the top corner and then random numbers flashing in quick succession…Got me nostalgic!

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