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Chris Wright - by Christopher B. Wright
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Christopher B. Wright is a technical writer in the Richmond, VA area, and has been using OS/2 Warp since January 95. He is also a member of Team OS/2.

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Summary: Dungeons & Dragons and Word Processing got Chris Wright hooked on computers, and eventually OS/2, but what experiences do you have to share?

I remember the first time I was introduced to a computer. My father had a Commodore PET (tape loaded programs) and was showing me a game called Wumpus, a text driven game where you went on a Wumpus hunt and you had to guess which barrow the Wumpus lived in. Computers were neat toys, I decided, and didn't think much more of them.

Later on, my father showed me another game called the Temple of Apshai, a "graphical" Dungeons & Dragonish kind of game where you went through a dungeon and killed monsters. This is the first game that really sold me on computers as a gaming platform. I played Temple of Apshai for a long, long time -- I practically wore out the program tape!

Then the Commodore 64 came out, and I started playing all kinds of video games. I was sold on the computer then -- as a gaming platform. I liked computers then for the same reason people like Nintendo and Sega sets now, and I absolutely had no other use for them whatsoever. Then, one day, I discovered another computer program that opened a whole new world for me.

It was called a "word processor."

Suddenly, computers were useful. I could use them to put down my thoughts, organize them, save them, and print them out. Instantly, the computer changed from an expensive toy into a tool. Well, a tool that doubled as an expensive toy, at any rate.

As time progressed, and I became more familiar with word processors, I began to realize exactly how powerful these things were. I wrote papers in High School that I re-used (with some editing) in college. To the mixed chagrin and amusement of our High School's administrative staff, I used my IBM PC Clone (an XT, if I remember correctly) to publish one of our three underground newspapers.

PC Technology grew. I started paying more attention. I learned about other, more powerful tools out there that actually let you create more than just a simple document. Did you know you can use a PC program to create a magazine? Or a newspaper? The idea astounded me. The PC was the Common Man's Guttenberg Press, and I had one sitting on my desk.

I went through college using nothing more than WordPerfect 5.0. After I graduated and started working full time, I decided I wanted to be able to do more. I became more and more interested in publishing, and started trying to build a publishing workstation at home.

Because I was poor, I had to buy one computer piece at a time. A motherboard here. A cpu there. Another motherboard because I'd accidentally attach my power supply to it backwards causing a rather large hole to be melted through the board (as well as blowing out all the lights on an entire floor of the house I was living in at the time). I bought some RAM, an extra hard drive, a new video card, and some computer books. I learned to suffer the smug expressions of the CompUSA salespeople who looked at me like I was an idiot every time I asked them a question about computer cabling. Eventually, I had managed to cobble together a 486/40 (AMD chip) with a math coprocessor and a whole 8 megabytes of RAM -- I had a power machine.

The Pentium 60s had just come out, but they tended to burn through motherboards -- I could do that any time I wanted simply by reversing the connection on my power supply. I had an almost-state-of-the-art machine, and I was gosh darn proud of it.

I was intoxicated by speed. The computer could actually keep up with me when I typed! I could actually run WordPerfect 5.2 for Windows -- something that had been pretty much an exercise in futility back when I had a 386/20 SX with 2 (then 4) megs of RAM. I could actually play Ultima 3 at a speed approaching "real time".

After a while I discovered OS/2 -- not because I was looking for a 32 bit operating system, but because a) I was getting tired of the General Protection Fault every time I opened a large document, and b) I was getting sick and tired of waiting for Windows 95 (then called "Chicago"). I picked up OS/2 Warp 3.0 for Windows (Red Box) because it was only $65, because I'd read some good things about it, and because my cousin used it (still does). Mostly, though, it was because it was only $65.

If I have any technical prowess at all, it is because of those early days trying to install OS/2 on my 486. It was roughly five or six months of pure hell. I had to make disks from the CD, I had to install over and over and over again because nothing seemed to work right. Finally, I swapped out my Diamond Speedstar display card for a Micro and lo and behold, everything worked just fine! Then it took me a month just to figure out how to get OS/2 to recognize my 1x CD-ROM drive. Then I couldn't find drivers for my printer. Crappy hardware drivers make for a crappy computing experience, and in the beginning I was miserable. It got better, though, and as I learned (and bought better hardware) I got sucked in to the seductive world that is OS/2.

Then of course was the Internet -- over-hyped though it may be, it connected me to the rest of the world. It introduced me to OS/2 users in California, Florida, New York, England, Russia, Italy, Germany, and even Canada (hello, Trevor). It introduced me to interesting sites like "GNU's Not Unix" and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It even introduced me to Linux -- though the first time we shook hands I ran away screaming and was later found cowering in a corner, rocking back and forth and muttering "God, no, God, no, God, no" over and over again.

The Internet seemed a natural fit with my interest in publishing, and so here I am today, a contributor to a magazine that covers an operating system I bought for $65 because I was tired of waiting for Chicago.

My interest is writing and publishing. Computers are my means to that end. I have definite plans for my machine -- I'm going to write and publish music, text, edit video, create multimedia applications, and make information available to the world at large. I'm using OS/2 because I find that I can best mold it to work the way I feel most comfortable -- and because I find that if I don't do anything stupid, neither will it. I'd like it to have a few more applications, but I have enough right now to make a start on doing the things I want to do.

What about you? What sucked you in to the world of computers? If you're a programmer, what was the reason that you started programming? If you're an end user, to what end are you using it? What was the really great thing about these little beeping electronic boxes that made you say "hey, I think I'll devote a lot of my free time to using one of these?" What promise did computers hold for you when you started on this trip, and has it been fulfilled?

Drop me a line, and let me know. You can use our interactive forum and talk about it with other readers too.

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February 1, 1999