• Dale Thele

WHAT??? There Was a Time BEFORE Computers?

For the younger generation who have grown up with computers, smartphones, iPads, etc, there was a time when there were no computers. Yes, I’m referring to the “dark ages” before email and texting. When we communicated by snail mail, phone (connected by wires to a wall outlet) and yes, we even spoke to one another in person (face-to-face)—can you believe that?

Scary ain’t it?

My first foray into computing was a Commodore 64. I waited outside in a long line at Service Merchandise to order mine. People lined up nearly around the building for their turn to place an order for the first affordable home computer. None of us knew anything about computers, except for maybe making punch cards for binary computers at universities or major employers. We were entering an uncharted and exciting era into the unknown.

The Commodore 64 was revolutionary at the time, one could create data lists and play games. We were amazed and entertained by our new home computers.

Then a new must-have innovation burst into our homes—the Web TV. By hooking up a converter box onto the TV one could access the Worldwide Web right from the comfort of our living rooms. With a simple keyboard on our lap, we could write and send email from our television sets and surf Web TV compatible web sites.

Web TV is where I discovered webcam sites. For hours upon hours, I was intrigued by watching ordinary everyday people broadcasting images of themselves from their homes. The “live” pictures refreshed about every 15 seconds. Depending on the traffic to the webcam site, sometimes the images froze, and I’d have to reboot the Web TV. Rebooting was slow because of a dial-up connection. I will never forget that hideous Web TV music which played as the unit gradually linked to the web.

After a couple of months of no sleep because of my addiction to watching webcam sites, I wondered if I too couldn’t do the same. All I figured I'd need was a tabletop computer and a webcam. So, I ordered a computer from an ad on Web TV.

My new IBM compatible computer was delivered by UPS on Christmas Eve in 1999.

I tore into the shipping box, unpacking my first real computer. So excited, I set it up and attached the cables on the floor instead of on top my earlier purchased computer table. Plugging the cord into the electric socket, I flipped the power switch—nothing happened. There were no blinking lights, no humming motors, zilch. Well, I think I cried for a little while, disappointed I’d spent my hard-earned money on a piece of worthless junk. To top it off, it was Christmas eve, and I’d waited nearly a week for my custom build computer to arrive.

Disappointed, I gathered the packing materials of styrofoam, plastic bags and waded paper. Then, I happened to stumble upon a sheet of paper with red printing. “For Customer Service Call 1-800-XXX-XXXX.”

Of course, I immediately dialed the number. An amazing and patient service tech guided me through disassembly of the entire tower. Unidentifiable computer parts laid all around me on the floor. It worried me I’d not be able to put it back together properly. After all, until that evening I’d never used a real computer, let alone take one entirely apart.

By dawn on Christmas morning, I had ultimately reconstructed the tower (with the help of the service tech). Low and behold, the computer worked. All night on the phone and a bad case of cauliflower ear, I’d unassembled and reassembled my first computer tower.

Building a website was my next challenge. Knowing absolutely nothing about coding, I rapidly self-taught myself through many hours of trial and errors—and a LOT of failures. At the time there were few books on web design and WYSIWYG editors were extremely expensive.

Somehow, through diligence (sheer stubbornness) and endless hours of frustration, I launched my first 3-page website on the afternoon of February 26, 2000. Pages filled with random moving gifs and smart-ass sayings. Don’t ask me if I understood how any of my coding worked, all I can say is that I had a webcam site of my own making. There were a grand total of four visitors during my initial hour of broadcasting.

The webcam site changed and grew over the 8 years of its online life. Growing from one webcam to six webcams in my condo, operating from three computers. Countless people aided me along the way to better understand web design coding, but mostly, I’m self-taught.

It’s been 11 years since operating a webcam site. Today, I prefer a quiet and very private home life where I can write tales of made-up characters and predicaments they find themselves in. Over the years, I’ve continued to make my own web sites, reflecting the various paths my life has taken. Life isn’t static, it’s always in flux and transition—or that’s how it's been for me.

Please visit the website I completed this past weekend, my umpteenth website design: https://www.dalethele.com.

Dale Thele

fiction with an lgbt twist

#DaleThele #Author #Novelist #Writer #Fiction

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