The Humble Story of my Interest in Computers

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How Virgil’s interest grew – Virgil Scott

About 5 years ago, whilst my brother was still at 6th form college and I was only 12, James (my brother) was invited to a LAN party. Having been interested in computers for years, he knew exactly what this was and told me about it to see if I wanted to come along – the more the merrier, he said.

My prior experience with computers basically consisted of chat, music, browsing web pages and playing games. I loved playing games, but when it came to installing them or troubleshooting (which seemed to be necessary all too often!), my most powerful tool was “James, um, what the heck do I do now?” So when things went wrong, and believe me – they did, I had absolutely no idea what to do. Sometimes even when they didn’t go wrong I was equally dumbfounded:

“Umm, James, how do I install this?”
“Have you tried double clicking on it?”

(And now I laugh at my mum when she asks similarly ridiculous questions today, forgetting completely how I used to be.)

Yes, those were the days. It was a wonder that I ever got anywhere, and I certainly wouldn’t have had I been in isolation, yet we managed to play numerous games over our little two, sometimes three computer home network.

Red alert, WarCraft II, Battlezone, Total Annihilation – the fun was endless! Twenty somethings talk about their Spectrums and their Ataris and their Amstrads in the same way, but that was my classic gaming history. Sure, it may not be ancient history, but I still remember it with as much nostalgic fondness as anyone could.

Approaching the weekend, there were certain preparations that needed to take place before we left. We had about 300 MB free on our 6 GB (this baby is still running smoothly) hard disk – but we couldn’t format because of all sorts of important data that my dad had on it. So what ensued was a lengthy and ruthless ‘deleting session’.

This became more difficult than it should have been; I don’t know if the same thing happens to everyone, but I find that all those utilities/little games I download have their own place in my heart. Kind of like when you find spring cleaning difficult because everything you should be throwing away ‘might come in useful someday’. Eventually we had about half the hard disk emptied, so we left it over night to defrag.

When we arrived the next day, at around 11 AM, there were about 5 guys there already set up. We unloaded our precious box carefully from the car – we were very nervous about causing damage to our ‘top of the range’ (333 MHz Celeron, Riva TNT, 64 MB of PC66 RAM – ouch, like a Ferrari!) games machine, you see.

We had her hooked up fairly soon (after the compulsory ‘network problems’) and were being owned in no time at all after that – it really was tremendous.

At this point we were introduced to Counterstrike. We hadn’t really played many first person shooters before, especially not over a network. So, save the odd Doom and Quake, we were, to use the technical term, total newbies (this was my first encounter with this word – but would certainly not be my last *rolls eyes*). We played Counterstrike non-stop for, well, way too long to be healthy. But that, I learned, was the essence of the LAN party.

From that weekend, I brought home with me a fiery enthusiasm to actually get to know how to do things for myself a little. I’d like to be able to say that I’m now en expert on many aspects of computers – but I’m really nothing of the sort; I just know enough to not be afraid to asks questions, whilst also being a little more self reliant.

Now the advice I give my mum, when I see her hesitating over what to do next when the printer messes up or she can’t connect to the internet, is not to be afraid of just poking around a bit. Take a look and see if you can figure it out – the learning experience will be much more worthwhile than someone doing it for you.

The LAN party also left me always wishing for a faster computer. When I saw what other people’s computers could do compared to mine, I was in lust. And this is how I got into overclocking. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I actually had the guts to act upon these yearnings, but since then it has become a bit of an obsession.

I was blessed with the fact that my dad happened to buy one of the most notoriously overclockable processors, so it made my first endeavour pretty simple. Our Celeron still runs today happily at 500 MHz.

I’ve tried getting it higher then that several times – my latest attempt involved a home made water-cooling kit. I can’t say that this kit was a huge success; I guess it was in terms of price as it cost around £20 in total, but right now it is undergoing renovations (including the addition of a nice new water block that my uncle in Canada so kindly made for me).

Perhaps I should write about this next month, as it’s not a short story.

Virgil Scott – England


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