Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why I stopped worrying and learned to love the nerds

When I were a nipper I had a great love of computers. In the early 80s the old man broke open his penny jar and splashed out on a BBC Micro. Expensive at the time too - 400 lids in the old money which by todays money roughly equals about 20 billion euro. Everyone else had a Commodore 64 or Spectrum, but I got well into the Beeb. I used to use the early bulletin boards around Dublin using a super fast 1200 baud modem. The first program I ever downloaded took about 2 hours to come down, and consisted of a skeleton dancing on a screen. Hi tech stuff! The sysops all hated me cos I was seven years of age at the time, and was constantly experimenting (ie fucking around) with their system.

I used to also track weather satellites and (maybe) the coolest of all; I had an actual old fashioned telex machine wired up. I'd use the computer hooked up to a short wave radio to listen in on the transmissions from PA and Reuters, together with ship communications from around the world and print them out. I also used to write to Radio Moscow and ask for car stickers; I figured it would brighten up my fathers day if he ever got stopped at a garda checkpoint.

Another kid down the road was interested in this sort of stuff too; he was more technically minded than me, so he'd build equipment rather than just use what he could get second hand. And what fun we had! The fun we had included accidentally jamming a church PA system, blowing up the local Cablelink network and trying to get free electricity from our home telephones during an ESB strike.

Over the years, it became apparent that whilst I was a bit of a messer, my mate had a real gift at this sort of thing. I couldn't get my head around a circuit diagram, and although I could understand what the different components did, theres no way I was ever going to be able to design them. I was still listening to old radio receivers while my mate was building new ones with parts he had stolen from skips in a nearby industrial estate.

The really funny thing is that my mate dropped out of school before the intercert and the teachers reckoned he was a lost cause. His spelling and writing was terrible and everyone thought he was a dunce.

The same dunce now lives in a big fuck off gaff with a wanker sports car and a maid that cleans the gaff twice a week. Oh yeah, he works about 3 1/2 days a week. Revenge of the nerds.


  1. Your wired up telex machine is just brilliant. We had an MSX (back when Microsoft used to make hardware!) and I remember it taking a good 20 minutes when I had to load the next level of Gauntlet from the cassette drive.

    I am a great believer that nerds will always finish out first :)

  2. Not only do I remember the MSX computers but I have fond memories of wasting a lot of money playing Gauntlet in the old Stillorgan Bowling Alley. I recently got it on a games compilation for the PSP. Deadly.