Shaped by computers


Before I start I want everyone reading this to know that this is a highly personal rant. I don't know if, but I don't think, I am quite alone with the thoughts and experiences I'm about to unload on you. This is a story of a little boy trying to do something better than his brother. This is a story of a little boy trying to find something that he is "best" at. Maybe even the strife to get some attention in a big family of aunts and cousins, and how this somewhat failed.

Hold on to your hats, because this is a journey into a part of my childhood and teens.

Back in the day when computers weren't mainstream and "everyone" started to think they knew "everything" about how computers work and what they're good for, it was a pretty lonely thing being the family "computer wiz". Since as long as I can remember I've been interested in computers. I didn't get one before I was 10 or 11 (don't quite remember the exact date). But ever since I was 6 years old, my big dream was to get a computer of my own. I wasn't quite sure what I would do with it, I just knew that it would be wonderful.

I was quite alone in my family with this obsession. My mother and father wasn't that keen on letting me spend all my savings on something they didn't understand. My brother and sister probably didn't care. I come from a family of down to earth people. Hard working folk. Though my family never were farmers most of my relatives were and are. So the natural thing to discuss on family gatherings were down to earth things such as hunting, hard labor and sports. Things that down to earth, hard working people talk about.

(Don't get me wrong, I don't mean anything bad with what I say about my family and relatives. I'm just stating more or less obvious facts and/or observations and interpretations I've done during the years.)

As accustomed to these family gatherings are the usual "catching up" with things. How the cousins are doing in school, if they have a girlfriend yet, how the football series are going etc. And this is where the competition starts. Most brothers and sisters compete in some way of being "the best". Even if they don't think about it, they want to be able to do something their parents can be proud of. Even when "revolting" in their teens.

You know, I was never the best at anything my family and relatives cared about. I was pretty good in school, but at that age most are. My brother on the other hand was the star at everything. He was definitely more macho than I ever was. He was pretty much the star of his football team, my dad was the coach, he was interested in driving cars (and fairly good at it too I reckon), he had girlfriends and so on. He wasn't a star in school though, not that my brother is dumb, he was just not very interested. School was never the hot topic at our family gatherings. The school topic was more of a filler.

My mother and father were always supportive of what we kids did. As long as we were happy, they were happy.

However, I always had the feeling of being inferior to my brother. He was much better than me in any sport you can imagine. Naturally he was stronger than me. He was better looking. He had more girls. There were only three things I was better at. Computers, music and school. School was nothing I ever spent much time worrying about. I never studied hard. I hardly opened my books when I got home. School just came natural to me. I learned fast. Computers on the other hand was something I spent a lot of time with. Messing with computers was something I enjoyed doing. Computers was my interest, and most important, I was best at it! My family and relatives knew shit about computers. I was the bloody master!

When you're a kid you seem to have time for everything, so aside my computer addiction I formed a band with a few mates. We started off by playing Nirvana covers (like everyone seemed to do in '93-'94), and later moved on to various forms of punk and metal. And in 1995 I had finally developed a skill in both computers and music that I was definitely better than my brother at both things. The feeling of finally being the best at something made me work even harder on both my "hobbies".

Little good did this do me at family gatherings. As my brother was the sports star, babe-magnet, party animal, big strong guy he was the center of attention. He did things my relatives could relate to and understand. Technology and art is not something most farmers and hard workers think or care about. I turned into the weird kid who's interests no one really understood.

To my relatives, computers equaled playing games. When I retreated from the dinner table, which I usually did right after finishing my meal as nothing discussed seemed to concern me, I sat down in front of my computer. "Oh, Marcus is down in his room playing computer-games as usual" they would say. To the delight of my younger cousins they were allowed to go watch as I "played my games". Sometimes I did play games, sometimes I did something "useful". Like composing music, writing, exploring the OS or something equally "boring" in my cousins eyes. "This game isn't funny! Change it!" they would shout if I was doing something else than playing games. To shut them up, I'd usually start playing a game as I would never get any peace unless I did. "Can we try it?" they would more demand than ask, and I would let them. Otherwise they'd get even more on my nerves. After about half a minute of playing (which really was nothing more than a terrible abuse of my joysticks) they'd scream "This game isn't funny! Change it!". There was no way I could win. I simply had to turn the computer off and go watch TV, only to be asked every 15 minutes if they could play on my computer. "It needs a rest" or "it's broken" would be the usual answer.

I still had the music band, or my "orchestra" as it usually was branded by my relatives. As it was, and still is, rock music to them equaled Body Holly, and anything with just a touch of more distortion on the guitar was "awful noise". Computer music was right out as well. Any sound a computer produced was "bleep-blopp". End of story. My brother, to this very day, keeps telling me "You could be something if you composed real music". Synth-pop or anything I accomplish with my computer is not real music. I still think most my relatives have the idea that computer are for playing games, calculating your income taxes and writing school essays with. They're not something you create stuff with. Some of them probably think computer games grow on trees, and don't understand or want to understand what is actually happening. And trying to explain a demo to them is like trying to explain algebra to a piece of wood.

They simply could not understand what on earth I was doing.

As time passed and most of them got computers of their own they discovered that computers don't always do what you want them to do. They give you strange errors, do strange things when you fiddle with stuff and in general is a pain in the crap-trap when they malfunction. And who'd be the one to ask? Me, the computer wiz. What they didn't really understand was that I was a hard core Amiga fanatic at the time. I didn't know much about PC's. Only what I read in some magazines and the little basic computer training I had got in school. But they asked and I helped out. Be it a Mac or PC giving them a hard time. Ask the computer wiz! So this way I learned how other computers and systems worked. At the "expense" of others. If I couldn't solve the problem I'd just say "I think we better format the harddrive and reinstall everything". "Ok", they would reply. "Everything will be lost", I explained. "You do what you have to do", they'd say as I was the one knowing what I talked about. So I backed up a few important documents they might have, blew the old data into oblivion and finally my family and relatives got an idea of what I was doing.

Now you might think I was a bitter kid, or that I look back on my childhood and teens with sorrow. I couldn't put it much clearer than with the words "FUCK NO"! I was probably happier and more stable than most teens ever were. I never "revolted" since I couldn't find a reason for it. I was already weird and misunderstood! I built up an almost ridiculous self-esteem because I knew stuff no one else in my family knew. I was creative, and that to me was the most important thing of them all. So what if they didn't understand or care? I was THE BEST!

I love my family and could never wish for other parents than the ones I have. They were always there. And though they didn't understand, they knew I was happy and listened to what I had to say. My weirdness turned me into what I am today and I'm happy with it.

I was lucky to not be like my brother. This way my family have got two different individuals who're good at totally different things. If I wasn't different they'd have two identical figures. And who knows, maybe they would still be competing with each other to this very day.