Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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my personal computer history

Apple II+ My first computer was an Apple II+, which my Mom got for my brother and me. She had heard of these cool computer things, and devided her children should have one.

She didn't just buy it for us and risk appliance death, she paid a geek to come over and teach us how to use it. Every Saturday afternoon for a number of months, Miles came over with 5 1/4" floppies loaded with software, and taught us basic programming.

After my brother's initial interest waned, I bonded with the computer. We were close. I played endless games - Norad, Taipan, Zork, DeathRace 2000, Aztec, Castle Wolfenstein.

My favourite was called Odessey. It was a fantasy role playing game with graphics. Staged in the mysterious Sargasso sea, you were an adventurer. Using the keyboard, you navigated a hat-wearing stick figure around a bird's eye map. Ruined temples, castles and towns dotted the landscape. Wandering in meant a text based encounter with some ghoulies, barbarians, or powerful magic scrolls or flying carpets. A lot of the game was resource management - having enough food and gold to keep up your motley crew. After you compiled enough magic stuff, men and equipment, you bought a ship, and sailed around avoiding whirlpools and looking for the bad guy's island castle. I remember getting there once, but he kicked my butt.

This was the first game I could cheat on. Miles told me of a resurrection trick - when you died, and the game kicked you to your Integer prompt, you could type "goto 32000" and you would be back where you were killed, having vanquished your foe. It didn't work on the uber bad guy though.

old apple programs, including odessy,
but first you'll need an apple II emulator.

Somehow games were more engaging back then - the most basic software was enthralling for hours. I think my attention span is shorter now.

Then my brother got an IBM PC/XT (with a 20 meg hard drive!) - when he wasn't writing papers, I was on there playing games and putzing around. He had a modem, and I started calling a lot of bulletin boards to trade files and chat and write messages. When I was first exposed to BBSes, I ran up a $360 phone bill in a month worth of constant chatting on a California BBS. After that, I stayed local.

I called up a BBS in Chicago called the Dog House South (not to be confused with the Dog House North, another BBS). The experience was pretty boring until I discovered that I could break into the sysop functions, including user records. I spent a few hours tinkering with the system, setting up accounts, and never called back. I recieved a phone call from the sysop three weeks later (since I'd put my real phone # in my user record) and I was harangued for violating his system. A downhome exposure to the ramifications of hacking.
I finally got my own computer, an IBM PS/2 model 30. I played even more games, called even more BBSs, and now that this thing was in my bedroom, we were inseparable. I liked to leave the window open, blowing Chicago winter, I'd sit in my underwear with my old comforter and geek out all night.

I hung around a lot in the pirate scene in Chicago, trading files and being paranoid. I worked on a hacker newspaper, The Humble Review, since I couldn't program or hack, that was my (puny) claim to fame in the underground scene.

but I did design ANSI art screens for boards, and I was co-sysop of "Snarf's Music Studio" for a while. I mostly hosted the poetry forum there; a lot of anti-death penalty and anti-gulf war ranting, interspersed with fifteen year old male creativity.

When I was fourteen, I was a salesman at Software, etc., a chain retail software store. Through that job, I got into computer consulting.
I took this computer consulting model and got full time jobs administering networks for businesses in Chicago. This is resume stuff. First was Kanbay, then Summer of 93' was Boston Consulting Group.

After working on computers for thirteen years, I would recommend to anyone that you take care of your eyes. If you are going to be spending five or six hours staring at something, it shouldn't hurt to look at it. My glasses 're thicker than Willie Nelson's tax attorney's, an' I attribute it to thirteen years of mediocre quality screens.

also, watch what it can do to wrists.

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