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You always remember your first.

20/11/2010

The life that we go through is interesting. We are for all intensive purposes individuals, but we go through a series of shared events. We all go through birth. We go through various stages of growth. We will all go through death.

And we always remember our first time.

So much so that Heineken used this successfully in regards to its brand. They have stopped doing it maybe to a PC backlash, but personally I think because no one seems to relate with actually remembering when they lost virginity anymore.

Luckily for me this post is not about beer or sex, although I think that may actually be a great idea for a sequel! No what I am talking about is… computing games! And other things.

I was in my second year of a Biology and Immunology degree, not that my lecturers would confirm this since they barely remember me by sight. See sometime in the start of the year, I had shifted focus. I was 19, and there was this great looking girl in my dorm. She wasn’t interested in science though. She was an ‘artist’. What ever that was.

I soon found myself hanging around the arty farties – as I had called this political-socio group only months before when I was trying to impress a rather attractive and big breasted girl in my biology classes. I had made many friends at that time by coming up with a concept for a science T-Shirt idea.

The catch phrase was:

GET YOUR Phthirus pubis FROM AN APPLIED BIOLOGIST!

I tell you, there was much guffawing going on in the lecture theater, at least amongst those who understood what a Phthirus pubis was. I enclose a picture with the common term. The picture donned the back of the t-shirt by the way.

Cute looking beast is it not? Especially so when magnified this large. Needless to say, we biologists did not seem to find many from other disciplines to cross pollinate with when we wore these t-shirts.

Anyway, I had shifted my focus from the big breasted one to the arty one and as I said began to find myself hanging around creative sods. Here is the thing. I actually got involved in art and film making years before I got involved in art and film making. But that’s another story.

So with my focus shifting, so did my circle of influence. No longer was I interested in scientific mathematical computing for instance. And when we were given an elective between a scientific mathematical computing language or FORTRAN and a more generic and easier sounding language called BASIC, well the choice was easy! I figured I would do this BASIC thing which sounded fairly simple and well, basic, and I can use the rest of the time I saved doing the arty farty things.

Some of these arty farty things included working on short films with some from the film school of the arts discipline. A terrible mistake. While I enjoyed the actual film making stuff including turning a puppet of Yoda into a parrot for a particular interesting costume for a particular short, the arty girl and the film making guy seemed to be getting it on too well! Such is life.

Now with less need to hang out with the art crowd, I fell into a more weirder crowd: the computing geeks. I was right about BASIC. It was very basic, and my thrill for Applied Science was gone now I had met my creative self. Mind you at the time I did not know this. I found myself questioning much of what our lecturers were saying in the science classes and generally dissociating myself from my peer group.

I still hung around some of the arty friends, but not as much as before as I still held a little resentment to that arty girl. The computing geeks I discovered were not as geeky as they came across, despite the pocket protectors. In fact, I discovered that computing in itself was a beautiful melding of science and art. Hey. I needed something to delude myself with and I decided this was good. I still hold it today actually. For example you would get a posed problem. But every program, although it has the same core principles, would be invariably different. Each programmer had their own style as much as each artist that painted the same vase painted it differently

So there I was with all this extra time and no arty girl to spend it with. So what is a guy to do. I soon started to hang around the actual first year and second year computing students and before I knew it, they had got me onto this!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hack_(video_game)

You hear some noises in the distance.

                       +...|#|....|
                       -----                                    ##+....|
                                     |....|
                       |...|###############                       ------
                       |...|#             #-----+-----
                       |..%|##            #|.........|
                  #    -----#             #|.[......%L
       -+----  ##############             #|.........|
       |....|   #                         #+@........|
       |....+####                        ##-----------
       |....|
       |....+
       ------

Level 1    Hp  15(15)   Ac 9    Str 16      Exp  1

It was this thing called HACK. A computer game. This was the days when our computer rooms where in two types. One was a set of line printers. These actually printed right onto paper. And a room with about 6 VDU displays. The computer was a thing called a VAX from DEC or Digital Electronic Company and it had …GAMES!!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VAX

Well, you can see where this is headed. Half way through the year, after doing very well in my chosen science discipline, I left it and moved to computing. I really did contemplate an Art or Drama discipline but since I needed my parents support to do this University thing, I thought I could sell computing easier to them. Barely.

So having switched half way through a year, there were a few subjects I could not take as I had not done the prerequisite so I did as many 1st year and some 2nd year subjects as they would let me, but I was still had about 10 hours more free time than I had ever been: science was around 30 hours face to face including practical.

So what to do! Well I played a little bit of Hack! It was fun. Till I met this guy who was doing computing full-time but obviously was not being challenged by the workload. I had this stupid idea to use one of these new portable computers the campus had access to called MACs. You see this thing had a word to language converter and I had a crazy idea. One of my classes required us to write a speech to give for one of our subjects. I had written it onto my IBM account and suddenly thought wouldn’t it be good if the computer gave the speech.

So I got this guy called Keith to help me convert my program into something which the MAC understood. This was before you could convert this easily. I had to write a program that would take the EBCDIC into a flat file and then read that flat file and convert to ASCII into. I am sure I am boring many of you. Basically it was taking the character, converting it into DECimal then HEX. The speech was NOT that long. It would have been heaps easier to actually re-type it in! Still, we had something to kill some time and get us interested in something and away we went.

It was not all smooth sailing once the data was converted. The damn MAC speech synthesizer had troubles. We had to convert the speech phonetically! Still, we had gone done that track and so we finished it. I gave my speech in the library where the computer was (couldn’t move them back then) and after the 5 minutes I got polite applause. Even I was bored with hearing a droning computer speak it all out. I impressed the lecturer though and got an A.

What are two nerds to do with this new found knowledge. Do we start our own communications company? After all we basically created a IBM PC to APPLE data converter! Nah. Do we look at electronics and manipulating a card that can do this aka CISCo? Nah.

We take our knowledge and convert the 2D hack game into 3D.  We had  knowledge of what all those special characters where and the game used different characters for different monsters. So when the game drew a map, we converted it visually into a 3D like image. We created skeletons and bugbears and werewolf and vampire images using special characters and converted the hallways appropriately.

Mind you half way into this he lost me. I became more useful to him as a tester then developer. This may sound like we wasted our time. But really I do not think so. I got to combine computing with the artistic and the theatrical, and he decided to re-enroll the next year. This literally changed Keith’s life.

I had entrepreneurial dreams for our next year. We soon discovered that we really did not know all that much. The second year was tougher. For both of us. I had extra subjects to take and the course began to finally challenge Keith. We still did stupid thing and we even wrote a program at the behest of my ex arty girlfriend for her new film making boyfriend for a computer based horror film he wanted to direct. We basically had to write the script as well to make it make sense.

We also had enough people doing computing (that is more than 13) to qualify for a need for a computing t-shirt. Surprisingly, I still have mine. We had a new group that wanted to do computing that year. The aggies – the agriculture students. The had a long standing design for their shirts.

WAGGA AG COLLEGE. WHERE MEN ARE MEN AND SHEEP ARE NERVOUS

I do not have a diagram but on the back of this was a picture of a sheep shaking in its boots.

As I said, it was long-standing. Wagga Agricultural College (WAC) had to merge into the Riverina College of Advanced Eduction (RCAE) which would later become Riverina-Murray Institute of Higher Eduction (RMIHE). Before finally choosing to be called Charles Stuart University (CSU) we had spread a rumor that it was going to be called Southern Highlands Institute of Technology (SHIT) but it did not pan out. Pity. Would have loved a qualification from SHIT and of course studied on the SHIT campus.

Anyway, helping out the film guy and my ex-arty girlfriend had a benefit. I met her arty girlfriend. We needed a t-shirt design and this new girl did the drawing for me based on my design.

It would be just after I had graduated that computing at my old campus would number enough for it to warrant it’s own department, it was growing. And so, to remember a machine we would replace, and to celebrate the new interest in computing even from the agriculture students, I created this. The aggies did not like it of course, but we sure got a lot laughs at their expense.

Oh and Keith! I said something above about having his life change. Well he did come back and he did finish the course, but that was only part of it. The other part was it was in that second year he met his future wife. I feel like a match maker. But one that did it by fluke. Much like all those first joint ventures.

You never forget your first collaborations. It’s enough to make you scream like a girl.

A. Ghebranious     2010       All Rights Reserved

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From → Art, Uncategorized, Weird

2 Comments
  1. Hah

  2. show me

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