2010 heralds my fifth decade on this planet (and my 3rd on the interwebs). A history lesson, although not necessarily in a completely chronological order, shall follow shortly for your delectation.
For those impatient, tl:dr types: Got born. Got named. Got fed. Got schooled. Got laid. Got job. Got paid. Geeked out. Spent too much. Wrote blog post about it. Cherry.
Born in 1974, got named and then later christened (yeah, I was raised Roman Catholic), burped a few times, and got taught the basics (“the dictionary is over here, the food is in there, and you poop upstairs in that little room with the cold white seat”). Eventually packed off to primary school — although “packed off” implies boarding school; the front door of the school was 4 minutes walk from my home. I travelled abroad too, when I was 4, to either Tenerife or the Canary Islands, I can’t remember which.
This is the decade where computers started leeching their way into my life. From visits to my Uncle and his tricked-out ZX Spectrum (with Microdrive, no less!), hanging around in John Menzies to check out the latest games and footer about with the display micros, to finally getting my own ZX81 (in 1983) and then two ZX Spectrums (a 48K+ in 1985 and a +3 in 1987). I think fascination doesn’t begin to describe my life long interest in computing, and it began here. It still seems so recent, yet when digging out old computers, I can’t help being just a little bit upset at how primitive they are now.
Oh yeah, and I kissed a girl for the first time, figured out what boobies were, watched Star Wars and Star Trek a lot, went to Spain a couple of times, and had a drawer full of Lego.
I guess the big “firsts” happened here, apart from the whole “learning how to control one’s voice, legs and other potentially messy bodily functions” stuff. I started to become more independent from my parents, going out alone or with friends to Glasgow, to the cinema, and so on. I left school. I attempted higher education (and that final score: University 1, Me 0). I found out that the bulk of what I was taught at high school and university was pretty useless for my career choice, although my primary school and college education helped a lot. Weird, that. I earned a “proper” wage for the first time (my £10/week paperboy gig in the late 80s certainly didn’t count). I lost my virginity. I got my own car. And then another. And then another. And then another. Consecutively, that is, not concurrently. I discovered the wonders of alcoholic drink, which led me on a number of adventures.
I got my first real, working, “proper” computer (a 486 thingmabob which ran a very old – although not old at the time – Linux distribution). And then another. And then another. And then another. Concurrently, that is, not consecutively. I discovered the wonders of consultancy, which also led me on a number of adventures, some of them also involving alcoholic drinks. This also led me to discover “the bender”, also known as “the 16 hour office lunch break”.
I got my mobile number in this decade too. If you knew my number in 1998, feel free to call me again: it’s the same number.
I got a house. I got more computers. I lost a serious relationship. I got a big TV. I lost a job. I got another one. I discovered the wonders of telecommuting. And MP3. And high definition. I gained a bit of weight. And then I gained a bit more. And then a bit more. I discovered the joys of a credit card. And then another. You see where that one is going. Reading the news lately, I don’t think I was alone on that one either.
obsession passion for gadgets wasn’t easily sated, as mobile phones, laptops, music players, squeaky toys, digital satellite TV, DVDs, Pokémon, GPS and blue Smarties appeared. See also: credit cards. I discovered enterprise grade Linux, the pleasures of a cooked-to-perfection medium rare steak, virtual worlds, Asda’s brown sauce (it tastes just as good as HP brown sauce, but it’s a fraction of the price!), and all sorts of other stuff.
I travelled to Europe and the US under my own steam. I discovered that the French are really endearingly French, certain substances in Amsterdam can be a tad overpowering, and that Guinness is not supposed to be drunk in San Francisco when there are approximately 7.1 million microbreweries in the Bay Area. Oh, and that US Immigration officers will quiz you about Linux servers while trying to enter the country for a job interview (“Did you use Red Hat Linux 7.5?” Wait, there wasn’t a Red Hat 7.5, is this guy remembering it wrong, or … is he testing me?!).
Somewhere in there is correlation, but perhaps not causation. Telecommuting, then weight gain, for example … hmmm. However, I can pin that problem starting at my first office job in 1996, where we would sit all day hacking away on websites, stopping only to go get lunch from the Greasiest. Chip. Shop. Ever. A lot. Zero exertion jobs + tasty snacky cakes. The maths on that is not hard to do. As for the other stuff … thrpt.
Oh, did you know that blue Smarties are made blue with food colouring derived from seaweed? Now you do.
One thing I left out from all the decades above was that in each one, I made friends. And then more friends. And then more friends. Some from an ever expanding social circle, some from various jobs over the years. Some I’ve kept in touch with, others I’ve lost touch with, others still that I’ve reconnected with: say what you like about Friends Reunited, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al, they are fantastic about letting you catch up with friends you thought you’d maybe never get to talk to again. I got a friend invite from a high school mate I haven’t seen since 1992, and haven’t chatted to electronically since the late 90s, and now we can more easily organise having a wee Irn Bru together.
And I think our social fabric is essentially what keeps us going. Fuck politics, money, squabbling, and whatever bullshit life throws at us; as long as we have people around us to insulate, protect, defend, share, embrace and learn from, we’ll all get along just fine.
I always say: Christmas is for family, New Year is for friends. If you’re either of those, or even if you’re neither to me, I hope you had a good week last week. All the best for the coming year, and the coming decade too. I’m sure I can find some interesting and exciting things to summarise come January 2020.
Now, what the hell do we call the 2010s anyway?
To be continued† …
† um, in like ten years.