My Computers

By Zhenyi Tan

My first time using a computer was at a tuition centre during my primary school years. It was a generic beige box, probably running Windows 95, but set to boot in DOS mode. I remember having to go to C:\WINDOWS and type win to start Windows.

The first program I learned to use was MS Paint. As I meticulously (as meticulously as a young boy could) drew a globe on the screen, I discovered that some colors were dithered and couldn’t be replaced with other colors. I remember thinking, “This computer sucks.”

Fast forward to secondary school, we had a computer class once a week where we learned the basics of Microsoft Office. After a lot of nagging, my parents finally bought a Dell PC for my brother and me. It came with Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition.

We didn’t have internet access at home. Dial-up was expensive, and my parents didn’t understand the internet, so no amount of begging could convince them to get it. I ended up using the computer mostly for playing games. But playing against the AI in Warcraft 3 could only keep a boy interested for so long.

Then I discovered the World Editor program that came with Warcraft 3. I started creating my own custom maps, and that’s how I learned to program. (Later, I wanted my custom characters to look different, and that’s how I learned Photoshop.)

After secondary school, I moved to Singapore to study at a Polytechnic. The school had a program that partially sponsored laptops for new students. I didn’t know much about Apple or Macs then, so I foolishly chose a Fujitsu laptop. It came with Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition Service Pack 2.

When Vista came out, I tried upgrading, but my laptop’s 256 MB of RAM wasn’t enough. The system was slow, and most of the Aero features were disabled. I reverted back to XP but still wanted the Vista look. I found custom themes and utilities on websites like DeviantArt to make my XP desktop look like Vista. There was even a program whose sole purpose was to create a Vista Start Orb on your desktop.

While searching for custom themes, I found themes that copied the Aqua interface, which looked even cooler than Vista. I decided to make my desktop look like that instead. I installed FlyakiteOSX and some other programs and got a desktop with a working Dock, a menu at the top, and an Aqua-ish interface.

The theming wasn’t perfect. Sometimes, the underlying Windows UI would peek through, which annoyed me. So, I researched and turned my laptop into a Hackintosh. Fortunately, most of the hardware of my Fujitsu laptop was compatible. I could even get working Wi-Fi by modifying some kext file. There was a bug with the graphic driver, but it could be fixed by sticking a paperclip into the VGA port.

After graduating from Polytechnic, I briefly used Ubuntu (and then Arch Linux, btw). At one of my jobs, my boss gave me a MacBook for work because Ruby on Rails didn’t work well on Windows. I loved that plastic MacBook and felt like a real Mac user.

But the MacBook wasn’t mine. When I left the job, I returned it and borrowed a ThinkPad from a friend. I switched back to Linux, but it wasn’t as nice as I remembered. When Steve Jobs announced the 2nd-generation MacBook Air, I ordered one right after the keynote.

And that was, finally, my first Mac.