I was born at towards the end of 1972, which means I basically grew up in the 80s — which was a good time to be a geek.
My first encounter with computers happened when my dad brought home an Apple ][+ computer equipped with 48k of RAM and a cassette-tape “drive”, (a.k.a. a run of the mill tape recorder — floppies came later). You booted the thing up and were presented with a simple prompt.
The reason it was good to be a geek at the time was that the thing was wide open. I literally had a book of computer games — that is, a short description of the game followed by pages of code that you had to type in. Save the work to a disk (or tape, as it were) and run it. That’s how I first learned to program in BASIC, and not coincidentally I still use that knowledge today programming in Visual Basic.
You also had things in magazines such as the quirky little advertisements from Beagle Bros. Software, where they would actually put a short (one or two lines) program in the ad. You would type it in at the prompt and your computer would do something weird or funny, such as chirp like a bird.
For years we got farther and farther away from that, as computer became layered with impenetrable GUIs. Those who came along not too long after me were for the most part removed from the flexible underbelly of their computers (unless they were real geeks tinkering with Linux and such….)
Nowadays we are returning to that low barrier of entry into hacking, with the rise of the Internet. Everybody and their grandmother has a website it seems, and many of them are hand-coded my kids who, like me 25 years ago, are having a blast cracking things open and seeing how they tick.
In the spirit of the unchecked see-what-happens-ness of the old Beagle Bros. ads, I direct your attention to this:
Don’t ask, just follow the instructions. I recommend starting with Google.com and then moving on to something such as Amazon. You’ll see what I mean. 😉