i've never known a life without a computer.

my parents were always on top of modern technology, it felt. i remember having the NES and the SNES in the house as a child. my first conscious exposure to anything new tech was playing super mario brothers and final fantasy 2 (4 in japan) even though i could barely read. i specifically remember i was playing a sesame street video game the day my brother came home from the hospital when i was three.

this embracing of tech meant that the family computer was a mainstay in our living room. and thus, so was i. here is a picture me sitting before it, probably 6 years old. i think the yellow thing in my lap is the old miscrosoft easy ball. for kids!

i played a lot of computer games as a kid. i was very into the humungous entertainment games, specifically putt-putt, who was a purple car that... did things? he saved the zoo once, i remember. i also was incredibly obsessed with mixed-up mother goose, where you had to go around to all the fairy tales and help them out. i think.
my grandfather had one of the first laptops i'd ever seen. it ran DOS and was either very big or very small. but it was incredible to me. a portable computer? who would have thought! he brought it on family vacations, so i remember a lot of times being crowded around a computer playing maniac mansion with my cousins. he also showed us all roller coaster tycoon on his home computer, which became another family event when we'd gather. the adults would talk and be boring, and the kids would run upstairs to build a theme park.

as i got a little older, my taste in games changed towards strategy and simulation. i loved age of empires and sim type games. i was also huge into the petz franchise. looking for cheat codes and such lead me to asking my dad to print them out for me. i wasn't using the internet myself, yet, but i was getting there. my first foray would come from my interests off the computer. the first was ty beanie babies.

my first was squealer the pig, then my friend who moved away sent me chocolate the moose. there was a craze for these little guys in the 90s and as a kid with a penchant for all things cute, i was an inevitable victim. i would get them at gift shops and toy stores. i knew the ones i saw. but i wanted to know more. i wanted to see them all. this is what lead me to click the magical "internet" button on the family computer, hear that crazy dial-up sound, and surf the web the first time: my insatiable thirst to learn more about pvc pellet filled stuffed animals.

and surf i did!

i learned about the concept of retired beanie babies and that there were rare ones that went for a high price. i learned that people bought these not because they were cute and they wanted to play house with them, but because they were planning to stake their investments on toys. i couldn't care less about that - i just wanted them to play with and cuddle. i still entered these collectors spaces to learn. i found a forum where people discussed them, and this is where i heard my first auto-playing midi song. it was europe - the final countdown, and it ruled. but it wasn't really a space for a kid. i had no thoughtful contributions other than "that one is cute." so i didn't post. just read. absorbed. learned. if sites like this existed for beanie babies, surely there were ones for other things, right? absolutely.
being a kid on a new medium with no real rules, my parents did monitor my usage. connecting was a supervised activity, so i didn't have much freedom. as i got older, this grew more lax. i was able to login and seek my other interests out. it was a big world (a world wide web, if you will) and i was only just starting to see that.