In life, a lot of things happen for the first time. First steps, first night with a girl, first drive. Something is remembered, something is forgotten. My arrival in the wonderful world of computers, operating systems, networks and coding was akin to a new birth. I want to tell you about my first meeting with a failed fate …
The first floor of a magnificent building from the time of the red flags and the slogans “Forward to communism”. Gloomy corridor on the left wing. The light never burned here. Only from the foyer and the window at the end of the corridor came a rare ray. Six doors, and a peculiar smell of the men’s room, from one of them. The clatter of heels, the curator of our group, is carried with a resounding echo. There is no one around. The students dispersed to their homes. And only we two go into the unknown.
The first course of the Radio Engineering College of Novosibirsk. The electronics engineer is still a barely demanded profession. Entered. There is one more step and a dream, here it is. I am an expert in repairing cool electronics and all the money in the world is mine. Tell me that in five years of study, I will take a soldering iron only a couple of times, I would twist it at my temple. But that will be another story.
Outside the window, a sunny autumn day. Light bursting into the darkness of this corridor is blinding. Three steps up, at the entrance from the foyer to the corridor. As the path of a refreshed soul into the unknown of fate, after death. The window is getting closer, the light is brighter. Where are we? Reading room, it is one floor above. There is already no one in the chemistry room. An old, barely luminous lamp above the office door, with its light, reliably drove away the dark thoughts of students, to steal reagents for explosions. Thoughts. Thoughts. Thoughts.
The trouble of all “nonresident” is the way, from home to school. Others got up at five in the morning, on the cherished electric train, to the lamp of knowledge, filled up in frozen carriages. I was lucky, it seems. He lived about ten kilometers from the college, but it was already a suburb. The only way to get to civilization from the ruins of the collective farm world is an old yellow LiAZ. With a schedule optimized for the sake of economy, for the needs of the lucky ones who worked in the factories of the city. This optimization implied windows in the schedule, some more than two hours. As a result, after classes, so as not to wander around the city idle and not to snatch away drug-gopniks from greyhounds “for a cigarette”, I had to toil within the walls of the college. Often, sitting on the windowsill, I managed to do my homework and the evening was free.
With each step we took, there were fewer and fewer options. The last two doors. One led to the library. And the second one. Ugly, upholstered with stainless steel sheets, with a magic alarm lamp under the ceiling. And only the sign with the sonorous text “Office of Informatics and Computers” instilled a chilling fear.
On that day, all the classmates fled early. Canceled the last pair. Sitting by the window, opposite the study of the group, on a wide bench made of racks, he pored over physics. Somewhere behind, in the corridor, women’s heels clinked. They stopped outside the office. But instead of the clicks of the opening lock, there was a pause. The heels changed their minds and headed towards me. This was the curator of our group. A tall, slender, beautiful woman, with an extraordinary mind and a wild baggage of knowledge, and suddenly an honored radio operator of the USSR. She recognized me, and for some reason she needed to find out why I was not at home. After a short questioning, she shook her head in understanding and went into the study.
It’s 1995. The first stumps are about to burst into life, marking the start of the race. Races for hertz, bytes, efps. But this is later, but for now the ultimate dream of children, a box with a dandy elephant, and a dozen or so cassettes with dances, counter, and duck stories. A young guy from the Russian hinterland, with a wild childhood fear of robots and a desire to one day know this fear from the inside. A moment, and like a mockery of fate, he stares in bewilderment at the door where these horrors dwell. Feeling the mystical haze of the computer science office, which at that time, for many, was comparable to the modern inscription on the door – a server room.
Five minutes later, the heels came out of the office and closed the door. I was still sitting by the window, thinking about the tall one. About the beauty of autumn, about falling leaves, about a pretty girl walking along the sidewalk to a stop. The curator called me and asked me to go with her. Having hurriedly threw all my knowledge into a fashionable plastic bag, I walk after her.
The door was unlocked. With a little effort, opening it, the curator entered the office and called me. Reason refused to believe. Fans whirred quietly inside. The air was filled with the delicate scent of phenol from the working boards. And on tables, in four rows, they stood. My first computers. PVEM “AGAT”. Exactly 11 pieces. We will call them coffins later. Swear, twisting the speed of the drive. This is later. And then, I was introduced to a teacher who became a mentor for five long years. Other goofy laboratory assistants. And warm from the touch, the plastic of the keys. That day, the jagged lines of my first code formed, and in the glow of the dark screen, the soulless box obeyed me, typing the two most popular words.
Very soon, in the hidden places of this wonderful institution, I was lucky enough to communicate with “Neurons“, with Iskra, x86 line. The park of that office, after a few courses, was personally replaced with brand new pentiums of the second series. But from this gem. From that blinking cursor on the screen of the converted TV, youth. From the very moment that Alice in Wonderland began my fall down the rabbit hole.
That day I was infected with thirst. Like a vampire crazed for blood, I demanded knowledge and code. Basic, Asembler, C, Pascal, Python. Languages, controllers, processors, interfaces have changed. But thirst remains thirst. The cursor blinking at the square bracket is forever with me.
Now it is difficult to answer what turned out to be decisive, laziness or the need for money. Abandoned two years of the Botanical faculty of AVTF, in the very Botan seventh building of NSTU. The faculty of optoelectronic devices of the SSGA has been sent. It just so happened that coding did not become my destiny. How cybersecurity did not become destiny. Who knows, maybe it’s for the best? I hated all my work. But it is surprisingly different, no matter who I worked, there was always another box with a processor and soon, it was under my control.
When the first version of this text was posted, if not for these ubiquitous moderators, fate awaited him, to perish in the dunes of the sandbox. But we were given good advice and a second chance. So what is this post about? About how a dream remains a dream. About how chance can radically change the inner world. And that no matter how high you fly today, do not forget. We all started out the same. With a few words on a black background, with “Hello world” …