My first computer was an ultra-modern, super fast 486 made by a friend of a friend. As a writer and editor; word processing, printing, copying and faxing were a godsend to me, and Paint was a neat side treat. The internet didn’t exist yet, at least not in its current incantation, but there was a growing web of Bulletin Board Systems where one could participate on forums, post pictures and play games. A co-worker came to my home one day and instructed me on the modem and how to use BBS’s…and I quickly because one of the world’s first internet addicts. (and probably one of the first online gaming addicts, since my world completely revolved around VGA Planets for a year.)
At that point, I was a very young woman in an alien world, bravely exploring the landscape and learning its tricks and boundaries, alternately fascinated and frustrated by a ‘not so friendly’ dos environment and a host of game and picture files that were more than happy to give you a virus if you downloaded them. Within the span of a month it became clear to me that I needed computer nerd friends who could fix the multiple disasters that beset my computer via my hands. Fortunately, in a universe dominated almost exclusively by men, they weren’t hard to find.
One of those men was a mysterious entity named “The Phantom,” who started typing on my screen while I was on a bulletin board system, back when I had no clue what BBSs actually were. To the best of my understanding, Sysops were shadowy people in dark rooms who wielded god like powers, so when this person started instructing me on the further usages of software and dos, it was very much like being spoken to by a burning bush. I became pseudo obsessed with this person. Hell, I was enamored by him. Who was he? Where was he? What did he look like? Why was he talking to ME?
In school girl fashion, I decided he must be a tall, dark handsome stranger, and my mind took it from there. I started crushing on this guy big time. Not surprisingly, he both noticed and nurtured my attraction, seeking me out the second I would log on, chatting with me for hours on end well into the night, teaching me wonderfully devious things like how to program and hack. I was in love. I was sure of it. Then he mentioned he was playing guitar at some club and I secretly went there to see him.
And this is where my first lesson in internet came in.
I was horrified to discover my tall, dark handsome stranger was a pasty, skinny nerdy guy with a pimpled face, bad teeth, big glasses and greasy hair. Now I’m not one to judge people on looks, but let’s just say when you’re expecting James Bond, Mclovin is a bit of a shock. That whole stereotypical image of early computer nerds actually came from this guy. I slunk back out the door and drove home, feeling highly confused. Why had I built this whole romantic image of this person and put them on such a high pedestal? I was embarrassed as hell to say the least.
So, from the poor Phantom’s point of view, I disappeared from the computer completely. And from that point on, every unknown person I came in contact with over the net had his face attached to their avatars, and I spent a lot of time relating this warning to other female users I saw becoming attached to strangers. As the internet evolved, so did its users, branching out from guy in the basement to average everyday folk, and eventually I let go of my Phantom visions and stopped assuming the worst. But look at today’s internet and its big full color pictures of our smiling faces and appreciate how far we’ve come. :p
Did you ever attach an image to a mysterious person and then discover you were way off course?