Part II - of the Different Worlds for me and my Son Saga

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2 years ago
Topics: Learn, Happy, Life, Career, LifeLessons, ...

In part I I explained how my son wants to basically copy my life to get the life I was living up until I was 34. I also explained what my life was like and then noticed the article was getting to be on the lengthy side. Read part I HERE.

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Well, today the time has come to tell you basically how I got to live the life that I lived until 2008/9. It says a lot about this community that I am telling you this story as it is probably the first time I'm telling it with full disclosure. And looking back the way I got where I was is not something to be truly proud of.

Not that I did bad things to improve my career or anything, not that. It's more that I hardly did anything which is at best a bit embarrassing.

You see I was six years old when I got my first computer and that pretty much decided my life up to the point that it had always been clear to me that whatever I was going to be when I grew up, it would be something to do with computers. I understood them, more than I did people. When I got my first computer, for example, all I got was the keyboard (in which the computer was built) and a manual to go with it. (and HUGE power brick to supply the electricity)

he problem was that the manual had Japanese, English, and German language sections. None of which I knew as a single word of course, at 6 years old. Still managed to learn enough that within a couple of months I was ready to learn assembler from a friend of mine, who taught me the coding while introducing me, or inducting me, into the cracking scene. The cracking scene was the scene in which copy protections were cracked, after which an intro, or demo, was added to the executable and then distributed to any and all that could be reached.

For years it didn't really occur to me that cracking the software's copy protection was wrong, let alone illegal in most parts of the world. But that is what I've done in relation to computers from 1980 till at least 1989/90. Never once got into even a hint of a problem with the law. I had more problems with my parents those times the phone bill was spectacularly high than with worries about getting caught or something.

The whole scene which today would be called the pirating scene or warez scene was nothing like it is today. The "fight" between the software (mostly games tbh) developers trying to protect the software from being copied and used without payment and the crackers trying to get the protection circumvented as quickly as possible (the first to release a working cracked version of any software release got the glory and the reputation. The second got scorn at best) was just that, a fight between those two camps. Lawyers were too expensive for most developers and law enforcement hardly knew computers existed, so they were not actively enforcing the very few laws that existed in those days. Don't forget that the internet didn't come online for the general public until 1992.

In any case, I basically freewheeled in that scene for almost a decade, while my social environment, or at least my family, stayed clueless about what I actually was doing all those hours behind the computer but being awestruck simply because I did something with programming on computers. My friends from school thought it was "radical" that I always seemed to have the best games before anyone else, and I never paid for any software. So at age 16, I had been "the computer nerd" without really having to get any skills or knowledge beyond how to use computers, and coding in assembler.

The switch that might have saved my ass! From Commodore (Amiga) to PC.

It was at that time I got an actual PC with which one could do more than play text adventures on a glaring green screen and produce more than a beep from a little tiny speaker inside of the PC.

(I shall continue to deny Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizzard had anything to do with wanting one.)

Somehow I had very little difficulty finding my way around the OS (ms-dos 3.something) and even adapting to the PC in assembler was still within my capabilities. But as the PC developed and memories got bigger, harddrives got bigger, CPU's got faster and so on the level at which I could keep up with them in terms of coding, developing and things of that nature began lagging behind and at one point beyond my willingness to expend effort and energy to learn.

So when I had to choose the next path in my schooling I knew I'd never make it in the IT-related schooling available at that time. They were all University level courses and nothing really existed for mid-level education. The very first such course was the Application manager course from one of the first private certification education companies and instead of choosing the safe route of 4 more years of higher general education after the middle general education I had graduated from I chose to take the application manager route.

The career deciding choice in my further education

The theoretical part of the course was a joke. The teachers knew less about computers than most of us in class, with me ending up in front of the class rather than in it, explaining windows, networks, and other topics. The practical side was a bit more interesting at least. It was a simulated office with a simulated company in which we were supposed to provide all the IT-related services. We built and installed the servers, the workstations, the images for the workstations, the network topology, and infrastructure, the actual wiring, everything. The thing is, none of what we had to do there was difficult to learn if you were familiar with computers to the level I was and most of it wasn't even new to me. So I freewheeled through the course and exams as much as I had freewheeled through everything before that.

After I finished the course though I found that the real companies, where the jobs I was certified for should come from, were completely unaware of the course and the certificates, nor with the concept of having "IT guys" who weren't University level educated (and were paid accordingly) but having middle education schooled application managers, network administrators or service agents.

Vacation... I mean unemployment!

So I had a three-year vacation. Officially I was unemployed looking for work, living on welfare, motivated by the miserably low amount of income that provided. I wasn't because I still lived with my grandparents (who raised me) so I paid no rent and got a weekly allowance that in those days amounted to roughly the same as most middle-class full-time employees earned in salary. In reality, I was getting immersed in the world of Gabber. The sub-culture that was formed in the early '90s around the music style called Gabber-House, or Hardcore House. When I and my friend went to "Parkzicht" in Rotterdam to celebrate my birthday and took XTC for the first time, I experienced something I never even knew was possible.

Something I'd never experienced: I was part of something!

I was suddenly part of a community in which was new, evolving and people who weren't part of the scene had wildly exaggerated views about it. At its core, the Gabber scene was based around:

1: That when we go out we party hard, and don't give an [beep] about what anybody thinks about us or what we do. Everyone who has the same goal, party and have fun, is welcome.

2: Hardcore will never die. (ie. love Gabber House more than any genre of music)

Aesthetics, and prejudice.

Pretty quickly the scene had even developed its own style of aesthetics. Many have sought the deeper meaning behind some of the characteristics of that style but most come down to simple pragmatism. One characteristic for example was baldness. Shaven heads or half-shaven heads. It was rare to find a Gabber with mid to long hair. Many linked that to skin-heads (the only group known to the public at that time who willingly shaved their heads) and gave birth to the myth that Gabbers were/are right-wing racists.

The reason hair was not popular among gabbers is because during a whole night of dancing on beats going on average around 160BMP but sometimes up and beyond 200BPM in a warm sports hall or event center together with 10-20 thousand other Gabbers, one tends to sweat. Sweat a lot. Not having hair, possibly with gel or something, getting sticky and causing mucky sweat to flow into your eyes is logical. So Gabbers preferred as little hair as possible.


Another thing was the preference to wear training suits. The preferred brands being Australian and Cavello. This was seen from the outside as being because all Gabbers had no money and what little they had was spent on drugs. The reality was that dancing all night as I described before was most comfortable in a training suit. Practically the only brand of training suits that did anything in design and color was Australian. And an Australian suit was anything but cheap. They went for up to $400,= a piece, ie a coat and pants. Cavello later jumped into the Gabber market and competed with Australian.

So it wasn't long before my weekend went like this:

Thursday we went to a small local club where half the time the music was Hardcore and half the time it was... what we called mellow. I'm talking half was "Thunderdome" and "You got to show me love". So half the time we went outside to gather at a bed store where the display before the entrance provided a wind-free, dry place where we could wait until the Hardcore came back on, plan the rest of the weekend, and exchange XTC or speed.

Friday was the main day for one or two venues every weekend so by 21:00 hours we had arrived at the coffee shop, gotten the weed we needed, and left a notice for anyone looking for us we were on our way to either Rotterdam (70km) or to Tilburg (30km). Around 22:00 we arrived at the venue and made our way inside. That's usually where we stayed except for some moments at which we got some fresh air. We're talking venues with 200 to 500 people capacity. At between 06:00 and 08:00 the venue closed and we made our way to the station to catch the first train back to Breda.

Saturday meant (most of the time) a big rave, somewhere in the Netherlands or Belgium. A big rave was a party held at a location where 10.000 to 50.000 people could go wild all night at the beats pumping from sound systems of up to (no kidding, I'm speaking from experience) 100.000 watts of power! Depending on where it was and how much the tickets costed the group that I went to parties with was larger or smaller, but at least I and 2 other Gabbers were always there. Those parties lasted (usually) from 20:00 till 08:00 and we never left before the lights came back on.

Sunday in these days meant hanging out at the room one of our group lived in, measuring 3,5 by 4 meters. Most of the time there were between 8 and 12 of us just chilling out our rush getting complaints from neighbors about the music. Then around 18:00 I went home and went to my room to sleep. Mondays I slept in, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I spent behind my computers, and Thursday the party was back on.

Being unemployed was nothing like it is now or like it was for other people.

This was the life I developed as an unemployed 18-20-year-old. But then a miracle (in my eyes) occurred and a family member (a nephew I didn't know existed until that moment) was pressured into getting me a job with an IT-Detachering company. Basically, they provided contractors for other companies for IT-related work. From one week to the next I was designated as the Service and Support Desk at the Central Office for the Benelux of Esso/Exxon.

I was scared shitless that I would finally be exposed as nothing more but a hobbyist fooling around with some computers and shit in his bedroom without any skills and knowledge that would be required in an actual company's IT department. But to my great surprise, nothing like that happened. The first job I had was to lay out the ethernet cables under the system flooring to provide an ethernet local area network to all locations in the building. Up to then everything in the building had run on IBM AS400 servers and workstations and had thick IBM networking cables running through the building. When PCs were planned to be introduced they decided to go with ethernet networking, which was becoming popular in those days. But the point is: I could do that. I knew how to do it! What came next was also easy peasy: Assembling the PCs, installing the software on them, and placing it at the user's workplace.

After that, it was even simpler. Helping people with no computer skills with the problems they encountered.

How do I make my text bald, why do I get this error message when I want to print something, and so on.

Again, this was something I could do. I spent so much time on my own systems doing or trying to do pretty much the same thing as the computers were used at that office building. The networking skills I had picked up putting together Local Area Networks for the hobby computer club meets, which later became LAN-Parties, were more than sufficient for my work at Esso/Exxon and so, again, I could freewheel my way through. Within a year I had a contract with the contractor, a company car (with tank pass) which I could also use for private purposes, a salary significantly higher than the average 21 years old, and a job that required me to do basically the same hobby I would be doing at home.

And without me realizing it my career had begun. I was officially an IT Service and Support Engineer, contractor at one of the biggest companies on the planet, Exxon (which used the name ESSO in EMEA which stands for Europe, Middle East, Africa)

And I had never, not once, in my life have to work hard or put in an effort to get there.

And that will be it for Part II. In Part III I will finish this series with the description of my career from age 24 to 34, and what is different in the world today to make repeating the path I took impossible, and some things that would make me a bad father if I allowed my son to emulate them.

Thank you for reading this.

Stay safe and stay happy!


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2 years ago
Topics: Learn, Happy, Life, Career, LifeLessons, ...


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