Every day this week, a different CNET writer or editor is recalling a tech or geek-centric present that left a mark. Read past stories by, , , and , and look for another installment tomorrow at midnight PT.
On a chilly autumn day in 1997, I came home from school to find that my mom had a brand-new IBM PC 350 in her office. It was an astonishing computer, especially considering our previous machine was a DOS/Windows 3.1 slowpoke that could barely run Wolfenstein 3D.
For its time, the PC 350 had it all -- a screaming Pentium 133MHz processor, a 1.6GB hard drive, 64MB of RAM, and 4MB of video memory. Though my mom bought it for the household and not for me exclusively, it was the best tech gift I ever got, as it truly turned me into a geek and gamer (and therefore the person I am today).
For some reason, that IBM computer changed everything about me. In just a matter of days, I was no longer a mild-mannered suburban kid who stayed outside until dusk and built forts in his spare time. I became obsessed with SimCity, SimTower, and 3D games (such as Star Wars: Rebel Assault II, SubSpace, and The Dig). It wasn't long until my mom made the leap and got 56.6K dial-up Internet service through Mindspring, which turned me into a full-fledged computer nerd.
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As for other activities, I spent a lot of time chatting with people at Decipher's Star Wars: Customizable Card Game Palace server (which I'm awkwardly doing in the above picture). I also spent a lot of time playing a Star Wars multiuser dungeon, which is a text-based adventure game. As a precursor to years of running successful Web sites, I built my first Web site on Geocities through that computer. Gee, that doesn't sound geeky at all.
The PC 350 also kicked off my interest in computer hardware. Sometimes when Mom was asleep I would take the computer into my room and unscrew the hinges of the case, just so I could look at all the components inside. I just had to know what everything did. I even upgraded the RAM from 32MB to 128MB without ever telling my mom -- well, until now.
Find a memorable gift for the people in your life by visiting CNET's 2012 Holiday Gift Guide.