By Col (Retd) Shiv Om Rana, Ph.D.
This is the story of my love affair with the computers.
It started sometime in mid-eighties when computers were just making an inroad in the country. I used to read about them and was fascinated. I wished to own one of them but it was so nonsensically expensive that I could only paper gaze them. The economy was still very shackled with huge import duty and we oldies could only satisfy ourselves with the whatever was offered or available in the market. But my one-sided romance continued.
I was posted to Delhi in mid-1993 after the command tenure. Delhi was a big place. It offered many things which we only could dream in small B & C towns. So my search for my love began once again. Ultimately I found a vendor who would assemble a PC which I thought was affordable.
I withdrew money from my DSOP fund to pay for the same. It cost me ₹ 62,000 in 1994 for an assembled PC which had a processor called 486 chips with a CVS (Constant Voltage Stabilizer). Those days UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) was not available. And the CVS could only stabilize the power current to the PC which if the light went off would shut the computer. Pentium chips were not introduced nor were there any “Windows” or “Microsoft Office” to work on.
There was DOS program which provided a place (in the monitor) to work on in the black and white screen. Windows and Pentium chips were introduced a year later in 1995. MS Office came even later. Well, that was the cost of a love. As they say, there is no price-tag for passion or greed. So was it.
That time (in 1994) internet was provided by only VSNL and it was very – very expensive. There were only 2 or 3 “Internet Cafes” in Connaught Place and they charged more than ₹ 200 for an hour use. There was no Gmail. There were no browsers. One had to use the PINE software in DOS for emails.
In 1995 the Govt made internet slightly cheaper for students. Luckily my elder daughter was studying in APS. And I applied on her behalf to get the internet connection from VSNL. That was a herculean task to get one connection with certificates from the school and lots of other paperwork. But I did manage to get one.
I had no friends or relatives who were on internet and email. So I used to just send few lines to whichever email id I could find. Just for the heck of it. I never got any reply. PINE was the software used for the email, as I have mentioned above.
The effects of Dr Man Mohan Singh’s economic policies, as Finance Minister in Narasimha Rao government, began to show in the market in 1994 -95 onwards. Pentium powered computers became available in the market but still exorbitantly costly. Bill Gate introduced the WINDOWS (no number as Windows 10 at that time), which brought some colour to drab black and white screen and introduced browser “Internet Explorer”.
My first email id was created by me in 1998 in “Hotmail” which I still maintain. Yahoo and AOL were dominant email clients and search engine in the US and Europe. Later Google entered the search engine space with a new algorithm and today we know what it has achieved. All other search engines are almost eclipsed by it.
Google entered into email client by the name of “Gmail” in 2003-04. At that time, “Gmail” could only be got by an invitation from people granted that privilege by Google. I was one of them who could dish out the email is to people by giving them the invitation to join the Gmail revolution. I did that. It is all history today. Today one can have any number of email ids one wants.
My love for the computers has not abated. I have switched from desktop PC to laptop many years ago. I now change my machine every four years to kiss the new one. I must add that I can handle all my computer needs from writing papers in Word, making presentations in Power Point and doing mathematical manipulations in Excel. I have learned all these by my self-study over a period of time. I was only taught by a boy (my computer Guru) initially for three days for an hour each to start and work with DOS with my first machine.
I have the honor and privilege to have created an investment module while working with AGI (Army Group Insurance) from 1993 to 1997. The AGI had already started to computerize the Directorate and TCS, a software company, was given the contract to establish the LAN (Local Area Network) in AGI. Let me admit here that I do not know the coding or programming. I have never tried to learn that. But I can design a program which I had done for the “Investment Module” for the AGI. It could give the future return of an investment by inputting the available data.
I also computerized the Brigade in Joshimath 1997 – 98 when I was posted as Deputy Commander. It was designed in a manner that no draft of any paper or letter needed to be typed and put up for approval. It was all done online. Like G3 would put up something which would be typed on the computer, saved and forward to the BM, whom he would info of the same.
The Brigade Major would do the needful and forward it to the Deputy Commander or Commander, as needed and info on phone for the same. The final approved letter would be done and typed at the Brigade Major/G3 level and signed. It was also made future proof by incorporating internet access whenever it would be made available.
I must mention that at that time Central Command HQ was in the process of getting its own LAN environment.
That was the story of my love for the computer. I love it and continue to do so. Though these days smartphone has nibbled into the share and attention from it. But I am sure it cannot wean me away from my first love by a hand-held gadget.