The other day I was making a coffee in the kitchen at work and listening to the conversation of a few of my colleagues. The discussion jumped from what they had been up to on the weekend, to what their workload was like, to where someone had gone out to dinner the night before and then all of a sudden, almost as if it was a perfectly natural progression, it somehow jumped to what they had all done for their first job. At first I was amused by the way one conversation lead to another but before I knew it I was well and truly involved in the discussion. Someone mentioned that they had a job in a shop cleaning the showroom, someone else said they didn't have a job until they were well into their university degree where they has some weekend work as a babysitter. Another mentioned the obligatory early morning paper round on their BMX. It got me to thinking about my first job and for the first time ever it dawned on me (albeit a little bit of a stretch) that my first job was in IT, I had come full circle!
To be fair, my first paying job where I was registered with the tax office and was properly on the books was when I was 16, working the kitchen in a roast chicken take away food chain. Rewind a couple of years earlier and I had a cash-in-hand (shhh) job working for a local chemist. I worked one hour everyday after school delivering prescriptions with my bike to old people who were either too frail, immobile, or in some cases too lazy, to come into the chemist to collect their medicine. That wasn't the first time I was paid for services rendered though, to discuss my first job we'd need to head back a little further, back to early 1990.
My birthday falls in August, as a 12 year old kid there are few days in the year more exciting than your birthday. I don't recall what I received for my birthday back in '89 but I have no problem remembering the gift I got 5 months later. As a kid one of the things I loved about having my birthday in August was that not long after I got sick of whatever toys I received, festive decorations were already starting to be put up in the shops and I was already carefully drawing up my wishlist for Christmas.
It must have been September/October when my parents asked me if I knew what I wanted and there was no hesitation on my part, the object of my desires was being thrown in my face everwhere I looked, the nintendo gameboy, I just had to have it! At the time I recall that my brother (barely a year older than me) wanted an electronic pocket organiser/calendar and my dad's thoughts on the gameboy are still clear in my mind "why do you want that piece of junk that you'll use for a couple of week and then toss aside? why don't you get something useful like your brother?" The funny thing here is, the gameboy became somewhat of an obessesion for our household in the months following Christmas, by the middle of the following year we no longer had one gameboy, we had three!
The gameboy came packaged with Tetris, the ridiculously addictive puzzle game. It was the extra gift however, 'Super Mario World' that I was most excited about. I already had a long standing and serious relationship with Mario, Mario Bros on the NES had occupied way too many of my "should have been outside kicking a ball" hours growing up and the thought of being able to game without being at home was a lure way too attractive to ignore. Super Mario World for the original gameboy did not disappoint, it flowed well, had the original NES Mario feel and was every bit as enjoyable as I expected it to be, the only problem was it had a start, middle and end. I arrived at the end of this game before New Years rolled around and although I occasionally picked it up after that, it was Tetris that soon occupied nearly every moment of my waking time.
For the uninitiated (and I hope there aren't too many of you) follow this link to play an online version of tetris the exact way it appeared on the original gameboy, even the music is identical. In our house a competition quickly developed between me, and believe it or not, my dad. I don't think he ever looked at my brothers pocket organiser! In the month following New Years he bought another gameboy so he could play tetris without having to wait for me to put it down, a few months later my sister requested a gameboy for her birthday, then we were three.
The basis of the game was to drop the differently shaped blocks into the playing field, the only control you had was to move the block left/right and rotate it. Once you had made a solid line of blocks from the left to the right of the screen, that line would be removed and one would be added to your 'line tally'. You could achieve more points by removing more than one line at a time, 4 being the maximum you could remove at once. With every 10 lines added to your total, the speed at which the blocks dropped increased, hence the more and more difficult the further you went. In our house we weren't interested in points, lines were the basis of our bragging rights. To the best of my memory my highest all time record was 216 lines and my dad's was 213 but to be fair there is a chance those figures were the other way around.
Ok, here's where my "job" came in. One of the biggest pains about this game was the amount of time it took to go through the very easy, and very slow, levels of 1-10 (lines 0-100). I'm sure the catalyst for this was the fact that I had a higher record and my dad couldn't stand it but I guess an adults time is more valuable than that of a child. He wanted to try and beat me but decided he just couldn't sit there for (what he considered to be) the prohibitive amount of time it took to get to from 0-100 lines. First he wanted a favour, he asked me if I could get it to 100 lines and then hand him the gameboy. For me, this seemed like a terrible agreement, why would I help him beat my record ... I wouldn't of course.
"what's in it for me?" I asked.
"I'll give you a dollar every time you get it to 100 lines and let me continue"
It was on! I must have made over $100 by the time Easter rolled around, which funded more games and was also used to buy some of the Easter chocolate off my sister and brother.
So that was my very first paid job, and as long as you're prepared to draw a very long bow then it was my first job in IT.
Feel free to shoot me an email and let me know your line record.
Cheers, The ITG.