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AN EVENT THAT CHANGED ME

Еленко Еленков

web

Now, as I am sitting and writing in the middle of the glowy field that the monitor generates in my room, I can’t find any large, obvious events that changed me. No visitors from outer space, no green monsters in the basement, no nothing. I try, and try, and try again. I’m unchanged. I realize that I’m the perfect example of something that hasn’t changed its stereotypes since it’s birth. Since those stereotypes have been encoded in the DNA I came from... Now I catch my conscience in crime - in some kind of sub-conscience writing. My fingers slip trough the keyboard leaving many errors in the text, without consulting my mind or eyes whether they should do this, or about the topic and the purpose of my actions. Maybe I can’t focus on anything, because it’s too late (too early actually), or maybe there’s another thing. Are there any events, so huge that can change us entirely? Naaah, I don’t remember any. A movie I watched yesterday flashes trough the leftovers of my visual memory capacity for this day: They say, the biggest event of one’s life is one’s birth. Is that so? - said the main character of the movie...

“Dark and long” by Underworld is booming from the opposite corner of my room, right behind me. If I continue like this, my hmm... ‘essay’ will become dark and long too. Stop. Let me revive my conscience! That will require help. I am shaking my head and making two full circles walking around my chair, sitting down in the glowy half-circle, grasping keyboard and trying, trying again... My ritual shaking and walking makes me feel like a modern-age post-techno conjurer that fights not the evil spirits, but the everyday stress. This time I am not going to write, just think.

Performing ten minutes of extremely aggressive thinking! No use. Now I notice that my ears join the club. The CD clicked and the muted voice of Darren Price will no longer bother me, neither will the sub-verbal inferno of the Roland TR-909 that Underworld use. Unless I click the ‘play’ button again. Now I notice that except the ambient voices of the city standing outside my window, the only sounds that I can hear are one of clicking. Asynchronous repetitive clicking. Coming and going, different kinds of clicks every time for every key pressed. It’s my keyboard, why does it click like that? It’s actually one of the oldest models, that uses mini-switches for the keys, not membranes as the newest models do. Well that clicking - I can hear it clearly now as I write - guess what - that’s what changed me. Yeah, I found something beside the everyday events around me, that has changed me quite a lot. Where does the clicking begin? I remember now, engaging my mind mercilessly... No mercy, no regret, no remorse - I can remember now. Those days.

It was, of course, a beautiful day. It rained, and there was mud all over, but I didn’t notice that. I ran home from school with speed that none of my classmates understood or appreciated. I was running towards where we used to live - a flat at the end of Sofia. I got on the bus, got off half an hour later, and ran to my block. Rushed up the stairs. Right turn, dash! Slammed the door open, went in my room - and there it was - standing on my desk. My first computer - a genuine ‘Pravez 82’ with 32 kilobytes of memory, floppy disk and a twelve-inch, two-color monitor. When I think now - my digital organizer has more memory and functions, but that’s ok. It was a computer, bought long time ago for the library where my mother used to work. It had factory error in one of the memory banks, so I could have it. For free. That was the time and place where all the clicking began. A period I would proudly call ‘neon age’. I can clearly remember now the nights I spent in front of the computer, mastering classic games and dead computer programming languages like ‘Basic’ and ‘Cobol’. The greenish glow of the monitor and Sofia by night. That makes me laugh now... What has changed since then? Have I made any progress? I am sitting in the same way, on the same chair, in another room in front of a different, faster computer, ten or eleven years later. But yeah, that was a change. Change of lifestyle, which would follow many other changes. Fast and inevitable ones. More interaction with machines, less with people. Welcome to the future culture, as William Gibson once said.

I ran out of milk today - a thought like a dark ghost strikes my mind as I am thinking deeply about my past - those happy days. I am saving the file (just another habit) and leaving the room to get me some more milk. I must go to the shop, down the alley. The wind, the rain... My eyes hurt and cannot focus on something that stands on more than two meters away. I’m back, after completing my regular, 3AM-talk with the girl in the shop. The coffee, the milk! I’m entering the room with the hot cup in my hand, staring into the screen with this text on it, and saying as Sly did in Rambo II: “... and this time’s personal!” The second change moves in my mind now - the moment I became part of the global Network. I can feel that the coffee brings me back to life for some time, but I don’t know how long I can hold on. I haven’t slept a lot the last few days.

So, a couple of years later after I got my first PC, I went deeply into the underground network of local BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) and the hacking and phreaking elite that Sofia used to have. That’s not a thing to be proud of - it was a society of drunken system administrators and system operators (the bad part) and young people just like me - friends I have dreamed for in my school or neighborhood, but friends who just weren’t there when I wanted them (the good part). The real deal was when one friend came one beautiful night and said that the day before in one BBS he had chatted with a Russian, who gave him a simple software - a credit card generator for “SrintNet”. I couldn’t believe it, but we had to try. That thing meant Internet. Later that night we generated about ten cc numbers and we were already dialing the desired phone number. After the password check everything was ok, and we couldn’t believe it for some time. Bulgaria wasn’t even included in the NSFNET lists, and we were already in! That followed the happy net-days with even happier and even longer net-nights. My first touch with the Net made me feel quite different which was followed by many things... My change of lifestyle. School all day, surfing all night, writing program codes or sleeping in the free afternoons. In fact me and my friends wanted to become part of the people that were in the big books of computer security - The Mentor, Kevin Mitnick, Phiber Optik, Dream Weaver, dr. Francky, and so on and so on... Did that meant cyberculture? We didn’t had any time for anything, in school we were in the “never kissed a girl” list, but we all had excellent grades. On the weekends we were sleeping, those who weren’t sleeping - were in front of their computers, reading more and more material we’d downloaded from the Net. We kept it going with full speed and welcomed warmly the techno culture that arrived in Bulgaria. Just for us. Then came the “smart drugs” to keep us on the edge - Centrophenoxine, Hydergine, L-phenylalanine, Vasopressin, Sulbutiamine... Everything became more and more real. Then came the IRC (Internet Relay Chat), the MUDs (Multiple User Domain), the girls on the Net (as it became more and more user friendly), the ISP (Internet Service Provider) hacks, the Police (without Sting).

That was the change, and that change still continues, but to realize what is going on right here, right now, a couple of years must pass. The typical clicks are still here, one for each letter I type with my fingers mechanically moved by my tired mind. The most awful part of the day is about to come. The golden light of the Sun is crawling trough the window shade. It really is time to do some sleeping. It really is time. The shower, the bed! The last thing I do is to click the “play” button of my player and select the disc - ‘Dead cities’ by ‘Future Sound of London’.

Fade to black.

December, 1999

 

 

© Еленко Еленков
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© Електронно списание LiterNet, 23.04.2001, № 4 (17)