No Food for Thought

Geek Love and Theft

admin Tuesday July 9, 2019

Early in my eleventh year, I fell in a painful love for the first time. My parents bought me a Pentium 120 MHz machine, my family's first personal computer. Instantaneously, my reading time dropped by 98%, and all of my spare time (or more) went to this buggy, unstable, very limited, yet how-irresistible creature.
A tragedy since, like any love, it takes the place from other possible loves. And a tragedy since, like any real love, it can never be completely fulfilled.
Before this tragedy started, I thankfully had the time to study and read a lot and become excellent in maths, science, French... and any school topic which didn't require creativity lol So I could pick any high school I wanted, and my parents sent me to the International Education Program, which - at the time - was still only accessible to the elite. I learned I was accepted in Rochebelle high school's International Baccalaureate program from the acceptance paper my mother had wrapped in the Christmas tree.

In spite of my mother's efforts to present this to me under a positive light, during all the months before I started at Rochebelle, as I imagined how it would be, I anticipated one downside. Not the higher academic expectations we would have to meet, but the less pretty girls I thought I would study with. In my 11-year-old mind, the intelligent girls which were selected had to wear glasses and be physically unattractive. Either I developed this preconception from the girls I saw at the admission exam, or - and I have no doubt it's the latter - I had already been exposed to enough Western culture to associate geekness with lack of physical attraction. My preconception was right in that both of my elementary school ex-"girlfriends" were in the regular program, but thankfully, there were more than enough interesting girls in my program too.

During my first grade, I would spend my evenings at my friend Guillaume's house, since he not only had a computer, but was lucky enough to have dial-up Internet access. At the time, we had to connect to the Internet, and to do so, we needed to enter our ISP password. One day, I saw Guillaume enter his password in the wrong field, unobfuscated. It was hard not to remember that his password was "12345". Even though Guillaume was my best friend at the time, some time after, while I was home, I stole his password so I could connect to the Internet from my home (ah, the good old days of dial-up). I probably never even thought that my own parents could catch me when they would notice that the phone line was busy. But it's Guillaume himself who caught me while I was using his account to use the irresistibly cool Palace chat application.

Thankfully, my theft had unexpected consequences. Instead of rejecting me, Guillaume remained my friend, and his mother accepted my family's proposal to share his Internet connection. I would bring them 15 CAD per month so we could use their connection, and we shared for a few months, until we got sick of having to synchronize who could connect or not all the time and each got our own.

Long story short, when I entered high school, my mind was constantly thinking about the Internet and several interesting girls. Girls to whom I didn't dare to disclose my attraction, and who - I thought - may also have been keeping secret reciprocal interests.

During my first years in high school, I had this idea of a system allowing all students to secretly indicate who they were interested in, which would tell 2 students if they were interested in each other. There were design difficulties though; how would the system ensure that interest was genuine, and not just a dummy indication someone would enter to know who was interested in them?

Fast forward many teenager crushes, even more computer crashes, and many less tricky ideas which would replace that one in my dreams. With the advent of social media, this kind of system has become much cheaper to develop. So much so that in fact, a couple months ago, Facebook started deploying one, called "Secret Crush". Which got me aware of the fact that Orkut had done it last decade.
Welcome to the future, the geek paradise! (Just too bad it's 20 years later and I've forgotten with whom I was hoping to use it)

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