My past history with computers

When I first heard of computers I was in the second year of secondary school. It was around 1974… Mustafa Tigrek mentioned it. His older brother was a student at ODTÜ University. He showed me some punctured square pieces of paper and explained their relationship to computers.

I imagined highly intelligent people like Mustafa’s older brother controlling devices the size of a room. Until I started university my dealings with the subject remained limited to reading a few articles in Technical Science journals. One day, as a dentistry student in Prof. Necla’s orthodontics class I said “all these things you are forcing us to do by hand will one day be done by computers”. Her reaction was: “Spare me, you are just looking for an excuse for your own lack of skill”. At that moment a secret bond between me and computers was awaken. It was a nightmare moment for me and the last straw which confirmed my intention to leave dentistry.

During my Cerrahpaşa University years I was to meet Oğuz’s Commodore computer, PC. He used to talk of certain programming languages and was busy creating software. He used to look down on this activity saying that it is just about memorising! Then came post-graduate education and so on, and many years passed. During this time I had a brief interaction with computers. I had heard that the EEG which measures brain activity in humans had been digitalised and that from there one could access clinical data. The person involved in this subject was a renowned scientist, the late Turan İtil. We exchanged a couple of letters. The material he sent me increased my admiration even further.

It was the end of 1986. I was finally to go to America and enter into a strong relationship with computers. In 1989 I had the opportunity to use a Macintosh (I hope I spelled it correctly). In NIH… The laboratory staff used to give me this strict instruction: “Do not switch it off or it will break down!” I used to approach the device with unbelievable apprehension and respect. The only thing it was useful for was writing, and it made access to documents in the library easier. Statistics were still done with advanced calculators. These were toilsome days.

My years in New York started, and I became familiar the language of computers. There was the DOS system. Windows was not yet available. Up to 1992 you still had to memorise a countless number of commands. Once the late Prof. Ayhan Songar called me at three in the morning to ask if after a certain command one had to use a ‘slash’ or a ‘back-slash’… They were good days full of warmth…

There were also the issue of ‘viruses’ etc, and the many computers which I wore out and which ended up in the dustbin… I first encountered a virus during the winter months of 1991. I remember being so frightened; as if it were the plague bacteria that was spreading! Round about that time Kaan Özçelik made arrangements for me to start as a columnist in a PC Magazine. I used to write regularly and frequently. Once I replied to a question of a reader by saying “Humans limit computers but the universe limits humans”. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see that later a university professor made reference to this sentence.

From those years onwards my relationship with computers was to continue with an unbreakable bond. And there was the internet which at the beginning of the 90’s was already accessible to the public. Computers would become an attachment of the human body almost like new limb!