Nostalgia, time-travel, Squid game and Windows 98

“Squid game” became one of the biggest streaming hits in 2021 that took the world by storm. There could be many reasons for its success, but in my opinion, one key reason is that many people were able to connect with it one way or the other. I also liked the series, and in my case, it was the desire of one of the main characters to go back into the time and re-live the carelessness, freedom, excitement and playfulness of childhood.

I also wanted to go back in time and re-live something I enjoyed, something I consider a turning point. One of the most memorable parts of my life was when I purchased my first computer, which is truly a turning point and the first step to becoming what I am today. While the first computer I used had MS-DOS 6 and ran MS Windows 3.1, the first computer I owned had MS Windows 98. I wanted to go back into the time and experience it once again. Now, I can run Windows 98 and run other software from that time in a Virtual Machine. But that will not cut it. I had to get a PC from around the late 90s. I had to stay within the limits of a few MB RAM, few GB Hard disk (perhaps 4 GB). I had to experience the VGA screen.

Luckily I was able to find a Dell laptop from 1999. It has a VGA screen, Intel Pentium II processor, and 32 MB RAM. But the hard disk was a bit troublesome. And, finding a good old working IDE hard disk is either nearly impossible or very expensive. For me, an alternative solution was an mSATA or CompactFlash card on an IDE adapter. The CompactFlash solution did not work for me — not sure what was the issue, but the laptop did not detect the hard disk at all. After some research, I found that in some older models, an IDE adapter with Marvell 88SA8052 has a better chance to be compatible. But there are almost no such adapters for CF cards. But I found an mSATA to IDE adapter that seemed to have this chipset. I was also able to find a corresponding 8 GB mSATA. The combination worked. Then I installed Windows 98, QBasic, WordPerfect and a few DOS games that I used to play. Thanks to archive.org. And I am back to the late 90s!

Internet was becoming mainstream during the late 90s, and most people started to access it. And while delivering Internet Explorer freely with Windows created some issues, I consider Windows 98 to be quite a game-changer back then. It came with internet-related and multimedia software utilities and added relevant hardware support, most notably a USB drive that made moving files much more effortless.

And yes, who else can remember MS Office 97 and the little assistant figure! And if you didn’t know, Easter eggs used to be a thing back then. Word 97 had a Pinball game as an easter egg. And famous “=rand(n,m)” used to generate repetitions of only one sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.

Now moving away from OS and 90s computing experience, I am very fond of programming also. BASIC was the first programming language I used, and it introduced me to the basics of algorithms and writing instructions — if-else conditions, loops, etc. I do not remember the first program I wrote as a school student, but below is a picture of a QBASIC program I tried writing to get a feel. It checks if the input word is a palindrome or not.

Programming was real fun when I was at school. It used to be about algorithms, data structures and problem-solving logic. I find it rather dull in the commercial usage — I feel it is much like just a construction tool for reading/writing something from some database or creating some APIs.

We all carry so much information with us. A large part of this information is historical experiences and memories. I had a blast going back to one of the most fun parts of my life. I can now see how much the technology has developed over 20/22 years. I can see how far I have come. And, there are so many people I am grateful to along the way. Such time travel can help us reflect on ourselves and find inspiration, motivation, or just nostalgia. It provides a sense of responsibility and self-awareness and increases accountability acceptance. Put simply, reflecting on the past helps to move forward in life.

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