Celebrating the Possibility of Having a Computer to Work with (2023/09/11)
With innate studying and tech skills, I’ve been growing through severe life challenges and adventures to afford working computers and devices over the last decades of personal and professional evolution that has finally paid off and positioned me in a favorable stance to keep evolving. Today, I’m celebrating six years since I achieved my first worthwhile computer that allowed me to keep undertaking life projects, finish my career, and get work experience.
Inception: The Imaginary Computer and the Cyber Era
I was drawn to computers while I grew up, and my fascination with tech persisted, leading me to learn through observation. Despite limited resources, I honed abstract tech skills. These experiences forged my innate tech aptitude, marking just the start of my tech journey.
When I was a kid (about six years old), I stared at the desktop computers at the supermarket. They were used to print price tickets, for example. They were old 2000s square PCs, as that was the available tech back then.
So, one day, I even made up a simple and boring cardboard computer to fill the desire to have one.
I always grew up staring at computers because I never had one, and “I was born with tech in my traits.”
I’ve always observed. That’s how I figured out how to use the mouse wheel and find “information in Google” in the mere beginnings of the 2010s when I found ways to go to the “cybercafé” to play GTA VC and view Nokia phones1.
Sure, I was so naive that I had to figure out sooner rather than later that I had to click the Google search results to go to the website instead of staying with the result snippet only, that I could use the mouse wheel to scroll instead of dragging the scroll bar, and that the GTA Vice City introduction wasn’t mandatory and could be skipped.
One day, I sat down and imagined in my mind how I played FIFA on the old square house TV when turned off. I was developing abstract skills out of need: I couldn’t have a decent computer or any at all.
They were learning and gaming times23. I started from nothing at a fast learning rate, given the extreme limitations.
Hard times and innate tech skills are what was about in the beginning, but hard times are just the beginning of the beginning.
Extreme Decade Challenges
Since the first time I engaged in computers, everything has been passing through challenging events, learning, growing, and also excitement about what I afforded to have.
I started from the bottom with nothing in a hostile tech era and moved on all the way until the university by doing what I had to do with the resources permitted.
My Very First Computer
The first computer I had was a gift (because it didn’t turn on), but I could find the pattern to make it work and give it a try for a long while.
The computer was a Dell Optiplex GX270 from 2003 that they gave me near 2011 (if memory serves me right). The “gift” was due to the machine’s state —it didn’t turn on and was basically trash 🤯.
It had a trick to turn it on, and as expected —I’m well known for finding mysterious patterns.
It was a Pentium 4 HT with 512MB DDR of RAM Windows XP and 40GB of HHD disk in ~2011, and it didn’t even turn on well 💥.
In a few moments, I was able to find the trick (as far as I remember): I just had to plug the power cord, and when the LED turns on, quickly unplug it and plug it back again ✔.
I used first, mobile data4 (from my LG Optimus ME I had for a long time, and
after having my Moto Q5) via USB to share the connection, then a residential
512Kbps was acquired6 to “do homeworks” you know7.
I didn’t have a monitor until 2019.
So, until 2019, I had to use the house TV as a huge 32” monitor, but 720p resolution 😵. Besides having extremely low pixel density, it was getting older, too.
If that wasn’t enough, I had that TV available because it was a supermarket raffle we won in 2009 by mere chance of life. I don’t know what could’ve happened if it wasn’t for that touch of luck long ago.
Therefore, with all this context, I could endure at the beginning of this tech era.
My first computer, a Dell Optiplex GX270 from 2003, was a “gift” in ~2011, albeit not in working condition, but I managed to decipher the pattern to bring it to life. I didn’t even have a monitor until 2019. Until then, I relied on the 32” 720p house TV, and the internet connection was what I could barely afford.
The First Computer I Bought
Approximately around 2013, I could actually buy a computer: The Dell Optiplex 745, another terrible computer.
I had some savings of about $90 and could afford to buy a refurbished 745 back then. It was a bad decision: for a few bucks, I could get a Core2Duo version. Never mind.
The computer was gross: Pentium D 2.8Ghz, 1GB of RAM DDR2, 80GB of HDD disk, and Windows XP or 7 if I wanted.
If that’s not enough, I was also scammed: the HDD failed after a few months (I had to reinstall Windows 7 every day 🤪 and buy a new disk).
Okay, so I used this computer for a few years more, but the experience was horrible, like the previous one.
That Pentium D is most likely the worst dual-core Intel processor. It got overly hot, and the fan made so much noise that you could hear it from the house entrance8.
I was learning programming, and one day, I opened up Android Studio (recall, 1 GB of RAM). Say no more. I had to unplug the cord from the power outlet to unfreeze the computer in its misery 💥. Seriously, Android Studio in 1 GB of memory? 😆.
I used Eclipse with the Android SDK for many years for Java and Android, from about 2013 to 2017.
Not to say video games, I played what I could.
Now, something wrong happened in 2016. I was cleaning the PC, but when I closed the CPU socket, it made a funny noise 🤪. I just had screwed up the CPU socket pins, and now I had to get a new motherboard.
All Optiplex PCs I’ve had have been small form factor, by the way.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find any spare parts, so I had to settle with a Mini Tower motherboard I found on eBay.
After receiving the motherboard, I set up everything again, but a mad truth I knew was coming: it didn’t fit in the SFF case 😂:
The solution was to assemble it barebones and try to be careful with that environment.
Even so, nothing stopped me from keeping growing and learning. No matter how much lag, lack of resources, or unfavorable life limitations.
I was in my first year of university by then, but there were many terms lost due to nonsense political strikes.
Most of what I’ve learned (and played) has been through these miserably low-end refurbished equipment. I made and flashed Android ROMs in ~2012, started learning Java concepts and Android development, graduated from my electronics high school career in 2014 (e.g., I was the only one who could program), already did web development in 2015, learned English almost from scratch in 2015, and got to study two majors at the university with top global grades, etc.
In other words, these pictures represent a genius’s successful struggles. Engineers solve problems, and mathematicians optimize. That’s what I do.
I appreciate the goodwill efforts I’ve made as a form of original art. It’s a lovely motivation where I make the good of the past persist9.
So it was incredibly challenging to have learned so much and moved on with machines and third-world living conditions like these.
That Optiplex 745 was the first computer I bought, which made me pass through many weird challenges.
My Mobile Phone during the University
The Hyundai UNO L505 was the low-end phone that was with me for over 6 years during the university, and I used it to learn much of what I know today.
I bought it for about $110 in early 2016 when it had a “discount” (it was cheapened about $30 a few months after I bought it 😒). It was a low-end (the best of the worst) that I could afford with all my current savings. It was a good decision ✔. I was in a hurry to get a phone.
I wanted to buy it because I always choose elegant designs. Albeit the Optiplex 745 PC wasn’t elegant at all but a Frankenstein, I did what I could.
The model was elegant, had a “big” 5” screen, and was under the budget.
Its MediaTek quad-core processor and Mali-T720 MP2 sucked for gaming, so I had to do what I could10.
I used this phone to study when my computer was broken or when I was at the university.
With low-end and even broken devices like all these, I learned much like programming, electronics, English, physics I and II, math from calculus to topology, abstract algebra, etc. I also held top grades, if that wasn’t enough.
Since I make decisions with rationale, I always wanted to keep working with desktop refurbished computers because of their power and low prices, even when they’re old junk; it’s pretty strategic as it was impossible to get anything better as a student.
Power is everything when being an engineer. Laptops were always a complete joke for me, and developing engineering skills as a self-taught was always a priority. Hence, I chose desktops over laptops.
The problem with desktops is that I was screwed up when I needed a “computer” (they mean a laptop) for an on-campus exam or work (online classes didn’t exist until 2020).
The trade-off is crucial: a powerful laptop (which is nonsense) costs you many times more than an older but powerful Optiplex desktop. Not to say the maintenance costs of toy laptops.
So, I used my phone to read PDF books and copy math problems to solve while on the university campus.
The screen got broken in the end because I thought I dropped it into my pocket, but it fell out to the corner of the concrete 😣. It still worked and used it for about 2 years more.
I also used this low-end phone as a webcam after 2020 for online classes and when I started working.
Then, I understood that any computer or device is useful for learning if you have the discipline to supersede your limits. The real problem is when you have to professionally work: you need a powerful workstation to work as a professional engineer.
I’m currently working in my office and automating design decisions, but it’s never been easy: you need a pricey engineering office to work and get money, but you also need money to get decent equipment to work with. If you know me, you understand that I use relativity to get out of these cycles.
That’s how my phone was a necessary element I leveraged during these developing times and allowed me to study and do much out of it.
My Opportunity: The Optiplex 790
For the first time, I could finally get a worthy computer that has been with me over the last six years for both school and work.
The First Time I Could Have a Powerful Computer
In 2017, I could afford to buy a relatively powerful computer with less than $200 I saved during two months of university strikes.
There were more strikes at the university in 2017, and they canceled a term that was reset after all.
I was currently taking11 “Differential Equations,” “Data Structures,” “Complex Variable,” “Physics I,” “Calculus III,” and “Introduction to Systems Engineering.” Six classes for a single term, an excessively challenging life environment, and top grades were another seriously massive success. No one ordinary can keep up with that. The physics professor (i.e., the department boss and the hardest one to approve) even gave me money to go to the cinema as I had the best exams out of all physics sections12.
Back then, I had thought to buy something about $130 I could afford, but the options were gross as well: I could only buy old garbage like Core2Duo computers at best.
I saved money for two months of strikes while I was studying at home with my phone and the “Frankenstein”. Then, it was super exciting when I checked the announcement on the internet with I5 processor computers under the budget!
I was really happy when I found that I didn’t have to buy another horrible computer from 2008 or older, like a Core2Duo. It was the first time I came across “powerful” quad-core PCs at that price.
This time was a special milestone for me since it was the first time I was going to have a computer so powerful: The Dell Optiplex 790 (SFF, year 2011) with I5 2400 3. 1Ghz, 4GB of RAM DDR3 and 250GB HHD.
I’d never had and had felt how it is to have a quad-core I5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a computer that didn’t look like Frankenstein. For most people, that’s something ordinary, but for me, it was a dream.
Therefore, I went to the store (“Tecknos Design”) and acquired my computer.
I hate when they misspell “Tobias” by “Tobillas,” but never mind.
I got the computer delivered to my house an afternoon at 5 pm, and it was great. I’d never had computers like these before. Fortunately, that day was finally realized.
I removed the wrap13, started using the “new” (refurbished) computer, and started noticing the huge differences compared to older machines14.
As I said, I still didn’t have a monitor, so continued using the TV until 2019.
By achieving this Optiplex 790, a lot of future terrain to conquer was waiting, and here we are now, building that mathematical and software engineering future I had longed for so much.
Moving Forward Times
The upgrade of having a 2nd gen I5 processor with 4GB of RAM was great, but it still was far from usable, so I leveraged a few strategic hardware upgrades to get a usable workstation out of the Optiplex 790 SSF.
First, I bought a Samsung EVO 860 SSD of 250GB and 2x2GB of memory of the same kind via the Internet.
By passing from 4GB to 8GB of memory, I could be solvent with most memory limitations15.
A Samsung SSD was a top upgrade for its performance, even when it was a SATA drive. SSDs were expensive at those times, I wanted to make the most out of my PC. It was overkill, but pretty fair.
A 2.5” SSD renews those old computers; the change was extraordinary. If you move from an HHD to an SSD, the computer will feel like a new one, and the CPU can be used more often by avoiding slack time.
I was also able to get my first voltage regulator to try to protect the devices. I also got my first headphones and mouse pad (I used a notebook cover pasted on the table before since I couldn’t afford any further 🥺).
I was also able to buy my first monitor, the HP 22cwa (22” FHD).
I used a
scholarship service job scholarship16 money I got in late 2018
to buy my first monitor and desk to work on.
I could’ve gotten a processor upgrade from the current I5 2400 to an I7 2600, but I never had the money or the chance, and it wasn’t as rewarding as the SSD and RAM upgrades.
Not to say getting a low-profile graphics card. The only option I was excited about was the GT 1030, but it was the same story as the processor upgrade, and GPUs get much more expensive, which makes it harder to achieve.
As you can see, I could buy these resources (RAM and SSD) for my computer one year later. Next, I acquired my first monitor and a good white desk, which allowed me to finally have a real computer setup.
Two terrible events happened later: the mouse (literally) and the SSD stroke.
The first event was the very day when I bought my first monitor. I was moving things to “install” it, but when I turned on the PC, it didn’t work 😯. It was a jerk mouse that pissed and short-circuited the motherboard 😡. Its fate was also terrible: when it ran like crazy out of the computer when I opened it and lifted it, I let the computer fall out of phobia when I saw the little jerk running out, and then, the computer fell onto the mouse 💀. End of the story 🤪.
That was in December 2018. I was about two months without a computer, and couldn’t use the desk and monitor (for the first time) I just had bought.
Again, I had to use my phone and paper to keep designing Piaxid and studying in “vacations” this time.
I tend to go open-minded and philosophic when I don’t have a computer or there’s some power outage. It’s another way to forcefully escape the routine, similar to gaming, writing, painting, etc.
The second event was the SSD loss.
I enjoyed the Samsung SSD so much: it was the only premium part I had in my computer. But something horrible happened one year after buying it (i.e., late 2019): there was a power outage that struck twice; I left for the university, and when I turned the PC on when I came back, it didn’t turn on 😐.
The voltage regulator I had didn’t help at all, and the posterior power strikes that day happened after the PC was off, but even though, it got broken, so it was all frustrated 😡.
You know. In a bottom third-world country, this happens all the time: life conditions are excessively hard to get by with. For example, there are always random power outages for no reason, and also “planned” 8+ hours maintenance outages often.
I couldn’t afford a UPS until late 2020, so that’s all I could do.
The computer was fine, but the SSD died completely.
As depicted above, you can see how the Optiplex 745 lasted everything when plugged directly into the wall outlet. I wasn’t close to having more than that set up at those times. I used it “barebones,” and it still worked. Of course, “Frankenstein” hardware is ordinary and supports faults, but refined electronics like SSDs are pretty delicate.
I’ve been using mundane Kingston A400 SSDs until now. They turned out to be cheaper, good, and a bit slower than my original Samsung in practice. The protocol was to buy cheap 240GB SSDs when they get damaged, but it’s been over 4 years, and they haven’t failed so far. Maybe because I could finally afford a (cheap) UPS. Sorry for the Samsung one which was premium, loved, but didn’t last more than a year 🤪.
Since then, everything has been kind of peaceful with the Optiplex 790, except that 8GB of RAM (can’t be expanded any further) has turned out lame at work.
I hadn’t bought a better workstation because I’m making major changes while building the office, and I take pretty seriously any heavy investment decisions.
The Optiplex 790 has been with me for a long period of my career development (i.e., the last six years), including school and work. It has given me more challenges, but they were all addressed again. Finally, I’ve been developing the present and future of the office with this machine.
My New Phone: The LG G8X
I bought a semi-new LG G8X in late 2021.
It was a late 2019 high-end phone. It was cheaper than other brands because of the decline of LG, and the only good LG phones had was the hardware (i.e., non-LG parts). Snapdragon chips are everything when getting a cheap, older device.
It’s supposed to have Android 12 upgrades, but mine was stuck in Android 10 forever. In no way I’m flashing random Mediafire ROMs. I learned that when support is trash, you never play with “the recovery menu,” “ROMs,” or anything that problematic.
With this phone, I’ve been able to proof concepts by recording lectures and a professional audio setup. It has a good camera for those moments, and it’s been helpful for work (e.g., 2FA is crucial to be professional).
It’s been the most powerful device for gaming I’ve had so far. The Snapdragon 855, Adreno 640, and 6GB of RAM are an economical and powerful setup. It’s lagging behind nowadays, but it’s been powerful.
By leveraging the LG G8X, a new world of possibilities has been opened for my professional work and entertainment.
Addressing Challenging Computer Needs Over the Decades with Innate Tech Skills
I’ve had an innate link to technology and have been through extreme full-size challenges that have left unique experiences, knowledge, and feelings.
All challenges have been resolved, and after all the struggles, I’m now in a favorable position as I finished my baseline higher-education studies and got engineering working experience with so much effort by leveraging what I could barely afford at the time.
The future, from now on, is to carry on the integral development of the office with the valuable resources and experiences acquired over the last decades.
 tobiasbriones/word-knowledge: App that lets you play word games for fun or practicing languages. (n.d.). GitHub. Word Knowledge | GitHub
I was always obsessed with Nokia models like N97, N8, 5800, X6, and many other good OL’ legends since I never had the chance to get any; I lived extremely excited to know everything about them and hoped to have one someday ↩
Until today, I’ve never had a GPU or gaming PC (the closest I’ve had has barely been my current LG G8X, i.e., a 2019 high-end I acquired in late 2021) ↩
I’ve always been committed to PC and mobile gaming, disregarding any lag, and I used to play many good OL’ low-spec games in the 2010s out of passion, similar to how I used to read computer and smartphone reviews on the web all the time ↩
Fun Fact 🐯: In the beginning (in 2009), I used phone balance (with some 3x or 4x balance bonus, I used to buy 1GB packs in the end to have one day 👾) to enter the internet in a Samsung phone (not smart) I bought at about $30 (then was cheapened to about $10 after I paid for it 😒), and I dreamed to be able to play web videos on that tiny \(96x96 pixels^?\) brick (something impossible obviously) ↩
The Moto Q is one main pillar of my story as it was a failed device, and its internet connection never worked, but even so, I hacked into it to get internet (GPRS/EDGE) for free ↩
For buggy reasons due to the old contract, I guess; I got to have 10Mbps speed for months after some years in about 2017, then 512Kbps, then 20Mbps other time, then slow again ↩
I leveraged everything I could to learn; I’ve always been self-taught ↩
When I started using the CPU by running software, the fan went all the way up; remember that day ambient temperatures were (still are) about 33-43 °C most of the time ↩
Persisting your genuine achievements is a key to be relative and scale, e.g., you keep using today what you achieved 15 years ago ↩
If you wonder why gaming’s been important to me, it’s because it allows me to engage with mental models, and it’s also been the only escape I’ve had ↩
It was the II term in 2017 that was expanded to the rest of the year (consuming the III term that was lost) due to more strikes ↩
It’s popular that most engineering students don’t pass these classes the first time, so giving some “prize” was a “motivational experiment,” but these always failed ↩
Fun Fact 🐯: In events like these, I take pictures, so this time, I can write it down, for example ↩
After six years, I’m writing this article about the day I first got a decent computer 👾, i.e., I feel the semantics of what happens to me ↩
Now in 2023, 8GB of RAM is mostly useless for working as software is so bloated and requirements have advanced ↩
I was persuaded to engage in this university program since I wasn’t even applicable due to my two simultaneous majors, and it’s only about bureaucracy and service work, totally unemphatic to super tough careers like mathematics due to other issues like incompatible requirements they ask ↩