by Kerstin Kollmann
Dedicated to my mum, who sacrificed countless hours of her time to help me rescue numerous childhood mementos and everyday objects from ending up in landfill. This series could never have happened without her.
I grew up in a household fond of machines.
Besides common (and perhaps not so common) home appliances and power tools, there were machines dedicated to art and entertainment, and machines to facilitate paid work.
There were photo cameras, an 8 mm film camera, a slide projector, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a record player, (portable) cassette recorders, microcassette recorders, a portable car phone, a pager, a TACS mobile phone, scientific pocket calculators, a television set, a VCR, mechanical typewriters, an electronic typewriter, an early home computer, personal computers, a dot matrix printer, an acoustically coupled modem, an answering machine, a fax machine, a photocopier, and a Nikko Super Fox R/C car. A good many of these machines were not typically found in homes around the country at the time, but I would only discover this gradually; being surrounded by them was normal for me.
The first fictional character I admired was Captain Future. My first interaction with a computer consisted in playing Texas Instruments’ version of Space Invaders on our TI-99/4A. The first film I remember being terribly fascinated by—I would go on to call it my favorite film for many years to come—was Tron, which I was allowed to stay up late for to watch along visitors who were passing through and needed to be entertained.
One might understandably think the circumstances I found myself in were ideal for becoming a tech whiz at a young age. Yet, I failed to connect in a significant way to the real world of IT multiple times in my life (even after choosing Computer Science first as an optional subject, then as an elective in school). While I am not finished identifying all the factors responsible for my not entering the field sooner, some of it undoubtedly comes down to “the system” having worked in favor of the technophilic boys my age.
Today, I am not sad I went on to become a journalist before finding my way into technology. Even so, I cannot help but feel an odd mix of nostalgia, melancholy and euphoria whenever I sit down to watch an episode of Halt and Catch Fire, thinking to myself, ‘This could have been me!’
Kerstin Kollmann a.k.a. Kay lives and creates in Vienna, Austria. She took her first photo aged six, but did not pick up (analogue) photography in earnest until 2005/2006. Similarly, it took her several revisits to truly discover programming: two decades after writing her first lines of BASIC, she pursues a BSc in Computer Science. Kay attributes her becoming a vocal feminist to current tech culture. A medium she is still looking to explore is film; working at the intersection of art & technology sounds like an excellent idea to her too. If you would like to collaborate on film/photo/music/other art/tech projects, or happen to have borrowed but failed to return her Tron 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition DVD, Kay would be happy to hear from you.