My first SLR camera

My father was an early adopter of technology. If there was a new gadget available, chances are, we had it. He was fascinated by technology and awed by the possibilities it opened up.

In Zambia, before television was ubiquitous, my sister and I grew up with papa shooting Super-8 film that recorded 3-minute reels (or was it 5?) of our birthdays and daily-life antics. The latter would be gleefully replayed at the former, to my great embarassment. But following the shame, out would come a library of cartoons and comedys, ranging from Tom & Jerry to Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin — these went down well, and our birthday parties were always big hits.

He had a Polaroid camera, and I have cartons of fading prints that need to be digitised. And a slew of childhood family friends waiting patiently to get copies. I’ll get to them, one day. Promise.

In Guyana we had the biggest TV set in town (all of 27 inches!), and the first VCR system in the neighbourhood. This was accompanied by a large and growing collection of Bollywood movies, which made our house the default weekend hangout for the Indian community! I have childhood memories of Friday movie nights, with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filling the house (the coffee machine was another gadget) and potluck dinners.

Dad also had a Video Camera – a behemoth of a thing with a heavy recording unit and a heavier battery pack. I was the assistant, and would dutifully trudge behind him, burdened down with them slung over my shoulders (but secretly excited by the idea of being part of this cool techie stuff!). Picnics, parties and events with family and friends would be followed by their screening on our ‘big screen’ TV amidst hilarity and more potluck dinners.

(I also have shelves full of family movies on video cassette. Another personal project I’ll get to eventually!)

The coolest thing that tech does, is bring people closer. The result of dad’s interest in the latest stuff, was the forging of deep friendships and a real sense of community, half way across the planet from ‘home’. I think I learned my love for technology and commitment to personal relationships from those early days. My wife and I do similar things in Shanghai, with our kids and friends. Her experience was similar to mine, and her father, like mine, was (and still is!) a technology junkie.

So one day, when I was around 12, on returning from a business trip to the US, papa walked out of the airport with a shiny new SLR camera around his neck and a huge smile on his face. The smile faded though, as he was quickly confused by this latest acquisition. There were too many little knobs and buttons with little numbers and icons on them. It was just too complicated. The camera was an Olympus OM-G, and I remember him muttering, “OMG, OMG, what am I to do with you?” OMG, he was waaaaay ahead of his time! :)

He laboured over it for a while then finally got frustrated and gave up. A week or so later he saw me fiddling with it, realised I was interested, and handed me a Ladybird book on photography, “Here, you learn how to use it.”

And it spat out a career. Who knew?