If my path is forged by conscious choices and not "a throw of the dice," then saying I was "destined" for a career in computers would be disingenuous. That's something I learned before reaching my double-digits, just as I fantasized about hoverboards and assimilated words like "format" and "nano" into my vocabulary. Growing up as a Canadian kid in the 90s, shows like Arthur, Doug, Rugrats, and The Magic School Bus were mainstays (along with non-animated fixations like Art Attack). As grateful as I am for the wholesome influence these shows had on me at a young age, none have impacted my life more than ReBoot.
The Canadian-made series, which ran from 1994 to 2001, was cutting-edge for its time: the first CGI-animated show, helmed by a powerhouse studio—Mainframe Entertainment, now Rainmaker—that possessed storytelling prowess and technical wizardry. ReBoot effectively embodied its lore of city-dwellers ("Mainframers") inside the computer of an enigmatic "User," prompting me to wonder if my humble PC (Windows 95!) was also home to living data. Technically it was, but desperate to have my own Mainframe PID, I hoped the fantastical was also true.
In the larger scheme, ReBoot also shaped my world views. I see the game crash catastrophe in one of my favourite episodes, "Racing the Clock," as metaphorical: corruption tears the world apart. When faced with the ugly version of yourself, as in another favourite ep, "Wizards, Wizards, Warriors and a Word From Our Sponsor," enlisting someone else to wage war with you is an effective strategy. And as "My Two Bobs" and "Life's a Glitch" demonstrate with the creatively frustrating plague of characters suffering from amnesia, clinging so desperately to the past can distort our view of the present. Season 4 as a whole had nature vs. nurture as a thematic undercurrent, which I've reflected on many times over the years. Sans the constant tackling of adults, I saw so much of myself in Enzo—a boy with promising game skills and enthusiasm that got him into trouble, who grew up fast and feared becoming what he hates—and was thoroughly gripped by the calculated writing choices of Seasons 2 and 3. The overlap between his character development and my personal life has made certain episodes emotional to watch, especially in the years after the show was off the air. "Number 7" is a strange one—an episode that I, for the longest time, regarded as very off-kilter and one of my least favourites in the series, now has profound meaning for me. When we lose ourselves or forget why we began on a path, reconnecting with our back-story can help us begin course correction. The well-written "Game Over" too holds a powerful lesson: overconfidence mixed with inexperience is a dangerous melting pot that can quickly bring us face-to-face with the demons we try to outrun. Fans of ReBoot know well the fate the show suffered: Season 4, which originally was to have a third arc, was truncated to eight episodes due to circumstances outside the control of the show's creators, resulting in an infamous cliffhanger that was never resolved. Although its premature end happened years ago (and the voice of Megabyte, the legendary Tony Jay, has since passed away), the show's crew and cast have done their part to keep the community alive through convention panels. Furthermore, its groundbreaking accomplishments have not been forgotten, and ReBoot still occupies a place in pop culture (the reference to AndrAIa in this Toy Story short was wonderfully apt). More than ten years later, Rainmaker is preparing a reboot of the show called "ReBoot: The Guardian Code," and although it won't be a continuation of where Season 4 was originally supposed to go, it will be fascinating to see how they ground it in the current realm of technology. ReBoot wasn't something I was merely "into"; it was my world—I have the memorized dialogue, technological knack, and impaired vision to prove it. Regardless of how ReBoot's reboot turns out, it won't take away from the original's influence and the lasting connections it forged in the minds of future tech wizards and icon double-clickers. I know my CPU is better for it.