Ramblings of a Tampa engineer

A few times a year I get asked - "How did you get involved with programming?" - this time from a curious individual after one of my talks. I tried to explain it in a short few words, but this post is the real story.

The Internet Curiosity

We had a family computer growing up, one singular computer in a room. The room was so professional with an expensive wood desk, a keyboard that slide out and large monitor that a cat could sleep on top of. This was running probably Windows 95 or 98, but the interesting thing was that it was password protected.

In order to use the computer a parent had to be present to enter the password and then watch you use the computer. This was primarily just games, because using the Internet required opening some AOL program and listening to a bunch of phone noises as you waited and hoped for it to connect. I was fascinated by all of it, and as time went on and I learned that the password entered was only a few characters, perhaps only two.

Windows 98 - Defrag Video

Days became months and it became obvious on the keyboard which two characters it was. Since the wear and tear of those keys was destroyed compared to the others. I was in. A computer with no Internet without supervision. I clicked on every menu item possible. I couldn't really yet process what they did, but I knew what buttons did what things. Like defragging a disk to watch the colors move and align for no reason. I of course was playing the pinball game, but I more-so clicking every button possible and seeing what it did.

Nothing really changed until we got Roadrunner Broadband - the real connection to the internet. No more waiting for AOL to connect, we had a real connection. This is where things began to explode. The family computer was now a Windows 2000/ME system and it had broadband. The research that occurred here was all networking related. Learning how modems connected to routers and how coaxial was twisted pair cables - this led to using money I earned to purchased a 100ft Ethernet cable - which sounds expensive but it was barely $20.

I could now drag a cable from my dad's office all the way down the hallway, down the basement stairs to a computer that was in the basement that in the past was just games. This led to Red Alert & Age of Empires multiplayer and an explosion of research. More games, more research, more competitiveness and the drive to continue learning things.

Years went on and the computer in the basement changed to a newer computer in my bedroom, I vaguely remember parents did not agree with Internet in my room, but my complex 100ft Ethernet cable was no longer needed. Our source of Internet had a new location directly beneath my bedroom in a closet where a router now existed to broadcast Wireless Internet.

99% of everything I did was just addicted to online gaming, whether it was rounds of Age of Empires, Simcity 3000, Sim Ant, Sim Tower, Red Alert & that dumb game from school known as Zoombinis. It was until a family trip to Canada (my first ever) to fish when I encountered an Xbox.

The Console Era

A family friend had an original Xbox with Halo and we played split screen for a few hours on a trip break before pushing onward into Canada. At this point - I realized that console gaming was revolutionary compared to my then present PC gaming.

3 Generations of Halo

The blog linked above is the story from a technical perspective, but what I quickly learned is that I loved breaking things from exploring things. This absolutely cemented the drive that computers were my interest.

That further got compounded on the day I got spawn killed over and over again in a Halo 2 match. The game ended in a few minutes and we lost 50-0. I encountered my first cheater and my mind was set on figuring that out. This led to soft-modding, mod-chips, breaking xboxes, getting banned and much more.

The rabbit hole had just begun - little did I know I was training for my future.

I think I got off topic from the point of this post of answering why I got into computers and instead just describing a few events. The answer from my perspective is simple - there is a drive inside of me for technology and I cannot shake it. I didn't go into college wondering what my major would be. My eyes were set since I was born during the era of affordable home computing - moving from Windows 98 onward.

There may be plenty of students that chase computer science for the job security and salary, but my gut says you gotta love this stuff to stay in this field. I can't explain that, but I'm sure you know it when you feel it.

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