Sunday, July 1, 2012

My 3 Steps To Software

I had three distinct moments that committed me to a life of being up close and personal with software. April and I were just lying in bed talking about when we first met, and how she "had no idea what I was going to be when I grew up." I thought, "neither did I," then walked down here to write this post.

Apple IIc Plus: ~1988

My first program was written in BASIC on an Apple IIe in Jr. High School, but it was the Apple IIc Plus that my dad brought home sometime around 1988 that resonated with me. There was some gaming/animation software I'd load up and create 8-bit blocked objects that would dance around the screen. I didn't go nuts with it, but I did rack my brain with it for awhile.

Civilization: 1991

For the first time in my life I stayed up for more than 24 hours straight doing something; playing this game! Addiction at its finest. Still the best game of all time. I watched the computer take in countless variables and play against me in a way nothing ever had before. It felt like true Artificial Intelligence. It was around this time that I started a PC wholesale business. I'd source all the parts (body, motherboards, CPUs, memory, video cards, hard-drives, floppy drives, modems eventually), and build PCs-to-order for people around town. Of course, this gave me steeply discounted access to the fastest processors around which made playing games like Civ that much more fun.

Art Center College of Design, Vevey, Switzerland: ~1992

I somehow engaged with art and design. I started drawing/designing automobiles. My parents liked this track and sent me off to Switzerland to try and get in to one of the world's more prestigious design schools. It was a flyer to be sure. I had zero formal training, and a sliver of talent at best. Upon returning home, April and I were lying in bed one evening in our apartment, talking about what we wanted to do with our lives. It was then and there that I was hit by one of few tons-of-bricks in my life. I vividly remember saying "when I'm drawing, all I can do is think about the computer. I just want to put the pens down and go work on the computer." And that was it. Before even hearing back from the Art Center, I enrolled elsewhere and started coding like I meant it.

There was actually one final moment that completely sealed the deal. It was probably around 1994. One of my CS professors had given us an assignment to write a simulation (CPP) of the Denver International Airport baggage control/delivery system, coincident with travelers de-planing. DEN had received national attention for how poor the baggage handling system worked. My professor wanted to see if we could do better. I spent days writing the simulation; lots of dead ends. The final deadline was looming. Midnight rolled around, then 1am, then 2am... I vividly remember *knowing* this last pass at a few routines was going to make it work. I hit "run," to fire off the final test of the simulation. I walked out my apartment door and started walking West down Alpine St in Boulder. The sun was rising as I walked, and the mountains picked up that beautiful pink/purple hue from the sunrise. I was exhausted. I'd been up for at least 36 hours. I was loving every minute of it. A huge smile appeared on my face. I was in heaven.

I gave the simulation the 60 minutes or so that it needed to run. Walked back into the apartment (best apt. I ever had by-the-way), straight over to the screen, and there was the successful output I'd been waiting for. I printed out the code and went to bed. A week later I received the code back; "C-." C-minus!?!?!?!? Bullshit; it worked didn't it!

I was hooked.

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