Did I come close to I.T.?

Even a casual exploration into the career choices of the people drawn to FIRE will expose the more common categories of doctor, lawyer, engineer, and the ubiquitous, I.T.

I ended up a lawyer. I did not have the math for engineering, nor the memorization skills for a doctor. I do think I could have made it in IT.

In fact, early on, my path crossed over many times with the early days of personal computing.

Being a kid in the pioneer days of gaming systems, I had the Atari 2600. I played all the games, a lot.

So much so that I got a high enough score on Laser Blast to make it into the Laser Blast Club. Have your mom feed you dinner while you are playing.

Take a picture of the TV screen and send it in to confirm.

I know ladies, please try to control yourselves.

I started off, like most computer literate Gen Xer’s on a Commodore 64. Sure, I played games, but I also programmed in BASIC.

Modeled off early hits like ZORK, and Mask of the Sun, I forced my little sister to wade through many choose your own adventure scenarios of my own making. IF THEN GOTO trees that took hours of code to produce 5 playable minutes.

The first time I could take a school class in computer language, I did and Aced my C++ course.

As far as computer games, I spent long periods of time playing Ultima III & IV during those awkward middle school years.

Lost out on following up with any coding during the high school years. Pascal, Fortran, or COBOL, because I was too busy being trying to be cool and getting trying to get laid.

Come undergrad and I again found my obsessive niche in the electronic arena. I had a website back when there was not much on the internet. BBS chat rooms, alt.whatever, and a lot of good ideas before their time.

It was 1995 and I needed to learn how to program in HTML(hypertext markup language). I had no extra room for any actual classroom learning. I had zero electives because my major was pretty demanding of my course schedule.

I learned the old fashion way.

Poor kids needed to have work study to pay the bills, and I was no exception. I worked at no less than 3 libraries during undergrad.

The best one was the Engineering Library. I worked until close. Periodically, someone needed to check out a book, but mostly I was left to my own devices for hours on end.
I would go to a website and pull down the ‘view source’ command to see the HTML coding.

By simple trial and error, I figured out what commands did what. I built my own web pages using ‘cut and paste’ with a lot of guessing and tweaking.

Eventually, I got good and could make my page look the way it needed to. The topic was taboo, (radical politics) and I built up quite a little empire in my corner of the budding internet.

It those days of Netscape Navigator, I was pleased as punch to get 50 hits a day.

I will always wonder how my life could have been different if I had pursued the programming path full time. I seemed to have a knack for it. My brain like logical progressions and I kind of enjoyed the process of debugging.

I have always explained programming computers as thus;

The computer will do exactly what you tell it to do and absolutely nothing that you don’t tell it to do.

This simplistic mantra worked well for me. It’s like those people who say they work better with animals than other people. I liked working with computers.

It was nothing to go at it for hours at a time without looking up. This probably has something to do with why I needed Lasik surgery later in life 🙂

Skip ahead to law school and I simply do not have time for programming. I still play games.

In fact, I went through quite an exhaustive phase of playing Red Alert and Warcraft. But this was time before any kind of on line play and was just against the computer.

The wife, then girlfriend, even says that I would park her in front of the television and put a movie on to allow me to finish up a round of Red Alert before a date. This is bad dating advice if anyone is taking notes.

When we lived together, my wife and I would play the ever-loving shit out of Baldur’s Gate type games. This is a great way to seal the deal ladies, if you are trying to land one of us nerd types.

I have purposely avoided MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games) because I would easily fall into the void of gaming and forget to come up for air.

It was this Blog that got me back into the swing of designing and building something online.

I like it. I miss it. And I always wonder if I would have been happier if I had never stopped.

P.S. Yinz need to check out this series ‘Coders of Finance‘ over at Halt Catch Fire.

13 thoughts on “Did I come close to I.T.?

  1. Ha, ha great post – Exodus Ultima III was the best! Those were the good old days. I loved programming too and could have gone that route. I ended up as an Engineer – close enough.

    I think when I’m done with corporate America, I may pick up the programming again. It is a lot of fun and strangely satisfying.

  2. Ahh command and conquer red alert. I use to play multiplayer over a modem. Their was even a worldwide ranking for it, I hit 23 in the days before being ranked on a video game meant some sort of income. Ironically shortly thereafter I stopped playing games. At that time in life I swore I’d write video games for a living. That didn’t work out.

    • My wife still brings up the whole making her wait while I finished up a game (45 minutes later) incident. Really knew how to make a girl feel special.

  3. Awesome to find out a little more background on you. I remember programming with basic. I had an Apple IIe at the time. I didn’t have a Commodore 64, but instead had Odyssee II. Fun times being at the forefront of video gaming. You definitely had more computer skills than I did. There was a lot of money to be made during this time period, always interesting what if scenarios.

  4. I, too, was a Zork dork. Loved that a Tolkien adventure could unspool in text in real time, but the graphics were mental. A guided imagery book experience under my ostensible control – I who could not even control my hormones – what a powerful taste of the future.

    We had the Atari 800 with optional cassette tape to record programming. That’s right, the future is cassette.

    Appreciated the nostalgia tour.

    In my case, I ended up eschewing video games in favor of books. This was not a moral victory. Much like keeping sweets or of the house, it’s because otherwise I’d succumb to temptation.

    Enjoyed the insight into how you tick, my friend.

  5. i did similar programming stuff. we had TRS80’s in my high school and i even made some simple animation in BASIC. i learned the simple parts of fortran and pascal but somehow missed the boat on continuing. i think it was lack of a computer of my own. i would otherwise spend countless hours happily trying to sort out how to make the damned machine do what i wanted.

    90’s chat rooms were da bomb. i could write a movie script about some of my misadventures around those. some day i’ll tell you about the time i drove to nashville and had to call a friend at home in case they needed help in finding my body.

  6. You know there actually was an online component to red alert. It use to be manageable by services like prodigy. There was also a world wide ranking system called cases ladder that remotely tracked the best players in the world…. I played so much I topped out at number 23. The only video game I’ve ever been ranked as. I haven’t played a video game regularly in over 20 years now.

    I dreamt at the time of designing and developing games for a living. Life didn’t work out that way for me either.

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