I am curious to know when you were first exposed to computers and computing and how it affected you and your career choices, especially if you work in tech. For me, like for many others, it started with games. Early memories include playing games on a Commodore 64 (for the youngsters, the ‘64’ in the name was for 64k of memory!), the Atari 3600, and the ColecoVision. In second grade I remember doing some Logo programming, which was the first programming I ever did in my life. I have fond memories of using the little turtle icon and making line graphics appear on the screen. Then came the Macintosh. In fifth grade, we used a Mac to write short stories, illustrate them with MacPaint, and create the page layout design. The school then printed the books for us and our families. I still have it somewhere. At home, I remember playing games on the Mac, like Tetris, Chessmaster 2000, Breakout, Asteroids. Later, it would become countless hours building my SimCity on a Mac IIvx (and later on a PalmPilot too). Life was good! In 1986 I remember renting at the video store the brand new Nintendo Entertainment System. Seeing Super Mario Bros. for the first time was simply an amazing experience as it was so revolutionary and beautiful! The other highlight of that time was when a friend got The Legend of Zelda and I first saw it. I think that we played for 5 days straight! It was quite special. Every birthday or Christmas I would ask for an NES game. I ended up having something like 30-35 cartridges which at 70-100$ per game was quite an investment for my parents (interestingly, no inflation on video games as these are similar to today’s prices).
In ninth grade I used the great program HyperCard created by Apple early employee and pioneer Bill Atkinson (who is also MacPaint’s creator). HyperCard was among the first successful hypermedia systems before the World Wide Web. It combined database capabilities with a graphical, flexible, user-modifiable interface. HyperCard also featured HyperTalk, a programming language for manipulating data and the user interface. As Wikipedia puts it: ‘’HyperCard is based on the concept of a “stack” of virtual “cards”. Cards hold data, just as they would in a Rolodex card-filing device. Each card contains a number of interactive objects, including text fields, check boxes, buttons, and similar common GUI elements. Users “browse” the stack by navigating from card to card, using built-in navigation features, a powerful search mechanism, or through user-created scripts.’’. With it I built a role playing game (the game Myst was also first created with HyperCard) and a software that drew 3D shapes and computed their surface areas and volumes. Then in Cégep I did a bit of Pascal programming and made a tic-tac-toe game. A couple of years later I discovered the 3D animation software world (with 3D Studio Max and Softimage 3D) and they had quite an impression on me.
In hindsight, although I did not think about it consciously, I find it interesting that my first forays in computing were about drawing and making 3D shapes, and that ultimately led me to study computer science, fine arts, and computer graphics. Small events can have profound impacts in someone’s life. I remember my first encounter with the NES clearly and vividly as if it was today. Of course, I am a product of a specific time and place. Maybe you won’t relate much to this post. Maybe you were touched and moved by Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, maybe you played Spacewar! on a PDP-1 in a university lab, or pinball machines at the local arcade. Or maybe your child memories will include Angry Birds, Scratch, or the Oculus Rift…
And you, how did you fall in love with computers and video games?