Posts Tagged technology

How I Became a Geek

It may have started in utero. I can’t be sure. But here’s what I remember…

1962: Born. Okay, I don’t really remember that part, but the important part is that my dad had a degree in math and we moved six times before my 6th birthday. And that last move landed us smack in the middle of what would become Silicon Valley.

1962-1968: I remember the teachers at school whispering and giggling about this radical musical ‘Hair,’ and I remember a lot of low-waisted bell bottoms, blue eye shadow and headbands. That is all.

1969: My parents get divorced. You may not see this as an important milestone on my road to geekdom, but in fact it is, because after my parents get divorced my mom quits her job as a teacher and goes to work as a secretary for Fairchild Semiconductor. Boom.

1972: Pong. My first video game.

1973: Sometime around 1973 my dad moves to San Diego, but the rest of the family stays in Silicon  Valley.

1974: Mr. Demerelli gives me a C in math and I realize I did not inherit my dad’s math gene. Sigh. How will I ever become a geek if I can’t wax on about calculus and write my friend’s phone numbers down in binary notation?

1975: My dad quits working for large government contract companies and starts a company called Antares, and begins designing and building I/O circuit boards that allow commercial computers to interface with Naval Tactical Data Systems (NTDS) devices or systems.

1976: My mom needs to keep me busy for the summer so she brings me to work with her every day and pays me some exorbitant salary (probably 50 cents an hour) to type invoices and packaging labels for semiconductor parts.

1976: Bill Joy invents the “vi” editor for Unix (This will become important later. Trust me)

1977-1979: I discover that working summer jobs in startups is way more interesting than working in retail or fast food. I spend my summers editing code I don’t really understand, do secretarial work, and soak up the energy of the startup entrepreneurs.

1979: I ask my dad what I should major in in college and he says, “Major in art. It doesn’t matter. You’re just going to get married anyway.” Yeah, didn’t take that advice, but thanks anyway.

1980-1982: I share a 2-bedroom apartment near San Diego State with three strangers, one of whom is a Computer Science Major. I watch Shelly carry stacks of cards back and forth to the computer lab, and I finally get curious enough to come with her one day to see what she’s actually doing with all of those cards.

1982: Stanford classmates Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy, Andy Bechtolsheim, and UC Berkeley computer science graduate student Bill Joy co-found Sun Microsystems (SUN is the acronym for the Stanford University Network). I have no idea this is happening, but it will become very important later.

1983: I register for Computer Science 101, a class that just barely scratches the surface of what an operating system is, and how you can program it to display “Hello World.”

1984: I graduate with a Journalism degree, with an emphasis in Advertising, and minors in Spanish and Television & Film. I know, nothing to do with computer science, but just hang in there. I assure you this all comes together in the end.

1984-1985: Did I mention that I graduated during a recession? I couldn’t get a job in an advertising agency, so I became a cocktail waitress. Boom. I know what you’re thinking. Major life detour. What does this have to do with becoming a geek. Well, if I had actually gotten one of those advertising jobs my life would have taken a different path.

1985: I decide I’ve had enough of the cocktail waitress life, pack my bags, buy a one-way ticket around the world and leave.

 

My Employee Badge from Sun

1985: I make it all the way around the world, run out of money in Hong Kong, come back to Silicon Valley and head to the Volt temp agency. They place me at a little startup called Sun Microsystems as an administrative assistant. Geek heaven. I am amazed by Sun’s internal email system, Suntools, so I decide to write a User’s Guide for the employees. I am bored in my administrative assistant job so I read Henry McGilton’s book “Introducing the UNIX System” cover to cover like a recipe book, trying out every command as I go. I ask Henry to lunch so I can discuss further. I’m well on my way to becoming a geek.

1985: ARPANET becomes the Internet and I discover online forums that you can only find if you know the IP address.

1986: I become a certified Sun systems administrator, and discover how to hack through Sun’s screenlock and report this as a major security bug. I take a Pascal programming class and write my first computer program.

1989: I am working for another startup called Frame Technology when I discover a proposal written by someone at CERN about something called the World Wide Web. I decide this is going to be something amazing and I write a white paper about it that no one outside my company ever sees.

1989: Frame Technology founder Steve Kirsch comes into my cubicle and tells me he has this brilliant idea to create a way to let us find things on this Worldwide Web thing without having to know the IP address of what we’re looking for. That idea becomes Infoseek, one of the first Internet search engines. At this point I consider myself a full-fledged card-carrying member of the geek club.

The years from 1989 up until now have been a blur of information and cutting edge technology. I have spent the past 20+ years working with a multitude of different companies (mostly startups) in a consulting capacity or as a full-time employee.

2012-????: This chapter is being written every minute of every day as I continue to chase the top of the wave—which for right now is social media marketing—and look for the next one to ride.

I am the daughter of an entrepreneur, and I thank my dad every day for telling me to major in art, because I’ve never really been good at doing what I’m told.

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