Computer Brain: Geek Alert

It is not always easiest to say that I was far from a popular child. I was never very bright as a child and struggled with many concepts, especially learning how to tell time in first grade and trying to figure out simple Math much later. Constantly my overloaded brain sent me off too often to imaginary worlds where I pretended I was a super hero. This mostly derived from the fact that I loved drawing pictures when I was in grade school. My analytical brain powers had not yet been tapped, as I was still caught in a creative stream of daydreaming… a lot.

During my early years, computers had not yet made their presence known. Everything was still managed by typewriters and printing presses. This resulted in a lot of newspapers being distributed throughout the countryside and world. Although, I was not yet captivated by the addiction of programming a computer, I was obsessed with not only filling stacks of paper with my favorite super heros, but I was always developing stories at the same time.

The Growing Years

At that time we didn’t even have video games yet. Rather my time was spent either playing outside with friends or sometimes gathering a group of people together to play popular board games, such as Monopoly, and Life. Needless to say, these still kept me preoccupied for the time period, until I would discover computers at a much later stage in life.

Comic Book Fanatic

I also had a passion collecting many comic books during those years. I can contest that I actually counted up to over 600 comic books at one time. I often mix matched them with titles such as The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Avengers, and so on. Since I was totally into comics, I also attempted to replicate comic book covers onto paper. When I wanted a more accurate picture, my older brother later introduced me to tracing paper. I can still recall sitting at the dining room table, and following transparent lines through the paper in my best attempt at recreating the same comic underneath.

Eventually my comic book obsession began to dominate my life so much, that I enjoyed stashing issues into my backpack and take them to school. I was on a perfect high reading a new Hulk comic book that a friend traded me, until I was rudely interrupted much later by a towering figure standing over me, who apparently was my teacher. She repossessed it from me, reprimanded me a little with some dialogue, and I had to wait until the end of the school season to get it back. That was a long period in my life as I recall.  I felt much retaliation toward my teacher and resented that class during that era.

When the school season was finally over, I can never recall an better day of happiness in my life. I finally had my comic book back in my hands, and I could safely transfer it home with no fear of someone taking it again. I remember walking up to my room, and remaining there for the rest of the day looking at the amazing pictures of the Hulk, and reading an interesting story. In some ways I felt like that character during that school time, and imagined myself tearing down the walls, and roaring at everything in sight.  Ah, such were the days.

Creative Juices Flowing

I also had a passionate for collecting action figures during those early years. Since Star Wars was the hot thing in that era, I started obtaining, trading, and building my own Star Wars collection. Yet it was my brother was started me on that trend, since he had a bunch of Star Wars figurines. I can still recall the Star Wars poster that was assembled by cards he had purchased. I would pass it each day before entering my room, since we all shared the attic.

Beyond my toy desire, I was still heavily into drawing and recreating my own super hero types. I can still recall the strange names I created such as Solar Wizard, Hulk Dead, Rubber Man, etc. Very often I created stories behind these heroes and that began my adventure streak that continued to get my creativity expanding even further. Perhaps that was why I enjoyed creating game characters much later. The past can play some foresight into the person you mold into.

Lessons of Fifth Grade

By the time I reached 5th grade, I was well on my way to evolving my skills in art. By this time, my favorite course had become art and I started imagining my future as an Artist. Yet I did not have the comprehension then to understand what that type of role that required since I was still too engaged with my own fantasy type scenarios.

Since art was taking over my life and all too often giving me a reason to neglect my homework, I was trying to find a way to get more of my drawings and stories down on paper. In those days though, coming from a lower income family, I did not have the privilege of getting all the paper I wanted. So my finite mind began to ponder the thought of ‘borrowing paper’ from the school. I didn’t then realize it was theft. Each day I walked up to the clear paper that was stacked up in front of the room and grabbed a handful. Returning to my seat I stashed it into my bookbag. I continued this for quite some time until one day I was sorting through a drawer full of paper at home and my brother entered my room. He asked me where I got the paper and I explained that I was borrowing it from school. Recognizing my crime, he consulted with my parents and soon I was having an explanation with the teacher and I learned that theft is not right, even if it is something small. I vowed never to repeat that again.

As I continued to trudge further forward in life, I continued my drawing adventures up through eighth grade. At that time, I was attending a small middle school on the western side in Akron, Ohio. The students traveled via buses that strolled through our neighborhoods. I have not yet developed a connection to libraries yet since I could not find a good reason to attend one.

History Assignment Reward

So my adventure into learning about computers happened by accident or maybe it was by a stroke of luck. At that time I vividly recall that I was enrolled in a History class. To be honest, I had no interest in learning about history during that time since I was still drifting off to other worlds, more often something in an alien environment. Now I cannot even begin to explain the unexpected situation that occurred a few months later.

I entered my History class as usual one day and found my seat in the back corner. The teacher began to lecture and talk about the homework assignment she made mandatory for the previous lesson. I stared down at the simple essay that was required and waited for the teacher to finish her statement. When she asked for the students to turn in their assignments, to her surprise she discovered that I was the only one in the entire class that had completed it. It was a little embarrassing to become a teacher’s pet in that present moment, but I remember what she said afterward, “Class since Steve was the only one who decided to do the homework assignment, you are all going to write your essays during class, and he gets a free trip to the library for the rest of the day.”

Discovering the Apple computer

If ever there was a time I enjoyed school, that moment would be the perfect example. I can still recall grabbing my bookbag, retrieving a hall pass from the teacher, and smiling all the way until I exited the door that evening. Then I turned to the right and after walking a few feet, I turned another right. Next I walked down a long hall, past a courtyard, and eventually entered the school library through a door on the left.

When I entered, I can still remember how quiet and low lighted it was. Now since I did not get to visit the library too much, I decided to ask the librarian what I could do for the day, after explaining that I received a free recess for the rest of the school day, which was close to an hour. The librarian smiled, and led me over to a machine that was sitting in the center. It was an Apple IIe. I noticed that there was some type of television component sitting at the base and a typewriter like panel was underneath. She explained that this was the school’s computer. I was especially intrigued by the colorful apple symbol on the components.

Soon she had me seated at this amazing machine and began to explain how to use it. Now at this time I had no experience with typing, so even thinking about trying to program a computer was far from my thoughts. Instead the librarian asked if I wanted to play a game. I stared at her strangely, dumbfounded and wondered where I was going to find a game in the library. Then I saw her push a plastic sleeve into another component in the shape of a box, which I would later learn was a disk drive. Afterward she typed something on the console, and I saw the drive light up and it made a thumping noise. My seat began to vibrate as I listened to the unique tones coming from this machine.

Soon the drive finished it’s work, and she then instructed me how to run the program. After that I saw a pretty amazing graphical display illuminate on that screen monitor. I can still not recall the game to this date, but I will never forget that experience that led me to eventually owning my own computer, going to college, and eventually getting a degree in Computer Science after high school. I owe everything to an accident that spawned me off into an adventure that I never would have experienced had I been disobedient that day.

Commodore 64 Legend

To this day I currently own a Commodore 64 personal computer. I have enjoyed writing many programs and games for it in both Basic and Assembly language. I even had my first game published in a magazine called LoadStar back in the early 90’s. This computer eventually led to to obtaining a degree at DeVry university. It has forever changed my life.