Over the past 20 year or so of my life, I’ve been tinkering with these things called computers. I started out when i was young, in my parent’s attic, on my Dad’s Atari computer. He had a simple system, one 5.25″ floppy drive, and a hand full of software for it. He used it for word processing, and a hand full of games. I can vaguely remember the first time we sat down, and he showed me how to load up a game off of one of these floppies. The procedure involved in turning the thing on, and when the disk had to be put in, when to push the power button all of that. I cant remember how old i was, but it had to be before i was 9. I could have been… 6, maybe 7? I’m not trying to get nostalgic, this is back story, It’ll make sense in a minute.
Since somewhere in high school, people started regarding me as a computer whiz. I never felt like I was some genius, or that I had some handle on computers that no one else could possibly understand. I’d just been exposed to them, and knew a thing or two about how to get around. Which was more than a lot of my classmates had. They knew how to use them, most of them had access to computers, we were after all in a computer related shop at a vo-tech, but I for some reason stood out amongst them as somehow better. So much so that i was selected to help with a number of outside of class projects dealing with the schools computers. I didn’t get what the fuss was all about then. Just figured I’d impressed the right person, and that was it. I didn’t feel any better than the rest of my classmates. I’d help others with stuff they couldn’t figure out, break into the occasional system just to see if i could, nothing truly mischievous, just tinkering, seeing what I could do.
When I went to business school, and entered the work force (which happened at the same time) I found even more that I was regarded as some sort of prodigy. I didn’t feel like an over achiever, I didn’t have particularly high grades, but I really stood out in all of my technical classes. I still didn’t get it. At work, technical support, go figure, i did well. I knew more than most of my co-workers, in this environment i was surrounded by other techies. I didn’t know it all, but I learned the subject we were supporting quickly, and after years of working there, I could troubleshoot, and solve, most issues that came my way. Not every tech there could say that.
Now, here I am, an administrator. I learn new things every day, I feel like I only know a fraction of what I could know in the field, and still, I’m respected for what I know. Its a good feeling.. but.. How did I get here? My sister, a good example… When we were growing up, she was almost 2 years ahead of me at everything. She’s older than me, she earned the right to do things before i did simply because she was older. That Atari computer was no different. She started playing with it before I did. She was exposed to the same computer as me, and the same progression of computers thereafter! I was 16 or so before i got my own computer, that means she and I shared the same computer, did the same things on it, and could have learned the same amount from it. Yet I’m this computer whiz, and she’s a bank manager… That’s not to put her down, she’s great at what she does, and has made a great career for herself… But, what makes me a computer person and what makes her a Bank manager, with just slightly above average computer skills? I mean.. I LEARNED html from her! Now i can write web apps. How did i pass her?
Well, all of that leads to this (i told you it would make sense in a minute). I’ve come to the conclusion, that what put me apart from all of those other folks is one thing. I wanted to know how it worked. I wanted to know what was underneath, how to get that next cool feature.. And to go along with that, I’m not afraid to try things. I wasn’t afraid to turn off my PC, open up the case, and start looking at components. I wasnt afraid to see what ctrl-c during the boot process on those “Secure” dos machines in high school would do. And it doesn’t stop with computers. Cars, home repair, general fix-it stuff…. What’s the point here?
Ok, here’s how I see it. This is the conclusion I’ve come to. Why have i succeeded at what some might call impossible? Why am I able to master these confusing and complicated machines? How was I able to put together my mom’s friend’s vacuum cleaner when i was 10 with nothing but my cub scout pocket knife? What makes me so special? In short.. Nothing. Not a thing. I’m not special. I just figured out that there’s absolutely nothing mysterious or magical about the stuff around me, and decided that I CAN try to tinker with stuff, as long as I’m careful. So, what am I trying to say? Simple. The next time you’re presented with a problem, that you think you can’t solve… Forget about what you think you know, and try to solve it. Think about it, be careful about it, and try. If you have to get help, pay attention to how the problem is resolved, and learn from it. Next time there’s an obstacle, dont think about how you cant get around it, think about how to get around it, forget about what you think you cant do!