Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Playing video games pays the bills...

I shared my background, and how I got into the software industry, with some friends recently. They thought that the story was interesting, and one - who shall remain nameless (BOB) suggested that I blog about it. His idea was that playing video games got me where I am today, and he's essentially right.

I've always been computer savvy, and much of that comes from the fact that I've been playing on them since grade school. Computers were relatively uncommon back in the mid and late 70's, yet I was fortunate enough to be exposed to both dumb terminals and Commodore PETs. In fact, the Commodores we had at school were the reason I got a Commodore 64 for home. I could make that machine fly - anything I wanted to do, I could. I programmed in basic, made games, music, graphics, whatever. I even made a customer record program for my sister who worked for a dentists office. You could input records, print labels, etc. I don't think it was ever used, but it was pretty slick. I think the best thing I ever wrote was a bombadier game, where you dropped bombs on the landscape that scrolled by. It had music, sound effects, graphics, scoring, the whole deal. It wasn't professional, but heck, I was only 14, or so.

I finally scored my first PC when I was in my early twenties. I remember that hunk of crap fondly. It was a Canon PC (yes, Canon, the copier people) that had 1MB RAM, and ran at 100MHz (I think). It had an 80 MB HDD and cost me a whopping 2 Grand. I thought that machine was it, until some new games came out. The two that really gave me trouble were Castle Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.

You see, I couldn't play either of them because I didn't have enough conventional memory (that's the first 640KB on machines of those days - we don't worry about conventional memory anymore). In order to play the games, I needed to install a memory manager and MS-DOS 6.2 had just that. Not only did I get VERY proficient on the memory manager stuff, but I learned a ton about my machine, DOS, and compression software for hard drives. All out of necessity. Heck, I even installed my own sound card, CD-ROM drive and additional RAM. (AMA - do you remember me dropping the computer down the stairs because I was so excited to show you I installed the CD? I do.)

Then, on April 15, 1996 I decided to try and get a job with a small software company in NY (then Helix Software which was acquired by McAfee at the end of 97) that was hiring an entry level support guy to join the team. Heck, the pay was only $18,500 a year, but I could play with computers?!?! Sign me up. I got the job because of my extensive knowledge with MemMaker (low and behold the company I was interviewing with WROTE MemMaker for Microsoft, and was looking for an engineer to help support, among other things, their beefed up version called Netroom).

I got hired, worked hard, and have loved most of it ever since. AND, I'm still playing Doom (just the newer version that came out last year!).



Anonymous said...

I remember it well. There are other details I also recall, one of which was why you got the job, it just so happen to be with Helix. I think it went more like, "Scott, you have to get a job .... or else"

Michele said...

WOW- brings back memories....I remember that program for the dental office I was working in, and yes you are right I dont think we ever really used it. Back then the Dental Office was not accepting change very well. I do recall one game in particular called Ice castles which I loved, although I was not frequently allowed to play on the Commodore. There were those rare occasions my younger brothers did have some pity on their older sister and allowed me to play. ( I think it was after I cleaned their room or closet ) I see alot of you Scott in Paul, which when he reads this will probably take this not as the compliment I intend it to be. The computer savvy he has reminds me of you when you were younger. The creativity, the passion, the skills...... I know I am proud of you bro. Well done and keep up the good work. Sometimes I even brag to people who my baby brother works for, but shhhhh dont want too many people to know I do that.

Michele said...

Oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY you old man- wow what is it now 37? I think thats the age we really start reminiscing eh?

Marc - your bro. said...

I can't believe "The Bard's Tale" didn't head the list. Maybe your memory isn't so good as you get older. (I hope you all are well. Give my love to Angie especially as she recovers.)