This section is a summary of what I consider the most impactful time periods in my life on my journey to growing the qualities and traits necessary to turn a passion into a career. The following mostly revolves around events and experiences that contributed to the development of the mindset that I have today, and the one that has served me very well in the long run.
It all started a long time ago..
My love for computers started at a very young age; ten years old to be exact. My father worked as a programmer, and he would lug home an IBM PC every weekend for my brother and I to mess around with. This was no small feet at that time; including the monitor, it was probably over 100 pounds. We would play early computer games like King's Quest, Night Mission Pinball and Flight Simulator all weekend long.
After a while, my Dad finally purchased a home computer - an IBM PC XT, which sported a massive 20MB hard disk drive. I soon fell in love with everything about computers, and events like upgrading to an EGA monitor, finishing a Sierra game, plugging in the Koala Pad for the first time and upgrading to a 2400 baud modem all became memorable moments of my childhood.
The discovery of the command prompt and the BASIC language is where my love of programming was born. Below is a few pictures of one of the first games I ever actually wrote, printed out on dot matrix printer paper.
ObsesseD is an understatement..
In the years between the above and the end of high school, pretty much everything I did revolved around my love for computers. I played computer games, became intrenched in the local BBS community, and dabbled with a variety of programming languages (Basic, Quickbasic, Fortran, Pascal, Delphi).
Pre-internet computing was a taboo hobby, and I only knew two other people who even had a home computer. We would secretly swap games and programs in school so we would not to be ridiculed for being a 'nerd'.
The book to the right, released in April of 1984, contained large programs that had to be meticulously transcribed line-by-line. I don't think we ever actually got any of them to fully work, but we tried tirelessly.
The middle picture is a 300baud Phone Modem. It was the device used to "call" other computers in the 80s.
The bottom picture is a screenshot of an early computer RPG called Shard of Spring by Strategic Simulations Inc, and was one of my favorite games growing up. Early computer games were instrumental in my childhood, and were actually a lot more educational (while still a ton of fun) than they are now in days.
Because I was the youngest of six, I had a lot of freedom as a child, and was able to spend as much time as I wanted on the home computer. It was great, but there was a down side. I was far from a model student, and I would regularly neglect homework and studying for my computer passion. After high school graduation, I had no plan in life other than knowing I wanted to be a programmer, but had no idea how to make that happen. I didn't apply for any colleges.
HELLO REAL WORLD..
The day after graduation, my brother Ron grabbed me and threw me in his car, and we started driving. I didn't even know where we were going. Ron worked for a restaurant chain called the 99s. He proceeded to inform me that I was going to be filling in as a dish washer at one particular location (not the location he worked at) that was short staffed. Mind you, I'd never worked a day in my life up to this point.
One day turned into a week, and a week into a month, and so on.. I was eventually promoted from Dishwasher to Prep Cook, then to Line Cook. It was all grueling work. Eventually, I was helping open new stores and train, and was on the track to becoming a store manager.
I ended up working at that restaurant for nearly eight years, and it was undeniably the best thing for me in hindsight. I honestly don't know where I would be in life today if not for the perseverance, work ethic, hustle and street smarts that were forged in the fires of that kitchen.
To the left is the zippo lighter my co-workers bought for me as a departing gift, with my start and end dates. Awesome people.
the online world
By my sophomore year, America Online was rolling out and it opened up a whole new world since it was a multi-user platform. There was still no internet, but it certainly was a precursor to what was to come.
A couple of years after high school is when dial-up internet arrived, along with the first web browsers etc. The IRC became the place to be as far as being able to communicate with people all over the world. Essentially, it was a massive network of servers that ran chatroom software, some public, some private but available for anyone with an internet connection and the know-how. This is where I became heavily involved with the The Scene:
The Warez scene, often referred to as The Scene, is a worldwide, underground, organized network of pirate groups specializing in obtaining and illegally releasing digital media for free before their official sale date. The Scene distributes all forms of digital media, including computer games, movies, TV shows, music, and pornography. The Scene is meant to be hidden from the public, only being shared with those within the community.
I created one particular group in 1997 called Fatigued Couriers Network. We specialized in couriering aka moving newly released software to Topsites around the globe using FXP, and we were really good at it. At one point I had access to all of the top FTP servers in the world. It took a lot of time and effort to build the relationships and the reputation required to be trusted enough to get invites to pre-channels, as well as introductions to Siteops and other prominent figures. The end goal was having access to all the Topsites and building the notoriety that would result from being skilled contributors to The Scene. My group was made up of a mix of couriers, coders, people who worked at large software companies, crackers, and artists. We eventually became a release group as well as couriers. The image to the right is called an .nfo file and was required by The Scene to accompany all releases. The third image is of one of our command line keygens.
I left from The Scene after Operation Buccaneer, which was a world-wide coordinated bust on the morning of December 11th, 2001. Several authorities had infiltrated The Scene much like an undercover cop would a drug ring:
On December 11, 2001, law enforcement agents in six countries targeted 62 people suspected of violating software copyright, with leads in twenty other countries. U.S. law enforcement agents, led by the United States Customs Service, raided computers in the economics department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Los Angeles, an "off-campus location" of the University of Oregon, and dorm rooms at Duke University and Purdue University. Information obtained led to a subsequent raid at the Rochester Institute of Technology, described by "warez gadfly 'ttol'" as one of "the two major hubs for communications between pirate groups" (along with the University of Twente). However, the universities themselves were not considered targets of the criminal investigation. Several software companies were also raided.[5
Several of the sites I was a member of were raided, and the rest went dark for a while. I always considered the whole thing to be a fun hobby/game, and no worse than sharing movies or albums with your neighbors. It also never felt dangerous.. until then. My group carried on until at least 2006.
Legality aside, I did learn a lot about myself as far as my abilities to deal with and lead people during this time which is why it's included here. I'd imagine it's a very unique experience too, and a story worth telling!
As I mentioned, I worked in the restaurant industry for eight years. I could have easily ended up doing that for life like many of my co-workers at the time did. The decision to quit and move to the south turned out to be just what I needed to reboot my life in 2001. I had no clue what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but just the act of doing something put me in the position to find new opportunities, even if stumbling.
In February 2009, a game came out called Darkfall. I ended up playing the game from the day it opened to till the day it shutdown in November 2012.
It was a massive multiplayer game with an open world, full loot pvp, and a territory control system. The game featured sieges and large scale battles not previously seen in any game before or since.
Anyway, myself along with another guy I met in the game became the leaders of a clan that had as many as 150 members plus allies at one point. On a daily basis, we would have to rally troops, command sieges, manage diplomacy, deal with internal conflict between members, plan events and sieges, and everything in between.
Believe it or not, this was an intense learning experience, and I credit a lot of my prevailing philosophies on management and leadership to the countless hours spent playing this game with a bunch of random people around the world. I still consider some of them good friends today.
In 2015, my wife and I packed up and hit the road for North Carolina so that I could pursue a new chapter in my career. After nearly fifteen years of working with my brother in various capacities, it was time for me to see if I could actually do it on my own merit.
It very much felt like I was starting over, and it'd not been since my restaurant days that I even had a lot of in-person interactions with many co-workers and that was scary. I had no idea how I would "stack up" to other developers, because I was never in the position of working with other developers, and that was a real point of insecurity going in. However, what I came to realize is that my willingness
to do whatever it takes was not a universal trait of all employees, and if I just continued to do what was already second nature to me without wavering, I would rise and excel, so that's what I did. That mentality has served me very well, and I'm still gainfully employed with the same company today.
crypto / trading
I think this section would be remiss without a mention of crypto and trading. I became involved in early 2017, well before bitcoin's first meteoric rise to $20,000. I knew nothing about trading or crypto, and the years to come were an intense learning experience and a gut-wrenching constant emotional rollercoaster, where I had many opportunities and reasons to quit, but I never did. That time period revealed a lot about myself that I wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to if I gave up at any point. Learning to manage the emotional side of trading was a journey that took years, and one that still continues today. However painful it may have been though, my trading journey has ultimately helped me become a stronger minded individual who is fiercely determined to prevail.