I've been playing with computers for about 25 years. When I was 6 years old, my dad bought a TRS-Model III with 48K of RAM, and two 5.25" floppy disk drives. I started playing games, word processing, exploring bulletin boards, and writing code shortly thereafter.
In college, I took as many computer science courses as my applied physics schedule would allow. I did a bunch of stuff in obscure languages and learned a lot more about how software was built. In my physics course it always seemed like I had more fun setting up the problem on my computer than actually solving it for the class.
I spent some time pursuing a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics at UCSB, but decided that a physics doctoral program wasn't for me. During my many overnight clean room sessions, I'd surf the web with Mosaic, using WAIS, Archie and Gopher to dig up interesting information while waiting for my samples to anneal. At the time, accustomed to bulletin boards during grade and high school and mainframes at college, it didn't really occur to me how innovative the whole thing was.
Anyway, my timing for exiting grad school was pretty good, because I moved back east and was hired by a Cambridge, MA firm called money.com in 1994. The founder was a visionary in many respects, having just shut down a company combining genetic algorithms and stock picking, he was interested in doing digital money. They needed a database guy, so they shipped me off to Sybase school and I became the resident DBA.
We bid on web projects - I remember one of our first was for a $10K site for the chamber of commerce. We looked at projects from the founders of stocks.com and monster.com (or nearly identical ones), and developed our own version of planetAll and FrontPage. So many things seemed obvious and possible, except for a marketing strategy, funding, and a viable business plan. This was especially true for the digital money project.
I left money.com to start freelancing after reaching the level of technical lead, and didn't want to deal with the schizophrenia of a service firm trying to build a product. I wanted the freedom to seek interesting projects, and it's been pretty good so far.
I'll get around to writing about my humble beginnings as a software developer, and how my career has evolved to that of an architect soon. Stay tuned.
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