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Growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago in the 1980s was quite the awesome life. The 80s were full of changing technology, cool music, and incredible fashion styles that I still believe are more fun than what I see walking around these days. Rock stars looked like rock stars - it was required and it was glorious.
In junior high, I was forced - completely forced - to take my first computer science class. I was always a straight A student, but for some reason I railed against the idea of computer programming. That only lasted for a couple of days. Back then we were learning BASIC on the old Apple IIc, and when I wrote my first lines of code and saw the output on the screen, I felt powerful for the first time in my life. It wasn't long before I was way ahead of the class (and the teacher) with my knowledge and skill with Apple BASIC. I needed way more than the class could teach me, so my parents actually bought me an IBM PS/2 and a nice thick book so I could learn IBM BASIC and start making games. It wasn't long before I was making professional-grade games all by myself. Most notably, I would take those Choose Your Own Adventure books and make them into games. I would retype the entire book and put in all the original page-flipping choices that the original copy had, but I also added little battle scenes or puzzles where appropriate to enhance the text. It was really awesome and completely marketable, but I didn't know that at the time. My parents just thought I was wasting my life playing on the computer all the time, and they made me believe that was true.
By the time high school came around, I was out with my friends way more than home. Being that I had just finished 8 years of very strict Catholic school, it was time to go wild. I did so in a very big way. High school was so much fun, and my friends were awesome. We had our share of adventures and were together almost every minute, but I still managed to maintain really good grades so my parents didn't really worry about me or what I was doing. Had they known what I was up to, well, I would have been seriously grounded for most of the 4 years.
When it came time for college, I enrolled in Purdue University's engineering program because that's what I figured I was supposed to do. One of my freshman classes was CS150 - FORTRAN programming. Yeah, I'm that old... anyhow, there I was again in the middle of the computer programming world and earning 100% in the class with great ease. I also learned that computers weren't just toys and that programming them was a viable career. A quick change of majors was imminent and the rest is history.