Belghast has kicked off this week of Blaugust by reminding us that it is “get to know each other week” and sharing a bit about himself and his childhood. I don’t usually share a lot of personal information about myself here because I prefer to focus on the gaming. Today I’ll make an exception so I can join in the Blaugust fun and games.
I talked a bit already about my earliest introduction to games with my uncle’s Atari. I never had a console of my own until much later, when I saved up my allowance and got a Nintendo (NES). In between, however, we had something that fundamentally set me up for both my favorite hobby and my eventual career. It was a well-loved, hand-me-down Commodore 64.
I don’t really know how my parents got interested enough to obtain it. I certainly didn’t have anything to do with that. My mom did a lot of typing for newsletters and things. She had a nice typewriter and eventually a word processor, so maybe she wanted the computer so she could use it for writing. Or maybe my dad just wanted it to mess around and see what all the fuss was about. It is my dad that I remember using it the most. He taught himself BASIC so he could program a simple hockey game on it.
That silly little game was a revelation to me. I played lots of games on that old C64, either shareware passed along by my many cousins, or ones bought from the clearance bin from the computer store in the mall. Seeing my dad make his own game made me realize that was something people could do. Games didn’t just appear fully formed on a floppy disk; somebody made them up and wrote all the code that made them work.
I learned how to program from my dad and by copying code from computer magazines. I never made anything very complicated, but the process opened up a path for me that I’ve followed the rest of my life. Today I leave making games to somebody else, but I do still use my coding skills. I’m lucky enough to get to do science using a ridiculously powerful supercomputer for a living, all thanks to that humble C64 and a dad who unknowingly helped me get started on my true path.