1987 Vtech Learning Window Teaching Machine.
My mother always made sure we had the best educational “equipment” around. As a toddler and little kid I remember playing with Legos, Construx, logic and math games, and early handheld computer based games. I have vivid memories of the cars, planes, structures, and other things I used to build. And spending hours playing learning games on the “ancient” computers
Once we got our own place, at around 4th or 5th grade, she involved me in the decision on which encyclopedia set to get. #beforetheinternet I remember not being excited to sit with a strange man who brought all these books into our house. However, I used them for many school projects and eventually found myself just reading through them on bored days in my room. #beforeiwasanathlete
Front view of an Apple IIe system, including computer chassis, monitor, and external 5¼” floppy disk drive.
In my new school, we had a computer class. I remember three things from this class,
- Using an Apple IIe
- Playing Oregon Trail ALOT
- Programming the letters J-U-M-P to individually jump across the screen and come down in the correct order to spell jump again. This was my first time building something on a computer, and I liked it!
The Gateway 2000 – Our first Internet connected computer.
The internet came into existence. I was the only person in the house who knew how to use the computer. I taught myself computer and internet literacy and became my family’s first computer teacher. I had fun surfing the internet, playing games, using AIM, and trying out different flight simulator games.
College came and I knew I had an interest in computers; but with very little career specific guidance, I couldn’t pinpoint what to focus on. During freshman orientation for athletes, there was a session where we “spoke with” an academic advisor. All I remember is the woman asking me what I am interested in. I’m honestly not sure why I said this or where it came from, but my answer was, “I want to be in charge of something.” The advisor’s response was, “Ok then, we’ll put you in the business management major.”
I tried the Business major out, after awhile things seemed a little too theoretical, with not enough hands on engagement with anything. Towson University had light speed internet (compared to dial up at home), and my new friends were all interested in and doing cool things with computers and the internet. This brought me back to what I fell in love with as a growing teenager – computers and the internet.
This was all happening around 1999-2000 and what we call “tech” now was what everyone was talking about. So sure, it couldn’t hurt to change my major to computer science. But after Visual basic, C++, and discrete math… I was convinced that none of this was what I wanted to spend my adult life doing. I learned that I was not interested in programming, I wanted to eventually work more on the people side of computer technology.
I had been using the Gateway 2000 as my personal computer on campus since freshman year. I was one of few students who came to college with a personal desktop computer in 1998. Immediately, I was exited as Towson University has a fast Ethernet connection – dial up with a modem could not compare. I grew to dislike time away from school because the internet was too slow.
I did my first HTML markup writing as part of a class where we built out a custom eBay page. Soon after that, now a member of kappa alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. at Towson University. I had the chance to build my first full website for our chapter. I took the site from a hosting platform called GeoCities and created a new site from scratch – used Microsoft FrontPage – on Towson’s free hosting space for students and student organizations.
After a short stint away from Towson and out of school, I returned to find out there was a new a major that bridged both of my interests (and would expedite my road to graduation), and it was called Electronic Business. After about 2.5 years going to school while working, I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Electronic Business.
I was now back “on the yard”. And we had no active chapter members on campus. As President of the Lambda Zeta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, one of my fraternal requirements was to attend the local overseeing Alumni Chapter’s monthly meeting to give a report on teh operations of our chapter. It was at one of these meetings that I would meet my first true mentor, Mr. Ser Greene. We spoke after the meeting and the conversation went something like this…
“Wassup young brother! What’s your major? When do you graduate? What are you interested in? [Fill in your own version of my answer based on what you read above.] Well that’s great, because I just quit my job and have started my own web and application development business. I work from home, why don’t you come by some time and I’ll show you what it’s all about.”
This led to me going to his house every Friday for about a year – UNPAID. For the whole day, he’d teach me web development and entrepreneurship from the ground up. By the end of the year, the business had moved into his garage and I was able to contribute to actual client projects.
I was lucky to get this real world knowledge while completing my Electronic Business major. It felt good going to class and learning things that I would see happening in the real world. This made more interested in school than I had ever been before. How could I ever repay him? Ser had a dream of being a college professor (and having a building named after him on a college campus). I was able to get him to come do a speaking engagement during one of my “Cornerstone” classes. (This was a class all majors in the business school had to take while completing an internship.)
I would end up staying with Ser and the SGE Web & Application Development company through my time in China, to moving from the garage to an office, through the great recession, until his untimely death in 2016. For about 14 years, he was great friend, frat brother, teacher, and mentor to me.
“Hit the Beat!”