20 Comments

Great story, Thanks Ned!

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I read stories linked to from Hacker News every day, but this one was exceptionally well-written. I want to read more about your crazy experiences working with Jim, and the hook-up story and everything.

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Ned (if that is your real name), I have a story with virtually the same beginning, a different middle, and a similar end.

In the summer of 1976, I was a skinny, nerdy boy fresh out of high school, and plans for college. Coming from a family of modest means, I had been working for years. I had almost no computer exposure, given the year. That year after high school, a friend suggested that the two of us work for a regional depot of the Ohio Highway Department.

Here's where our stories diverge: I *took* the job. Before long, I had donned my orange vest and started filling potholes and scraping dead animals off back roads.

The highway crew was made up of exactly the characters you might imagine. I'll limit my stories to my favorite. A tall, muscular guy named Gene was one of the crew bosses. The whispers around the garage were that Gene had recently moved from Detroit, where he had been a hit man for the mob. I was told that he had killed a guy by whacking him on the head with a 2x4. So my first week on Gene's crew, we stopped at a convenience store on a rural road. Gene said to me, "I want you to keep the cashier occupied while I steal some beer for later."

Being unskilled in the art of nuanced moral dilemmas, I said, shaking, "Gene, I'm not going to do that." I think I closed my eyes, ready for the blow I knew would end my short life.

Instead, Gene walked in, bought the beer, and came back to the truck, never mentioning the incident again. From that day on, Gene became my protector. I remember once I was supposed to use a jackhammer, about 10% heavier than me, to knock out some sidewalk. Gene took it from my hands and said, "This kid's going to college. He ain't gonna ruin himself doing this kind of work!"

So I spent three months in my orange vest. Somebody took a picture of me, long scraggly hair, sunburn, and orange vest, sitting in the driver's seat of a yellow Ohio highway truck. My mother put it on the refrigerator, "to remind you why you're going to college."

I did go to college, got a computer science degree and (later) a graduate degree in computational methods in biology. I've had a great career as a programmer and entrepreneur.

The only difference is that you didn't come home that summer smelling of roadkill.

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Very practical and helpful tutorial. Thank you so much for sharing! https://geometrydashscratch.io

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$100 sounds pretty good to me. At around the same time I sold a complete game to a software house for £75 for the ZX81 version, with the loan of a Spectrum that I would get to keep if I ported it across. Not that the word "ported" had been invented yet.

To be fair, it wasn't a very good game: http://www.zx81stuff.org.uk/zx81/tape/Privateer

Though as my sole income at the time was 40p a week pocket money (I was 15) it seemed like a lot of money.

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Hey! Your very interesting story was translated into Russian and posted on the best IT site in Russia! Link - https://habr.com/ru/company/productivity_inside/blog/559506/

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matt is mad cuz bad lol

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You're glossing over the extraordinary privilege involved to even have experience with computers in the first place. The vast majority of your peers wouldn't have had access to computers in 1982 and would have had no choice but to take the manual labor job. Also, this advice is irrelevant to teenagers today, because there are no IT jobs that don't require experience or a degree. The real lesson here is "be born in the right place at the right time"

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Your final advice is a classic https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias . The honest advice would be: you must be lucky

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I enjoyed this one! Struck a fond memory for me. My dad made sure I always had a part time job during vacations, spring and Christmas break. His rationale was to remind me that work can be hard, and I should stay in college to make sure I have a professional career. After I got my Phd., he said he may have over done it! Thanks for this one.

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Any RSS here?

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I read it on Hacker News and wanted to drop a comment here too.

It's a very cool story, I can feel the passion for the tech and the teenager's uncertainty of the future.

I am 28yo programmer and reading stories like this make me happy about the great luck I had finding a type of job which is just -most of the times- a playground.

I am younger than you, but I can really relate to that years in my youth spent on C trying to make some random games.

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Absolutely LOVED this story. I have a handful of years on you, but I can relate to when I was just getting into computers. Never had this kind of opportunity, but I think I had the same motivation as you - curiosity.

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Now that was some pretty sweet and decent hacking. Thanks for the great read!

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Found this as it's the top story at hacker news. Fantastic read! I'll be reading the archive and all posts from now on. Thanks!

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I love your stories. Thanks.

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