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On Parental Influence

My parents didn’t have much money when I was growing up. Life has been very hard for them.  I don’t believe they’ve been on a vacation in 4 decades, simply because they couldn't afford it. "It's always been one thing after another."

When I was 8, my father was involved in a car accident that left him addicted to opioids for years to come. Things really fell apart then — violence, alcoholism, and ... endless anger.

There was a golden moment before all that happened though. Just before my father's accident, they managed to buy a Compaq Deskpro 386, a desktop computer.

With my father out of the picture, and my mother having to get a job, that’s where all my free time ..well, all my time was spent.  I had it all, Arkanoid, Lemmings, virtual pinball.

I beat the games, eventually mastered them, and I was upset that there were no more levels to play, puzzles to figure out.  I wanted to build my own stages, but the computer was a magic box, so I did what any curious kid would do, I took it apart.  There were no lemmings inside the box, no digital pinballs, just a bunch of plastic and metal.  No magic at all.

A few years later, my father was recovering and AOL was all the rave.  My father would talk now and then about big things happening around computers, and he would throw out names like Steve Case, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.  

My father said to me, “These are important people. In the future, everything you do will be on a computer. It is the future."

I was older then, 14 or so, and I was starting to put some of the pieces together: hardware and software.  I started to realize that software was written by people, and people made mistakes.  At the time, I played a MUD called Terris.  I found that I could hack the system if I named my in-game character ‘bug.’   All the bug reports would be delivered to my inbox because the keyword to report an issue was 'bug.’  I exploited certain issues to level up faster than anyone else, and after a few months, I was ranked #1 in the world.  Then, of course, I was banned when they found out what was going on.  

Haters.

After, I took a stab at building computers, soldering pieces together, putting my knowledge to the test.  A few of them actually worked, too.  I would get excited about new operating systems, Win3.1, 95, 98.  I wrote my first video game in BASIC during that period.  It was called Nuke Mario (simple game, just press the space bar to kill Mario with a nuclear bomb).

I saw my first iPhone while I was on a date at a Chinese buffet, and there it was.  The guy put the phone on a table and was pinching to zoom into maps.  The magic box was back, and this time it was hand-held.

It’s funny how you remember moments like that.

After college, I moved to San Francisco, where the epicenter of tech was in 2008.  By this point, I would say Apple was 'winning.’  iPhone OS was a hit.  Developers were pushing new apps all the time.  Mac OS blew me away as an operating system.  I had a new allegiance, and it was to Apple.

I joined a small startup called Eventbrite in 2009 as their 10th employee, where I worked hard to change the way ticketing is done in a world ruled by Ticketmaster.  And I was thrilled to see the swarm of brilliant people around me, captivated by technology, bent on changing the world.

I was in the same room at WWDC when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 and introduced iOS.  I wanted to change the world, but there on that stage in Moscone West was a man who was actually changing it.  At that moment, Steve Jobs reminded me a bit of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Unyielding, decisive, intuitive, and selfish enough to make his dream come true.  Steve was truly a motor of the world.

I’ve known about the man for 15 years and I followed his career actively for the last 5 of those years. But I didn’t move to San Francisco for Steve Jobs.  I moved there because my dad was right.  

"Everything you do will be on a computer.”

I can still see my dad sitting there with a cup of coffee in his hand and a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, talking over the beeps and buzzes of our dial up modem trying to connect, “In the future, everything you do will be on a computer.  It is the future."

It’s funny how you remember moments like that.

Thanks, Dad.