Tim Mitchell (Blog | Twitter) and Jack Corbett (Blog | Twitter) both tagged me in the latest meme circulating through the SQL blogger community; this one was started by Paul Randal (Blog | Twitter) who asks the question "What three things or events brought you to where you are today?"
Early Introduction To Computers
Back in my elementary school days personal computers were just making their way into schools and homes. From around 8 on through my early teens I had the chance to work on a lot of different hardware: A Tomy Tutor, the original MacIntosh; Apple II; Franklin (Apple II clone); Commodore 64; Amiga; and a KayPro 4, to name a few. Those were all pre 286\386\486 days, and looking back it's laughable that we had 64KB of memory, 16 colors, and were loading programs off cassette tapes and those giant 5 inch floppy disks (especially when I can run any of those computers in an emulator on the phone in my pocket today)…but man were they the coolest things ever! I remember writing programs in BASIC; playing games like BC's Quest For Tires, M.U.L.E., and Choplifter; and wardialing with a 300 baud modem. Tinkering around on all those different computers at an early age planted a seed in me that would be nurtured many years down the road.
The Air Force Academy
And by this I mean not going. I spent all of my time in high school involved with Air Force Jr. ROTC. I've always loved airplanes and flying; At 15 I completed ground school and at 17 I had earned my private pilot's license. I was sure that I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy and become a fighter pilot. I had the grades, the congressional nomination, the backing from my JRTOC unit commander (who was a retired Air Force Colonel, no less), and I had passed the physical requirements. Only along the way I found out that I had an odd condition with my eyes: Despite being able to see colors clearly, every "standard" medical test I took indicated I was color blind. I took proficiency tests which demonstrated that I wasn't color blind, but getting a slot as a fighter pilot is such a selective process that the odds were stacked against me. So I reconsidered whether that was what I was meant to do in life. Eventually I decided that it wasn't meant to be and I withdrew my application.
An interesting side story: Although I had my pilot's license I still didn't have a driver's license. I was more than happy to take friends up for a flight…as long as they could give me a ride to the airport first. :-P
After changing my plans to go into the Air Force I ended up at Florida State University trying to figure out what to do next. I'm the youngest of seven and many of my siblings earned degrees in engineering so it seemed logical that I should give that a try too. I declared my major in mechanical engineering figuring that if I couldn't fly airplanes that I'd design them instead. A year's worth of classes later and while I didn't hate the material I wasn't necessarily passionate about engineering. One of my non-engineering brothers had noticed how I had tinkered with computers throughout my life and suggested that I look into computer science. It turned out to be really good advice; The next semester I changed majors, took Computer Science 101, and in the 14 years since then I've never looked back!