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Columns

February 23, 2013

Lessons learned, and ignored, from my mom and dad

Sometimes I think I must be a terrible disappointment to my parents. 

Sure, I got good grades, stayed out of trouble and grew up to become a moderately responsible adult. But despite their efforts, I did not follow in their tech-savvy footsteps. 

My parents fell for computers hard when I was in elementary school. They brought home a Macintosh in about 1985 and set it up in our living room. I distinctly remember running the training program that taught me, in typical friendly Apple fashion, how to use the mouse and double-click. It was my first experience with the GUI, or graphical user interface, that is so ubiquitous today but still somewhat rare back then. Mom and Dad were hooked; I was, at best, mildly curious. 

That first computer soon gave way to many more, but the one I remember most fondly was an Amiga. (If you don’t remember the Amiga computer, I’m not that surprised. They were actually very popular as home computers in the 1980s, but that’s sort of like saying that Virgin Galactic is a popular space tourism company.) 

What made the Amiga great were its graphics capabilities (years ahead of its competitors) and the robust assortment of games available for it.

My mom was the Tetris queen; no one could beat her high score, although my sister came close. My dad and I ruled at Sidewinder, which was a variation on the traditional side-scrolling shooter — this one scrolled from top to bottom as you piloted your little fighter plane and shot down enemies against a vivid and intricate backdrop. And we all slogged through the endless missions of Rocket Ranger, which was a knockoff of the “Rocketeer” comics upon which the movie of the same name was based.  

But when my mom and dad attempted to interest me in things like programming languages, or how to rebuilt a hard drive, I had no interest. And in high school, when my dad introduced me to what we then called the World Wide Web, and offered to teach me HTML so I could build my own website, I politely declined. 

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