a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, August 29, 2005

My Origin Story

My current crippling stupidity at computers (symbolized by my wrestling with a browser that won't recognize cookies) is ironic, because in at one time it looked like the computer industry is where I was headed.

My problem was is that I was born too early.

In the late 1970s, my high school had a computer room, that basically consisted of a bunch of small computers (Commodore Pets?) and a couple of big printer-computer things. Aside from learning a little Basic, all we really did there was fool around during our free periods, playing some (in retrospect) shockingly primitive games, including the famous Adventure, which didn't even have graphics -- it was just text description of what was happening as you walked through underground caverns picking stuff up.

Otherwise, what we used the bigger computers for was for talking to girls. In what was almost a precursor to the Internet, our school's system was tied into the systems of other schools on Long Island, so you could chat with other students in their computer rooms, and yeah, some of them were girls. So for a shy, low self-esteem 16-year-old like me, this was a dream, and just added to the allure of the whole computer world, an obvious magical place.

(In an aside, I wound up having long phone conversations with one of the girls I met this way. Her name was Rachel, and her father was a rabbi, which should have been a tip-off that things weren't going to work out, since I'm not Jewish. But she invited me to a party, and I took a bus 20-30 miles to Bay Shore, with the promise that the rabbi was going to drive me home at the end of the night. It turned out that Rachel had just invited me to make her boyfriend jealous, but the irony was that I hit it off with her boyfriend and her other friends, while Rachel spent most of the night sulking in her room. In one of the most awkward moments of my life, her father drove me home at the end of the night, with Rachel and I sitting together in the back seat. No one said a word the entire 40-minute trip, though Rachel held my hand the whole way. I never saw her again.)

So anyhow, when I went on to college (State University of New York at Stony Brook, which I guess is a good school for some things), I decided to major in computer science. My first mistake was living on campus, where I wound up sharing a room with a guy named Kenny from Haiti. Kenny was a nice enough guy, except for his habit of pumping iron in the middle of the night while listening to Black Sabbath at full blast, which is death when you have 8:30 AM classes, very few of which I actually attended.

The second problem was, as I mentioned, I was born too early. Because in 1981 at Stony Brook, their computer classes didn't have actual computers. Let me repeat that -- There. Were. No. Computers. Instead, what you had to do was fill out a punch card for every line of code you wrote, punching out the letters, and then wait on a huge line to hand in their punch cards, which were then run through a big mainframe somewhere.

Well, you know. That's really stupid. And somehow, in my no-sleep-addled brain, I wasn't ready to go through the ridiculousness of punching out cards and waiting in long lines. So I failed computer science 101. No biggie. I think I failed 8 classes in college, and still graduated with a 2.7 (and no, I'm not proud).

But when I failed computer science, they politely told me that this meant I couldn't major in computer science any more. No second chances -- turn in your punch cards. Oops.

So I majored in English, the first step in becoming a professional reader, a job that I didn't even know existed until years after graduating from college.

I'm not sure what the moral of the story is, other than I used to be a passive lazy ass. But in the long run, I think I'm happier reading screenplays than I would be writing code all day, so sometimes things work out anyway.


At 11:48 AM, Blogger Dave said...

damn - Similar for me - only I actually got the Associates in Computer Science.

English Major and a Bachelors.

Wasn't until I was out of college that I found out about screenwriting and how much I loved it.

Similar fate to you - born too early, because when I was looking for screenwriting information, there was only LA and nothing anywhere on the internet (it was all dial-up then anyway).

Now, you can't swing a dead cat without finding a screenwriting site.


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