My kindergarten teacher maintained an activity station stocked with various broken gadgets (e.g. calculators, hair driers, etc.) that we were encouraged to take apart and tinker with. I’m convinced that this was the genesis of my love of engineering. My mother fostered this by encouraging her friends to bring over their old electronics for me to disassemble and explore. I can’t tell you how many live capacitors have shocked me over the years, but the learning experiences were invaluable.
In fifth grade we got our first family computer, an old Apple IIC, and my interests expanded beyond the physical to include the digital. We had many of the classic games, but my two favorite 5.25-inch floppy disks were Apple Logo and Applesoft BASIC. I never had any books on either language, but rather learned by doing… spending countless hours experimenting in front of our little CRT monitor.
That same year the film Toy Story was released and my interest in 3D computer graphics exploded. I was already familiar with Pixar, having repeatedly checked out a VHS tape of Luxo Jr., Red’s Dream, and Tin Toy from my local library, but Toy Story cemented that fascination. Seeing (and feeling) the 81-minute film was the catalyst for a lifelong obsession with “advanced visualization”. (Not to mention a somewhat absurd toy collection.)
From flight simulation to real-time 3D graphics to augmented / virtual reality, many of my hobbies and professional endeavors can be traced back to the fortuitous alignment of my family’s first personal computer with the release of Pixar’s first feature-length film. Couple that with an already firmly-established love of tinkering, and it’s no wonder I bear the title “Engineer”.