I got my first computer (TRS-80 Model 1) in 1980 at the age of 8. I got my second computer – an Atari 800 – two years later. I was living in Springfield, Ohio. Very few people were interested in computers in that area then. The only people that seemed to be were engineers at the nearby Air Force base, Wright Patterson. Every month, I used to get my parents to drive me over to meet the engineers there for Atari “user group” meetings.
Like most computer enthusiasts back then, I wanted to program video games. This of course was pre-internet and before the PC boom, so information on computer programming was scarce. At the user group meetings we would trade information as basic as what memory locations performed what functions, or new techniques people had developed (vsync interrupt, page 6 techniques – old school readers will know what I mean). After a while I was increasingly frustrated by the lack of technical information so I decided to write a letter to Atari asking them for manuals. I got a hand written letter back from Alan Kay, who was already quite famous at the time and was working at Atari, along with a giant box full of manuals and technical documentation. I’ve never met the man but I give him a lot of credit for my lifelong interest in computers.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I had the pleasure to meet with Om Malik. Om took time to meet with me years ago when I was struggling to get SiteAdvisor off the ground. No other popular bloggers would meet with me, but Om spent over an hour listening to me talk and giving me advice. I was introduced to Om by Ron Conway who invested in my company despite the fact that the industry experts he introduced me to as part of diligence hated my idea.
People never forget who helps them when they are struggling. It’s a cliche, perhaps, but true – and a good thing to always keep in mind. Thanks Alan, Om, and Ron.