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Growing up, I did not have an Atari. I did not have a Nintendo. I did not own a computer. Despite the endless begging, my mother refused to buy me a video game console. What she did buy me (while I was in the 1st grade) was a book called “Star Wars: Question & Answer Book About Computers”.



This book was perhaps the reason I grew fascinated with computers. I stopped begging for a video game console and started begging for a computer. My mother could not afford one. (After all, what normal household needed a computer?) When I was in the 5th grade, my father (who is a pastor) bought a 286sx 8mhz PC for his church office. I tried to experiment with it as much as possible, but my time on it was very limited. On his desk, next to the computer, was a book titled “Working with DOS”.



I took the book home. I read it from cover to cover. Everytime I was at my father’s office, I took advantage of my limited time on his computer and tried out the things I learned from the book. My mother bought me another book. This time, it was a programming book called “The ABC’s of GW-BASIC”.




I taught myself how to program, but I still did not own a computer. I would have to write my programs on a piece of paper and try them out next time I visited my father’s office. Before I entered the 7th grade, my mother finally decided to buy a computer for the household. I was thrilled. My mother then bought me a book on Pascal. For months, I begged for a modem. She finally bought me a 2400bps modem. I discovered the world of BBS’s. It was incredible and it was addicting. I discovered the world of file sharing, pirates, hackers, virii, and ANSI art. I downloaded lots of tutorial text files. I was in the 8th grade and I realized my knowledge was lacking. So I learned C. I first took an introductory C winter class at Cal State University Northridge. We used VAX/VMS terminals to compile our C code. I had saved some money and went to the college bookstore to buy a book titled “C: the Complete Reference”.




While checking out at the register, I recall the college student cashier scoffing at me and making a remark, “Do you even know what C is? Why do you even bother? You’re not even going to understand it.” I ignored him. I was just happy to finally have the book I was eyeing every day during winter school. Shortly after, I downloaded my first C compiler. I was extremely excited. I downloaded and read as many tutorial text files as I could. Even if I didn’t understand them, I kept reading. I read issues of the text-based Phrack magazine. I read the Hacker’s Manifesto. I read about Cap’n Crunch and his magical 2600hz whistle. I read about blue boxes, red boxes, etc. I learned how to create ANSI bombs. I was in the 9th grade and once again, I realized my knowledge was lacking. So this time, I bought a book on Assembly.



I carried this book everywhere I went. I could not put it down. I did not master Assembly, but I learned just enough to get into some trouble. Equipped with Zipzap (my hex editor) and debug, I was reverse engineering video games, disabling copy protection, and creating trojans.
I was addicted to computer books. I took computer programming classes here and there (Java, Assembly), but it was mainly books and text files that taught me. Through books, I taught myself HTML, Javascript, Perl, PHP, MySQL, Python. I also read systems administration books on UNIX, Linux, BIND, various mail servers, and Apache. I also read fun books on topics such as OpenGL programming, algorithms, electronics, cryptography, and discrete mathematics.



No, I do not read all of my books from cover to cover. However, I do read enough to stand on my own two feet so I could look to the book or other online source for reference and/or guidance. I am still a student. I will always be a student. I will never be satisfied. I will always stay hungry. Keep knowledge free.

 
Current projects:

Pawkeeper.com – Online pet file cabinet. Store all your pet’s info, records, pictures, notes. Transfer ownership of pets with ease. Find a lost pet.

Insteegram.com – Simplest/cheapest way to print your Instagram photo on a quality American Apparel T-shirt.

Likeacoupon.com – New form of collective buying featuring exclusive coupons and the best user-submitted deals from the web.

21 Comments
  1. Matt deWit permalink

    Hi Eddie,

    I love that you found a way to build a lie detector… did you ever make it and if so did it work??

    I’m not assuming you need anything.
    My goal in reaching is to start a business relationship.
    We work primarily with local start-ups and rapid growth companies since the 90s, mainly through referral.

    Our client is a start-up based in Santa Monica, looking for a Sr. Engineer with expertise in HTML, XML, and PHP.
    The founders have created a few billion dollar companies already, and the company is well funded and already valued over $100m.
    They’re also nice people, very collaborative in nature.

    You seem smart and engaged with this industry, so I thought you might have a referral for someone who would appreciate it.

    Thanks,
    Matt deWit
    Recruiter – Apex Direct Search, Inc.
    (310) 666-3321
    Recruiters for Start-ups and Rapid Growth Firms in California since 1996

    • Hi Matt, I’m really sorry I didn’t reply to you sooner. I met Spencer Allen recently and he was super knowledgeable and passionate about what he does. I will go on a whim and say it is safe to assume that you possess many of the same qualities. I am not looking for a job, but I will leave your comment on here so that other engineers/clients that come across your post can contact you.

  2. Enjoyed your post and the whole idea of being a hungry student for life. We’re a team founded by engineering hackers and brain geniuses as well and thought you might find our project interesting. it’s based off the themes and ideas from the Captain Crunch and 2600hz whistle days. Hope you enjoy! and let me know if you ever wanna chat about what we’re building :D rachel at 2600hz dot com

    http://wiki.2600hz.com/display/docs/About+the+Project

    • Hi Rachel, thank you. I checked out your site. Looks like your company is stacked with talent. I love your domain name and the references to the telephony hackers. That’s really awesome.

  3. Aaron cross permalink

    Hi my name is Aaron cross , I came across your blog by searching hanging with friends and came across your cheat, I really enjoyed reading your posts. Even though I don’t know you I feel like you really inspire me. I am fascinated with technology and was just seeking some advice, I am 18 and ready to graduate high school in A few months, I really didn’t like public school when I was Enrolled ( freshman, sophomore year) and never took it seriously. Now I am homeschooled and I feel like I’ve wasted my past few years on nothing, when I could of been learning to program or something. I’ve only written a little calculator program with basic, an in a way I feel it’s too late to learn what know I’m capable of. If you could please just reply with some tips on how I can get started with programming. Thank you

    • Hi Aaron. Thank you for reading my posts. I’m really happy you enjoy them. At 18, you’re not late at all. If anything, I’d say you have a huge advantage over most students getting introduced to computer science in college. You already have a passion for technology and you’ve already started writing programs. A calculator program in BASIC is quite a feat and you should be proud of that. I didn’t enjoy school either. I didn’t complete college and… as a note of encouragement, the head engineer of almost every company I’ve been to are dropouts…. Between you and a college student majoring in computer science, I’d put my money on you. I know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the hundreds of different languages and skills you feel you need to learn… but everybody feels that way. It’s an endless chase that will never end. On top of that, technology evolves so rapidly that a language you learn today might be obsolete tomorrow. I’m more than happy to give you what advice I can… The two most important engineering tips I can give you is:

      1) Don’t be married to any single technology/language. Remember that languages are nothing but tools to make your life easier. Use the right tool for the job. When a construction worker comes to your house and tells you he’s mastered the miter saw, but doesn’t use a circular saw, table saw, or a reciprocating saw… would you trust him? No, and neither would I. Much like construction, I would rather employ a programmer that focuses on getting the job done right… not bickering over what tool can do the job better. In college, Java is commonly used to teach object oriented programming. For this reason, there are may college graduates that are “Java programmers”. But what will separate you from the others is that you can take what you’ve learned about objects and design patterns in Java and apply them to your programs written in other languages. In a real life scenario, your job may require you to quickly learn a brand new proprietary programming language and create your program using that language.

      2) What makes a good programmer is his/her ability to break down any thought process or action into a science. This is the true secret to software engineering. Next time you check out that crossword puzzle, or solve a sudoku… ask yourself what exact steps your brain is taking to solve it. Lots of engineering job interviews will ask you seemingly irrelevant brain teaser questions… but it’s really just to probe you and see how well you break down a problem and come up with your own sequence of steps or algorithms to systematically arrive at a solution every time.

      I hope that makes sense to you. If you’re wondering what you should teach yourself next, I would recommend Python as it is great language for many many things. You can find some great books online which you can download for free. I would take it from there. You may decide you want to focus on mobile apps or video games, or web apps, etc. Your interests and needs should dictate what you should teach yourself next. I’m excited to see your progress. Please keep me updated and share some of your cool programs with me.

  4. ski permalink

    I’m having the same problems you were having with the lie detector. I’m new to this whole arduino thing. I have the same setup as you and have downloaded the software. Everything works fine except I cant get the red LED to light up. Green and blue work fine but red. I exhausted my means after 3 days of figuring it out with no results, any insight.

    • Hi ski, are you having problems with the lie detector? If you’re having problems getting anything but the red LED to light up, (and you’re sure everything is wired correctly) try using a different potentiometer. The range might be off. You may also need to adjust the int band variable to adjust the threshold between the red and green domains.
      Also, make sure to double check the fritzing diagram I uploaded to make sure everything is wired correctly. The basic idea behind this is that you’re comparing the electricity conducted through your fingers to the electricity being conducted through the potentiometer.

  5. Stefan permalink

    Hi Eddie. Your post on why you joined TripTrotting was very inspiring! It’s a great story and you and the TripTrotting team must be so proud!

    Having lived abroad for long periods of time, and an avid traveler myself, I can very much relate to the TripTrotting purpose. I’d love the opportunity to introduce myself more personally, as I’m looking for a new career opportunity. Although I have never used TripTrotting in the past (just was made aware of it weeks ago) I have startup experience (on the Biz Dev / Marketing side) and can see myself really loving working towards the ambitious TripTrotting mission. Would love to connect!

    • Hi Stefan. Thank you! That is awesome. Have you tried contacting either Aigerim or Shana in regards to biz dev / marketing? That is their area of expertise. We welcome ambition. :)

  6. padawancoder permalink

    Hi i really like the advice you gave Aaron.that’s really good stuff and i like you whole story about your mom..that was kinda funny, I’m just starting in computer Science and i really like the artificial intelligence part. and i like what you are doing with your (( jarvis ai )) congrats..you really are a applied student of computer Sci..you are a star in the space of possibilities >> good job man>

    • Thank you padawancoder. I appreciate the encouraging words. As difficult as it is to find time to work on these projects… learning and experimenting is what keeps me sane. Good luck with your endeavor in the computer science realm and do have fun. :)

  7. niranjanravichandra permalink

    Hey,

    I’m a budding programmer and hacker, but I can’t seem to be able to stand on my own two feet and get a comprehensive background in any language/subject/etc. I’m only 16, and I feel like every day I don’t spend reading up on the topics, I lose out on knowledge (knowledge *is* power after all). It’s extremely frustrating when I get a great idea and spend an hour planning everything out to realize I don’t have the materials or the background to actually do it. I’ve built a 3D printer, which was fairly easy, and I’m looking to work on harder and more challenging projects. My problem is also in the form of materials, I’m an expat in Dubai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubai), a city with no hackerspace, no Maker culture, etc, so I’ve got to order everything online. As of now, I’ve just got a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino Uno and a breadboard; with no idea where or how to get started. Can you please help me out? All this also applies to programming, I get the process and everything, I’ve been using Emacs for about a year now; I just can’t feel the mastery with any language to be able to do anything I want.

    Thank You,
    Niranjan Ravichandra

    • Hey Niranjan, it sounds to me like you’re doing great. You’ve built a 3D printer? That’s awesome. I would love for you to share some information on how you managed to do that. As far as your specific language concerns go, I think everybody faces that to some degree. This is why we rely on google. Over time, these non-trivial matters will become trivial to you. Keep it up!

  8. Pyoky permalink

    Hi,
    I’m a Korean (I wonder if you even know where Korea is) student in 5th grade, and I just started leaning how to program a year ago, and I taught myself C++ and just started learnig html in Codeacademy. But the thing is I feel like my knowledge is scattered and I just can’t get the connection between those. I fiddle with one part, and then another part, and goes on. I want to learn from the basics about computers to get all my knowledge straight. Can you help me out?
    Thanks, Pyoky

    • Hi Pyoky. Try not to overwhelm yourself. Programming is a VAST field and a lifetime of education still may not be sufficient to cover everything. Rather, set a short-term goal. Which area of computer science sparks your interest? What specifically would you like to master? (games, AI, cryptography, web, etc?) Focus on one thing at a time. :)

  9. King permalink

    Hello sir,
    I like to ask you some questions.
    1) Can python be used for mobile application development.
    2) I am having this challenge with schooling i don’t just think its the right thing for me. Sitting in class is just like a waist of time for me, because i think i can use those time to solve some problem. My parent want me to go to university to further my studies but i don’t want to. What do i do?

    • Hello King,
      1) Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Use the best tool for the job; use the native language.
      2) Though I do not have a college degree, I do recommend everyone attend college. While there may be only a small advantage to earning a college degree, there is absolutely no advantage to being a drop-out. I understand it feels like a waste of time… and to be fair, sometimes it can be. Nevertheless, there are so many takeaways that you cannot take elsewhere. Communication skills, writing skills, nomenclature (if you’re in the computer science field), and discipline are all priceless. If you drop out, you can still be successful, but you will likely regret not finishing school. So, my advice to you is to stay in school but continue hacking away on your free time.

  10. frustrated programmer permalink

    Hello mate,
    Reading your posts really fascinates me. And after I read your story how you get into computers just simply amazed me. Two thumbs up for you mate!
    by the way I’m a frustrated programmer… how sad of me
    Anyway mate please give me a checklist on what should I really know about python programming
    to become competitive enough. by the way, I’m stuck with OOP using python..
    Thanks in advance! and more power to you!

  11. Great Site! Very cool stuff….. Where are your posts since July????

    Can you suggest a way to get my daughter’s IG password? (Limited abilities here…..)

    Couldn’t find a way to contact you direct, so posting here….Also have a “Chow Now”, small world story to share….saw the pic on your cam hack post…..

    Thanks!

    Steve

  12. Hi. I plan to read many more of your articles. I have only briefly browsed thus far. But I wanted to post simple words of appreciation. I see novel and interesting content that I can learn from. Reading what I might call the ‘subtitle’ (although it is to the side, not under, so maybe lattitle), I thought I would share that my WiFi SSID is Wintermute. Hope all is well.

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