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.
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.