To me it always seemed like the natural choice to make. But here's a couple more reasons...
-David Intersimone and Fred Brooks. From Doctor Dobb's Journal, published in January 2007 issue
When I was three, my dad bought his first computer. To me the computer was almost as exciting as my six month old sister. My mom says I would run around the house reporting, “Papa’s using his own computer. I want to do that, too.” Soon enough, I got my chance to use “Papa’s own computer.” When I was four, my dad sat me down at the computer and helped me type my name. Looking at the green and black screen and seeing “Jessica” spelled out was very exciting to me. I screamed out proudly, “Look, look, it says my name. It says Jessica.”
By the time I was in second or third grade I could make birthday cards and calendars in Print Shop with no help. When Windows came along and we bought a color monitor, I entertained myself for hours creating artwork in Paintbrush. My favorite scene to depict on screen was a “stained glass” flower garden. A few months later when we got a hand-held scanner, I immediately took an interest in it. I learned how to use the scanner, with a little help, by scanning in a picture from my favorite book of word puzzles.
As I grew up, so did the technology. The daisy wheel printer was replaced by a new fancy laser printer, although by today’s standards the “fancy” printer would be considered an old “clunker.” My dad upgraded his computer one board at a time. Whenever he went to get a new computer part, I always tagged along. Then while I eagerly watched, he installed it. He put the old, no longer needed parts in a box in the closet. Around Christmas time when I was in seventh grade, there were finally enough parts in the box for my dad to put together an entire computer for me. I learned how to put together computers by helping him assemble mine. A year or two later, when I got a sound card and a CD-ROM drive, I was able to install them, and load the necessary drivers, without any help.
When I wanted to learn software, I usually did it by using the software. For example, to learn CorelDRAW, I drew boxes, circles, and spirals in the program, experimenting with all the tools. To learn Microsoft Access, I designed a database for my sister’s Hot Wheels cars. Once I knew Access, I added on to my toy car database with a random car-selecting form and additional details like whether the cars had sunroofs or metallic paint.
Although I often played with the software just to learn how to use it, there were other times when my projects were intended to solve a problem. My favorite game was Twister, the game where you spin a spinner and it tells you to put your right hand on the green circle, or your left foot on the blue circle, or any of the other choices. Sometimes I could only find my sister to play Twister with me. The only problem with that situation was that we had to keep taking our hands off the circles to spin the spinner. To solve that problem, I came up with a creative solution. I recorded my voice calling out the different colors, hands, and feet that the spinner could select, as sound files on the computer. I then created a simple database with the choices and sounds embedded, and made a form with a timer that would automatically “spin” every 15 seconds. When my mom came home and saw us playing twister, and heard my voice coming out of the computer saying, “Left foot, blue circle,” her jaw dropped.
“How did you do that?” she asked.
“Oh, that was easy. I just recorded my voice on the computer and….”
With my computer, I have never been at a loss for something to do. I learned how to use all the software I could get my hands on. When Windows 95 initially came out, I was the first one in my family to try out the beta version. I liked it, and I used it for about two weeks, but because there were so many bugs in it, I uninstalled it until the final version came out.
When I was in ninth grade, my family signed up for Internet access, and I quickly picked up on the basics of navigating the Internet and using search engines. Shortly after, I decided I wanted to make my own web pages. I examined the “code” behind other people’s pages, and read articles on the Internet about writing web pages. The first pages I created were simple, with text, a picture, and maybe a heading or two. Then I expanded on what I knew with more complex code to create things like tables and style sheets. I even created my own seamless backgrounds for my web pages. Last summer, through my dad’s work, I was able to create an intranet web-site for the National Security Agency.
When the pioneering free e-mail provider, Juno, premiered I was among the first to sign up for an account. Then I took the software to my Grandpa’s house and helped him set up his own e-mail account too, and I taught him how to use it so we could keep in touch through e-mail.
In tenth grade, my dad gave me a copy of Visual Basic. The idea of creating my own programs interested me, so I rushed through all the sample projects, learning how to write Visual Basic code. When I finished the sample projects, I started modifying them, and writing my own programs. I had abundant ideas for what I wanted my programs to do, but I did not know enough Visual Basic to do every project I thought up. I was able to research some things on the Internet, but not everything is available online. The most useful way I learned many “tricks” of programming was by taking a course in Visual Basic at a community college last summer. With the knowledge I picked up, I was able to complete my program with all the features I had wanted and even more.
Recently, I obtained a business license for my next project, selling my program, Gifview, as shareware on the Internet. The program helps web-page designers test backgrounds for their web pages.
When I look back at my life much of it seems to revolve around computers. But, don’t mistake me for being just a “computer nerd.” I love art, especially drawing. I do origami, the Japanese art of paper-folding. I have folded over a thousand cranes, a ritual which is supposed to bring peace and good health. I love to teach and tutor my friends and classmates in math, computers, or any other subject in which they need help. In addition I love movies, music, reading, and being with my friends.
I think I would love a career in computer science or research. I like using my brain and solving problems, and, as is visible through my grades, I love school. Above all, I look forward to the opportunity experience independence, going off to college, and seeing what I can make of myself.
Return to Homepage