History of the Hobbyist (1962-????)

Roughly 1967
Roughly 1967

I’m really going to pick this up somewhere in the late 70s, because my childhood does not have any particular bearing on this post. But the late 70s, coming out of high school and into the 80s…there’s any number of key events that have some bearing on Reclaiming Dave.

Terri Jenkins (Sophomore at WaCoHi)… Sorry Terri, wherever you are today, but you aren’t really terribly relevant to this tale. Nor are hundreds of other anecdotes of a purely personal interest, not until we get to the 90s, anyway. So pressing the fast forward button…

Personal computers! My dad built one (Heath H89), 5-1/4 floppy (single), monochrome monitor (24 lines!), and a lightweight version of Benton Harbor BASIC. CPU operated at around 2MhZ (!!), and 48k of memory (not terabytes, kilobytes)! My video card at this very moment is several thousand times more powerful.

I was extremely lucky, as that was a surprisingly expensive machine…computer hardware prices hadn’t begun to plummet (286 age had not yet arrived, and we were all still years away from the internet). No modem anyway, in 1979 there weren’t a lot of networks available to dial into (I didn’t ever ‘log on’ to a remote server for several more years, in college).

But I took to BASIC (and later to PCs) like a fish to water. Introvert plus machines equals win! Writing code before most households even had a game console.


170 LET X=(INT(6*RND(1))+1)
180 FOR J= 1 TO 10 STEP 2

210 NEXT J


A nerd is born (fanfare)! Raspberry?


Also important: right around the early 80s, the publishing of Dungeons and Dragons (specifically the Red Box). It is now a collector’s item, but at the time it was a cheesy little boxed game without dice (my box had “chits” and the promise of dice-to-come). Curse you, E. Gary Gygax, and bless you—because you affected the next 30 years of my life pretty heavily. Add ‘gamer’ to my geek resume (cheers/jeers)!

A succession of really bad autos—including a fast-dying Pontiac Sunbird, a never-worked-at-all-well Mustang II, Beauregard the Javelin (still most famous for his Snarl and his desire to eject my friends while in motion), and the puke-green Dodge Dart (Rochester) who I remember most fondly because of my wife and Meat Loaf…but that’s getting ahead of the tale.

“Gamer” led to most of my college buddies, and a few not-so-buddies, the start of life-long obsession with probability and statistics (hey, those dice rolls are important), and the flunking out of several Organic Chemistry courses…which lead to both a brief switch to Comp-Sci and (eventually) the end of any hope of a B.A. and the end of Bradley University—too damned expensive, sayeth my folks.

Which in turn lead to I.C.C. for the second round of edumacation. Discovering Annette’s fine…assets…as she retrieved the soda from the soda machine, my gallant offer of a ride home (enlightened self-interest?), Rochester plus “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, and of course her inability to resist my geek-ish charms—or something like that. Luckily worked out for me, whatever it was.

Another product of I.C.C.—a Graphic Arts degree, which hasn’t really ever earned me a nickel. Annette’s degree (from the same school) turned out to be quite lucrative, which has saved us at least once.

Anyway, in the interest of brevity, let’s skip over a lot of history and get back on topic—the Hobbyist. Let me list the position titles I’ve held, in order to the best of my memory:

Corn detassler (seasonal)


Mail sorter (seasonal)

(sort of—well no, not really). Grade school aged kids, non-accredited classes at Park Districts. I would’ve been good at it too, if I hadn’t got lost in Chicagoland. Missing a class leads to missing a job…out of cash leads back to living with Mom. Hey, I was…was I even 20 yet?

Back to School (round two, downstate again, Hi Annie!)

(This entire next series-job promotion next job-takes place at the Pere Marquette, which was a fancy-schmancy convention hotel right next to the biggest strip club in Illinois. No coincidence–conventioneers of all varieties love to drink and stare at nekkid wimmin woowoo!)

Room Service
Night Audit (married Annie somewhere ‘round here)

More Night Audit (back upstate, several different chain hotels)

(Brad born somewhere round here)

Look maw, I found a brand new Brad!
Look maw, I found a brand new Brad!

Programmer/Tech Support
A-ha! That ‘coder’ hobby turns into an actual job. Three years. Too bad the language is now buried. So is the company, actually.

Graphic designer/production artist:**
PC hobby (Photoshop/Illustrator/Web/Database) equals job. A dozen years. Code monkey, graphic monkey, production grunt.

Game design/script Developer and CE GM:**
Five years telecommuting as an independent contractor doing GSL scripting for Simutronics in St. Louis (part time). Game Master (GS4-Elnath), both Developer and Customer Experience for GSIII and GSIV. Code monkey again.

**Those last two actually overlap on the timeline; GM-ing was a mostly late-night beer-money thang (for some of us).


Maybe we could get to the point?

Well, the majority of my adult income arose (directly or indirectly) from my personal interests and hobbies. Zero dollars from my schooling. Not a dime from my degree. No B.A.—that’s equivalent to a mouth-breathing, uneducated illiterate with body odor in the H.R. world.

All of the jobs up there that I spent the most time doing arose from that love of computers that goes clear back to the seventies. I’ve been a Professional Hobbyist, earning dollars from my hobbies for nearly all of my adult life. That’s an oxymoron, right?

Is it?

45 years later
45 years later

All that remains to be seen is what the next step is. I suspect it’s going to lead me away from corporate environments permanently. What things might be possible away from the Cubicle Farm?

We’ll see. My eyesight is weakening, my body hates computer chairs these days; maybe it’s time to raise pigs?


Update/More: see Take a chance on me…or I will.


4 thoughts on “Hobbyist”

  1. Thanks, nephew; while living my own life, I didn’t have much time to follow yours. Best advice I can give is to enjoy !! (we only go round once, thank goodness).

  2. Our resumes are remarkably parallel except I’m a girl – very old one now – and you would never have had to wear a mini red toga with matching knickers to earn a living. 🙂

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