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Ricardo Funk
Ricardo Funk

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How I became a software developer, years before I actually was one

Tracing my technology roots

Welcome to my journey. In the next few paragraphs I will try to pinpoint the precise moments that made me a technology lover, a computer repair technician, a network engineer and a software developer. Basically, the moments in my life that made me who I am today.

Chapter 1 — Atari 2600

My first memory goes back to Atari, specifically a game by Activision called “Boxing”. It was around the late ’80s, I was around 7 years old, and like any other day, my mother decided to visit her cousin, my mind was about to be blown out of the universe. All of the sudden, her husband decided to show us this new “toy”. I was able, with a controller, to move this amazing character on the screen, and not just that, I could punch my friend!

International Soccer (Atari 2600)

Not long after that, my father decided to get an Atari Game Console. There were 2 games that I remember playing non-stop: a jungle guy that had to jump on top of alligators and could go underground and try to avoid scorpions. The name of the game? Pitfall!

The second game was a soccer game. Understand that I love soccer, and now I was able to control soccer players on my screen. I was a kid exploring a new type of technology in my living room. I wonder the impact this had on how I started to see things differently, how the impossible could be possible, after all, this was magical.

Boxing @ Activision (1980)

Chapter 2 — PC

It seems that gaming had a major impact on the rest of my life, since my second memory of technology (Let’s not include calculators, VCR, etc) is also about a game. Let’s fast forward to about 1993. By this time, my cousin had decided to get a Personal Computer. We used to go to their house a lot, Christmas, New Years, and now I had a reason to go even more. “Mom, let’s go to their house!” I would say. All I can remember is playing this game called “Street Rod”. Don’t get me started on this game, it literally changed my life! It wasn't just a racing game: you could actually become a mechanic and fix your car, sell it, buy new parts, and race it to the top! I loved the details, how you actually had to go and get GAS, how you could paint your car, choose between Automatic or Manual Transmission, and so on. This is definitely a game that was ahead of its time. Not only you could passively enjoy it, but it would let you create while playing it. I still remember my “Silver Bullet”, a 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air with 2 doors.

I was lucky that my mother realized I loved something about these new machines and… she didn’t buy me one, instead she signed me up to a computer course at the Italian society (This was back in Argentina, I know I forgot to mention it, I’m from South America, Argentina, Buenos Aires, San Martin). Now, I have no idea how she was able to do this since I didn’t have any “connections” to the Italian embassy, most of my ancestors are from Germany and Spain. Also, this wasn’t the “fancy” place everyone else went to, “Argentina Computer” (I can’t remember the name!), this was the fancy place I wanted to go, but in retrospect it was so much better. This Italian place had more freedom, it wasn’t so “commercial”, there was more care although it also helped that I was an 11 year old taking a course with people from 20 to 50 years old. Also, as with everything else in my life that I actually care about, I was so excited and so happy to learn about these new machines.

Italian Society, San Martin, Buenos Aires

Let me tell you a secret: people will go out of their way to help you if you are enthusiastic about your new adventure; if you are truly excited about it, it shows, and people can tell. Give it your best and you will be rewarded.

Now, this is when it gets exciting, and is also something that keeps happening to me (even today). Almost every time I start a new career, a new certification, a new course, I never start at the beginning, I start either at the end or the middle, but never at the beginning, and guess what? It works for me. Honestly, I don’t do it intentionally, but it just happens, let me explain. Back in 1993 when I started my first computer certification, I was one semester too late, and everyone else had already completed the DOS 3.1 course. I started with Microsoft Word, and I found out about this because there were a couple of DOS commands you could run from word (This is before Windows), like “Del”, to delete a file.

If you look under “File”, you can see the “Dos commands” right before “Exit”:

At the time it didn’t matter to me. It was so much fun, learning about text formatting, footnotes, brakes, it was all good! I have to say, on the verge of being arrogant, I did great on every single test I took and the older guys and gals couldn’t believe how well I was doing. I would go an hour early, when the place was empty, and just practice, or honestly, just have fun, especially when I found out I could play Carmen Sandiego, SAY WHAT!

Carmen Sandiego. My sister and I would spend hours playing it later on, at home.

At the end, I took the following certifications: DOS 3.1, Dbase, Lotus 1–2–3, Word, and Windows 3.1

I did also have computer class at school, taking my first steps learning programming by telling a turtle where to go.

Chapter 3— Internet

“You mean I can read the newspaper for free?”

Let’s fast-forward to 1998, my country (Argentina) had gone downhill. My father decided to emigrate to the United States. At the time, I was only 15, and I had no idea what was going on, I was just happy we were moving to the United States. That meant that I didn’t have a computer for a few months.

About 3 months after we arrived in the States, my parents made a friend, Ricardo Pereira. Ricardo owned a computer and he told us that he could read the newspaper, for free. Initially, I was in shock.

“What do you mean you can read the newspaper for free?”

”Yes! There is t his thing, called the internet”

Oh my God! It was a life changer, now I was able to read news for free, look up conspiracy theories …and chat with people!



AOL, mIRC, ICQ, MSN Messenger and the list goes on. So much fun!

It all started with AOL, especially in the chat-rooms. I became friends with a guy who knew his way around a computer, he started to teach me some tricks, like how to gain access to someone else’s account.

Did you know you could log in to two different AOL accounts by simply using an older version and a new version of the software simultaneously?

It was time of learning, and I learnt a lot! I started using a piece of software called Sub-7 to gain access to someone else’s computer, files, printer or camera. At the time, it was all fun, I wasn’t thinking about “invasion of privacy”, I was thinking “Wow, I can really do this? I wonder what else I can do”. This was all around 1999–2000. I guess I reached my goal when I was able to steal credit card information and it was then that I realized that something wasn’t right, I was not having fun doing this. I was lucky to never actually have used any of the information I illegally gained access to and now that I think about it, the decision to stop right there was by far one of my best moments.

Chapter 4— Turning Pro-fessional

Up to this point it was all fun, I made a little money here and there by developing a website for someone, but not much. I then started fixing my own computer and replacing my own hardware. That’s when I got the opportunity to interview for a computer company. I honestly got the job by merely repeating keywords that a friend of mine had told me about.

Just say: IP, TCP/IP, ping, IP printing, etc

Once I got the job, I was in learning mode again. I can probably say that by the end of that year I was able to fix any computer issue: hardware, software, network, anything. You name it, I could fix it.

I've always enjoyed creating things, but now I realize the career I had for about 8 years was about fixing things, not creating.

and that’s when I became a software developer

This article is actually a follow-up to my original article How a single line of code changed my life

Now it is time to drink some mateand think about my next article, see you soon!


Top comments (5)

codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Ha! I grew up on Carmen Sandiego, yo!

Games were what got me into software development too. My love of them in the 90s led me to create some web games using Microsoft Home Publishing when I was a pre-teen. The idea later evolved into the flagship product for my software startup, MousePaw Media.

rfunk82 profile image
Ricardo Funk

That's amazing, how things shape you in what you are, but at the time you are just having fun.

vilourenco profile image
Vinícius Lourenço

That's so nostalgic! I was reading your article and reminding about that 90's stuff, like Aol, MSN, dial up internet, Winamp, websites build in Front-Page or even notepad with a looooooot of gifs!

I'm not too old, but nowadays is so much good to develop, to build, in one hand we have a new JS framework each day, but in another things like Chrome DevTools it's fantastic! At 2009 I was building surveys on the company I worked on and debugging it in IE, oh man, this is so rustic hahaha

Hugs from Brazil!

chrispiracy515 profile image

if you own an android smartphone, access your phone settings and long press your (BUILD NUMBER) 5X which is located in your (ABOUT PHONE) settings. After YOU do that you will then become a software developer.

snicker profile image

Great read, lots of nostalgic feelings. I think we grew up along a very similar timeline!