Scott Hanselman

Standing on their shoulders and paying it forward

January 22, '08 Comments [34] Posted in Musings
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It's my birthday! I turn 0x22 today, beginning the downward slide to 0x28, and then death. ;) Seriously, it's an interesting birthday because I'm definitely not a "young hotshot" any more. (It's possible I haven't been for 10 years, but I can dream, right?)

It's funny how these things happen. I didn't think I'd be a Computer Person. In high school I was into Theatre, doing a number of plays, a few as the lead or co-lead, and I'd always assumed I'd be on TV by now. Of course, Ryan Reynolds has my career, so I can't do much about that. Heh, maybe I'm still in theater and I don't realize it?

Anyway, before high school, my 5th grade teacher called a meeting with the superintendent and principal and said "if we don't challenge this kid, we're going to lose him." This is teacher-speak indicating that I was a bit of a rambunctious child, likely to be convicted at some point of a white-collar crime.

The idea they came up with changed my life. They agree to let me and my dad "steal" the school's computer (there was only one at the time) on Friday nights by backing my dad's truck up to the school, so I could use it over the weekend, as long as I got it back before Monday morning. Mind you we're talking about $2500 in the early 80s here, so this was a significant risk she was taking. That risk started me on the road I am today. If she hadn't taken that chance, who knows what would have happened?

I think about the chances that various people took with me over the years and the trust they placed in me, without which I wouldn't be here. I think of the people, like my parents, who love me unconditionally, and for that I am grateful.

I remember when I was 15, in a particularly nasty teenage phase when my father said to me "Son, I love you dearly, but I don't like you very much right now." What a powerful statement that is and nearly 20 years later I remember it. It's important to be able to make a statement like that, and it's a testament to one's love to be that honest.

I'm sure my parents wanted to throttle me (and still do) a number of times, but they stuck with me and my brother - their two boys, now men with families of our own.

And now, at 34, I have two boys of my own. These tiny men who put their trust in me and my wife to do the right thing, stick with them, and take some chances in order to give them the very best opportunities and propel them to heights we haven't dreamed of.

I think about my wife, and the ridiculous decision she made in marrying me. We had a date on July and were married that October. That's a three month-long courtship, talk about taking a chance. That was over 7 years ago. I hope she renews me for another seven! ;)

All these people have helped and continue to help me, and only now as a man of 34 am I mature enough to look down and realize that I've been standing on their shoulders all these years. For this, I thank you all. I will repay you all the best I can by paying it forward.

If you have a blog, Dear Reader, why not take a moment at the beginning of this new year to write a post about the people that helped you get where you are? Parents? Teachers? First bosses? Friend? Spouse? Whose shoulders are you standing on?

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008 9:50:29 PM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott. I love the idea of displaying your date in Hex, though I'd only be 0x19, so it doesn't quite apply to me yet.

I was lucky enough to have a C64 to tinker with at home, having that machine definitely led to my interest in computers now. Do you know what kind of machine that you school had?
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:03:58 PM UTC
Ah, that's a whole other story. It was an Apple II. Later my dad sold the family car to buy a C64 for me.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:05:00 PM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott!
I feel so old at 0x29.
Frank
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:37:56 PM UTC
Happy Birthday.
sariel
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:41:34 PM UTC
Congrats to Hansel' the' man!! :-)

At 0x1F I'm still a noob since this number first overflows after 0xFF.. I tripped over Spectrum and ZX81 but of course stand on the shoulders of my ever loving parents.. Nice one with love vs. "like"..
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:49:33 PM UTC
What about my age?! I am 0x1A years old.. How do I explain this to a non-geek?
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:49:39 PM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott! I follow your blog closely and I appreciate you sharing your expertise and opinions. Have a great year ahead.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:55:40 PM UTC
Happy Birthday. Do you exercise! I played sports a lot when young and stopped when started to work and now I am 40. I wish I would have kept up the exercise but I am thinking about starting up again (soon).
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 11:21:50 PM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott!
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 11:45:54 PM UTC
How come your birthday date didn't show up on facebook? And is your birthday on the same day as Phill Haack's? cause facebook says that today is Phil Haack's birthday too.

Any way, happy birthday my friend, all the best for the comming years.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12:08:39 AM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott!

You birthday is during the best time of the year, if you ask me, my birthday is this Friday.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 1:38:42 AM UTC
I did exactly what you're suggesting during a moment of reflection right around my 30th birthday... My parents had a similar discussion with my grade school teachers as well, but their advice was more direct: "get this kid a computer". Started with a TI 99/4a until Commodore 64's were cheap enough. Those first computers started a real snowball effect.

-Matt
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 2:12:31 AM UTC
Happy birthday, Scott. :-) ‘Cause I am just a 0x19 aged boy, have to say there is still a lot of stuffs I need to learn.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 3:42:51 AM UTC
As a reader of this blog for a couple of years, I am appreciative for the way you push the craft of development. That however does not even compare to how important your efforts on diabetes education have been. When I found out that my 4 year old had type 1 about 3 months ago, this was one of the first places I went to read up in a language that I understand.

Keep up the great work, both communities benefit from your efforts.

-Dennis
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 3:55:07 AM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott!!! It always makes me happy when I see your new post in my reader. Keep up the good work.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 6:41:25 AM UTC
Happy birthday, man, and keep up the good work. Your blog is on my programmer tool list :)

And that was a nice trick with the hex notation, but mine contains letters in it :( Can't fool anyone.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 7:27:33 AM UTC
My birthday is a day after Scott's. Scott always has to be first. First to Microsoft. First to have his birthday this year. I'm just a follower. ;)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 10:31:59 AM UTC
Hi Scott,
Wish you Belated Happy Birthday.
It has been one year since I met you last year.
Take Care.
Vivek.
Vivek
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 11:35:24 AM UTC
You're in the "comfort" zone, age-wise for a few years, which is nice. I'm counting down to 0x32 (0x10 months away now - gulp) so I can only advise enjoying it while it lasts.

I'm sure I drove my parents to distraction during teenageness. But they also stuck with me and, now that I no longer have either around, the best tribute I can pay them is that I'm trying to be the same kind of parent to my own kids.
Mike Woodhouse
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12:33:59 PM UTC
Touching post, Scott. If I wasn't at work I may have shed a tear. Happy birthday!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 3:03:39 PM UTC
As someone who has passed the big 0x32 - let alone the big 0x28 - and whose kids are both at University (one is 0x15 and the other 0x13) - you are still a young "whipper-snapper" as my dad would say.
Charles Nurse
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 3:21:57 PM UTC
Anyway, before high school, my 5th grade teacher called a meeting with the superintendent and principal and said "if we don't challenge this kid, we're going to lose him." This is teacher-speak indicating that I was a bit of a rambunctious child, likely to be convicted at some point of a white-collar crime.

The idea they came up with changed my life. They agree to let me and my dad "steal" the school's computer (there was only one at the time) on Friday nights by backing my dad's truck up to the school, so I could use it over the weekend, as long as I got it back before Monday morning. Mind you we're talking about $2500 in the early 80s here, so this was a significant risk she was taking. That risk started me on the road I am today. If she hadn't taken that chance, who knows what would have happened?


This is unbelievable. I have such a similiar story that it is uncanny. I was in the 3rd grade. It was the principals secretary that knew I needed something special that could override my turbulence (she concluded this upon spending a full in-house suspension day with me). She said basically the same thing, with regards to a career in white-collar crime! At that time, I had to come in early every morning because my father had to get to work early and he was my ride. Of course, when I got to school I raised hell because I was unbelievably rambunctious. They never gave me the chance to take the computer home on the weekends, but I was allowed privelaged access to one of the few Macs we had every morning when I came in early. There's no doubt about it- that old Mac deeply changed my life. By the 5th grade, we finally got a computer lab furbished with several PCs running Windows 95, and I inevitably became the local computer genius. Ever since Windows blew my mind, I haven't been a fan of anything Macintosh, but I will never forget how that dusty old Mac affected the direction of my life.

This was a very touching post, Scott. Hope you had a great birthday!

Best regards...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 4:08:06 PM UTC
Good Stuff. I just recently started penning a letter to my father that includes some of these same sentiments. It's amazing how many of his nuggets of wisdom flash back to me (and some times haunt me ;) as I raise my own family. I tell the story of how once after a paricularly good performance in a 6th grade basketball game he congratulated me and followed it up with "Just remember, no matter how good you are there is always someone out there who is better." That comment strikes many people as a bit deflating but that is not how I took it at the time. At the time, and even to this day, I really remember it as "Don't be complacent". It's amazing how many times I look back on that moment. And also it gives me some hope that the ideas I try to re-enforce with my children might sink in some day :)
Mike
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 4:09:23 PM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott,

May you live as long as you want to... :)

Enjoy...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 6:15:15 PM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott!

I am pleasantly surprised to see no ASP.NET stuff listed in your Amazon wishlist ..lol

Have fun...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 6:53:36 PM UTC
Good Luck to you brother.....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 8:10:31 PM UTC
Happy Birthday, Scott! Hope you have many more great years with your loving family!

And @haacked, that might be true, but the real question is, "are you younger than Scott?" ;-)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 10:34:46 PM UTC
Yesterday it was my birthday too... I'm proud to share my birth day with a great programmer and "family-man" like you...
Have a nice year !
Thursday, January 24, 2008 6:47:42 AM UTC
Happy Birthday, Scott!

Interesting to hear how people got into the industry. Really quite amazing the people who got their start by way of some forward thinking teachers. Teachers are way underrated, they have such a big impact on your life, for some.

Our family couldn't afford a computer, I was extremely fortunate to have a friendly school teacher let me play on the systems after school until dark.

Without which I probably wouldn't be working as a software engineer, but instead in some job I hated :)
nexusprime
Thursday, January 24, 2008 5:04:14 PM UTC
Scott - We must have had similar things, but yours much later. I am 00101011. Yes, hex wasn't in use that much LOL!

My start was in 6th grade on the schools only TRS 80 Model 1. Roger and I bribed the janitor, bought the books from Radio Shack, and learned to program. Saving our files on cassette.

Two years later, we produced our first "application", helping out with record keeping of FFA records.

Finally, as a Junior in HS, I could take our schools' "Computer" course. Given that I could do octal, hex, and binary math in my head at that time, and had already built a Heathkit, it was of little challenge. I almost flunked because I didn't do some lame basic program. At the last minute, it seems that the teacher needed some help to remember his password, so I was able to pass!
Larry
Likewise
Thursday, January 24, 2008 11:23:37 PM UTC
I like the idea of adding a pointer to your wish list.

I have moved my wish list from Amazon to YouCouldGetMe.com this allows me to get stuff from anywhere on the world wide web and not just from my local friendly bookseller. Although I can still add Amazon products to my list.

I was lucky and got most of the stuff that was on my list for Christmas, so my list is still quite small, but I am sure that it will grow again during the year.

If you find something than will automatically code the functionality that you visualize in your head then please let me know. I will definitely want to add one of those to my list.
Friday, January 25, 2008 4:50:31 AM UTC
Happy Birthday Scott! It's weird... I didn't realize you and I were born on the same day a few years apart.
I was born 1/22/1980, so that makes me 28.

Happy Birthday to us! ; )

Monday, January 28, 2008 11:07:52 PM UTC
Hey Scott, Happy Birthday Cousin!

All the best sorry its late and hope 34 is good to you. I'm going to be 40 this year. SWEET! I'm preparing for my mid life crisis excuses right now. We all knew you'd either do super or end up living at home with your parents. I'm looking forward to listening to Uncle Dave on the podcast on my next cycle at the gym. Love Jack
Jack
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 7:15:43 PM UTC
Are you sure your not my long lost brother?

While I may be marginally older at 0x24, I went thru high school with that same "we need need to challenge him more" thing hanging over my head also. Possibly the greatest thing about my highschool in 1985 was the computer lab which featured 12 IBM XTs with 20MB drives. You have any idea how much that costs!?! I had no idea then, but I do now... wow, what an investment in the future.

Then in 1986 they bought a color AT, a 300 DPI laser printer (wow! my homework never looked so good!) and 3 Compaq luggables. You remember those? Big suitcase sized XTs. But how awesome they were! We were allowed to check them out and take them home. Freaking fantastic! There begins my love affair with DOS and QBasic on little 10in amber screens. And I've never looked back.

And now I too am caretaker of a 10mo old. I pray that I can recognize his needs growing up and provide resources that let him explore his potential!
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.