"You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." — Steve Jobs
I’ve been thinking about the past a lot lately. Some meaningful events of the past often define who we are today.
I read two (old) books last year and this year. One is called “eboys” by Randall E. Stross and the other is “Startup” by Jerry Kaplan. Both are fascinating stories — the former is about starting the legendary VC firm Benchmark while the latter is about starting the first “pen computing” industry and lessons learned. Both stories took place during 1980s to 1990s.
Strangely enough, I can relate to the tech background of both stories, even though I was half the earth away.
In mid 1990s, my parents, both business persons, were among first ones in China to adopt the pen-computing “palm assistant” — I couldn’t remember the exact brand or name but I recall how cool it was that I could write on the device and it would just recognize the letter that I draw. Of course, most of the time, I used it to play simple games like Hangman Words, which I never mastered.
In late 1990s, not too long after Jack Ma made his first visit to the US, China was embracing its first wave of internet. Again, my parents were among the very few who were willing to spend 10,000 RMB (roughly $2,000 USD) at the time to buy a personal computer — a Lenovo desktop.
To put things in perspective, 10,000 RMB equated to roughly 5 months of salaries in the small town where we lived. It was a BIG investment. So big that dad was at times paranoid and insisted that we keep the “computer room” clean so that it would not catch “viruses.”
This is a 3D program by Lenovo to help people understand programs better. One might say it’s the first VR program in the 90s. Nonetheless, since I can’t find the real photo of my computer, this one should do the justice — and yes, I do usually paint while I work on my computer stuff, just as the pic showed :)
I loved my first computer. I loved that you can simply “dial-up” and be connected to the world.
From there, I joined BBS (Reddit of stone age if you will), feeling like a big shot. I created by my own email address, exchanging “deep thoughts” with people who I had never met. I learned to program my first website and showed it to my mom — she was so proud that she just keep refreshing my site to help me boost up my “visitor count number.” (thanks mom!)
Little did I know that I was so fortunate being able to play with a computer, being able to connect to the internet at a very young age. Little did I know that from there, I would commit my career and the rest of life time to technology.
Looking back now, those dots were connected beautifully. To that, I’m thankful.