It was an entire sub culture of game copying and swapping. We couldnít have been older than 10 or 11 at the time. My father surprises the family by telling us he is going out to buy a computer. I was so excited, I would be a part of this great thing going on. Imagine my shock when he came home with a TI-99/4a instead of a Commodore 64. OK, so I was unable to share games or even have the same games as everyone else. However, my computer came out of the box with a tape drive, easy to real BASIC programming guide, a speech synthesizer and a bunch of games that seemed much better than those of the C64.
Then Texas Instruments stops producing home computers a few months later and everything becomes hard to find. Soon enough, there were no more games or peripherals on the shelves. To keep myself occupied, I began reading the manuals. To my amazement, I could create my own music, graphics, animations and even games! At age 11-13 I move from being a game player to a game producer. It was so exciting, I remember feeling like an explorer, discovering and creating for the first time. I could bring my imagination to life. None of my friends at the time were doing anything but playing and swapping games.
When I moved in to Junior High School, I immediately signed up for the computer classes. We were using TRS-80s at the time. There were some Apple IIe computers in the back of the room for the more advanced student. I learned the TRS-80 rather quickly and became bored with the class assignment. I saw some other students, on the Apples, working with some pretty amazing stuff. So I was moved to the back of the classroom and found myself rediscovering new programming methods. I was a very good student in that class, not such a great student in the other classes outside of shop and art.
At that time, I remember friends and family going through names like Atari 2800, Collecovision and intellivision computers. remember the ADAM? None of them really caught me as something I would want beyond what I already had and knew.
Soon after, the software titles hitting the shelves at the time were far more advanced than anything I could program alone. Even after inheriting and Apple IIe from our local church, I went from producer to consumer again. SSI AD&D games were my favorites at the time.
I remember when IBM PC compatible computers began arriving in peopleís houses. This was also the birth of the Apple Macintosh computers. The power these machines displayed at the time was mind bobbling along with the price. I remember wanting one so badly. Then I saw the commercial for the Commodore Amiga. I was blown away but could not remember the name of it and I could not find it anywhere locally.
Years went by as I remained a closet computer gaming geek. Then consoles began appearing. I liked the consoles but was never a big fan because I did not want to be limited to just games. I still enjoyed doing my own graphics, writing and music on my computers, so I refrained from getting caught up in the first and second major console wars. I saw the Vectrex, Nintendo, Genesis, Turbo Graphics 16 and many others come and go. It wasnít until the Sony Playstation came out that I decided I would buy one.
Then one day, while in the store waiting on line to buy another SSI title for my Apple IIe, I saw it, the Commodore Amiga 500 on sale for 500 bux. this was right after High School in 1989 and I was already working a full time summer job that paid well. The game went on the shelf, the Amiga came off the shelf. Little did I know Commodoreís plight and after only a few years they went bankrupt once and for all. However, during that time, I was re-ignited with the same sense of wonder and fascination as when I was a younger boy. I became an active part of the local computer userís groups, made a lot of new friends via bulletin board systems, and witnessed the advent of the world wide web. I learned about 3D animation, digital art and music. I was back to being a producer of such things only I did not have to write the programs myself. Dreamed of owning Lightwave and the Vide-Toaster. Settled for Imagine and DCTV. Modeling 3D pictures that would take a week or more to render per frame using ray tracing. I was introduced to some powerful utilities via the Public Domain and Amiga Format magazine. My dreams began to flow again and since those days I always wanted to produce computer animated movies.
I married young at age 20 and soon after, started a family. Married to my High School sweet heart, she knew about me and computers and supported me all the way (still does). However; it wouldnít pay the bills. So I began working a full time job that paid well. I stayed with the same company for many years but it was not in the computing industry. I was still just a closet computer geek living out my dream at home.
When Commodore went belly up, it was time to make a switch. I sold all of my Amiga equipment, and did a comparison of Mac vs. PC (I really wanted a Mac but PCs were less expensive). I knew all about Amiga computers and SCSI. I could de-solder and re-solder CPU sockets, proficient in hardware hacking the Amiga but I knew nothing about PCs. So I enrolled in a home course for multimedia computers with ICS. A two year course I finished in 8 months and I ended up with my first PC. It was a 486-DX2 66MHz with a CD rom, 32MBs of ram and not much more. It ran Windows 3.1. I became proficient in DOS. Then Windows95 came out and I felt much more comfortable since I had already been used to Amigaís Workbench. Still not as robust, but it gave me familiar capabilities. Spoiling myself with computer knowledge, I never wanted to be dependent on anyone else to work on my systems. So I learned all the ins and outs of the OS and Hardware. Iíve been building my own systems ever since.
In 1996, I had a life altering event take place. I saw myself wanting a change and thanks to my earliest computer geek friend, I had the opportunity to leave the industry I was in (a foreman at the time) to become a part of the computer revolution. Hired as a level 1 tech and quickly promoted to the Technical Services Department Manager, I began to learn the industry and apply my technical skills.
After only a year and a half, I was hired as an IT Manager by one of the clients I serviced via my new job. I enjoyed 8 years of service with them and grew from the IT Manager of the NY office to the IT Director for the company. All the while buying the PC tools I needed to continue pursuing my dream to be a computer animator and balancing that as a father, husband and provider. Over the years Iíve mastered Imagine for Windows (the same 3D program I began using on the Amiga for animation and modeling). Been a registered Photoshop user since version 3.5 on floppy. Premiere user since 4.0. I am still learning these tools along with Hash Incís Animation Master, Encore DVD, Image Ready, Particle Illusion, and many more. My equipment is aging but my skills continue to grow.
I have always looked at graphic design opportunities but they required a formal education with industry standard tools and experience in the field. So just just stuck with my success in the IT industry until I found myself unemployed after a corporate restructure in 2007. I am still actively seeking employment, so if you are hiring in the North Eastern PA region, please take a look at my resume. I discovered that if I was ever to take a leap of faith to pursue my dreams, now was the perfect time to do so. I know I wanted to make 3D movies. I am also an avid gamer. Been through the Sony Playstation 1, 2 and now 3 with 2 PSPs. The video games of today are more and more cinematic than ever before. A match made in heaven. So here I am, enrolled in college, pursuing my dream and so far, approaching the end of our first term, I am a straight A student.
Iíve rambled on enough about myself. Iím here to showcase my history, present and future towards reaching my goals. Iím doing so with a team of students whom share a common dream and goal. The site has under gone a complete re-branding and is still young. Please bare with us as we learn and grow together. I hope you enjoy your stay.
Leonard Rivera Sr.