In 1977, when I was 12, I was in the gifted program. I’m not sure exactly what you had to do in order to be “gifted”, but I assume it had something to do with having an higher-than-average IQ. It was a special class you took every so often that was supposed to help gifted students engage their minds more — stay challenged in the school system. Each year the teachers tried to come up with something to expand our little minds but it never seemed to work out the way it was planned. The teachers didn’t hit on much and we probably weren’t the best students either. But we all went through the motions anyway.
I remember one year we had a creative writing class with Mrs. Woollery. Mrs. Woollery had a bit of a mustache, so behind her back I gave her the nickname “Mrs. Wookie.” We were truly dreadful little writers, but the teachers were troopers and did as much as they could to encourage us. The highlight of the creative writing class for me was tearing apart all the girls’ fiction, which was almost as bad as my own (One short story I remember writing was about a moose that gained self-awareness and became a genius as a side of effect of an alien invasion. The aliens were the size of insects. Sort of a “Flowers for Algernon” meets “Independence Day.” Lets just say I’m not waiting on any awards for that one.) On a good day you could tear apart the saccharine and overly-described heartfelt efforts of 2 or 3 girls while genuinely trying to help them, and in the cruel world of Junior High where girls weren’t the most friendly of sorts that was something.
Mrs. Woolery never knew what to make of my strange short stories. But she kept encouraging me anyway. This was the way of the gifted program.
So I didn’t have my hopes up at the beginning of 7th grade when they asked us what we wanted to study, but I had to admit that this was something new. They had never asked us what we wanted to do. Instead of deciding on what to give us, they were going to let us decide!
I knew in an instant what I wanted.
So I lobbied our teacher to get a computer that we could program.
I won, and this is what showed up a couple of weeks later.
I still remember the little wires, light bulbs, and other assorted trinkets
Let’s just say that although I tried diligently to get as much as I could from the kit, the gifted program didn’t make me a computer expert that year, no matter what Radio Shack promised on the box. I also did not diagnose any illnesses or predict the weather. My fun with computers didn’t begin until a couple of years later in High School.
But Mrs. Woolery told me I did a good job anyway.
Congrats to the Radio Shack fan site for the catalog image! I could spend hours over there looking at all the things I envied growing up. Radio Shack was like Nirvana to me growing up; the Kingdom of the Gods. They had everything that was cool.
The Radio Shack guys at the local strip mall should have gotten a medal. I loved that place. Every day after delivering the papers I would be there programming on the TRS-80. Truth be told, my after school hours at Radio Shack a couple of years later was what really started me on the road to being a programmer.
Funny thing, I can’t remember them saying anything especially encouraging to me. They just kindly and graciously put up with my constant presence.
I sure miss Mrs. Wookie though.If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.