I Just Didn’t Get It

Picture it: San Francisco, 1977. My best friend and I had just graduated from college with degrees in broadcasting. She got a job at a little start-up cable company as a production assistant where they were making “made-for-TV” movies. I didn’t get it. What was cable TV?

At the time, television was broadcasted through the air by three major networks. For free. These networks all aired talk shows in the morning, soap operas until mid-afternoon, some game shows and re-runs of Gilligan’s Island and Dark Shadows until dinner, news, prime-time dramas and comedies but it was mostly cop shows (Kojak and Streets of San Francisco were big), more news and then more talk shows and the went off the air around 1 AM. If the networks wanted to air a made-for-TV movie, they made it themselves and it was usually horrible.  It didn’t happen much.

Who was going to pay for some independent production company to make movies? How was this company going to sell their movies? I didn’t get it. So, I got a job at a little sound recording company while my best friend kept working at HBO.

While I was at the little sound recording company, a couple of young guys — both named Steve — in jeans, pressed shirts and very white tennis shoes came in to talk to the boss about a job. My boss said they were going to be rich. The chief engineer told me they had invented a computer people could have in their homes.

At the time, all I knew about computers was that they were huge machines with big rolls of fat tape spinning through them and that NASA’s computers were so big, they took up an entire room.

“Why would I want a computer in my house,” I asked the engineer. “To get information,” he said. “I can go to the library for information,” I said. “I don’t get it.”

And that was my brush with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the creators of Apple.

Then I decided my career in media wasn’t going anywhere, so I went to law school. While I was in law school, my brother-in-law asked me to hurry up and finish so I could come work for him at his little start-up gaming company in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. “Woo-hoo,” I thought to myself sarcastically. I’d been to Lake Geneva. It was over a hundred miles from urban anywhere. And it had this odd little anomaly: there was absolutely no one else there my age. There were lots of people older than me and there were lots of children and sarcastic teenagers, but I didn’t see anyone I’d want to hang out with other than the family. So, I passed.

What was the name of my brother-in-law’s game, you ask?

Dungeons & Dragons.

 

 

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9 thoughts on “I Just Didn’t Get It”

  1. Loved this post! I remember colleagues who were parents trying to tell me all the things Education could do with the Internet in schools. If not for their vision, I wouldn’t have left my high-tech job, gotten a doctorate in Education, and combined all that with my knowledge of teaching to make a career in Ed Tech. I wasn’t the idea person, but I could put the idea to work for real people. That’s an important skill, and I enjoyed that career very much. Now that world is the foundation for my mystery series. Woo-hoo! –kate, writing as C. T. Collier

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  2. Dr. Kate: Vision, that’s what HBO, the Steves and Gary Gygax had! You summed it up all in one word. Thanks. Art Taylor: thanks. I ended up practicing law (and writing mysteries) in Anchorage, Alaska, and wouldn’t be anywhere else.

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  3. Wow! Such interesting near brushes! Fun to imagine how your life would’ve changed, had you taken one of those other paths.

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  4. Wow, Keenan. To have one brush with “near fame” is amazing, but three? Just…wow. But yes, I’m glad you ended up where you are. Makes me wonder if we are somehow “meant” to be where we are when we make that decision to walk the paths we choose.

    Dr. Kate – yes. It takes two components for that kind of success. One person to have the vision and at least one other person to buy in.

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  5. Sue Star: sometimes I think how things would have been different. But I’m pleased with how things turned out. Liz: it was bizarre to have those three brushed and all so close together! Sam: it’s kind of like “we’ll always have Paris”, right?

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  6. OMG, Keenan, what a fun post!! I can’t believe all 3 of your stories! Was Steve Jobs really as charismatic as they say? It’s amazing the paths we take and the places we end up. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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