Last February my father passed away very suddenly. Since then I have tried to bring myself to put words to “paper” to talk about him and how he indirectly inspired me to create Chip Chick. Unfortunately it has taken me a while to finally get up the courage to sit down and write about him. Anyone who has ever suffered a loss, especially a sudden one will understand that sometimes it takes time to process the pain of losing someone you love. Even now, I am not sure if I have fully processed my loss, but I know that it’s time to share how my father inspired me to be the geeky girl that I am today.
My father was born and raised in Brooklyn. His family owned Filippo Berio olive oil in the U.S., a company that his own father had built up from scratch with some partners. Despite having geeky interests and being a total book nerd, my dad was actually quite cool too. By profession my father was an optometrist, which might not seem very technologically oriented. But even in his trade, he was always chasing the cutting edge. To that effect, he was one of the very first optometrists to outfit his patients with contact lenses. This was at a time when contact lenses were a brand new technology that people were very hesitant about. Patients loved and trusted my father, even enough to risk putting tiny pieces of glass in their eyes.
In 1986 my father brought home a 286 PC computer (Intel 80286) with a monochrome monitor. It was his first computer and its primary purpose was to use as a database. But that didn’t stop him from letting a three-year old play with it. While many parents would usually forbid a little kid from using their only computer, my father encouraged me to use his PC. Nowadays there are all sorts of ways to safely sit your child in front of a computer via special software for kids. But such systems didn’t exist for a DOS based system back then. Yet, I was just three years old and it was his work computer, and he encouraged me to use it – even unattended. He trusted that I would do just fine.
Over the years our computer collection got bigger. I will never forget the day he brought home a Gateway 386DX2 with a color VGA display, running the super impressive Windows 3.1! It is amazing how back then, a simple app like Paint, blew us both away. Some dads enjoy bonding time with their kids by taking them fishing or what not. Instead, together we opened computers, adding ram, new hard drives, CD-roms, etc. On Sundays we would take trips to J and R and CompUSA. I would spend hours with him looking around, and of-course there would always be some take homes, whether it was software or a peripheral, my father always spoiled me. In general, when it came to technology purchases, he never flinched. He was always encouraging me to use computers and to learn new software. To him it wasn’t just about having fun, he understood that gadgets were the future and he encouraged me to tinker.
I was the first amongst my friends to own a laser printer, a Game Boy, a laptop, a PDA (remember those?), a beeper, a cell phone, and I could go on… And it’s all because my dad encouraged me to be an early adopter. He was always pouring through computer magazines and computer books and sharing them with me. I remember being so excited when he would come home and plop down those old massive, phone-book-like issues of Computer Shopper. I loved looking through all the ads in the back, dreaming about buying everything.
My father also loved scoping out the newest tech that would be coming out, so there is no wonder where I get that thirst from. He took me to my very first computer conventions. Remember the now defunct PC Expos? They were vast conventions in their prime. It was a wonderland for a kid like me. Growing up, my dad dreamed of owning a watch just like the one Dick Tracy had in the movies. When Microsoft came out with their Spot watches, I could barely wait to get one for him. It may not have had a two-way communicator feature like the fictional version, but my father loved being able to get live stock quotes on his watch. Sure, nowadays that seems mightily unimpressive. But back in 2004 that was pretty advanced.
My father always encouraged me to keep learning. He himself believed that you are never too old to go back for some education. Despite having a medical degree, when he was already retired and nearly 70 years old, he went out and became A+ and MCSE certified… just for the fun of it. Likewise, he always inspired me to to keep learning and to stay ahead of the trends. He encouraged me to get a Bachelors in Computer Graphics and a Masters in Broadcast design, though he always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be. He was a staunch believer in women’s equality in the workplace and the importance of higher education for women too. It might sound silly, but my father was the biggest feminist I have ever known.
I could go on an on about how my father would stay up with me all night during finals so that I wouldn’t be alone, or how he never missed a PTA meeting, how he always nursed me back to health when I was sick, or how he shuttled me around to talk shows at 4AM so I could see my favorite celebrities – without complaining about it… but that would take up a lot more space. But chances are that if I didn’t have my father around to encourage me, I would never have had the passion to start Chip Chick. My father may not have come up with the actual idea to create Chip Chick, a friend of mine did. But it is because of my father that I am the gadget-obsessed, technology enthusiast that I am today. The curiosity and passion for technology that he shared with me growing up is what drew me to technology all through my life. Even on his very last day, my mom showed me how he had ripped out an article from the newspaper about some new gadgets to share with me. This was the man who introduced me to computers, who inspired me to love technology and science, who encouraged me to tinker, and who also taught me to never to give up when it comes to following my dreams.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.