BitFracture.com

Personal and technical blog and information site

http://www.bitfracture.com/pages/articles/biography

About Erik

My goal with this website is to encourage discussion by sharing my interests. I want people to stumble upon all of this and learn, or better yet, ask questions and give me something interesting to learn. At a glance, a website like this might feel like it lacks a goal. In one corner, there is some art, another has automotive repair, and then there's all sorts of computer software. I want this article to demonstrate some of the milestones in my life that lead to why I put certain things here. To start off, I will highlight my early life and the morphing of my interests over time.

Technologically Deprived

My car radio
My car radio

I was born in 1995, the debut year of my first desktop operating system, Microsoft Windows 95. That was also right smack in the middle of the production of the world's ugliest cars and fashion trends. But most importantly, it made my childhood right in the middle of the 3D revolution in video game design. My generation was glued to video games from an early age. There was not an hour in elementary school without a video game discussion. Strangely enough, at this age I had absolutely nothing to do with video games. I was a Lego-building, tree-climbing, and hammer 'n' nail kind of kid. I was always tinkering with old electronics, building tree forts, and enjoying the outdoors. I was also a hyperactive pain in the neck for any authoritative figures. I didn’t do what I was told, didn’t do most of my work in school, and what little attention I had was focussed on creative art and building.

Computer Kid

My first laptop
My first laptop

In the fifth grade I discovered an old 75MHz Toshiba laptop in the closet under the staircase. I spent many nights learning to use this computer without my parents knowing. I learned to use MSPaint and floppy diskettes, and caught my first virus from a diskette that was clearly labeled "virus." I ended up destroying the hard disk because I thought that a large magnet from a microwave magnetron would be an adequate way to format it for an upgrade.

Thankfully, my Aunt gave me an outdated HP Pavilion. It was quite an upgrade going from a 75Mhz laptop to a 400MHz desktop system. I also got a CRT monitor that weighed almost as much as me. This computer was a turning point in my life. This computer was for me much like an old junker car is to a teenager. Every time it broke down on me it was incredibly frustrating. But, considering it was all that I had, I learned to replace fans, cables, floppy drives and power supplies. The first steps toward the skills that would land me a job years later. Around this time I also developed an interest in plants and gardening. This was influenced greatly by my grandfather and his interests.

Internet Enabled

Unreal Tournament GOTY
Unreal Tournament GOTY
© Epic Games 1999

When my grandma upgraded her computer hardware in 2005, I received her old Dell computer with Windows XP. I was soon connected to the internet for the first time. Until this point, I was almost entirely disconnected from video games. The internet opened up everything for me. I had access to software of my choice, video content and games.

I attempted playing a game called Unreal Tournament on my old HP, but I couldn't figure out how to play it. On my Dell I finally had 32-bit graphics at 1280x1024 pixels, and I connected to online gameplay with Unreal Tournament for the first time. I talk a lot about this game because it was an inspiration for me. I learned how to use the level editor to make a game map of my house. My endless curiosity for how it worked eventually drove me to look into video game development.

Also on the internet, I found a tool called Resource Hacker, which I used to tamper with programs on my computer. That tool was my introduction to programming. I made my first application by modifying the frame to an Adobe installer. Following the inspiration from my favorite teacher in the sixth grade, I began to turn myself around academically. I challenged myself to take advanced math classes, and began earning good grades for the first time.

Game Developer

Springer Product Video 2010
Springer Product Video 2010

Half way through middle school, I was given the option to buy my first new computer. I purchased an HP Pavilion G60T-500 laptop with Windows 7. The computer was far better than anything I had ever owned. I was soon introduced to Game Maker by Mark Overmars and YoYo Games. I discovered that while I was no longer the most artful or creative person in the room, I was very good at working with logic and algorithms.

In eighth grade computer class I produced a game called Springer. It was clunky and bloated with experimental code, but it so greatly exceeded the standards of the department that an additional end-of-year student award was created for me. During this time I began applying the knowledge I had acquired about computers to help others. I quickly became known as the "one to call" for tech support, and acquired a lengthy list of computer support clients.

Web Developer

Schyler Kringle (left) and me
Schyler Kringle (left) and me

It was during my freshman year in high school that I developed an interest in HTML and web design. I made my first website under the title Globa Programming. It was an aesthetically awful website, and even the final version that I had up until my junior year was looking pretty sad. I took on the task of maintaining the website for Sonic The Hedgehog HD, and running their forums. I got to experience the intense drama of an online community of teenagers who were trying to design and build a product. I survived.

The summer after my freshman year I took a class at DigiPen Institute. I had always been constantly hindered by the problem of never having good game design ideas. When I sat next to Schyler Kringle in class, I began to realize that I had been trying to do on my own what I needed to do through teamwork. We became good friends, and together we formulated the design of our game, Green Eye. I was inspired by Schyler's plans for a sewer-based game, and was happy to apply my programming skills to help make it happen.

Over the next couple of years I did work for a few casual, non-commercial software teams, all of which ended up falling apart. One major accomplishment was building a Game Maker-based dynamic level editor. I still consider it one of my greatest works, and it still sits in my development folder, never having been put to use. I'm not sure what to call this version of myself.

Retro Enthusiast

Seattle Living Computer Museum
Seattle Living Computer Museum

Partway through my junior year in high school I made a shift away from game making to spend more time on web design. I remade my website under the new name of Bit Fracture. Prior to this, I had been running multiple websites and forums for Sonic the Hedgehog HD team and Crystal Arc Studios, but most of this work was patched together and running on pure puck. With the new design for my website, I put thought into architecting the entire solution for the first time. A year later I was given the chance to improve my skills by designing a website for my mom's new business, Tax Partners Northwest. I was then referred to PsychMed International where I designed my very first dynamic content website based on MySQL.

Around this time I also unearthed a passion for classic computers when I discovered my dad's Atari 800 XL and TI99. I started to acquire systems at garage sales and thrift stores. This passion lead to a significant increase in my familiarity with electronics. I combined by interest in photography to document my experiences with each computer.

College Student

Portrait with Accolade
Portrait with Accolade

The time had to come eventually, and suddenly it did. I was quickly consumed by college, and that meant less time for hobbies. But, it did present several opportunities as well. I got my first job with Information Technologies on campus, where I applied the many computer skills I had acquired over the last five years. I unwrapped my passion for helping people and for making a lasting difference. I stuck with this job for over three years while I worked on my degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering.

Originally stemming from my retro computer interests, I started to work more frequently with modern electronics. I put together projects ranging from ROM programmers to IoT networks, which really opened my eyes to the possibilities of embedded systems engineering.

As part of my degree capstone, I got my first internship with Accolade, Inc. I was challenged to architect and help to produce software that would revolutionize healthcare as we know it today. My role here is only beginning, but I see this transition as a symbolic bridge from college life to my career. The difference between working at IT and working here is the difference between being at the top of a hill and climbing a mountain. I am discovering that while the mountain is more difficult, each step makes a much greater difference.

Written By: Erik W. Greif
Published: 07/05/2014 00:15 PST
Modified: 12/23/2017 00:23 PST
Article Title: About Erik
Article URL: http://www.bitfracture.com/pages/articles/biography
Website Title: Bit Fracture Online
Website URL: http://bitfracture.com
Media Type: Blog Post/Personal Article
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