Welcome to Growing Up Geek, a feature where we take a look back at our youth, and tell stories of growing up to be the nerds that we are. This week, we have our very own Philip Palermo!
In case you couldn't tell from that pirate / bandit / pimp / vampire pictured above, I sometimes have trouble making up my mind. It took me forever to decide what I wanted to be that Halloween -- figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up has taken even longer.
It's strange to think that a few landmark tech purchases during my life helped make who I am today. Our family's first computer, the NES, a used DSLR -- just the simple act of bringing tech home and experimenting with it seemed to shape, reshape and re-reshape my projected career path.
Video games, perhaps unsurprisingly, played a huge part in fostering my love for technology. I started my addiction on the Atari 2600 before moving on to harder stuff like the Commodore 128DCR. One fall day, I accompanied my mom to the local Woolworths, where she purchased a Nintendo Entertainment System. Despite my euphoria, she reminded me it was a Christmas present and I'd have to wait till then (months away) to open it. Whatever lingering doubts I had about who really put those presents under the tree were quickly crushed, but I was too excited to care. When December 25th finally rolled around, my video game obsession went into overdrive.
A few years later, I was the proud owner of an original Atari Lynx, the version that chewed through batteries like they were covered in bacon. For those extra-long field trip bus rides, I vividly recall supplementing the Lynx's poor battery life with a shoulder-strapped external pack that housed six (SIX!) D-cell batteries.
As games and computer technology in general continued to grow, my interests began spreading all over the place. One day, I was convinced I'd be a graphic designer. The next, I would be a game programmer. I did plan to make time in my adult life to become a major martial arts star and an astronaut on the side, but a childhood full of asthma attacks and eye exams kind of stalled those ideas.
Regardless of what I wanted to be that day (or that hour), my parents encouraged me to just keep learning. My mother was a nurse and my father served in the US Navy. Before retiring, he earned the rank of master chief petty officer and proudly displays a "Master Chief" license plate cover on his Honda. (I secretly wonder how many other drivers think he's just a big Halo fan).
With both my parents attaining long and distinguished careers, I frequently wondered what that nebulous "real world" had in store for me. Things started to come into sharper focus thanks to another fateful purchase. When I was about 12 or 13, my dad came home with our first IBM-compatible PC. It was a 486-DX2 clocked at 66MHz -- a beast so fast it needed a turbo button to slow it down when running older software. While it came loaded with amazing games like Battle Chess and Wolfenstein 3D, it was another piece of software that managed to command most of my non-school, non-homework time -- the WYSIWYG word processor pioneer, Ami Pro.
For the first time, the text I typed onscreen actually looked like what our Canon BubbleJet printer would spit out. Almost immediately, I started churning out random (and terrible) short stories, creating newsletters and basically falling in love with writing. My teachers took notice and encouraged me to keep exploring. As a teenage boy fascinated by action movies, fighter jets, Stephen King and ninjas, it's no surprise much of my fiction was violent, macabre or violently macabre. Instead of calling the cops, educators like my eighth grade English teacher, Ms. Highsmith, implored me to keep writing and keep learning. If you're out there Ms. Highsmith, I still have your year-end assessment where you suggested I pursue a writing career.
I took that idea and ran with it, joining the high school newspaper and later earning a journalism degree. All the while, I maintained my fascination with tech and gadgets. "One day," I thought, "I should write about the tech I love so much."
Shortly after getting my degree, I started as a full-time reporter for The Puyallup Herald. As part of a small weekly paper, each staff member was called upon to wear many hats -- reporter, copy editor, receptionist and, in my case, photographer.
[Image credit: Steve Heeb]
My intro to photojournalism happened to coincide with the advent of "affordable" digital SLRs like Canon's original Digital Rebel. As a recent college grad making a beginning reporter's salary, it took me years to save up enough money to snag my own DSLR. I managed to buy my coworker's used Digital Rebel and that 6.3-megapixel wonder sparked yet another obsession.
Since then, I've owned various Canon and Nikon full-frame and APS-C bodies and a host of lenses much to the dismay of my bank account. I've been lucky enough to photograph NFL games, a stunt flying team while in the cockpit and both Fergies -- the singing one and the British one. In an effort to make a little dough off this expensive hobby, I started a freelance photography business a few years ago.
While I was busy trying chart my destiny, I managed to marry my college sweetheart and high school best friend, Jennifer. She's never wavered in her support of my geekiness. And she didn't even leave me when I bought her a Zune for her birthday (I kid, I kid -- I loved our Zune HDs). By then, I was a video-gaming, copy-writing, gadget-buying, photo-taking tech enthusiast. "One day," I thought again, "I should combine these pursuits, Voltron-style."
Thankfully, that day finally happened -- in 2012, I joined the crew here at Engadget as a copy editor. I've applied to various tech and video games sites over the years, but I'm happy and thankful I landed here. It's been a dream come true so far, and I can't wait to see what's next.