I think I first encountered a personal computer around 1981 at the Albion Field Station, a Seventh-Day Adventist retreat in Mendocino County affiliated with Pacific Union College.
The operator of the station had one and the men would play games on it, games about dragons and stuff. I was 15. I was moderately interested. But much more interested in radio and TV and newspapers at this time.
I transferred to Placer High School in the fall of 1982. A year later, I think they started offering computer courses. People learned programming languages such as Basic.
In the fall of 1983, I went to work at the Auburn Journal reporting on high school sports. Joe Hamelin, the father of my classmate Scott Hamelin, was the sports editor of the Sacramento Bee. I talked to Joe a lot. I learned that he went to games with a laptop and filed his reports by plugging his laptop into a phone line.
I typed in my reporting for the Auburn Journal into a computer. Then I’d sit with the sports editor, Rob Knies, as he proofed it. That usually took 20-30 minutes. Then he’d send it to get printed out. The layout girls would then paste it up and the dummies would go to the printer in the early morning and get printed out and distributed in the early morning.
I was not a big techie. I was not excited about computers. I was intrigued by some of the things they could do but I never took a computer class. I did not feel like I had much in common with those people who were enthusiastic about them.
I was a writer. I loved the communication industries. Not until I saw more of an application of the computer to this did I fall in love with the computer.
Little did I know that I was born to blog!
In the summer of 1984, after graduating high school, I moved back to Australia and lived with my brother for a year in Tannum Sands. I got a part-time job writing for the Gladstone Observer.
I was surprised that the staff still used typewriters. They had a couple of computers downstairs where everything would be typed in prior to printing.
I came back to the United States in June of 1985 and found that many people had Mac computers. They were useful for laying out and printing out flyers and magazines and the like.
My friend Andy at college would write his school essays on a computer and print them out. Most of us just typed things up.
I was the editor of the Sierra Community College newspaper from September of 1985 to June of 1986. We wrote our articles up on a Mac and printed them out and pasted them up and then took them to be published to the Auburn Journal.
My advisor, Bill Howarth, was in his 50s, but he took to the Mac and bought one off a student. Bill was a writer and he loved the Mac’s word processing capabilities.
I think I heard about AOL and Compuserve and the wonderful online world from Sacramento radio talkshow host Rush Limbaugh. He said around 1987 that he read many newspapers online.
I transferred to UCLA in the fall of 1988. About a third of the kids on my floor had their own printers but many still used typewriters. I don’t recall anyone being online and exchanging email.
In 1993, I heard about the extensive Judaic resources on the internet from David Poisner, who served on my Reform Beit Din in Orangevale and from Orthodox rabbi Yitzhock Adlerstein.
I moved in with my girlfriend in Orlando and she had a computer. I wrote about my life on it and wrote about my struggles with her. She shut off my access at one point until I promised not to write about her.
I moved out in November of 1993 and the people I stayed with soon bought a computer and we’d log on for a 50c phone call to a BBS service and then we got AOL and we’d log on with our 14.4 modem.
I wrote about my conversion to Judaism on an AOL channel devoted to Judaism and I ended up sending my conversion story to an Orthodox rabbi in Chicago. I made a few Jewish acquaintances online.
I was intrigued. I was in like. I was not yet in love with the computer.
Then I moved to Los Angeles. I did not get back online regularly until December of 1996 when a friend let me use his computer.
I got my own first real computer on July 3, 1997 and within an hour or two I had the rudiments of a blog up on the free community section of AOL. By September, I’d bought the domain name lukeford.com and uploaded a website of about a thousand pages.
By October, I was making my living from my website. Now I was in love with the computer. I stayed home all day and wrote. I did not have to work some tedious office job any more. Not after November of 1997.
I started making daily updates in March of 1998. I didn’t know it but I was blogging!
Then I broke a bunch of big stories later that month and I was off. I would drive around all day and interview people and write things up and suddenly my life was full of blogging and interviewing and I received thousands of visitors to my writings every day and I was making about $3,000 a month and my life felt full and exciting. I got written up in various publications. I felt like a big deal.
I realized I could talk to the world from my computer and the world would respond. I had power! I had influence! I mattered!
I acted out my psycho-dramas on my blog. I wrote about my therapy. I wrote about my fears and my innermost thoughts. I was a narcissist on full display.
I’d go to bookstores and browse the magazine sections and they were filled with computer and internet magazines. This was the internet gold rush. But my primary interest was myself and getting readers to my blog. I did not feel like I had much expertise outside of that. I did not feel particularly competent.
I felt like I was on the verge of making it big. Little did I know that my career as a blogger crested in March of 1998 and would only go down from there.
I never was a computer nerd. I was just a guy who loved to write about himself and figured out that if I created a compelling website that attracted thousands of visitors a day, I could get more attention than any alternative I could conceive.