Kacper Zalewski

Professor Jones
The Essay

"My Story for My Love of Technology"

What do you see and feel when you touch a computer keyboard? Normally, a person would respond to this question by saying that by touching the keyboard, they could see a source of entertainment, a great tool with many functions, and nothing more than that. Whenever I, on the other hand, touch a keyboard I feel more than just the cold plastic underneath my hands. Instead, I feel the electrical signals from every keystroke being channeled toward every major component. The most important of these is the central processing unit, or CPU, which is best compared to the human brain, giving all the commands to the rest of the system about what should be done at any given time. One of the few significant differences between a CPU and a brain is that the brain is made up of billions of neurons, while the CPU is made up of billions of transistors. In other words, whenever I touch a keyboard, I feel that I am in complete control over something that could be considered superior to the human brain. Aside from being able to do millions of mathematical calculations per minute, which could be utilized in every aspect of human life, including farming or weather forecasting, computers most recently could be used to create artistic masterpieces in minutes. A computer could generate a drawing or image, which would usually take weeks to draw and paint by an experienced artist. For these reasons, I was fascinated by computers in the past and will continue to be in the future.

When I was growing up as a child, I was gifted by my parents my first ever video game console, a red Nintendo DS, which immediately had me hooked for hours every single day. As any other typical child, I never thought much about what existed beneath the touch screen and the tiny buttons on the plastic casing that I focused on intensely on a near daily basis. This remained the case for many years, where every time I received a new console or other electronic device for whatever occasion, I wouldn't think twice about the technical details of how the game worked. These thoughts just never seemed to ever cross my mind as I was probably always too fixated on mashing the buttons meaninglessly until something happened that would fire up the dopamine receptors inside my poor little brain. This changed when I first entered middle school, where I was introduced to the Robotics Club and decided to join because there really weren’t that many other interesting options to choose from in the first place. The first time I stepped inside the school library where the club was hosted, I was greeted with a friendly aura that surrounded every person inside as well as the electronics and robots that the students were tinkering with. The robots were really fun to play around with and were what introduced me to the concept of coding. These experiences with the robots already told me what I wanted to do in the future from that point on.

Fig.1: Picture of most of my hand-held Nintendo consoles. Sadly, the red DS is missing.

A few years later, I graduated from middle school and moved on to high school, where I planned to do the same thing as I did just a year prior. Unfortunately, after looking through my options for clubs and classes that I could take, I was devastated to notice that there weren’t any clubs about electronics or coding, and I could only take computer science classes in my sophomore year and above. So, until I would finish my freshman year of high school, I would have to pick up a new hobby. Almost immediately, I discovered the world of hobby electronics and later learned how to use a soldering iron to fuse electronic parts to form circuits and other contraptions. This turned out to be a very great decision for me since both hobby electronics and programming are as closely related as a pair of siblings. During this time, I acquired more equipment to help out with my hobby, as well as new knowledge that came out of me constructing various projects over the years.

Fig. 2: From left to right: Carbon filter, circuit holder, soldering iron with a power supply. On top is the hand-assembled nixie tube clock which shows the time: 7:03:49.

As sophomore year came by, the single class that I most looked forward to was AP Computer Science during 6th period every day of the school week. Being able to do actual genuine programming, including the creation of simple applications and calculators, using nothing but the fingers on my hands and the ingenuity of my brain was truly one of the most satisfying feelings that I’ve felt in my life. However, all good things must come to an end, and that’s exactly what happened when Covid struck the spring of my second semester of sophomore year. Every classroom became completely empty of any human activity, including my AP Computer Science class, which forced me to continue my education at home in isolation. As more time went on, I struggled more and more to motivate myself to learn extra programming, because there was no one to lead me or give me an objective to do. This resulted in the electric signals that I would feel when touching the keyboard disappearing, and all that I was left with was me touching a bunch of cold plastic buttons, just like an average computer user. The lack of familiarity and enthusiasm towards the computer remained that way until my senior year of high school when I was confronted with a new issue that would throw me back on the route that I started all the way back two years prior.

Covid was loosening up, so the state of Illinois and various school districts decided that it was finally time for kids to be able to go back to school at least a few times per week, which meant that I had to choose some new classes for the year. I looked through my options and for my English requirement. I chose a college-level course called “Modes of Rhetoric and Composition” in which one of the first assignments that we had to do was to create a college admission essay for our personal use in our college applications. This assignment was at first very difficult for me, considering that I didn’t even anticipate going to college in the first place. In the essay, I had to state my intentions on what direction I wanted to take. I couldn’t just give them an essay that said, “I just don’t know yet. I’m sorry!” I had to give them something that would convince them to choose me over the other candidates that I was competing with. So, after a lot of thinking, I ultimately chose to major in computer science and made that one of the main points of my admission essay. A few weeks after submitting my essay and the rest of the college applications, I found myself sifting through numerous acceptance letters. After some deep thought, I ultimately chose to go to Lewis University because of its well-established computer science program and the distance between the campus and my house.

Entering my first computer science class, I felt like a high school sophomore all over again, and that feeling when touching my keyboard came right back to me immediately when I was given my first assignment. We were told to install and configure some elaborate computer software for programming purposes, which immediately made me excited and I couldn’t wait for more instructions to come in the following lectures. As more time went on with every additional class and assignment, my uncertainty about choosing a career was slowly washed away until I was confident about what my future will look like.

Fig. 3: Me sitting down at Lewis University and doing some programming-related homework.

The best way to describe my relationship with technology is to compare myself to a fish biting down on a hook. Sometimes, I would notice a hook with bait on it in the background and, unable to resist the temptation, bite down on it and quickly get hooked. Sometimes, fish could escape the hook, whether on accident or intentionally, and that’s precisely what happened to me. Over time, I notice another hook that would lead me to the same place, so I bite down on it again and once again get hooked, only this time I remain on the hook and am pulled to the surface, which is normally impossible to get to as a fish. I’ve been biting hooks throughout a large portion of my life, only to release myself too soon each time. This time, I wish to stay on to the very end. 

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