Category - Nerd Stories

Stories about Nerds

1
Another Lesson of the Cubs’ Victory
2
Revenge of the Nerd
3
A Post on Post-its, Cheap Art, Lasers and History
4
Do Not Take this Software Era for Granted (Pt. 3)
5
Do Not Take This Software Era for Granted (Pt.2)
6
Do Not Take this Software Era for Granted (Pt. 1)
7
Sabotaging Code: 1996 NCAA March Madness Pool

Another Lesson of the Cubs’ Victory

I’ve been a Cubs fan for 20 years. It’s the first team I adopted when I moved to Chicago after college. I realize that’s not a lifetime, but I’m emotionally invested. It is for this reason that the World Series run up was thrilling and scary all at the same time. It’s magnified because I live right off of Addison St. a mile and a half from Wrigley.

There are so many lessons on teamwork in this victory: players that committed errors in the field only to follow it with a homerun at their next at bat. Recovering from disappointment and mistakes with resiliency. This is a team that relied on team depth and did not have reliance on any one player. It reminds me of the great Bo Schembechler speech (excerpts below):

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Revenge of the Nerd

This story is about a good friend of mine who wished to remain anonymous given the content of the story. We wrote this story together. Enjoy.

It was an unusually crummy weather day in 2005, and my wife and I decided to go to a movie.

As we were exiting our parked car to go into the theater, my wife inquired if she had to bring along her big purse. I’m always amazed on the occasions that I have to lift it. It is so heavy, I once checked if it contained a boulder collection or several preschool children.

“Naaaah, leave the purse, I said. My thinking: this was a pretty safe part of the city, and she didn’t need her purse in the theater and who wants to schlep a heavy purse for no reason?

The movie turned out to be awful, and we talked about the chain of bad decisions that resulted in the production of this opposite-of-a-masterpiece. Little did we know that this conversation would be a foreshadow.   Read More

A Post on Post-its, Cheap Art, Lasers and History

I am not much of a student of history. I do, however, believe it’s important to honor the previous generations for the contributions and sacrifices that give rise to the current generation. I’ve always liked Newton’s quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

The history of Origin Ventures is rooted in the success of the Quill office products company. It was started by two brothers who built it for 47 years before it was acquired by Staples. The success of Quill made Origin Ventures possible.

When we moved into our new Origin offices in January, we had a lot of wall space to fill. In addition to not being a student of history, I am also not a student of art (perhaps there is a correlation). Lacking instincts in selecting art, combined with the high cost of art, is not a good combination. As a result, I thought there might be a way to make our own art that was cheap. Furthermore, I felt it would be meaningful to use art in a way to tie Quill to Origin somehow.

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Do Not Take this Software Era for Granted (Pt. 3)

This is the third (and last) post in a series. Consider reading the first and second posts.

Before there was the Internet, there were bulletin board systems (BBSes). Like the Internet, the BBS world had an underbelly. There was a hierarchy of people in the dark corners, a social order that I found fascinating. Up until now, we’ve been talking about the small time software pirates (users) and system operators (distributors). In this post, we ascend up the hierarchy, examining  the following roles in the ecosystem which were really sketchy, but critical to the functioning of the software piracy underground.

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Do Not Take This Software Era for Granted (Pt.2)

This is part two of a series. Read the first post here.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a predecessor to the Internet called bulletin board systems (BBSes). Enthusiasts used modems to call other computers that hosted BBSes. Those that knew how to navigate it and who were willing to break the law could download practically any piece of software for free. Here’s how it worked.

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Do Not Take this Software Era for Granted (Pt. 1)

We live in an amazing era of software. We walk around with powerful networked computers in our pockets/purses where we can wirelessly download millions of software titles, most for free, in under a minute. While most people can appreciate how insanely cool this is, I think there is an important secondary effect. An aspiring software engineer or product manager can experiment and experience basically an unlimited range of existing software to find inspiration and to lean what’s convention and what products are paving new territory. That’s a really powerful dynamic, and I believe will give rise to the greatest generation of engineers and product mangers…all who will grow up with an addiction to downloading apps on their mobile devices and fiddling with little limitation.

Take advantage of this opportunity to experiment freely. Don’t take it for granted. You see, a lot of senior product managers these days grew up in an era where software experimentation was really costly. You had to pay big bucks for each software title and you had to physically go to a store to get them. I know, I know, the horror of going to a store. But that was the only way software was distributed then. And when you don’t drive and you don’t have any money, exposure to a range of software at a formative age was prohibitive.

Except if you knew a couple of important tricks and you were willing to break the rules.

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Sabotaging Code: 1996 NCAA March Madness Pool

I started at the University of Michigan in 1992, right during the Fab Five era. The Fab Five were five freshman basketball players who in 1991, with a totally new coach, went all the way to the NCAA championship. This was unheard of, and the team had a deserved swagger and aggressive style that was addicting. Even if you’d never seen a basketball in your life, if you were on that campus at the time you were crazy about basketball. It was a golden era. It turns out years later they were breaking rules but that’s a topic for a different blog. 
 
As you can imagine, everyone participated in a NCAA pool. My friend across the hall, Andrew Borteck, was an out-of-his-mind Michigan fan and was clearly the guy on the hall who was going to organize the pool for us. Borteck somehow enlisted me to help [it turns out Borteck now works for NBC Sports as an attorney, a fate that could have been predicted in college]. 

Copyright © 2014 Jason Heltzer