I should be sleeping, but instead I need to write this down and see if it makes any sense. The University of Maryland was my Hogwarts. That was wizard school for me. When I was a kid I was really interested in programming computers. I even tried to get some of my friends in on the fun with QBASIC. It didn't last though, and I wasn't helped by the fact that none of my friendships were very good back then.
By the time I was trying out my first C++ compiler, nobody in meatspace was interested. And it stayed that way through middle school and high school. After BASIC, I had gone beyond what my dad could help me with. There wasn't even a programming class at school. When I stayed up late hacking, it meant nothing for anyone else in meatspace. I might as well have been smoking pot or having sex or whatever it is teenagers were supposed to do to waste time*. It's no wonder I preferred IRC to to actual conversation back then.
A short time later, I drive two hours away. And everyone is programming, and lots of them are good at it, and there's code being written down and spoken aloud. Wizard school!
* On one of the last days of high school, our english teacher was killing time by having us make up, on the spot, 5 minute speeches on "interesting" topics. Luckily, time ran out before I could deliver my lecture on regular expressions. But a lot of my classmates, perhaps thinking that the statute of limitations had expired with their impending graduation, described misadventures they had at parties. Until that day, I thought that the "stereotypical high school party" was an uncommon thing that you'd normally see in the movies, like a natural disaster. It never occurred to me that my erstwhile colleagues were actually doing it.