On the 9th or 10th of January 1989, I flew from Dublin to New York. That was the last day that I ever lived in Ireland.
I came to the U.S. on a tourist visa. It was no lie. I had a round-the-world ticket and I would go on to Australia in early March. In June, I left Australia and traveled to Bangkok and Hong Kong. Sometime in July, I landed back in Ireland to settle up my affairs. I fit in a trip to the South of France with some old friends.
In August, I would return to America to attend graduate school. I have lived in the U.S. ever since.
I graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1987 with a B.A. in Computer Science. The Celtic Tiger was not yet on the horizon. Unemployment was high, as it had been for years. There were some software development jobs to be had in Ireland, but the pickings were slim.
After a couple of months, with some help from my former academic advisor, I got a job at InterContinental PhotoComposition (ICPC), a small scientific typesetting company on the northside of Dublin. It didn’t pay much, but I got to write a text editor from scratch—unfortunately, in Vax Pascal.
My father urged me to go the United States and get a Master’s degree, arguing that it would open more doors for me. He was willing to fund it so I was willing to go.
I knew very little about American universities at the time. The World Wide Web had yet to be invented. I had managed to wangle Usenet access for myself sometime in ‘86 or ‘87 on the Maths department computer at Trinity. (The Maths department had a student-run PDP with Usenet access via UUCP. The CS department only let its undergraduates use an unconnected Vax.) From reading the technical newsgroups, I began to notice that certain universities were well represented. This, essentially, was how I decided where to apply.
The first step was to arrange to take the Computer Science GRE. This wasn’t held very often in Ireland, but I think I took it in Dublin in the autumn of 1988.
I applied to six colleges. I presume that I had the GRE results back by then, but I can’t remember. I recall applying to Brown, Georgia Tech, UC Davis, and Harvey Mudd. I believe the fifth was CMU. I think the sixth might have been MIT or Yale.
More to come.