July 4, 1977


It was the summer before 4th grade. Jimmy Carter was president. Apple Computer had just incorporated, and the Atari 2600 video game console had been released, but personal computers were still a novelty. I wouldn’t use a PC for many more years.

I was a voracious reader who loved anything involving knights or pirates. I spent hours building castles and sailing ships with Legos. I watched Star Trek episodes, of course, but science fiction wasn’t really that compelling. The world of Star Trek was too obviously fake.

We were visiting my aunt and uncle in Eugene, Oregon. On the 4th of July, we all went to the movie theater for a matinee. It was a new movie everybody was talking about. The theater was packed. We split up to find seats. I sat next to my mom on the left hand side near the front.

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Ten words in blue appeared: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

Then that opening brass fanfare and the now famous title crawl began. I was transfixed. Mesmerized. Spellbound.

Fantastic images filled my impressionable brain. The unbelievably massive Imperial Star Destroyer chasing Princess Leia’s tiny Rebel Cruiser. Then robots. Now rebel troops. Stormtroopers. Blasters. Incredible sound effects and soundtrack.

Then the gong and ominous musical pause. Darth Vader. Hell, yeah!

In those five minutes, my life changed. I had never seen anything like this. Even watching that opening sequence 38 years later, I’m still hypnotized. I challenge you to find a better movie opening.

To a nine year old in 1977, the world of Star Wars was absolutely real. Watch the droids in that opening scene on the Rebel Cruiser. C3PO’s shiny skin is scuffed and marred. R2D2 is downright dirty. All those little details convinced me — and millions of others — that Luke and Leia and Ben and Han actually existed in some galaxy far away.

That summer, I started reading science fiction. I started building X-Wings and Star Destroyers and TIE Fighters. My bedroom was plastered with photos and drawings and newspaper clippings of anything and everything Star Wars. And when we finally got our first PC, I started programming (text-based) Star Wars simulations.

Which ultimately led me to programming jobs, then video game jobs, then Xbox, and now virtual reality.

George Lucas gets a bad rap these days, but I for one thank him and the entire original Star Wars production team. You transported this fan into a life and career he never would have foreseen on July 3, 1977.

 

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