Randy Pausch's Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
Given at Carnegie Mellon University
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
For more information, see www.randypausch.com
© Copyright Randy Pausch, 2007
Note that this transcript is provided as a public service but may contain transcription errors.
All right, my next one. Being an Imagineer. This was the hard one. Believe me, getting to zero gravity is easier than becoming an Imagineer. When I was a kid, I was eight years old and our family took a trip cross-country to see Disneyland. And if you've ever seen the movie National Lampoon's Vacation, it was a lot like that! [laughter] It was a quest. [shows slides of family at Disneyland] And these are real vintage photographs, and there I am in front of the castle.
And there I am, and for those of you who are into foreshadowing, this is the Alice ride. [laughter] And I just thought this was just the coolest environment I had ever been in, and instead of saying, gee, I want to experience this, I said, I want to make stuff like this. And so I bided my time and then I graduated with my Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon, thinking that meant me infinitely qualified to do anything. And I dashed off my letters of applications to Walt Disney Imagineering, and they sent me some of the damned nicest go-to-hell letters I have ever gotten. [laughter] I mean it was just, we have carefully reviewed your application and presently we do not have any positions available which require your particular qualifications.
Now think about the fact that you're getting this from a place that's famous for guys who sweep the street. [laughter] So that was a bit of a setback. But remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people.
All right, fast forward to 1991. We did a system back at the University of Virginia called Virtual Reality on Five Dollars a Day. Just one of those unbelievable spectacular things. I was so scared back in those days as a junior academic. Jim Foley's here, and I just love to tell this story. He knew my undergraduate advisor, Andy Van Dam, and I'm at my first conference and I'm just scared to death. And this icon in the user interface community walks up to me and just out of nowhere just gives me this huge bear hug and he says, that was from Andy. And that was when I thought, OK, maybe I can make it. Maybe I do belong.
And a similar story is that this was just this unbelievable hit because at the time, everybody needed a half a million [dollars] to do virtual reality. And everybody felt frustrated. And we literally hacked together a system for about five thousand dollars in parts and made a working VR system. And people were just like, oh my god, you know, the Hewlett Packard garage thing. This is so awesome. And so I'm giving this talk and the room has just gone wild, and during the Q and A, a guy named Tom Furness, who was one of the big names in virtual reality at the time, he goes up to the microphone and he introduces himself.