As a toddler, Carson Page taught himself to run computer applications on his PC.
By age 4, he could install an operating system on his own and fix driver problems.
At 7, he began programming circuits with software from chip maker Actel Corp.
And this year, when the Silicon Valley company asked the boy to evaluate an upcoming version of its software, he detected several bugs, reporting his findings via conference calls.
“I guess you could say I like to figure out how stuff works,” says eight-year-old Carson, a fast-talking, kinetic energy-infused third-grader. “I just like new adventures.”
For Actel, the junior beta tester provided important feedback on how a new user might navigate its software for customizing chips, says Mark Nagel, a field applications engineer for the company. Nagel added that the company has never before used a grade-schooler to test its software.
Carson Page, 8, works at his Texas home, programming circuits with software from Actel Corp
“We would ask what he liked and didn’t like about it and he could explain it on a very high-end level,” says Nagel, who heard about Carson’s knack for programming circuits from the boy’s dad, Ray, an electronic design consultant and Actel customer.
Carson even shared insight into how Actel stacks up to its competitors.
“He had done other things with other companies’ tools, so we asked what about ours did you like better? What do they do better?” says Nagel, who plans to put Carson to work testing future software releases. “It’s amazing; when you talk to him, it’s like you’re talking to a regular guy doing design.”
For his work, Carson received a $250 (approx. Rs10,000) gift certificate to Fry’s Electronics, which he used to buy an MP3 player, two computer games and a microphone for his Skype Internet-based phone connection.
For a kid who has been asking “Why?” since he learned to talk, electronics has been a natural draw. That could have something to do with his dad, a lifelong tinkerer who owns an electronic design company.
“There must be some kind of electronic gene,” says mom Lisa Page. “And they’ve both got it.”
Lisa Page, who is a demonstrator for a scrapbooking company, adds that she and six-year-old daughter Kelly, who opts for music and dance, don’t carry the gene.
“Ray has been working at home for years, and from the time he could crawl, Carson has been by his side watching and then begging for the chance to do it, too,” Lisa Page says.
For his second birthday, Carson received his first PC, on which he went to work installing programs. For Christmas last year, his prized gift was an oscilloscope, an advanced technical measurement device.
As a boy, Ray Page, a Louisiana native whose father owned a locksmith business, had the same fascination for how things work.
“But I had sticks and rocks compared to the access he has now,” he says. “My brother hated me because every time we got walkie-talkies, I would tear them apart. I didn’t really have anyone around me into electronics, but I remember seeing resisters and thinking, ‘One day I want to know how those work’.”
Though Carson’s parents recognize the same kind of curiosity in their son—and his ability to understand complex technology—the Pages haven’t had Carson’s IQ tested and avoid labels like genius and whiz kid.
“We think he’s a bright kid who’s highly motivated in areas we can facilitate,” Ray Page says. “I like science and have a lab. He wants to be like Dad.”
Carson agrees his dad has been a big influence.
“When I was little, Dad would be working on his code, and I’d watch him. Then, one day, I said, ‘Wow Dad, can I try that?’ And that’s how it started, with those six words.”
Carson, who tends to speak in paragraphs rather than in simple sentences, is in the gifted and talented programme at school, but his parents have so far dismissed the idea of his skipping grades or even, as was suggested by a former Texas A&M University engineering professor, taking college courses.
“I’ve known people who are very smart, but they’re so introverted that they can’t function in the world very well,” Ray Page says. “To me, the first thing you’ve got to have is the ability to deal in social situations.”
That’s why the family encourages Carson to pursue other interests, including karate and Cub Scouts. He can also be found with his nose in a Hardy Boys mystery or an encyclopaedia.
Carson is thinking beyond electronics, anyway. His long-term goal, he says, is to be a jet fighter pilot.
That, too, could come from his dad’s influence. The Page family lives in a remote airpark subdivision, which features a grass runway and hangars attached to every home.
The family doesn’t have a plane yet, but that’s the dream.
“In 1903, the Wright brothers took off in a powered aircraft for the first time,” Carson says. “To go flying with my whole family, and my dad piloting the plane, it would be like half-cool, half-fun. No, it would be all fun.”
©2007/Cox News Service
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